Murle language

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Native to South Sudan, Ethiopia
Ethnicity Murle people
Native speakers
unknown (60,000 cited 1982)[1]
nearly extinct in Ethiopia
Olam (Ngalam)
Latin (in South Sudan)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mur
Glottolog murl1244[2]

Murle (also Ajibba, Beir, Merule, Mourle, Murele, Murule) is a Nilo-Saharan Eastern Sudanic language spoken by the Murle people, spoken in the southeast of South Sudan, near the Ethiopian border. A very small number of Murle live across the border in southwestern Ethiopia.

They speak the Murle language, which belongs to the Southwestern branch of the Surmic languages group, within the larger Nilo-Saharan family.

The basic word order for Murle clauses is VSO (verb–subject–object) (Arensen 1982). The morphology of the verb agrees with the person and number of the subject, and can also indicate that of the object.

Marking of number on nouns in Murle is complex, with no single suffix being generally productive. Some nouns are marked with a singulative suffix, some with a plural suffix, some with both, and a few with irregular stems for the each number. Arensen has proposed a set of semantically based categories (such as association with men, or with weather and seasons) to try to predict which suffixes will be used (1992, 1998).

Payne (2006)[3] has proposed analyzing some cases as examples of subtractive morphology:

onyiit 'rib' onyii 'ribs'

rottin 'warrior' rotti 'warriors'

These two forms exemplify how Murle plurals can be predicted from singular forms, but not vice versa.

The New Testament has been translated into the Murle language.


  1. ^ Murle at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Murle". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Payne, Thomas (2006). Exploring language structure : a student's guide. Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 44, 45. ISBN 0-521-67150-7. 
  • Arensen, Jonathan E. 1982. Murle grammar. Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 2. Juba: Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Juba.
  • Arensen, Jonathan E. 1988. "Names in the life cycles of the Murle". Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 19: 125-130.
  • Arensen, Jonathan E. 1989. "On comparing language relationships: A case study of Murle, Kacipo and Tirma". Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 6: 67-76
  • Arensen, Jonathan E. 1991. Aspects of language and society among the Murle of Sudan. D.Phil. thesis. Wolfson College, Oxford University.
  • Arensen, Jonathan E. 1992. Mice are men: Language and society among the Murle of Sudan. International Museum of Cultures Publication, 27. Dallas: International Museum of Cultures.
  • Arensen, Jonathan E. 1998. "Murle categorization" in Gerrit Dimmendaal and Marco Last (eds.), Surmic Languages and Cultures. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag. pp. 181–218.
  • Lyth, R. E. 1971. The Murle Language: Grammar and Vocabulary. Linguistic Monograph Papers 7 Khartoum: University of Khartoum.
  • Miller, Cynthia. 1984. "Connectives in Murle epistolary discourse". Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 5: 81-134.
  • Unseth, Peter. 1986. "Word Order Shift in Negative Sentences of Surma Languages". Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 5: 135-143.
  • Unseth, Peter. 2007. "Murle language" in Siegbert Uhlig (ed.) Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Vol 3. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. pp. 1076–1077.
  • Yigzu, Moges. 2001. A Comparative Study of the Phonetics and Phonology of Surmic Languages. Université Libre de Bruxelles.

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