Dinka language

Dinka language

This article is about the language, for the ethnic group see Dinka.

Pronunciation /t̪uɔŋ.ɟa̤ŋ/
Spoken in  South Sudan and neighboring areas
Region Sudan
Ethnicity Dinka people
Native speakers 2–3 million  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Latin alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2 din
ISO 639-3 din – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
dip – Northeastern Dinka (Padang)
diw – Northwestern Dinka (Ruweng)
dib – South Central Dinka (Agar)
dks – Southeastern Dinka (Bor, Twic / Tuic)
dik – Southwestern Dinka (Rek)

Dinka, or Thuɔŋjäŋ, is a Nilotic dialect cluster spoken by the Dinka people, the major ethnic group of South Sudan. There are five main varieties, Ngok, Rek, Agaar, Twic / Tuic East, and Bor, which are distinct enough to require separate literary standards and thus to be considered separate languages. Jaang or Jieng is used as a general term to cover all Dinka languages. The Malual dialect (Aweil) is the prestige dialect.

The closest non-Dinka language is Nuer, the language of the Dinka's traditional rivals. The Luo languages are also closely related.

The Dinka are found mainly along the Nile, specifically the west bank of the White Nile, a major tributary flowing north from Uganda, north and south of the Sudd marsh in southwestern and south central Sudan in three provinces: Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Southern Kurdufan.


Linguistic features


Dinka has a rich vowel system, with at least thirteen phonemically contrastive vowels. The underdots ([◌̤]) indicate "breathy" vowels, represented in Dinka orthography by diaereses (⟨◌̈⟩):

Front Back
plain breathy plain breathy
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɛ̤ ɔ ɔ̤
Open a

There may be other distinctions. The Dinka southeastern dialect is known to contrast modal voice, breathy voice, faucalized voice, and harsh voice in its vowels, in addition to its three tones. The ad hoc diacritics employed in the literature are a subscript double quotation mark for faucalized voice, [a͈], and an underline for harsh voice, [a].[1] Examples are,

Voice modal breathy harsh faucalized
Bor Dinka tɕìt̪ tɕì̤t̪ ì tɕì͈t̪
diarrhea go ahead scorpions to swallow

There are twenty consonant phonemes:

Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive p   b   t   d c   ɟ k   ɡ
Fricative ɣ
Rhotic ɾ
Approximant l j w


This language exhibits vowel ablaut or apophony, the change of internal vowels (compare English goose/geese):

Singular Plural gloss vowel alternation
dom dum 'field/fields' (o-u)
kat kɛt 'frame/frames' (a-ɛ)
(Bauer 2003:35)


Dinka is a tonal language.

Dialects of Dinka

Linguists divide Dinka into five main dialect clusters corresponding to their geographic location with respect to each other:

  • Northeastern and western (Padang Dialects): Abiliang, Nyiël, Dongjol, Luäc, Ngok Lual Yak, Ageer, Rut, Thoi, Alor, Ngók Deng Kuol, Panaru and Paweny.
  • South Central (Agar Dialects): Aliap, Ciëc, Atuöt, Gok and Agar
  • Southeastern (Southeastern Dinka Dialects): Bor,Hol,Nyaarweng and Twïc
  • Southwestern (Rek Dialects): Rek, Abiëm, Aguók, Apuk, Awan, Kuac, Lóu, Luäc/Luänyjang, Malual (Malualgiėrnyang), Paliët, Paliëupiny, Twïc

See Ethnologue online map of Sudan for locations of dialects.

Writing Dinka

Dinka is written with a Latin-based alphabet. There have been variants since the early 20th century, but the current alphabet is: a ä b c d dh e ë ɛ ɛ̈ g ɣ i ï j k l m n nh ny ŋ t th u w o ö ɔ ɔ̈ p r y

However, some of the above letters can be written in other ways (or other letters can be used in their places) but the letters/special characters used are still being pronounced as the original letters that they represent. These are:

Original Letter     other ways to write it
ė  ("e" with a dot on top.)
h, x, q
ȯ  ("O" with a dot on top.)

