Nilotic Languages

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Nilotic Languages


a group of East African languages which, according to the classification of the American scholar J. Greenberg, belong to the Chari-Nile branch of the Nilo-Saharan macrofamily of languages.

The Nilotic languages are divided into two groups. The first group, the northwestern Nilotic languages (southern Sudan, northern Uganda, and the neighboring regions of Zaire, Kenya, and Ethiopia), includes the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, and Southern Luo (Acholi, Lango, Adola, Kumam, Alur, and Kenya Luo) languages. The second group, the southeastern Nilotic languages (western Kenya, northern Tanzania, eastern Uganda, and the southernmost part of the Sudan), includes the Bari, Lotuko (Lotuho), Teso, Karamojong, Turkana, Topotha, Masai, and Kalenjin (Pakot, or Suk, and Nandi-Kipsigi).

All Nilotic languages are tonal and have complex vowel systems with long and short vowels. The northwestern Nilotic languages distinguish vowels according to the presence or absence of secondary glottal articulation. Although they possess elements characteristic of analytic languages and have shown a tendency toward agglutination (of auxiliary words) in the formation of many grammatical categories (for example, person and number of the verb), the northwestern Nilotic languages retain the essential characteristics of inflectional languages: complex internal inflection of the vowels and, sometimes, consonants of the stem in word formation and in the formation of case and number in nouns and the categories of transitivity and intransitivity in verbs.

The southeastern Nilotic languages have a predominantly synthetic and partly inflectional morphology (including the category of gender). They are also called Para-Nilotic languages, and they were formerly referred to as the Nilo-Hamitic languages, based on the inaccurate assumption that they were related to the Hamito-Semitic languages.


Tucker, A. N., and M. A. Bryan. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of North-Eastern Africa. London, 1966.


References in periodicals archive ?
1969) The Nuer: a description of the modes of livelihoods and political institutions of a Nilotic people.
The Nile is a unifying identity for all the Nilotic riparian people, being Africans or Arabs or both, while the African orientation for the Nilotic people is resisted by the upper Egyptian and to some extend proportion of the Sudanese inhabitants and vice versa by the other components of the basin.
6cm), but similar to the Nilotic people in Northeast Africa or the Pamiri.
Today, we know that the Bantu living there at the time were the Luhya and the Kisii, and the Nilotic people the Luo.
The Iteso are Plain Nilotic people who are close relatives of the Karimojong.
The Nuer: A description of the modes of livelihood and political institutions of a Nilotic people.
E (1940): The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People, Oxford University Press.
The Nuer, a Nilotic people, live in one of the most remote and untouched places in the world, along the upper White Nile in southern Sudan.
The Tutsi are a taller, Nilotic people, while the Hutu are darker and stockier.
The Nuer ethnographers include Edward Evans-Prichard (The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People, 1940), and Sharon E.
E 1987[1940], The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institution of a Nilotic People, Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
The Masai of Kenya and Tanzania are a Nilotic people who moved south along the Nile into East Africa in the 15th century.