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 ?
1982) 'The Sudan: aspects of the south government among some of the Nilotic peoples, 1947-1952', Bulletin (British Society of Middle Eastern Studies) 9(1): 22-34.
would not designate a political or military event attributable to invasion or barbaric influence, but would describe a continuous evolution over the 4th and 5th centuries, leading the same Nilotic peoples from one political system to another' and thus from paganism to the three traditional Nubian Christian Kingdoms (Lenoble & Nigm ed Din Mohammed Sharif 1992:629).
In summary, the people of the Nile Valley present a continuum from the lighter northern Egyptians to the browner Nubians and Kushites and the ultra-dark brown Nilotic peoples.
Nilotic peoples live in the west and southwest along the Sudan border, principally the Gurage that accounts for 2% of Ethiopia's population while the remaining 1% is made up of other groups.
There is virtually no trust or sense of common purpose between the Nilotic peoples of the northeast (including the Acholi) and the Bantu-speaking peoples of the southwest.
The remaining one-fourth to one-third of the population live in the South and are mostly Nilotic peoples.
It is likewise concerned with the political circumstances now confronting Nilotic peoples.
Back in the 1970s there were some people from the region who even thought of trying to unite the Nilotic peoples of both sides of the border to create a new state.
The remaining one-fourth to one-third of the population lived in the South and were mostly Nilotic peoples, some of whom have adopted English as a common language.
The concept of divine authority and power into which one is finally absorbed, popularly associated with Christianity and Islam, cannot be understood by many Nilotic peoples.