See also


  1. ^ Edmondson, Jerold A.; John H. Esling (2005). The valves of the throat and their functioning in tone, vocal register, and stress: laryngoscopic case studies. 

Other resources

  • Andersen T. (1987). "The phonemic system of Agar Dinka". Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 9, 1–27.
  • Andersen T. (1990). "Vowel length in Western Nilotic languages". Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 22, 5–26.
  • Andersen T. (1991). "Subject and topic in Dinka". Studies in Language 15, 265–294.
  • Andersen T. (1993). "Vowel quality alternation in Dinka verb inflection". Phonology 10, 1–42.
  • Beltrame, G. (1870). Grammatica della lingua denka. Firenze: G. Civelli.
  • Deng, Makwei Mabioor (2010). Piööcku Thuoŋjäŋ: The Elementary Modern Standard Dinka (Multilingual Edition), Xlibris, ISBN 1450052401.
  • Malou, Job. (1988) Dinka Vowel System. Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics. ISBN 0-88312-008-9.
  • Mitterrutzner, J. C. (1866). Die Dinka-Sprache in Central-Afrika; Kurze Grammatik, Text und Worterbuch. Brixen: A. Weger.
  • Nebel, A. (1979). Dinka–English, English–Dinka dictionary. 2nd. ed. Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Bologna.
  • Nebel, A. (1948). Dinka Grammar (Rek-Malual dialect) with texts and vocabulary. Instituto Missioni Africane, Verona.
  • Trudinger. R. (1942–44). English-Dinka Dictionary. Sudan Interior Mission
  • Tuttle. Milet Picture Dictionary English-Dinka. (at WorldLanguage.com)

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dinka (Sprache) — Dinka Gesprochen in Südsudan Sprecher ca. 1.350.000 (Stand von 1982) Linguistische Klassifikation Nilo saharanische Sprachen Nilotische Sprachen Westnilotische Sprachen Dinka …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dinka people — This article is about the ethnic group. For the language, see Dinka language. For the Hungarian wine grape, see Dinka (grape). Dinka …   Wikipedia

  • Dinka alphabet — The Dinka alphabet as used by the Sudanese Dinka people writing the Dinka language is Latin, adding some letters adapted from the International Phonetic Alphabet to the basic Latin alphabet. The current orthography is derived from the alphabet… …   Wikipedia

  • Dinka — ethnic group group=Dinka image caption=Dinka supermodel Alek Wek poptime= Approximately 1,000,000 popplace=flagcountry|Sudan rels=Christianity, Islam langs=Dinka related=Nilotic peoples, Bantu peoples The Dinka are a group of tribes of south… …   Wikipedia

  • Dinka (Band) — Dinka ist ein Schweizer Progressive House Projekt der Musikerin und DJane Tamara Maria Hunkeler. Dinka ist ein Mitglied der Schweizer Housemusik Gemeinschaft Helvetic Nerds.[1] Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Bandgeschichte 2 The Helvetic Nerds Radio Show …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dinka — prop. n. a Nilotic language. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Dinka — [diŋ′kä, diŋ′kə] n. 1. a member of a group of Sudanic peoples living in S Sudan (the country) 2. the language of these peoples, belonging to the Chari Nile subfamily of the Nilo Saharan family of languages …   English World dictionary

  • Dinka — /ding keuh/, n., pl. Dinkas, (esp. collectively) Dinka. 1. a member of a tall, pastoral, Negroid people of Sudan. 2. the language of the Dinka, a Nilotic language closely related to Shilluk. * * * Cattle herding people of the Nile basin in… …   Universalium

  • Dinka — ISO 639 3 Code : din ISO 639 2/B Code : din ISO 639 2/T Code : din ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Macrolanguage Language Type : Living Individual languages : Identifier : dib Name: South Central Dinka Individual languages : Identifier : dik Name: South …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Dinka — noun (plural Dinkas; also Dinka) Etymology: probably ultimately from Dinka jieŋ, a self designation Date: 1861 1. a member of a pastoral people of the Nile Valley in south central Sudan 2. the Nilotic language of the Dinkas …   New Collegiate Dictionary

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.