Shilluk language

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Shilluk (Chollo)
Dhøg Cøllø
Pronunciation Zɔg ʃɔllɔ
Native to South Sudan & Sudan
Region Upper Nile State & White Nile State
Ethnicity Shilluk people
Native speakers
(175,000 cited 1982)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Shilluk Kingdom
Language codes
ISO 639-3 shk
Glottolog shil1265[2]

Shilluk (natively Dhøg Cøllø or d̪ɔ́cɔ̀llɔ̀)[3] is a Luo language spoken by the Shilluk people of South Sudan and Sudan. It is closely related to other Luo and Nilotic peoples' languages. The term Shilluk is a pronunciation of Arabic origin.[4]



[[Vowel|Front] Central Back
Close i [i][i̠] [u̠]
Mid e [ɛ] e [ɛ̠] o [o]

ɔ [ɔ] ɔ̠ [ɔ̠]

Open a [a][a̠]

Each of these vowels also exists in a long form and an overlong form which are phonemic.[5][6]

Advanced and retracted tongue root[edit]

Shilluk, like most Nilotic languages, differentiates vowels according to their place of articulation. They are either pronounced with advancement of the root of the tongue or with retraction of the root of the tongue. Gilley uses the terms "extended larynx" or "blown vowel".

The vowels with advancement of the root of the tongue are [i], [e], [o], [ɔ], [a] and their corresponding long variants. The vowels with retraction of the root of the language are denoted by a macron below the letter: [i̠], [e̠], [o̠], [ɔ̠], [u̠] and [a̠] and their corresponding long variants.


Labial Dental Alveolar Lateral Dorsal
Palatal Velar
Stop Voiceless p [p] [t̪] t [t] k [k]
Voiced b [b] [d̪] d [d] g [g]
Fricative s [s]
Affricate Voiceless c [t͡ʃ]
Voiced j [d͡ʒ]
Nasal m [m] [n̪] n [n] ɲ [ɲ] ŋ [ŋ]
Liquid r [r] l [l]
Approximant w [w] y [j]


Shilluk has a rich inventory of tones, with at least seven distinctive tone patterns or tonemes.[6]

There are three level tonemes: Low, Mid and High. In addition, there are four contours – the Rise and three falling configurations: Fall, High Fall and Late Fall. These are denoted by the following diacritics:

Tone description Diacritic
Level Low ` (grave accent)
Mid ˉ (macron)
High ´ (acute accent)
Contoured Rising ˘ (breve)
Falling ˆ (circumflex)
High Falling ˆ́ (circumflex with acute accent)
Late Falling ´` (acute accent followed by grave accent)


Syllable structure[edit]

Uninflected native stem syllables are overwhelmingly monosyllabic. With few exceptions, these monosyllabic stems typically consist of an onset, a vowel (nucleus), and a coda. Their structure is as follows:[6]

C (Cj/w) V (V) (V) C

The monosyllabic stems give rise to polysyllabic words through processes of derivation or inflection. For verbs and nouns alike, the most common prefixes are /a- ʊ-/, and the most common suffixes are /-Cɪ -ɪ -a (-ɔ)/.[6]


A Latin alphabet was developed for Shilluk by Christian missionaries in the early 20th century.[7] There are 29 characters in Shilluk orthography; 10 vowels and 19 consonants.[8]

a áà ä aa bcd dhdhh e éèëeeg
í ì ï ii j k l m ng ngg nh nhh ny nyy o
ó ö ø oo p r t th u ú ù uu v w y

Sample text[edit]


  1. ^ Shilluk (Chollo) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Shilluk". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "Chollo (Dhøg Cøllø)". Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Gilley, Leoma G. (1992). Summer Institute of Linguistics, ed. An autosegmental approach to Shilluk phonology (revised text of a thesis, University of London). Dallas, Texas. p. 214. ISBN 0-88312-106-9. 
  5. ^ Miller, Cynthia L.; Gilley, Leoma G. (2001). "Evidence for ergativity in Shilluk". Journal of African languages and linguistics. 22 (1): 33–68. doi:10.1515/jall.22.1.33. 
  6. ^ a b c d Remijsen, Bert; Ayoker, Otto G.; Mills, Timothy (2011). "Illustrations of the IPA – Shilluk". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 41 (1). doi:10.1017/s0025100310000289. 
  7. ^ "Shilluk language and pronunciation". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  8. ^ "Cøllø (aka Shilluk) Dictionary » Alphabet". Retrieved 2017-05-29.