Nilotic languages

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Southwestern Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, northeastern Congo (DRC), northern Uganda, western Kenya and northern Tanzania
Linguistic classificationNilo-Saharan?
Nilotic languages.png
Region where Nilotic languages are spoken

The Nilotic languages are a group of Eastern Sudanic languages spoken across a wide area between South Sudan and Tanzania by the Nilotic peoples, who traditionally practice cattle-herding.


The word Nilotic means of or relating to the Nile River or to the Nile region of Africa.[2]


There are approximately 7 million current speakers of Nilotic languages. Nilotic peoples, who are the native speakers of the languages, originally migrated from the upper Nile area. Nilotic language speakers live in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.[3]


According to linguist Joseph Greenberg, the language family is divided up into three subgroups:[4]

Before Greenberg's reclassification, Nilotic was used to refer to Western Nilotic alone, with the other two being grouped as related "Nilo-Hamitic" languages.[5]

Blench (2012) treats the Burun languages as a fourth subgroup of Nilotic.[6] In previous classifications, the languages were included within the Luo languages. Starostin (2015) treats the Mabaan-Burun languages as "West Nilotic" but outside the Luo level.[7]


Over 200 Proto-Nilotic lexical roots have been reconstructed by Dimmendaal (1988).[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nilotic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ "the definition of Nilotic". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  3. ^ Payne, Doris. "Nilotic Family". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  4. ^ Barnard, Alan; Spencer, Jonathan (1996). Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Taylor & Francis. p. 10. ISBN 9780415099967.
  5. ^ Ki-Zerbo, Joseph (1981). Methodology and African Prehistory. UNESCO. p. 306. ISBN 9789231017070.
  6. ^ Roger Blench (2012) Nilo-Saharan language list
  7. ^ George Starostin (2015) The Eastern Sudanic hypothesis tested through lexicostatistics: current state of affairs (Draft 1.0)
  8. ^ Dimmendaal, Gerrit Jan. 1988. "The lexical reconstruction of proto-Nilotic: a first reconnaissance." Afrikanistische (AAP) 16: 5-67.
  • Creider, Chet A. (1989). The syntax of the Nilotic languages: Themes and variations. Berlin: D. Reimer. ISBN 3-496-00483-5.

External links[edit]