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|bèle fòòr فوراوي|
|Native to||Sudan, Chad|
|Ethnicity||900,000 Fur people (2014)|
Geographic distribution of Fur
The Fur language (Fur bèle fòòr or fòòraŋ bèle, Arabic فوراوي Fûrâwî; sometimes called Konjara by linguists, after a former ruling clan) is the language of the Fur of Darfur in western Sudan. It belongs to the Fur branch of the Nilo-Saharan phylum.
The consonantal phonemes are:
|Plosive||p b||t d||ɟ||k ɡ|
- /f/ is in free variation among a series of sounds ranging between [p] and [f]; thus some sources give the name of the language as pɔɔr.
- [z] occurs only as an allophone of /j/.
- /h/ is very rare.
The vowels are as in Latin: a e i o u. There is dispute as to whether the –ATR vowels [ɛ], [ɔ], [ɪ], [ʊ] are phonetic variants or separate phonemes.
There are two underlying tonemes, L (low) and H (high); phonetically, L, H, mid, HL and LH are all found.
Metathesis is an extremely common and regular grammatical phenomenon in Fur: when a consonant pronoun prefix is prefixed to a verb that begins with a consonant, either the verb's first consonant is deleted or it changes places with the following vowel. E.g.: lem- "lick" → -elm-; ba- "drink" → -ab-; tuum- "build" → -utum-. There are also various assimilation rules.
Noun, and optionally adjective, plurals can be formed with -a (-ŋa after vowels): àldi "story" → àldiŋa "stories", tòŋ "(a certain species of) antelope" → tòŋà "antelopes"; bàin "old" → bàinà "old (pl.)". This suffix also gives the inanimate 3rd person plural of the verb: lìiŋ "he bathes" → lìiŋa "they (inanimate) bathe", kaliŋa "they (animate) bathe".
Vowel-final adjectives can take a plural in -là, as well as -ŋa: lulla "cold" → lullalà or lullaŋà "cold (pl.)". A similar suffix (metathesized and assimilated to become -òl/-ùl/-àl) is used for the plural of the verb in some tenses.
A few CVV nouns take the plural suffix H-ta; ròò "river" → ròota "rivers"; rèi "field" → rèito "fields".
At least two nouns take the suffix -i: koor "spear" → koori "spears", dote "mouse" → kuuti "mice".
Nouns with the singular prefix d- (> n- before a nasal) take the plural k-; these are about 20% of all nouns. In some cases (mostly body parts) it is accompanied by L. E.g.: dilo "ear" → kilo "ears"; nuŋi "eye" → kuŋi "eyes"; dagi "tooth" → kàgi "teeth"; dòrmi "nose" → kòrmì "noses".
- In some cases the singular also has a suffix -ŋ, not found in the plural: daulaŋ "shoe" → kaula "shoes", dìroŋ "egg" → kìrò "eggs".
- Sometimes a further plural suffix from those listed above is added: nunùm "granary" → kunùmà "granaries", nuum "snake" → kuumi "snakes", dìwwo "new" → kìwwolà "new (pl.)"
- Sometimes the suffix -(n)ta, is added: dèwèr "porcupine" → kèwèrtà "porcupines"; dàwì "tail" → kàwìntò "tails".
- One noun, as well as the demonstratives and the interrogative "which", take a plural by simply prefixing k-L: uu "cow" → kùù; ei "which (one)?" → kèì "which (ones)?".
- Several syntactic plurals with no singulars, mostly denoting liquids, have k-L-a; kèwà "blood", kòrò "water", kònà "name, song".
The locative can be expressed by the suffix -le or by reversing the noun's final tone, e.g.: tòŋ "house" → toŋ "at the house"; loo "place", kàrrà "far" → loo kàrrà-le "at a far place".
The genitive (English 's) is expressed by the suffix -iŋ (the i is deleted after a vowel.) If the relationship is possessive, the possessor comes first; otherwise, it comes last. E.g.: nuum "snake" → nuumiŋ tàbù "snake's head"; jùtà "forest" → kàrabà jùtăŋ "animals of the forest".
|you (sg.)||ji||you (pl.)||bi|
|he, she, it||ie||they||ìè-èŋ|
The object pronouns are identical apart from being low tone and having -ŋò added to the plural forms.
Prefixed subject pronouns:
|I||- (triggers metathesis)||we||k-|
|you (sg.)||j-||you (pl.)||b-|
|he, she, it||- (causes vowel raising; *i-)||they (animate)||k- (+pl. suffix)|
|they (inanimate)||(*i-) (+pl. suffix)|
Thus, for example, on the verb bu- "tire":
|I tired||ùmô||we tired||kùmô|
|you (sg.) tired||jùmô||you (pl.) tired||bùmô|
|he/she tired||buô||they tired||kùmul|
gi, described as the "participant object pronoun", represents first or second person objects in a dialogue, depending on context.
Possessives (singular; take k- with plural nouns):
|your (sg.)||diiŋ||your (pl.)||dièŋ|
|his, hers, its||deeŋ||their||dièŋ|
The Fur verbal system is quite complicated; verbs fall into a variety of conjugations. There are three tenses: present, perfect, and future. Subjunctive is also marked. Aspect is distinguished in the past tense.
Derivational suffixes include -iŋ (intransitive/reflexive; e.g. lii "he washes" → liiŋ "he washes himself) and gemination of the middle consonant plus -à/ò (intensive; e.g. jabi "drop" → jappiò/jabbiò "throw down".)
Negation is done with the marker a-...-bà surrounding the verb; a-bai-bà "he does not drink".
Most adjectives have two syllables, and a geminate middle consonant: e.g. àppa "big", fùkka "red", lecka "sweet". Some have three syllables: dàkkure "solid".
Adverbs can be derived from adjectives by addition of the suffix -ndì or L-n, e.g.: kùlle "fast" → kùllendì or kùllèn "quickly".
Abstract nouns can be derived from adjectives by adding -iŋ and lowering all tones, deleting any final vowel of the adjective, e.g.: dìrro "heavy" → dìrrìŋ "heaviness".
- A. C. Beaton. A Grammar of the Fur Language. Linguistic Monograph Series, No. 1. Khartoum: Sudan Research Unit, Faculty of Arts, University of Khartoum 1968 (1937).
- Angelika Jakobi, A Fur Grammar. Buske Verlag: Hamburg 1989.
- Constance Kutsch-Lojenga & Christine Waag, "The Sounds and Tones of Fur", in Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages No. 9. Entebbe: SIL-Sudan 2004.
- Georgianna Noel, An Examination of the Tone System of Fur and its Function in Grammar, University of Texas at Arlington, 2008.