Dholuo (also known as Luo; IPA with tone marks [d̪ólúô]) belongs to the Luo grouping within the Western Nilotic grouping of the Nilo-Saharan language family. It is spoken by the Luo people of Kenya and Tanzania, numbering about 3 million, who occupy parts of the eastern shore of Lake Victoria and areas south of there. It is used for broadcasts on KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, formerly the Voice of Kenya) and Radio Ramogi.
Dholuo is closely related to Lango, Acholi and Dhopadhola of Uganda. It is not to be confused with the fellow Western Nilotic language Luwo (spoken in Sudan); in addition, both of the aforementioned languages Lango and Acholi have the alternative names Lwo or Lwoo.
Dholuo has two sets of five vowels, distinguished by the feature [+/-ATR]
In the table of consonants below, orthographic symbols are included between parentheses if they differ from the IPA symbols. Note especially the following: the use of ‘y’ for IPA [j], common in African orthographies; 'th, dh' are plosives, not fricatives as in Swahili spelling (but phoneme /d̪/ can fricativize intervocalically). When symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant.
Phonetic inventory of consonants in Dholuo.
|t̪ (th) d̪ (dh)|
|c (ch) ɟ (j)|
Some phonological characteristics
Dholuo is a tonal language. There is both lexical tone and grammatical tone, e.g., in the formation of passive verbs. It has vowel harmony
by ATR status: the vowels in a noncompound word must be either all [+ATR] or all [-ATR]. The ATR harmony requirement extends to the semivowels /w, y/. Vowel length is contrastive.
Dholuo is notable for its complicated phonological alternations, which are used, among other things, in distinguishing inalienable possession
from alienable, e.g. The first example is a case of alienable possession, as the bone is not part of the dog.
- cogo guok
- bone dog
- 'the dog's bone' (which it is eating)
The following is however an example of inalienable possession, the bone being part of the cow:
- cok dhiang'
- bone (construct state) cow
- 'a cow bone'
Hello, (how are you?)
- Nang'oI'm fine,
- Adhi MaberWhat is your name?,
- Nyingi Ng'aMy name is ___ ,
- Nying'a en ____I am happy to see you,
- Amor KaneniGood morning,
- oyaworeGood afternoon,
- OimoreGod Bless you,
- Nyasaye ogwedhiGood Job/work,
- Tich maberGoodbye,
- OritiI want water,
- adwaro piI am thirsty,
- riyo nega OR riyo makaThank you,
- nyathi skulSit,
- kechI am starved,
- kech kayaFather,
- wuor [Dinka] wurMother,
- min [Dinka] morGod,
- NyasayeGod is Good,
- Nyasaye BerTo help,
- konyo [Dinka] ba konyMan,
- nyako [Dinka] nyaBook,
- long'; siruach long'Table,
- rarind OR ralorLeader,
- dhiGo back,
- dogCome back,
- ring [Dinka]Walk,
- rech [Dinka]I want to eat,
- adwaro chiemoGrandpa,
- kwaro [Dinka] kwarGrandma,
- dayo [Dinka] dayWhite man,
- ja rachar; odieroblack man,
- ja rateng'Car,
- wer [Dinka]marriage,
- keny [Dinka] keny is the process but thiek is the marriage tomorrow,
- omenda, chung', oboke, sendi, pesagun,
- bundeI want Ugali
- Adwaro KwonMaize/Corn
- Oduma; bandoMaize and Beans
- Matatu (Swahili)
- Gregersen, Edgar (1961) Luo: A grammar. Dissertation: Yale University.
- Stafford, Roy L. (1965) An elementary Luo grammar with vocabularies. Nairobi: Oxford University Press.
- Omondi, Lucia Ndong'a (1982) The major syntactic structures of Dholuo. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
- Tucker, Archibald N. (ed. by Chet A. Creider) (1994) A grammar of Kenya Luo (Dholuo). 2 vols. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
- Okoth Okombo, Duncan (1997) A Functional Grammar of Dholuo. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
- Odaga, Asenath Bole (1997) English-Dholuo dictionary. / Asenath Bole Odaga. Lake Publishers & Enterprises, Kisumu.
- Odhiambo, Reenish Acieng' and Aagard-Hansen, Jens (1998) Dholuo course book. Nairobi.