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Fur language

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Title: Fur language  
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Subject: Sultanate of Darfur, Languages of Sudan, Fur languages, Amdang language, History of Darfur
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Fur language

bèle fòòr فوراوي
Native to Sudan, Chad
Region Darfur
Ethnicity Fur
Native speakers
unknown (500,000 cited 1983)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 fvr
Glottolog furr1244[2]
Geographic distribution of Fur

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


The consonantal phonemes are:
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Plosive p[decimal 1] b t d ɟ k ɡ
Fricative f[decimal 1] s z[decimal 2] h[decimal 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. ^ Fur at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Fur". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 


  • 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.

External links

  • Map of Fur language from the LL-Map project
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