May 1, 2017



What's the difference between "wake" and "yake"?

May 1, 2017


It depends on the noun class and animacy of the word it refers to.

1/2 (m-wa)
mwalimu wake = his teacher
walimu wake = his teachers

3/4 (m-mi)
mti wake = his tree
miti yake = his trees

5/6 ((ji)-ma)
jicho lake = his eye
macho yake = his eyes

7/8 (ki-vi)
kitabu chake = his book
vitabu vyake = his books

9/10 (N-N)
nyumba yake = his house
nyumba zake = his houses

11/10 (u-N)
uso wake = his face
nyuso zake = his faces

14 (u abstract)
uhuru wake = his freedom

15 (infinitive/gerund)
kula kwake = his eating

16 (exact location)
pake = exactly where he is (not sure if this is used)
mahali pake = his location
nyumbani pake = right at his house (???) (never seen this but theoretically possible)

17 (inexact location)
nyumbani kwake = at his house

18 (internal location)
nyumbani mwake = inside his house

This pattern is the same for -a, -angu, -ako, -ake, -etu, -enu and -ao as well.

Animate nouns (referring to people and animals) are always accompanied by w- forms except for those in the 9/10 class, which generally keep their y/z markers on possessive words in order to show number.

Compare these:

5/6 animate
daktari wake = his doctor (NOT "lake")
madaktari wake = his doctors (NOT "yake")

9/10 animate
rafiki yake = his friend
rafiki zake = his friends

("Rafiki wake" does exist, but it's ambiguous about number, and as far as I can tell, mostly used by people who use "marafiki" in the plural, using it as a 5/6 noun - which I think is somewhat old fashioned these days but I'm not sure. There's some movement between the 5/6 and 9/10 classes and a lot of non-native speakers who learnt Swahili in school and only use it for practical reasons mostly use the 9/10 concords for inanimate things regardless of their class.)

May 2, 2017


Thanks Ben I found a tiny jewel in there now I know the meaning of the reggae band Black Ururu

July 26, 2017
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