Gumuz language

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Native toEthiopia, Sudan
RegionBenishangul-Gumuz Region; Amhara Region; Blue Nile Province
Native speakers
180,000 in Ethiopia (2007 census)[1]
40,000 in Sudan (no date)[2]
  • Northern
  • Southern
  • Yaso
Ethiopic, Latin (in Ethiopia)
Language codes
ISO 639-3guk
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Gumuz (also spelled Gumaz) is a dialect cluster spoken along the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. It has been tentatively classified within the Nilo-Saharan family. Most Ethiopian speakers live in Kamashi Zone and Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, although a group of 1,000 reportedly live outside the town of Welkite (Unseth 1989); the Sudanese speakers live in the area east of Er Roseires, around Famaka and Fazoglo on the Blue Nile, extending north along the border.[2]

An early record of this language is a wordlist from the Mount Guba area compiled in February 1883 by Juan Maria Schuver.[4]


Varieties are not all mutually intelligible. By that standard, there are two or three Gumuz languages. Grammatical forms are distinct between northern and southern Gumuz.[5]

Daats'iin, discovered in 2013, is clearly a distinct language, though closest to southern Gumuz.

Ethnologue lists Guba, Wenbera, Sirba, Agalo, Yaso, Mandura, Dibate, and Metemma as Gumuz dialects, with Mandura, Dibate, and Metemma forming a dialect cluster.

Ahland (2004)[6] provides comparative lexical data for the Guba, Mandura, North Dibat'e, Wenbera, Sirba Abay, Agelo Meti, Yaso, and Metemma dialects.


Gumuz has both ejective consonants and implosives; the implosive quality is being lost at the velar point of articulation in some dialects (Unseth 1989). There is a series of palatal consonants, including both ejective and implosive. In some dialects, e.g. Sirba, there is a labialized palatalized bilabial stop, as in the word for 'rat' [bʲʷa] (Unseth 1989).

Tones are high and low, with downstep.[7]


Word order is AVO, with marked nominative case, though there is AOV order in the north, probably from Amharic influence .

In intransitive clauses, subjects in S–V order are unmarked, whereas those in V–S order are marked for nominative case.[7]


  1. ^ Ethiopia 2007 Census
  2. ^ a b Gumuz language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northern Gumuz". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Wendy James, et al., Juan Maria Schuver's Travels in North East Africa, 1880-1883 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1996), pp. 340-43
  5. ^ Ahland, Colleen Anne. 2004. "Linguistic variation within Gumuz: a study of the relationship between historical change and intelligibility." M.A. thesis. University of Texas at Arlington.
  6. ^ Ahland, Colleen Anne. 2004. Linguistic Variation Within Gumuz: A Study of the Relationship Between Historical Change and Intelligibility (Ethiopia, Sudan). MA thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.
  7. ^ a b Colleen Ahland, 2012. "A Grammar of Northern and Southern Gumuz", Doctoral Dissertation, University of Oregon.


  • Ahland, Colleen Anne. A Grammar of Northern and Southern Gumuz. Doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon.
  • Dimmendaal, Gerrit J., 2000. "Number marking and noun categorization in Nilo- Saharan languages". Anthrolopological Linguistics 42:214-261.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ahland, Colleen Anne. 2004. "Linguistic variation within Gumuz: a study of the relationship between historical change and intelligibility." M.A. thesis. University of Texas at Arlington.
  • Colleen Ahland. 2011. Noun incorporation and predicate classifiers in Gumuz
  • Bender, M. Lionel. 1979. Gumuz: a sketch of grammar and lexicon. Afrika und Übersee 62: 38-69.
  • Unseth, Peter. 1985. "Gumuz: a dialect survey report." Journal of Ethiopian Studies 18: 91-114.
  • Unseth, Peter. 1989. "Selected aspects of Gumuz phonology." In Taddese Beyene (ed.), Proceedings of the eighth International Conference on Ethiopian Studies, vol. 2, 617-32. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.
  • Uzar, Henning. 1993. Studies in Gumuz: Sese phonology and TMA system. In Topics in Nilo-Saharan linguistics, edited by M.L. Bender. Hamburg: Helmut Buske: 347-383.
  • World Atlas of Language Structures information on Gumuz
  • Website maintained by the Gumuz language community with published literature in the language

External links[edit]