There is a series of points in these three MSS which show that the writers were native speakers of Swahili rather than Arabic. They should be borne in mind when reading the Arabic, since they appear as faults in the language, but are in fact indications that the writers were thinking in Swahili rather than in Arabic. We give the following suggestions regarding some of them.
- There are certain words that are pure Swahili, e.g. manowari = man-of-war, warship; mzigowat = baskets (with an Arabic plural).
- Some nouns are written without the definite article al- in places where they should have it. Swahili has no definite article for nouns.
- Sometimes, when the object of a verb is a proper name, the verb ends with the pronominal suffix hū = he. This is a pure Swahilism. If this is born in mind a clear meaning is at once apparent in a sentence that at first sight does not make proper sense.
- There are several places where there is a redundant wāw = and, at the beginning of a clause. This seems to be a local peculiarity of South Arabian speech that has extended down the East African coast.
There are other peculiarities that should be noticed and allowed for in any translation of these MSS.
N.B. There is quite a large list of such peculiarities in these texts. They should be spotted with care and given in a list. This is one of the elements that make these MSS an important link between Arab and Swahili and their respective cultures.