Kordofanian Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kordofanian Languages


a family of languages distributed in the mountains of Kordofan (Republic of the Sudan), presumably related to the Niger-Congo languages and, with the latter, forming the Congo-Kordofanian macrofamily of languages.

The Kordofanian languages are spoken by more than 300,000 people (1967, estimate). The Kordofanian languages include: (1) Koalib languages: Koalib, Kanderma, Heiban, Laro, Otoro, Kawama, Shwai, Tira, Moro, and Fungor; (2) Tegali languages (Tegali-Tagoi): Tegali, Rashad, Tagoi, and Tumale; (3) Talodi languages: Talodi, Lafofa, Eliri, Masakin, Tacho, Lumun, and El Amira; (4) Tumtum languages (Kadugli-Krongo): Tumtum, Tuleshi, Keiga, Karondi, Krongo, Miri, Kadugli, and Katcha; and (5) the Katla languages: Katla, Tima.

In all of the Kordofanian languages (except the Tegali languages), the dentals and alveolars t and d are distinguished phonologically; in the Koalib and Tumtum languages there are the glottalized injectives d and, in some of the languages, b and £. Phonological tone has been reported for many Kordofanian languages. The Koalib, Talodi, Tagoi, and Tumale languages retain a rich system of nominal classes (up to 25 classes) formed by prefixes. The Tumtum languages have no classes, although there are masculine, feminine, and neuter grammatical genders (traceable, apparently, to classes). The classes have been lost in the Tegali, Rashad, and Katla languages. Verbs are inflected by prefixes (which indicate person, number, and class or gender of subject and object) and suffixes (more often temporal). The Kordofanian languages are unwritten.


Macdiarmid, P. A. and D. N. “The Languages of the Nuba Mountains.” Sudan Notes and Records, 1931, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 149–62.
Tucker, A. N., and M. Bryan. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of Northeastern Africa. London, 1966.
Greenberg, J. The Languages of Africa. The Hague, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.