The use of -to- for the negative future tense

From Wikipedia:

*The future tense is formed in Swahili with the prefix -ta-. The negative form is indicated simply by using the negative subject prefix, with -ta- being used here as well. A number of speakers, however, use -to- in the negative future. This may be derived by analogy from the -to- of the negative infinitive, and may also disambiguate between positive and negative where the only difference otherwise would be an h- at the beginning of the negative word. For example, atakuja "s/he will come" vs. hatakuja "s/he will not come" (or hatokuja). Because second language speakers in many areas have trouble with pronouncing and distinguishing /h/, the optional change from -ta- to -to- in the negative can provide a failsafe indication when a negative meaning is intended. *

How common is this? Worth learning and using?

February 17, 2019


I found no sources on this so I decided to ask some of my friends. Turns out that at least some speakers use -to- for some verbs all the time but not for other verbs.

This is very vague, I know, but it's all I have for now. Pole :(

March 6, 2019

I've been trying to ask around too. I found out nothing so far about the use of -to-.

It is true that often speakers will not pronounce the "h" very clearly/at all not just in negative constructions but in general too I've noticed. I also noticed that I do this too (I spoke the language when younger and I guess I retained certain elements even after years of disuse). They will vary the pitch of the first syllable to indicate the difference for negative constructions: in "hatakuja", "ha-" is said with a higher pitch than the "a-" in "atakuja".

I've even noticed this now to the extent of (some) natives omitting the "h" even in written communication, e.g. writing "apana", "iyo", "alafu" instead of "hapana", "hiyo", "halafu". I was confused about it at first but now I can understand why.

March 13, 2019

I just came across this audio exercise: Usipolala mapema hutakunywa chai asubuhi. But is definitely sounds like Usipolala mapema utakunywa chai asubuhi. And I can't distinguish any special pitch in the first syllable of hutakunywa. So, no tea for me tomorrow morning :)

March 30, 2019

there should be a difference in pitch. I'm lousy at describing it in words, but if you type in 'hootenanny' into Google and listen to the pronunciation, the 'hoo' sound has a similar pitch, whereas the 'u' in 'utakunywa' doesn't really have a distinct inflection

May 10, 2019
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