Document Type : Original Article


Department of Languages, Literary and Communication Studies, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Kenya


Dholuo is one of the languages with a highly productive overt nominal marking system, particularly in plural formation. Despite this, previous studies have differed sharply on exactly how number is expressed in Dholuo nouns. In addition, the previous studies’ approaches posit feature polarity (voice, manner or prosodic) as a feature that solely applies to nouns. Again, none of the attempts has endeavored to fully account for the morphemes –e, -i and –ni occurring at the end of Dholuo plural forms. The analysis in this study shows that the feature “voice,” in general or voice polarity in particular, is not an exclusive constraint for defining Dholuo plurals but is a general descriptive constraint for all Dholuo nominal inflectional processes. The study has established that plural formation in Dholuo is regular and that Dholuo has a basic plural marker –e which has three allomorphic variations –e, -i, and -ni occurring in specific, morphophonologically defined environments. The [-ni] allomorph occurs predominantly with V-final noun roots and whose penultimate syllable is preceded by a long vowel; the [-i] allomorph occurs with noun roots which have a diphthong in the preceding syllable; and the final [-e] allomorph occurs elsewhere, but particularly with noun roots with a short vowel or vowel sequence in the penultimate syllable. This study also established that phonotactic restrictions in Dholuo nominals play a crucial part in yielding the structures in the plural forms, particularly articulatory harmony in consonants and vowel place (rounding, height, backness, ATR) harmony.