Morphophonological reduction in Swahili: the pressure of frequency and lexical diffusion


  • Iwona Kraska-Szlenk University of Warsaw


Swahili, morphophonological reduction, frequency, lexical diffusion


The article discusses a number of morphophonological alternations in Swahili which vary as to their scope and degree of regularity. It is argued that the allomorphy between syllabic and non-syllabic variants of some morphemes is due to phonological reduction which affects high frequency lexical items first and gradually extends on others by way of lexical diffusion. The analysis is supported by comparing the data of Standard Swahili to less conservative colloquial varieties and non-standardized local dialects, in which reductions are more advanced. The analysis contributes to a better comprehension of synchronic allomorphy and it also sheds light on the mechanism of diachronic change.


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How to Cite

Kraska-Szlenk, I. (2010). Morphophonological reduction in Swahili: the pressure of frequency and lexical diffusion. Studies in African Languages and Cultures, (44), 83–102. Retrieved from




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