Somali grammar


Somali grammar

Somali is an agglutinative language, using a large number of affixes and particles to determine and alter the meaning of words.

Morphology

As in other related languages, Somali nouns are inflected for gender, number and case.

Affixes change according to a number of rules. The definite article is a suffix, with the basic form being "-ki" or "-ka" for masculine nouns and "-ti" or "-ta" for female nouns. The "k" or "t" is the actual article marker, although it can change depending on the preceding consonant, with the following vowel determined by the case of the noun. Articles do not change for singular or plural.

Nouns

Absolutive case

The basic form of a Somali noun is in absolutive case. In this case, the article maintains the vowel "-a".

Vocative case

Vocative case is indicated either through a tonal change or with the suffixes "-ow" (m. sg.), "-ohow" (m. pl.), "-eey/-aay/-ooy" (f. sg.) or "-yahay" (f. pl.).

Gender

Gender is not marked in nouns without the definite article. The gender of nouns does not follow any particular rule and is not generally obvious.

Number

Nouns form their plural in three ways, including reduplication. Many nouns exhibit gender polarity, whereby they change gender in the plural form, e.g. "buug-ga" (the book) is masculine in the singular, but "buugag-ta" (the books) is feminine.

Pronouns

There are both subject and object forms for each personal pronoun, with each form further divided into short and emphatic forms.

nb: The final "-ay" can also be pronounced and written "-ey".

Present continuous

The present continuous tense is formed with the infix "-ay-" / "-na-" (depending on dialect) and the endings from the present tense. The present continuous forms of "keen" are:

Past continuous

Past continuous is formed with the infix "-na" / "-ay" and the past tense endings: "keen+ay+ey" = "keenayey" = I was bringing. Is it used to describe actions in the past which happened over a period of time: "Intuu akhrinayey wargeyska wuu quracanayey." = While he was reading the newspaper, he was eating breakfast.

Future

Future tense is formed with the infinitive of the required verb and the present tense of "doon" (to want):

Subjunctive mood

The subjunctive is used only in subordinate clauses and certain prepositional phrases. The present subjunctive differs from the indicative only in that the vowel in the endings changes from "a" to "o". Future subjunctive uses the infinitive plus the present subjunctive form of "doon".

yntax

Somali has several strategies to indicate where the intention or the interest or the focus is located in the phrase: a topic-comment or focus construction. The words "baa", "ayaa", and "waxaa" put the focus on nouns and noun phrases.

Example:

#John baa baxay - John "Focus" (baa) went out
#John ayaa baxay - John "Focus" (ayaa) went out
#Waxaa baxay John - "Focus" (waxaa) went out John

Thus, the words baa, ayaa, and waxaa unconsciously raise the question of who went out? Therefore the noun.

Somali also has the word waa which puts the focus on verbs and verb phrases.

Example:

John waa baxay - John "Focus" (waa) went out

Waa is different from other previous one we have just seen, because it raises the question of what did John do? Therefore the verb.

Sentences in Somali are typically of the order Subject-Object-Verb (SOV). Nouns have different tonal markings for number, gender (masculine and feminine), and case or role in the sentence. [http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/july/somali.html]

=Bibliography=

Andrzejewski, B.W. "The Case System in Somali". London: 1979.

Andrzejewski, B.W. "The Declensions of Somali Nouns". London: 1964.

Bell, C.R.V. "The Somali Language". New York: 1969.

Kirk, J.W.C. "A grammar of the Somali language, with examples in prose and verse, and an account of the Yibir and Midgan dialects". Cambridge [Eng.] : 1905.

Saeed, John I. "Somali Reference Grammar". Kensington, Md.: 1993.

Saeed, John I. "Syntax of Focus & Topic in Somali". Hamburg: 1984.

El-Solami-Mewis, Catherine. "Lehrbuch des Somali". Leipzig, 1987.


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