"The students' hoes"
Translation:Majembe ya wanafunzi
Is this an error or does this mean that for this class ya is singular and plural?
So theres a ya/za class, N/N (i think)
And theres this ya/ya class?
Im hoping im wrong as this seems confusing without reason...then again i fail to see the purpose of noun classes at all. They dont seem to acomplish anything or give any additional information. A red ball is red whether you call it 1red 2red 3red 4red 5red...theyre all the same red. Maybe someone can share the purpose for the existence of ngeli with me?
juryrigging has already answered well, but I wanted to add a bit more about the "purpose" of noun classes:
First of all, in a language, not everything has a purpose. Languages inherit things from their forebears and as things gradually change, over time, some things simply become redundant. For example, in English, the -s on third person singular present tense verbs is redundant these days. If you say "the dog bark at me", it's perfectly understandable, even though it's not regarded as "correct" in any dialect of English which is seen as having prestige. So, what is the purpose of the "s" on "barks"?
Redundancy can actually be a good thing in a language. If you are talking in a noisy environment or can't hear very clearly, redundancy provides more opportunities to pick up on information that you might otherwise miss. For example, if you hear someone say chumba wa dada yangu, the fact that its wa rather than cha tells you that you didn't hear the "m" at the beginning. What the person actually said was mchumba wa dada yangu ("my sister's fiancé(e)") and not chumba cha dada yangu ("my sister's room"). If this phrase is the subject of the verb, the verb prefix a- will also help you out. It would be ki- if it were chumba.
If a language has no redundancy at all, you only have one opportunity to hear each piece of information and that can result in misunderstandings and greater listener fatigue.
Mchumba wa dada yangu alionekana mkubwa. = My sister's fiancé(e) looked big.
Chumba cha dada yangu kilionekana kikubwa. = My sister's room looked big.
If none of the other parts of speech had any indications of noun class, understanding which one was meant would depend entirely on hearing the syllabic m- right at the beginning of the sentence.
English is full of little bits of redundancy. When we say "Two years ago, I started working here" the "s" on "years" is redundant because "two" already tells us it's plural. The past tense ending on "started" is also redundant because the phrase "two years ago" already tells us that it's in the past. Redundancy can make sentences a bit longer and languages seem harder to learn, but a certain amount of it also helps languages be efficient machines for conveying information.
In Swahili and the other Bantu languages, the ngeli also provide a very convenient way to derive words from other words. If you look for my comment on this thread: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/21062324, you'll see a whole bunch of words which are related to nyumba that have been derived just by dragging the word through various noun classes and picking up their associated semantic tendencies.
It's Ji/Ma. Singular -a is la and plural is ya.
Full list is:
M/Wa -- wa/wa
M/Mi -- wa/ya
Ji/Ma -- la/ya
Ki/Vi -- cha/vya
N/N -- ya/za
U/N -- wa/za
Mahali -- pa/kwa/ma
A red ball will only ever be mpira mwekundu. A red chair would be kiti chekundu and red chairs would be viti vyekundu. Agreements change to suit the noun.
Noun classes are broadly semantic. For example, a lot of words related to people belong in M/Wa. Long, thin things, plants and natural phenomena (among other things) are usually grouped into M/Mi. Ji/Ma has things that are round, and the fruits or seeds (michungwa are orange trees, machungwa are oranges). It would help if the tips & notes for each noun class gave us some of this information, but sadly they don't.