|Native to||Sudan, South Sudan|
|1.3 million (ca. 2008-2016; some figures undated)|
Dinka (natively Thujä?, Thu ee Jieng or simply Jieng) is a Nilotic dialect cluster spoken by the Dinka people, the major ethnic group of South Sudan. There are several main varieties, Padang, Rek, Agaar, Hol, Twic East, Twic, and Bor, which are distinct enough (though mutually intelligible) to require separate literary standards. Jaang, Jieng or Monyjieng is used as a general term to cover all Dinka languages.
The language most closely related to Dinka is the Nuer language. The Luo languages are also closely related. The Dinka vocabulary shows considerable proximity to Nubian, which is probably due to medieval interactions between the Dinka people and the kingdom of Alodia.
The Dinka are found mainly along the Nile, specifically the west bank of the White Nile, a major tributary flowing north from Uganda, north and south of the Sudd marsh in South Kordofan state of Sudan as well as Bahr el Ghazal region and Upper Nile state of South Sudan.
There are 20 consonant phonemes:
Dinka has a rich vowel system, with thirteen phonemically contrastive short vowels. There are seven vowel qualities plus a two-way distinction in phonation. The underdots, , mark the breathy voice series, represented in Dinka orthography by diaereses, ⟨⟩. Unmarked vowels are modal or creaky voiced.
Four phonetic phonations have been described in Dinka vowels: modal voice, breathy voice, faucalized voice, and harsh voice. The modal series has creaky or harsh voice realizations in certain environments, while the breathy vowels are centralized and have been described as being hollow voiced (faucalized). This is independent of tone.
On top of this, there are three phonemically contrastive vowel lengths, a feature found in very few languages. Most Dinka verb roots are single, closed syllables with either a short or a long vowel. Some inflections lengthen that vowel:
|short||ràaan ?-lèl||"You are isolating a person (ràaan)."|
|long||ràaan ?-lèel||"He is isolating a person."|
|overlong||lràaan ?-lèeel||"He is provoking a person."|
In Bor proper, falling tone is not found on short vowels except as an inflection for the passive in the present tense. In Nyaarweng and Twïc it is not found at all. In Bor proper, and perhaps in other dialects as well, Fall is only realized as such at the end of a prosodic phrase. Elsewhere it becomes High.
In Bor proper and perhaps other dialects, a Low tone is only phonetically low after another low tone. Elsewhere it is falling, but not identical to Fall: It does not become High in the middle of a phrase, and speakers can distinguish the two falling tones despite the fact that they have the same range of pitch. The difference appears to be in the timing: with Fall one hears a high level tone that then falls, whereas the falling allophone of Low starts falling and then levels out. (That is, one falls on the first mora of the vowel, whereas the other falls on the second mora.) This is unusual because it has been theorized that such timing differences are never phonemic.
Linguists divide Dinka into five languages or dialect clusters corresponding to their geographic location with respect to each other:
Northeastern and western: Padang da Ayuel jiel (Abarlang, Nyiël, Ageer, Dongjol). Luäc da (Akook, Wieu, Aguer), Ngok de Jok (Upper Nile), Rut, Thoi, Western: Ngók de Jok Athuorkok (Abiei), Ngok de Jok da Awet and Kuel of Ruweeng (Panaru, Aloor and Paweny)
South Central: Aliap, Ciëc (Jang), Gok, and Agar
Southeastern: Bor, Twic (Twi), Nyarweng, and Hol
Southwestern: Rek, Abiëm, Aguók, Apuk, Awan, Kuac, Lóu, Luäc/Luänyjang, Malual (Malualgi?rnyang), Paliët, Paliëupiny, Twïc
These would be largely mutually intelligible if it were not for the importance of tone in grammatical inflection, as the grammatical function of tone differs from one variety to another.
See Ethnologue online map of Sudan for locations of dialects.
Dinka has been written with several Latin alphabets since the early 20th century. The current alphabet is:
Variants in other alphabets include:
|? ("e" with a dot on top)|
|h, x, q|
|? ("o" with a dot on top)|