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The morphology of Shilluk transitive verbs

Bert Remijsen EMAIL logo , Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé and Leoma G. Gilley


This paper offers a descriptive analysis of the morphology of transitive verbs in Shilluk. Shilluk is a language in which stem-internal changes, many of them suprasegmental in nature, play an important role in the morphology, alongside affixal markers. In particular, tone, vowel length, Advanced Tongue Root (ATR), vowel height, and the stem-final consonant are involved in the morphological marking of a range inflections, expressing tense-aspect-modality, valency changes, agreement, and focus. The paper lays out the inflectional marking of these operations, for each of seven classes that can be distinguished among transitive verbs. In this way, the study extends our understanding of stem-internal morphology and its development in West Nilotic languages.

Article Note

The online version of this article includes embedded sound examples. Please find it at the journal’s website:


We thank Otto Gwado Ayoker, our primary language consultant. Throughout this investigation, he has provided not only elicitations and recordings, but also various important insights. We also thank the other consultants who were involved during the initial period, in particular Twong Yolong Kur, Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec, and Peter Mojwok Yor. And we thank SIL Sudan and SIL South Sudan, for facilitating data collection in Khartoum, Juba, and the Shilluk land. The first author gratefully acknowledges the Leverhulme Trust, which supported the completion of this project through the research grant “A descriptive analysis of the Shilluk language” (RPG-2015-055). Earlier on, his involvement was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, through the research grant “Stress in Nilotic – a typological challenge” The second author’s involvement was supported in part by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (UID 95926). She acknowledges that opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in any publication generated by the NRF supported research are those of the author, and that the NRF accepts no liability whatsoever in this regard.





Antipassive, durative


Antipassive, single-action










































Demonstrative (previous mention)








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Table 17:

List of transitive verb roots belonging to each of the seven classes of transitive verbs that are outlined in Section 2.

Fixed Short/LowFixed Short/Low FallShort with Grade/LowShort with Grade/Low FallLong/High FallLong/LowLong/Low Fall
ŋɔl ‘cut’, but̪ ‘scrape’, n̪ɔt ‘suck’, ŋɛt ‘swim, lɛm ‘save for’, lut ‘hit with fist’, ɟut ‘bother’, bul ‘roast’, bɔt̪ ‘slide on limb’, gur ‘drive down’, ŋɪc ‘recognise’, kum ‘cover’, kɔc ‘carve out’/‘separate by owner’, kɔɲ ‘help’/‘pour’, kɔl ‘offend’, put̪ ‘loosen (vert.)’, tum ‘fish’, nɛm ‘break off’, tik ‘repair’ lɔɲ ‘change (clothes)’, twɪc ‘tighten’lɛŋ ‘drum’, buk ‘shake up’, kɔl ‘take out’, kɔk ‘hoe’, ŋɛr ‘make incisions’, rik ‘fillup’, lɔt ‘heat (dried food)’, lɔl ‘go around’, tim ‘weigh’, dɛn ‘pack together’, mɔj ‘crush’, kɛn ‘soothe’, mɔt ‘break to pieces’, ŋɛk ‘fold and cut’, ŋɛn ‘make flat/ smooth’cam ‘eat’, nʌk ‘kill’, ɟak ‘pull’, kʌl ‘take away’, mak ‘catch’, par ‘remember’, kak ‘split’, t̪aj ‘apply tribal marks’; baɲ ‘refuse’, lam ‘lift curse’, kac ‘bite’, cwak ‘defend’, jwet̪ ‘defile’, tjek ‘finish’,mʌl ‘heatup’, cʌp ‘kick’, ɟʌp ‘stir’, bʌk ‘boil’, t̪ak ‘wash (using foam)’, kan ‘hide’, ɲam ‘chew’, ɲom ‘mix’, ɲaɲ ‘bite lightly’, taɲ ‘tread down’, djel ‘repel’, tjɛk ‘attack from all’, gwɛt ‘write’mʌʌt̪ ‘greet’, buut̪ ‘deceive’, lɪɪm ‘probe depth’, kiil ‘ration’, d̪ʊʊk ‘put beads on’, buul ‘submerge’, duut ‘misinform’, pɪɪt̪ ‘grow’, lʊʊɲ ‘take turns’, caam ‘feed’, ŋɪɪc ‘train’, kaak ‘give to drink’, paak ‘address with title’, tuum ‘gossip’, laal ‘redo’, t̪aaj ‘support walking’, jeej ‘agree on’, muuc ‘give’, cʊʊt̪ ‘polish’, gwaat ‘insult’, wɪɪl ‘change’, cwaak ‘push firewood’keel ‘spear’, lɛɛŋ ‘throw’, d̪ook ‘lift’, bɔɔt̪ ‘isolate’, gɛɛr ‘build’, ŋɔɔj ‘imitate’, kɔɔk ‘remunerate’/ ‘plow’, tɛɛk ‘host lavishly’, gɔɔc ‘hit’, gɛɛr ‘build’, tɔɔk ‘scoop out’, t̪oot̪ ‘take’, deet ‘block’maat̪ ‘drink’, kɔɔl ‘herd away’ ɟaak ‘rule’, kɪɪl ‘tear off’, kɛɛl ‘separate’, lʊʊɲ ‘pluck’, luut ‘carve into’, buuk ‘cover’, lɪɪt̪ ‘see(past)’, guur ‘grind’, jʊʊt ‘find’, mɪɪn ‘pierce’, ŋaap ‘hang’, pɛɛt̪ ‘spread’, pʊʊc ‘wipe’, ŋaal ‘slaughter’, mɛɛɲ ‘illuminate’, cʊʊl ‘pay for’, cɔɔŋ ‘dance’, kʊʊt̪ ‘blow’, t̪aal ‘cook’, kwaac ‘beg’, tɛɛŋ ‘clean’
Published Online: 2016-12-2
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

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