A vowel is a syllabic speech sound pronounced without any structure in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principle classes of speech sounds; the other being consonants. Vowels vary in quality, loudness and also in quantity (length).

Kipsigis (like Maasai) has ten vowel phonemes falling into two categories according to tongue root position and resultant voice quality. Tense with retracted tongue root, contracted pharynx and resultant hard or squeezed voice quality.

The vowels are opposed to each other in their Lax and Tense categories. The short and long vowels of each quality are opposed to each other. Tone markers (l=low, h=high, hf=high-falling) are put under or underneath the world(s) they represent. All round quality opposition is whereby all vowels are opposed to each other.

Kipsigis like Maasai have dipthongs or biphonematic phonemes. These are vowel clusters and are only two at a time. These dipthongs have oppositional pairs. Dipthongs are as a result of two phonemes coming together and functioning as one.


Eei – l – hand               eei – h – bull

Kooi – hf-– liver           koi – hf – stone

Generally, vowels are almost or the same but it all depends on pronunciation and quality of voice which brings out its intended meaning.


A verb expresses an act, occurrence or mode of being that agrees with the subject for tense for voice mood or for aspect and has full descriptive meaning.

They are words that show an action. In a sentence along with nouns, verbs are the main part of the phrase because they tell the story taking place.

Kalenjin verbs show a distinction between past and non-past tense, with three degrees of past being distinguished. Moreover, there is a difference between perfective and imperfective aspect and within each of those aspects there is a further distinction for simultaneous versus non-simultaneous actions.

The verb agreed with both the subject and the object in person and number. The order of morphemes is that of tense-subject-agreement-(aspect)-stem-(aspct) with a lot of aspectual work being done by changes in the tonal pattern.

Finally, there is a series of suffixes that can be attached to the verb to change its argument structure or add extra meaning. Tonal and/ or vowel change of the stem, the action is towards the speaker. Reduplication of the stem (with a vowel intervening between the two occurrences of the stem): the action is repeated several times.


A noun is a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places or things. However, a noun is not a semantic category, so it cannot be characterized in terms of its meaning.

In broad terms Kalenjin nouns may be divided into two main groups: verbal and non-verbal nouns. Verbal nouns are derived from verbs.


Verb imperative                                   Derived noun

tem – dig                                             temeet – digging

igat – greet                                           kaagatet – greeting

The derived nouns above emanate from two types of infinitives. There are verbs with kee infinitive markers.

Pronouns are of two kinds, these are those that embrace several individuals within the same name. nouns can be formed in two ways, i.e. by means of prefixes and by means of suffixes. Class 2 verbs give rise to nouns that have simultaneous double derivatives. These are noun characteristics among the Kipsigis community.

Nouns among the Kalenjin is a broad topic considering there are several ways of pronunciation, formation of nouns, singular nouns and plural nouns. These are affected by tonal variation during pronunciation.

Nouns being non-semantic actions and states of existence can also be expressed by verbs, qualities by adjectives and places by adverbs.

Pronunciation and phonological system    

Phonology is about patterns of words, especially different patterns of sounds in different languages or within each language different patterns of sounds in different positions in words. A phonological system of a language includes an inventory of sounds and their features which specify how sounds interact with each other.

Among the Kalenjin especially Kipsigis (like Maasai) they have a different phonological system. I will concentrate on the Tugen phonological system. The Kalenjin have a complex morphological system with a concomitant harmony system based on a feature called open|close. The phonetic description of the features involved is problematic. Among the Tugen this has been observed:

Relatively high and more peripheral tongue position for vowelsRelatively lower and less peripheral tongue position for vowels
Final voicelessness in coda approximantsFinal breathy voice in the rhyme, etc.

In conclusion, the debate about the appropriateness of underspecialization continues and this s a small contribution of the debate. Underspecialization as a part of theory of mental representation and redundancy rules as a device of relating linguistic forms make no claim about psychological reality.    

Sentences, tenses and time  

A sentence is a collection of words that convey sense or meaning and is formed according to the logic of grammar. Clear short sentences are preferable and more effective than long complex ones. The simplest sentence consists only of a noun, a naming word and a verb or action word.

The predominant word order in the language is verb-subject-object (VSO), a common word order in Nilotic. An example of a simple VSO sentence in Nandi can be seen in:

  1. Keerey Kibet lakweet

“Kibet sees the child”

The order of the sentence with nominal or adjectival predicates is predicate-subject. Can be seen in

  • Paypay inee

He is happy

For locative predicates, a special locative copula is sued in which case the order is verb-subject-locative predicate. In the presence of an indirect object, the order is verb-subject-indirect object-direct object.

Finally, Kalenjin is unusual among verb-initial languages in expressing possession with a transitive verb “have”. Other verb initials express possession.

In interrogative sentences yes-no questions are formed by attaching the question particle –i to the last word of the sentence.