HomepageChapter 3 - The Nouns

  • Nouns (or "substantives") are divided into two genders : masculine and feminine.

  • Nouns indicate number : singular and plural. There are several plural formatives.

  • Nouns distinguish grammatical cases : absolutive, nominative, genitive and vocative.

  • Nouns also have a feature known as "gender polarity", in which some nouns have one grammatical gender in the singular and another gender in the plural. It has nothing to do with sex !



 Gender 


Gender is not marked in nouns without the definite article. The gender of nouns does not follow any particular rule and is not always obvious, although it can often be guessed at phonetically.



 Number 


Nouns form their plural in several 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 in the plural.



 Case 


Absolutive case

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

SomaliEnglish
buug(a) book
buug-gathe book
gacan(a) hand
gacantathe hand

Nominative case

The subject of a sentence takes nominative case. In this case, the article takes the ending -u. If the subject of the sentence includes multiple nouns, only the last takes the nominative ending for the article.

If there is no article, a tonal change signifies nominative case, although this is not represented in the orthography.

Feminine nouns which do not take modifiers and end in a consonant take the suffix -i in nominative case without an article.

SomaliEnglish
ninman
nin-kathe man
nin-ku...the man... (followed by a verb)
nin-ka iyo wiil-ku...the man and the boy...
naagwoman
naagtiwoman... (nominative non-modified form)
naagtuthe woman... (subject with modifier)

Genitive case

Genitive case is generally indicated through a tonal change.

Some feminine nouns take an ending, -eed, -aad or -od depending on the final consonant of the root word.

SomaliEnglish
áf(a) language
carabArab (people)
áf carabeedArabic language (i.e. language of the Arabs)

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.).




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