Karo, Kutuk
RegionSouth Sudan
EthnicityKaro peoples
Native speakers
L1: 770,000 (2017)[1]
L2: 180,000 (2013)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3bfa
Glottologbari1283  Barian
bari1284  Bari

Bari is the Nilotic language of the Karo people, spoken over large areas of Central Equatoria state in South Sudan, across the northwest corner of Uganda, and into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bari is spoken by several distinct tribes: the Bari people themselves, the Pojulu, Kakwa, Nyangwara, Mundari, and Kuku. Each has its own dialect. The language is therefore sometimes called Karo or Kutuk ('mother tongue') rather than Bari.

Bari is a tone language. It has vowel harmony, subject–verb–object word order, and agglutinative verbal morphology with some suppletion. A very competent dictionary and grammar were published in the 1930s, but are very difficult to find today. More recently, a dissertation has been published on Bari tonal phonology, and another dissertation on Bari syntax is available.


Dialects are:



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ g
Implosive ɓ ɗ ʼj
Fricative s
Rhotic r
Approximant w l j


Bari and their kin, Kakwa have a cross-height[clarification needed] vowel-harmony system.[2][3]

Front Central Back Front Central Back
Close i u ɪ ʊ
Mid e o ɛ ɔ
Open ɑ̘ a


The Bari alphabet is used by the Bari, Kakwa, Pojulu, and Kuku in South Sudan. There are four digraphs, ʼB, ʼD, ʼY and Ny, and the letter eng, Ŋ.

Bari alphabet
Uppercase A B ʼB D ʼD E G J I Y ʼY K L M N Ŋ Ny O Ö P R S T U W
Lowercase a b ʼb d ʼd e g j i y ʼy k l m n ŋ ny o ö p r s t u w
Bari special characters
Uppercase Ŋ Ö
Lowercase ŋ ö
Alternatives ng o
Uppercase Unicode (hexadecimal) 014A 00D6
Lowercase Unicode (hexadecimal) 014B 00F6
Unicode Character Code Chart Latin Extended A Latin-1


  1. ^ a b Bari at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ SIL Bibliography: Yokwe and Hall 1981
  3. ^ Hout, Katherine (2019). Dominance-as-markedness: evidence from Bari. Studies in African Linguistics, Volume 48, Number 2, 2019: University of California San Diego. pp. 206–224.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)

General References

  1. Bari Language, Sudan Primer: Sillabari Ko Kutuk Na Bari. The Catholic Press Institute. Juba, Sudan.
  2. Owen, R.C.R. Bari grammar and vocabulary. 1908. OCLC: 25040516
  3. Spagnolo, Lorenzo M. Bari grammar. 1933. Verona, Missioni Africane.. OCLC: 34898784
  4. Vossen, Rainer. The Eastern Nilotes. (Kölner Beiträge zur Afrikanistik, 9.). 1982. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
  5. Yokwe, Eluzai. The tonal grammar of Bari. Doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 1987.