Berta language

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Native to Sudan, Ethiopia
Region Benishangul-Gumuz
Ethnicity Berta people, Wetawit
Native speakers
190,000 all Berta in Ethiopia  (2007 census)[1]
22,000 (undated) in Sudan
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wti (all Berta languages)
Glottolog bert1248[2]

Berta, AKA Wetawit, is spoken by the Berta (also Bertha, Barta, Burta) in Sudan and Ethiopia. It is a language isolate which has been also included as branch of the proposed Nilo-Saharan language family. It has the typical word order subject–verb–object. It is a tonal language. It has significantly influenced some of the Eastern Jebel languages. The Arabic name "Beni-Shangul" (as in the Ethiopian province of Benishangul-Gumuz) derives from a Berta expression (with bele "rock/stone" misanalyzed as Arabic beni "sons"). Berta has several dialects (some quite divergent) including: Bake, Dabuso, Gebeto, Mayu, and Shuru. Fadashi and Undu are divergent enough to be considered separate languages, in which case the dialect name Gebeto may be used for the rest of Berta.


The pronouns of Berta are as follows:

Topic Postverbal subject Postverbal object
I àl(ì) -lɪ́ɪ̀ -ɟì
you (sg.) (à)ŋɡó -ŋó -ŋɡó
he, she, it ɲìnè -né ɲìnè, -né
we χàtâŋ -ŋàa χàtâŋ
you (pl.) χàtú χátú χàtú
they mèrée mérée mèrée


  • Torben Andersen. "Aspects of Berta phonology". Afrika und Übersee 76: pp. 41–80.
  • Torben Andersen. "Absolutive and Nominative in Berta". ed. Nicolai & Rottland, Fifth Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium. Nice, 24–29 August 1992. Proceedings. (Nilo-Saharan 10). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag. 1995. pp. 36–49.
  • M. Lionel Bender. "Berta Lexicon". In Bender (ed.), Topics in Nilo-Saharan Linguistics (Nilo-Saharan 3), pp. 271–304. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag 1989.
  • E. Cerulli. "Three Berta dialects in western Ethiopia", Africa, 1947.
  • Susanne Neudorf & Andreas Neudorf: Bertha - English - Amharic Dictionary. Addis Ababa: Benishangul-Gumuz Language Development Project 2007.
  • A. N. Tucker & M. A. Bryan. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of North-Eastern Africa. London: Oxford University Press 1966.
  • A. Triulzi, A. A. Dafallah, and M. L. Bender. "Berta". In Bender (ed.), The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia. East Lansing, Michigan: African Studies Center, Michigan State University 1976, pp. 513–532.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Berta at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Berta". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.