Southern Nilotic
western Kenya, eastern Uganda, northern Tanzania
Linguistic classificationNilo-Saharan?

The Southern Nilotic languages are spoken mainly in western Kenya and northern Tanzania (with one of them, Kupsabiny or Sapiny, being spoken on the Ugandan side of Mount Elgon). They form a division of the larger Nilotic language family, along with the Western Nilotic languages and the Eastern Nilotic languages.


The Southern Nilotic languages are generally divided into two groups, Kalenjin and Tatogoa, although there is some uncertainty as to the internal coherence of the Kalenjin branch. Southern Nilotic languages appear to have been influenced considerably by Cushitic (Afro-Asiatic) languages.[1] The Kalenjin languages are spoken by the Kalenjin people. This family spreads all around Uganda and to some of Kenya. The Tatoga languages consist of the Omotik language and of the larger Datooga language, or more fitting, Datooga dialect cluster.[citation needed]



Proto-Kalenjin has been reconstructed by Franz Rottland (1979).[2]

Cushitic influences

Historically, Southern Nilotic has undergone extensive contact with a "missing" branch of East Cushitic that Heine (1979) refers to as Baz.[3] Proto-Baz reconstructions proposed by Heine (1979):[4]

Gloss Proto-Baz
bat *rɛɛrɛɛʕ
bell *kor
bovine, male *aʀ
calf *maʀ
claw *ʕidd
cow dung *zig
curse (n.) *hab-
eat, to *am
eight *siziet
ewe, virgin *subeen
feathers *goro-
fifty *konom
fingernail *ʕidd
forty *afaram
fur *goro-
goat, male *quar-
goat/sheep, young *maqal
grass *ʕaus
head *mɛtɛħ
honey *malab
hundred *boqol
lake *baz
look, to *ilaal
lost, to get *bod
louse *insir
lover *saani
mud *zig
nine *sagaal
pot, clay *ɖeri
rain *roob
red *buri-
scratch, to *quut
sea *baz
see, to *kas
seven *tizzaba
six *lVħ
smoke *iʀi
spear *tor
suck, to *nug
ten *tamman
thirty *sozzom

See also


  1. ^ Rottland, Franz (1982) Die Südnilotischen Sprachen: Beschreibung, Vergleichung und Rekonstruktion (Kölner Beiträge zur Afrikanistik vol. 7). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
  2. ^ Rottland, Franz. 1979. The reconstruction of proto-Kalenjin. (Papers from the Inst. of African Studies (IAS), 128.) Nairobi: Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi.
  3. ^ Güldemann, Tom (2018). "Historical linguistics and genealogical language classification in Africa". In Güldemann, Tom (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of Africa. The World of Linguistics series. Vol. 11. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 58–444. doi:10.1515/9783110421668-002. ISBN 978-3-11-042606-9.
  4. ^ Heine, Bernd, Franz Rottland & Rainer Voßen. 1979. Proto-Baz: Some aspects of early Nilotic-Cushitic contacts. Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 1. 75‒92.