Fur language

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Languages

bèle fòòr
Spoken in: Sudan, Chad 
Region: Darfur
Total speakers: 0.5 million
Language family: Nilo-Saharan
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: ssa
ISO/FDIS 639-3: fvr 
Geographic distribution of Fur
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. It has about 900,000 speakers (500,000 in 1983.)


The consonantal phonemes are:

  • Bilabial: f b m w
  • Dental/Alveolar: t d s n l r
  • Palatal: j ñ y
  • Velar: k g (h) ŋ

z occurs only as an allophone of y. Arabic consonants are sometimes used in loanwords. /h/ is very rare.

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. /f/ varies along a range between [p] and [f]; thus some sources give the name of the language as pɔɔr.

There are two underlying tonemes, L (low) and H (high); phonetically, L, H, mid, HL and LH are all found.

Interestingly, 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. Eg: lem- "lick" > -elm-; ba- "drink" > -ab-; tuum- "build" > -utum-. There are also a variety of 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", nuum "mouse" > kuumi "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. Eg: 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, eg: 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. Eg: nuum "snake" > nuumiŋ tàbù "snake's head"; jùtà "forest" > kàrabà jùtăŋ "animals of the forest".


Independent subject:

I ka we ki
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:

I - (triggers metathesis) we k-
you (sg.) j- you (pl.) b-
he, she, it - (causes vowel raising; *i-) they (animate)
they (inanimate)
k- (+pl. suffix)
(*i-) (+pl. suffix)

Thus, for example, on the verb bu- "tire":

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):

my duiŋ our daìŋ
your (sg.) diiŋ you (pl.) dièŋ
his, her, 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; eg lii "he washes" > liiŋ "he washes himself) and gemination of the middle consonant plus -à/ò (intensive; eg 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: eg àppa "big", fùkka "red", làmme "sweet". Some have three syllables: dàkkure "solid".

Adverbs can be derived from adjectives by addition of the suffix -ndì or L-n, eg: 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, eg: dìrro "heavy" > dìrrìŋ "heaviness".

Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fur_language"