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the language of the Nile Nubians, spoken in the northern Sudan and in Egypt by 1.5 million people (1970, estimate). Nubian belongs to the Chari-Nile branch of the Nilo-Saharan languages. The Nubian hill dialects of Kordofan (Midobi, Birked) and the languages of the Nubians in the Darfur region are related to Nubian.
Nubian consists of two dialect groups: Mahass-Fadija and Dongola-Kenuzi. Nubian and Meroitic are practically the only two ancient languages of Africa—with the exception of the Hamito-Semitic languages of Africa—that developed a writing system. When Nubia adopted Christianity, a Nubian alphabet (with written records dating from the eighth through 14th centuries) was devised from the Coptic alphabet. This first Nubian alphabet was later replaced by a writing system based on Arabic script. The ancient Nubian language is directly ancestral of the modern dialect of Mahass-Fadija.
Nubian is an inflectional language; it is characterized by internal inflection and suffixation. Most stems are monosyllabic. Nouns have three cases. Sandhi is common. The usual word order is subject-object-verb. Nubian grammar and, especially, vocabulary have been heavily influenced by Arabic.
REFERENCESLepsius, R. Nubische Grammatik Berlin, 1880.
Zyhlarz, E. Grundzüge der nubischen Grammatik im christlichen Frühmittelalter. Leipzig, 1928.
E. A. KHELIMSKII