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  5. "Cheetah is beautiful"

"Cheetah is beautiful"

Translation:Duma ni mzuri

April 20, 2017



I thought cheetahs were in the N class, like a lot of animals. Why is it Mzuri and not Nzuri? The English here is also non-standard since it should either have an article or be plural. The cheetah is beautiful, Cheetahs are beautiful. A cheetah is a beautiful creature. Etc.


Cheetah is an animate noun so its grammar follows M/Wa rules, though as someone pointed out to me recently N/N animates still take ya-/za- concords for possessives. This is most likely to help differentiate singular and plural (given that M/Wa uses wa- for both).


So... If I wanted to say "The king's cheetah", I would say "Duma ya mfalme." (But if I wanted to say "The cheetah's eye" for example, I would say "Jicho la duma.") I don't really have an issue with memorizing declension rules, but many times it's hard to know which class singular nouns are in. The exceptions, like you mentioned for animate N-class nouns, add even more confusion for me. I'm sure a native coastal Mswahili person would see these as obvious, but I know that people in Kenya that learn Swahili as a second language sometimes mix up the agreement (even the Bantu speakers that have noun classes in their own language). I know in the Kikuyu language, certain animals like lions are raised up to a "higher" noun class due to their nobility, while others are lowered to a "lower" noun class due to their level of yuckiness.



Duma ya mfalme = the king's cheetah
Duma za mfalme = the king's cheetahs

Duma ya mfalme ni mzuri.
Duma za mfalme ni wazuri.

Duma ni mzuri.
Duma ni wazuri.

You'll notice that even though the noun itself doesn't change, there's generally a clue in the sentence about whether it's singular or plural.

There are examples where that's not the case though, more often for inanimate nouns in this category because the adjectives don't help out.

Nyumba ni nzuri.
Nyumba ni nzuri.


maybe it's correct to use the n-class possessive concords for animate n-class nouns, but it must also not be wrong to use the m-wa class "wa" possessive also, if it's clear from context whether the subject is plural or not. from what i've seen more people seem to use "duma ya/za" than "duma wa".

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