Acholi language

Acholi language

nativename=Acoli, Shuli, Gang, Lwo
states=Uganda, Sudan
region=Acholi people, Sudan, Uganda
fam2=Eastern Sudanic
fam8=Alur Acholi
fam9=Lango Acholi

Acholi (also Acoli, Akoli, Acooli, Atscholi, Shuli, Gang, Lwoo, Lwo, Log Acoli, Dok Acoli) is a language primarily spoken by the Acholi people in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader, a region known as Acholiland in northern Uganda. Acholi is also spoken in the southern part of the Opari District of Sudan. As of 1996 there were reported approximately 773,800 Acholi speakers in the world. However this has gradually grown to over 800,000. "Song of Lawino" and its sequel, "Song of Ocol", well known among African literature, were written in Acholi by Okot p'Bitek.

Acholi is one of the Luo languages, of the Western Nilotic branch of Nilo-Saharan. Acholi, Alur and Lango have between 84 and 90 per cent of their vocabulary in commonref|ladefoged1 and thus are mutually intelligible.


Acholi has vowel harmony: all vowels in a word have to belong to a single class (e.g. IPA| [kojo] "the cold" vs. IPA| [kɔjɔ] "to separate"). There are two sets of five vowels, distinguished by the feature [+/-ATR] .

Acholi is a tonal language. Thus, some words may be distinguished by tone alone, e.g. "bèl" (low) 'wrinkled' vs. "bél" (high) 'corn' and "kàl" (low) 'place enclosed by a palisade' vs. "kál" (high) 'millet'. Tone furthermore plays a role in verb conjugation.

Notes and references


# Ladefoged, 1972:80.


*Crazzolara, J.P. (1938) "A study of the Acooli language. Grammar and Vocabulary." International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. London/New York/Toronto: Oxford University Press.
*Kitching, Arthur Leonard (1932) "An outline grammar of the Acholi language" (first published 1907). London: Sheldon Press / Kampala: The Uganda Bookshop.
*Ladefoged, Peter; Ruth Glick; Clive Criper; Clifford H. Prator; Livingstone Walusimbi (1972) "Language in Uganda" (Ford Foundation language surveys vol. 1). London/New York etc. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-436101-2
*Malandra, Alfred (1955) "A new Acholi grammar". Kampala: Eagle Press.
*Okidi, Festo (2000) "Acholi for beginners: grammar, Acholi-English, English-Acholi". London: Pilato Books. ISBN 0-9539913-0-X
*p'Bitek, Okot (1985) "Acholi proverbs". Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya.
*p'Bitek, Okot (1984) "Songo of Lawino and Song of Ocol". (African writers series, 266). London: Heinemann Educational.

External links

* [ Ethnologue report] on Acholi
* [ Rupiny] — online news in Acholi and Lango (Luo)
* [ Audio recordings of Acholi]
* [ PanAfrican L10n page on Acholi]
* [ IRIN Radio] — Radio programming from northern Uganda in Luo

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