Nyole language (Uganda)

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Native to Uganda
Region Tororo District
Native speakers
340,000 (2002 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nuj
Glottolog nyol1238[2]
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Nyole (also LoNyole, Lunyole, Nyuli) is a Bantu language spoken by the Luhya people in Tororo District, Uganda near Lake Kyoga. There is 61% lexical similarity with a related but different Nyole language in Kenya.



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
voiced prenasalized ᵐb ⁿd ᶮdʒ ᵑg
Fricative voiceless ɸ s x
voiced β
Approximant w l~ɾ j (w)

Nyole has series of voiceless, voiced, and prenasalized stops. /w/ is labio-velar.


Front Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Historical changes[edit]

Nyole has an interesting development from Proto-Bantu *p → Nyole /ŋ/. Schadeberg (1989) connects this sound change to rhinoglottophilia, where the sound change developed first as *[p][ɸ][h]. Then, given the acoustic similarity of [h] and breathy voice to nasalization, the sound change progressed as [h][h̃][ŋ]. The velar place of articulation development is due to velar nasals being the least perceptible of the nasals and its marginal status in (pre-)Nyole and other Bantu languages. In closely related neighboring languages, *p developed variously into /h/ or /w/ or was deleted.

This historical development results in so-called "crazy" alternations, like /n/ + /ŋ/ resulting in /p/ as in the following:

n-ŋuliira ("hear" stem form) : puliira "I hear"
n-ŋumula ("rest" stem form) : pumula "I rest"

In the above two words, when the first person singular subject prefix /n-/ is added to the stem starting with /ŋ/, the initial consonant surfaces as /p/. In other forms (like /oxu-ŋuliira/ "to hear" and /oxu-ŋumula/ "to rest"), the original stem-initial /ŋ/ can be seen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nyole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nyole". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  • Eastman, Carol M. (1972). Lunyole of the Bamenya, JAL, 11 (3), 63-78.
  • Morris, H. F. (1963). A note on Lunyole. Uganda Journal, 27, 127-134.
  • Schadeberg, Thilo C. (1989). The velar nasal in Nyole (E. 35). Annales Aequatoria, 10, 169-179. (Available online).