Fur language

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bèle fòòr فوراوي
Native to Sudan, Chad
Region Darfur
Ethnicity 900,000 Fur people (2014)[1]
Native speakers
745,000 (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 fvr
Glottolog furr1244[2]
Linguasphere 05-CAA-aa
Fur map.png
Geographic distribution of Fur
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Fur language (Fur bèle fòòr or fòòraŋ bèle; Arabic: فوراوي Fûrâwî; sometimes called Konjara by linguists, after a former ruling clan) is a Nilo-Saharan language spoken by the Fur of Darfur in western Sudan. It is one of the Fur languages.


The consonantal phonemes are:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Plosive p[1] b t d ɟ k ɡ
Fricative f[1] s (z)[2] h[3]
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Medial approximant j w
Lateral approximant l
Trill r
  1. ^ a b /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.
  2. ^ [z] occurs only as an allophone of /j/.
  3. ^ /h/ is very rare.

All sounds are spelt with their IPA symbols except for the following: j = [ɟ], ñ = [ɲ] and y = [j]. Arabic consonants are sometimes used in loanwords.

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 , 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".


Independent subject:

Singular Fur Plural Fur
I ka we k
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:

Singular Fur Plural Fur
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":

English Fur English Fur
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):

Singular Fur Plural Fur
my duiŋ our daìŋ
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".


  1. ^ a b Fur at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Fur". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 


  • 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.