Native toUganda
RegionTeso District
EthnicityKumam people
Native speakers
270,000 (2014 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kdi

Kumam is a language of the Southern Lwoo group[3] spoken by the Kumam people of Uganda. It is estimated that the Kumam dialect has 82 percent lexical similarity with the Acholi dialect, 81 percent with the Lango dialect.[4]



Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Stop voiceless p t c k
voiced b d ɟ g
Fricative (f)[1] (s)[1]
Lateral l
Trill r
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Semivowel w j
  1. ^ a b Fricatives occur only in borrowed words.

Gemination can occur due to morphological processes, for example del 'skin' + -nádellá 'my skin'.[3]


Kumam has ten vowels, with a vowel harmony system based on presence or absence of advanced tongue root (ATR).[3]

[-ATR] [+ATR]
Front Back Front Back
Close ɪ i u
Mid ɛ ɔ e o
Open a ɑ

Vowels have no distinction in length, except due to some morphological processes, for instance compensatory lengthening that occurs when applying the transitive infinitive suffix -nɔ: ted- 'cook' + -ne → *ted-do → teedo 'to cook'.[3]


There exist six tones: low, high, falling, rising, downstep high and double downstep high.[3]

Tone Transcription
low [à]
high [á]
falling [â]
rising [ǎ]
downstep high [!á]
double downstep high [!!á]

Tone sandhi

Kumam exhibits tone sandhi in two ways. The first is the spreading of high tonemes rightwards to the following words beginning with a low tonemes, as in ɑbúké 'eyelash' + waŋ 'eye' → abúké wâŋ 'eyelash'. The second is when a floating high toneme is followed by a word beginning in a low toneme, where the floating tone is assigned to the following word and not the word bearing the floating tone: cogó 'bone' + rac 'bad' → cogo râc 'The bone is bad.'[3]




Transitive stems are constructed by applying the suffix -ɔ (yɛŋ 'be satisfied' → yɛŋ-ɔ 'satisfy'). A subset of transitive verbs can have the suffix -ɛ́rɛ́ applied to form what Hieda calls a 'middle form' (nɛ́n-ɔnɛ́!nɛ́rɛ́ 'be seen').[3]

Basic lexicon

Hello – yoga
How are you? –Itiye benyo (singular), Itiyenu benyo (plural)
Fine, and you? – Atiye ber, arai bon yin?
Fine – Atiye ber or just ber
What is your name? – Nying in en Ngai?
My name is ... – Nying ango en ...
Name --- Nying
Nice to see you. --- Apwoyo Neno in (also: Apwoyo Neno wun)
See you again --- Oneno bobo
Book – Itabo
Because – Pi Ento

The first sentence in the bible can be translated as I ya gege, Rubanga ocweo wi polo kede piny ("In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth" ).


  1. ^ Kumam at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2023-07-10). "Glottolog 4.8 - Southern Lwoo". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. doi:10.5281/zenodo.7398962. Archived from the original on 2023-11-21. Retrieved 2023-11-20.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Hieda, Osamu (2020). "Kumam". The Oxford Handbook of African Languages: 611–629. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199609895.001.0001.
  4. ^ "Kumam". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2020-09-28.