For anyone familiar with Christopher Tin's gorgeous song "Baba Yetu" (which was the theme to Civilization 4), it is The Lord's Prayer in Swahili. If "jina lako" sounds familiar, it appears in the line "jina lako e litukuzwe", which corresponds to "hallowed be thy name".
(I'm not invoking religion, I'm just pointing out something from pop culture. Regardless, it's a beautiful piece of music and if you haven't heard it, you should. -- I linked to that version even though it's not the original because it has the lyrics with translation. The original is here.)
It means Christopher Tin either needs to improve his Swahili, or he thought it sounded nicer.
At least, that's what I was able to find. "Mjina" is a word, and Google Translate says it means "the titles", but I don't want to blindly trust Google Translate.
"nani" is "who" or "whose" and "what" only when talking about a name that belongs to and represents a person and may be specific to this question. There is another word for "what?" in Swahili. https://translate.google.com/#en/sw/Who%3F%0AWhat%3F%0AWhat%20is%20your%20name%3F%0A%0AWhat%20is%20that%20thing%3F
I could be mistaken at this early stage, but I think you mean: Name your is what?
I've been taking this course less than 5 minutes, so don't take what I'm writing as absolute, but It looks to me as if:
- Possessives follow the noun they are possessing. (For this sentence, at least.)
- The order of the sentence doesn't change from a statement.
- The question word replaces the word (or concept) it is asking about.
2 and 3 can occur in English, so shouldn't be too hard to get the hang of (even though they're not the most "normal" phrasing). 1 is the slightly trickier one to ingrain, but it should come with practice. I guess I like to do things like this with missing words (even if it becomes grammatically incorrect), so I'll say to myself:
Jina ni nani
Jina lako ni nani
And when I add lako back in, it will get the emphasis to stand out in my mind. I think it's important to ingrain the important parts of the sentence at this early stage; I think I try to remember the sound and feel of the sentence more than try to remember its word order. (I don't want to forever be thinking what's the correct word order, I just want my mind to supply lako whenever and it should.)
(I expect to find out that most of my early guesses about how the language is working are wrong, or at least too limited, but that's fine. It's a process of discovery and re-evaluation.)
I have some information about this. Some languages have possessives after the noun. For example, in some Asian languages as Indonesian and Vietnamese. I prefer to mention Indonesian because Indonesians use many Arabic borrowings as in Swahili. Also, I can say that in Spanish (my native language) we can use possessives before and after the noun or a noun phrase.
For example, this sentence in Indonesian, formal and informal uses:
What is your name?
Siapa (who, pronunciation: si-A-pa) nama (name) Anda (your, for formal use)?
Siapa nama kamu? / Siapa namamu? (kamu, -mu, for informal use)
Siapa nama kalian? (kalian, for plural and the pronunciation is ka-LI-an; “Kalian” is used to children, pupils and very close relations.)
Note that the verb "to be" is implied between the words for "who" and "name". (Other uses of siapa: Siapa Anda/kamu/kalian? or just Siapa? = Who are you?)
Sometimes, you can find "siapa" in the ending place. Example:
I include here other sentence in Swahili:
In Spanish, we have also many possibilities:
What is your name?
¿Cuál/cómo es tu nombre? or ¿Cómo te llamas? (informal, in this case we cannot translate "cuál" and "cómo" to "which" and "how", but "what")
The last is the common use, but I can easily change this order:
¿Tu nombre es cuál/cómo? / ¿Te llamas cómo?
¿El nombre tuyo es cuál/cómo? / ¿El nombre tuyo es cómo?
(I think this sentence is the same order as in Swahili sentence:
Jina (El nombre) - lako (tuyo) - ni (es) - nani (cuál/cómo)?, but in Swahili the last word is meaning "who" (quién))
Note that the uses for these less common sentences in Spanish can be for meaning admiration or susprise (perhaps, for people with the same name as yours or your parents' or relatives') ;)