The M-Wa class
The M-Wa noun class is generally used to refer to human beings. Singular words get the m- prefix and plural words get the wa- prefix.
This also includes nationalities and ethnical and religious identities.
|Mswahili||Waswahili||a Swahili person|
|Mkikuyu||Wakikuyu||a Kikuyu person|
Notable exceptions, M-Wa words that don’t refer to humans, include mnyama (animal) and mdudu (insect).
Disclaimer: only for people who love morphology. Some people might prefer to study these rules by heart, while others might unconsciously acquire the rules by a lot of practice and input. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. :)
M- & Wa-
The M-Wa nouns in all previous examples have a stem starting a consonant. These words follow this basic rule m- for singular words and wa- for plural words. The following formation rules will apply to word stems starting with a vowel.
M- + -U = Mu-
Words with stems starting with -u follow the normal M-Wa pattern, for example mume - waume (husband).
M- + vowel = Mw-
If the first letter of the stem is another vowel than -u, the m- usually becomes mw-. Examples are Mwingereza (Brit), Mwarabu (Arab), mwalimu (teacher), mwizi (thief) and mwenyeji (inhabitant).
Wa- + -A = Wa-
Because waanafunzi would be too long ;)
! Exception: Mwarabu (Arab) → Waarabu
Wa- + -I/E = We-
! Exceptions: Mwislamu (Muslim) → Waislamu (not Weslamu) and Mwingereza (Brit, Englishman) → Waingereza (not Wengereza)
• The Swahili word for woman, mwanamke, is a compound word. It is derived from the words mwana (child/daughter) and mke (wife). The plural form is wanawake, in which you can recognize the words wana (plural of mwana) and wake (plural of mke).
• An alternative for the word mwanaume (man, pl. wanaume) is mwanamume, derived from mwana (child/son) and mume (husband). Its plural form is the same as the plural of mwanaume (wanaume).
thank you for the resource, here's a list of 369 m-wa class nouns on wiktionary: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Swahili_m-wa_class_nouns