Nuer Field Project

Nouns Verbs Verb Book Expressions Pedagogical Grammar of Nuer Translation of Genesis in Nuer Others

Extra Lesson 1

This lesson begins an explanation of the relative clause system in Nuer. The relative clause system includes the part of speech known as an adjective in English.

Mëëpan ɤähn cäh wäh raar. cäh wäh käh Dhaalap Käh cäh wah ruac käh naath thihn.
Yesterday I went out (away). I went to Dhaalap and I went & talked to people there.

Cih ram kɛl bɛhn kutdäh. Cih nɛy muɔŋ kɛ guaah mih bäähr ɛlohŋ.
One person came beside-me. We visited with time which longs very.

Ram ɛmɔ ɛ ram mih raan ɛpuhc. Kɛ ɤoo cɛ lɔcdɛ lahr ɤäh kɛɛliw.
That person is a person who persons really. Because he his-heart told me completely.

Ɣälw kahn cuuhc kɛ wuht ɔ gɔaa ɛmɔɔ, cih nɛy nyuuhr kɛ guaah mi bäähr käh cih lɔcda lɛɛth kɛ tɛ̈th mih diiht mih duhŋ gɔaa ɛlohŋ.
I did not tire with that good man. We sat with time which longs and our heart was happy with happiness which bigs which goods very much.

Cih ɤähn ɛ jiɛhk ih thaahn nath lapkɛ nɛy tih gɔw pahny. Thaahn nɛɛni tih diht lapkɛ nɛy tih buɔhm buɔɔhm.
I found that some people constitue people who good really. Some people who big constitue people who strong.

Nɛy tih nath käh Dhaalap lupkɛ nɛy tih buɔhm buɔɔhm ɛlonŋ.
People who people at Dhaalap constitute people who strong very much.


The adjective is commonly expressed in Nuer by a clause. There are verbal adj. clauses, adverbial adj. clauses, and nouns-used-as-verbs adjectival clauses. Sentences occur with these clauses in combination.

In this lesson we begin with the verbal adjective clause and the noun-used-as-verb clause.

First, these rules which are basic to all constructions in the relative clause system.

  1. The relative pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number. i.e. if the one it refers to is plural, the relative pron. must occur in the plural, and likewise in the singular.
  2. The verb in a relative clause construction in all aspects is never conjugated in the singular when the subject of the verb is the antecedent of the relative pronoun. The plural may be conj. although not necessarily.
  3. Verbs in a relative clause occur in their plural forms (if they have one) when the antecedent is plural.


  1. There are a few isolated words in Nuer which may modify nouns apart from any relative clause construction. There is no relative pronoun.
  2. Colors occur in the relative clause pattern in both sing. and plural forms.
  3. Every time you speak in Nuer using an adjectival expression you must use one of 3 types of relative clauses which means a relative pronoun with a) a verb in any aspect, or b) a noun used as a verb, or c) an adv. used as a verb. These will be taught in the following lessons.
  4. Also, the Relative Pronoun may occur in 6 forms (sing & pl.) These 6 words will be explained in the following lessons. In this lesson the relative pronoun [mih - tih] is taught. It is called the indefinite relative pronoun and means simply "who", "which".
  5. It is essential to grasp the mechanics necessary to form adjectival expressions in Nuer since the literal translations of these 3 types of clauses make little sense, or none at all, English-wise, and one does not easily fall into the habit of using them.



  1. The English adjectives (words modifying or explaining nouns) "good", "bad", "big", "little", "tall", "short", etc. are expressed in Nuer by a relative clause composed of a relative pronoun and a verb in any aspect. These verbs have been referred to as "adjectival verbs" in the first book. The literal translation of a Nuer sentence using this construction is like this:
    1st ASPECT 2nd ASPECT 3rd ASPECT Notice that it is only in the 1st Aspect of the verb that the translation appears as an English adjective. However, the Nuer mechanics follows a well developed and very expressive system through-out and when one grasps the "feel" of the expressions he will be satified.
    Study the rule #2 and notice its application in the examples above.
  2. All other verbs work the same way in the relative system. See the example under rule #2. Also: Note: Raan - ram: [Raan] when occurring together with [mih] is shortened to [ram].
Nuer Field Project Nouns Verbs Verb Book Expressions Grammar Genesis Others