Nuer language

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Pronunciation Naa-th
Native to South Sudan, Ethiopia
Region Upper Nile state, Gambela Region, Jonglei State
Ethnicity Nuer
Native speakers
(890,000 cited 1982–2007)[1]
  • Thiang
  • Jikany
  • Gawaar
  • Nyuong
  • Door
  • Lou Nuer
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nus
Glottolog nuer1246[2]
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The Nuer language (Thok Naath)[3] is a Nilo-Saharan language of the Western Nilotic group. It is spoken by the Nuer people of South Sudan and in western Ethiopia (region of Gambela). Nuer is one of eastern and central Africa's most widely spoken languages, along with the Dinka language. The language is very similar to the languages of Jieng and Chollo.[4]

Nuer language has a Latin-based alphabet. There are also several dialects of Nuer, although all have one written standard. For example, final /k/ is pronounced in the Jikany dialect, but is dropped in other dialects despite being indicated in Nuer orthography.


Ethnologue lists the following dialects of Nuer.

  • Dor (Door)
  • Eastern Jikany (Jekaing, Jikain)
  • Abigar
  • Western Jikany
  • Cien
  • Thognaath (Thok Nath)
  • Lou (Lau)
  • Nyuong
  • Thiang
  • Bul Chol
  • Gawaar
  • Jagei(geai koay)
  • Laak
  • Leek(nyhal)
  • Dok (Adok)

Nuer communities

There are different dialects spoken by Nuer groups living in various locations in South Sudan. Some of the Nuer people live in Western Ethiopia. They are called Jikany Nuer. The Nuer of the Upper Nile State are called Jikany, and those in Jonglei State Lou, Gawaar, Thiang and Laak. Nuer-speaking Sudanese refugees have formed a significant community in Omaha, Nebraska, United States.

There are also seven counties inhabited by the other groups of Nuer in the western part of the Upper Nile state. These are the counties of:

  • Guit County: Inhabited by Jikany kuec cieng community in the eastern Bentiu
  • Rubkona County: Inhabited by Leek community in the northern Bentiu
  • Koch County: Inhabited by Jagei community in the central Bentiu, previously known as Lich
  • Mayom County: Inhabited by Bul chol Geah community in the western part of the state
  • Mayiandit County: Inhabited by Haak community in the far south-western part of the state
  • Leer County: Inhabited by Dok community in the southern part of the state. Also inhabited by Nyuong community in the far southern part of the state.

Sample phrases

Nuer:  Naath dial diethɛ kɛ a lɔr kä päärkɛ kɛ ciaŋ malä a mäni cuŋkiɛn. Tekɛ kɛ ca̱r kɛnɛ nhök ti de lät kɛ raan kɛ dämaan a gɔa.

English:  All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)[5]

Writing system of Nuer

The alphabet of Nuer uses 39 distinct letters, shown below in capitals and lowercase styles. Or majuscules and minuscules[6]

A Ä B C D Dh E Ë Ɛ Ɛ̱ Ɛ̈ G Ɣ H I J
K L M N Ŋ Nh Ny O Ö Ɔ Ɔ̱ P R T Th U W Y
a ä b c d dh e ë ɛ ɛ̱ ɛ̈ g ɣ h i j
k l m n ŋ nh ny o ö ɔ ɔ̱ p r t th u w y

The Nuer Language uses a modified version of Latin script for their written language. The writing system was adopted in 1928 with minor changes being added over the history of the language.[7] Both the Dinka and the Nuer agreed that their languages were so different that they could never share written languages, so they came up with a common one following these principles.[8]

  • final interdental consonants would always be represented as th.
  • all voiceless alveolo-palatal consonants would be represented as c.
  • the finalized Nuer alphabet consists of the following characters, which are equivalent to the phonemes of the Nuer language: d, k, l, m, n, p, t, w, g, j, r, y, ŋ, ny, th, dh, nh, ɤ, c, a, e, i, o, u, ö,

Language families

The Nuer language belongs to the following language families, going from smallest to largest.

See also


  1. ^ Nuer at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nuer". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "WALS Online -Language Nuer". Retrieved 2016-10-29. 
  4. ^ Trust, Gurtong. "Nuer (Naath)". Retrieved 2016-10-29. 
  5. ^ "Nuer language and pronunciation". Retrieved 2016-10-29. 
  6. ^ Hutchinson, 1996, pp. xv-xvii
  7. ^ "Nuer (Naadh)". Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  8. ^ Miner, Edward. "The development of Nuer Linguistics". Retrieved 29 October 2016. 

External links

  • Nuer Project - copious grammatical notes
  • OpenRoad page on Nuer (Thok Nath)
  • PanAfrican L10n page on Nuer
  • Omniglot page on Nuer
  • World Atlas of Language Structures information on Nuer
  • Wright Jay Frank, Nuer noun morphology, Master of Arts thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1999 (online copy).

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