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Nouns

Nouns are words that identify a person, place, or thing.

Syllables

A syllable is like a single “beat” of speech. For example, ya (come), is a single “beat”; it has one syllable. The word yenda (go), can be separated into two “beats”, yen-da; it has two syllables. The word umutu (person), has three “beats”, u-mu-tu; it has three syllables.

Noun classes

In Shiyeyi – as in Setswana – nouns are organized into groups, which are called classes. The nouns in each class usually have the same syllable at the beginning of the word. For example, words in the noun class that contains people and animals start with mu- or umu- if they are a single person. If the word is about more than one person, it begins with wa- or awa-. The singular (one) noun class contains words like umutu, mukurukazi (old lady), and muvuya (slave). The matching plural (more than one) noun class contains words like aŵatu, wakurukazi (old ladies), and wavuya (slaves). Shiyeyi noun classes (from Frank Seidel's book, A Grammar of Yeyi ) are compared with Setswana noun classes below:

#

Shiyeyi

Shiyeyi Examples

Setswana

Setswana Examples

1

mu-

umutu, person; mwana, child

mo-

motho, person; ngwana, child

2

wa-

aŵatu, people; aŵana, children

ba-

batho, people; bana, children

3

mu-

muzi, village; mumbiri, body

mo-

motse, village; mmele, body

4

mi-

mizi, villages; mimbiri, bodies

me-

metse, villages; mebele, bodies

5

ldi-

ldina, name; ldipapa, leaf

le-

leina, name; letlhare, leaf

6

ma-

mana, names; mapapa, leaves

ma-

maina, names; matlhare, leaves

7

shi-

shilduwa, food; itjutu, thing

se-

sejo, food; selo, thing

8

zi-

zilduwa, foods; izutu, things

di-

dijo, foods; dilo, things

9

i(n)-

inywaka, snake; imbeyu, seed

-

noga, snake; peo, seed

10

zi(n)-

zinywaka, snakes; zimbeyu, seeds

di-

dinoga, snakes; dipeo, seeds

11

ru-

rufu, death; rupati, rib

lo-

loso, death; logopo, rib

10

zi(n)-

zinfu, deaths; zimpati, ribs

di-

dintsho, deaths; dikgopo, ribs

14

wu-

wuyimi, life; wuqo, depth

bo-

botshelo, life; boteng, depth

12 ka- kati, twig; kane, little finger Setswana does not have this class.
13 tu- tuti, twigs; tune, little fingers Setswana does not have this class.

When the syllable that shows the noun class is at the beginning of the noun itself, it is written as a part of that noun word, just as it is in Setswana. For example, the word wuyimi (life), will always be written as one word; the wu- syllable should not stand alone apart from the yimi because yimi is not a complete word without the wu- said along with it.

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