I'm an intermediate Swahili speaker looking to substantially increase the size of my vocabulary over the next couple weeks. However, I want to optimize my learning curve by focusing on the first 2000 most commonly used words in the Swahili languages.

Two problems: 1) Given its relative obscurity, I'm unable to find frequency wordlists for Swahili 2) Because Swahili is an agglutinative language, many of the most commonly used verbs are excluded from corpus analysis because it's difficult to control for the various infixes, suffixes, and prefixes used.

Question: Does anybody have or could they point me in the right direction of a word frequency list in Swahili, or even resources that show which vocabulary would be the best to study?

And, generally, how do computational linguists parse agglutinative languages to extract roots?

  • I feel that you're asking for too different questions, one is good (the last one), but the other one is... not so good. :) – Alenanno Aug 1 '12 at 21:41
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    How is the first not good? This is a forum for expert linguists, so I assume they'd have references to esoteric languages corpuses. – Parseltongue Aug 2 '12 at 0:07
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    You could also just focus on the 2000 most commonly used word forms. If you're used to command-line tools I have some Perl scripts I made to download random samples of Wikipedia pages from any language Wikipedia as plain text. I used this to build a list of the most common word forms in Georgian for the exact same reason, and it's also an agglutinative language. – hippietrail Aug 2 '12 at 8:28
  • @Parseltongue This is not a forum, but what I meant is that that particular question seemed a bit too general. I don't think you're going to get many answers so there isn't a problem after all. – Alenanno Aug 2 '12 at 10:17

Possibly relevant is the paper by de Pauw and de Schriver (2008) where they test an automated parser, using the the 12.5 million word Helsinki Corpus of Swahili. That corpus, as it turns out, is lemmatized, so if you gain access to it as a "university researcher" and you can do some basic scripting, you will be able to generate this list yourself.

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