Nuer Field Project

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

Extra Lesson 6

This lesson will explain the construction of the Nuer questions "who?" and "why?" They are in essence a relative clause construction.

WHO? -- "E ŋa" means it is who? So to say in Nuer who came or who will come? what one must say is: It is who who came or It is who who will come? Thus the grammar consists of an independent clause followed by a relative clause with [ŋa] as the antecedent or one referred to.

  1. The relative pronoun commonly used relative with questions is [ɔ] ([tɔ] pl.) and it occurs as the final word in the sentence or as a couplet. This is important.
  2. When the subj. of the relative clause refers to antecedent the verb or verb particle is not conjugated.
  3. To speak these sentences correctly to be understood it is necessary to learn the intonation.

GROUP 1E -- 1st Aspect of Relative Pron. Couplet -- Sing. Subj.

[ɛ ŋa]

  1. E ŋa ɔ bëë ɔ täämɛ?
  2. E ŋa ɔ jiɛy ɔ?
  3. E ŋa ɔ mihth ɔ?
  4. E ŋa ɔ ruac ɔ?
  5. E ŋa ɔ lihw ɔ?


  1. Who is coming now? lit. It is who who comes now?
  2. Who is going?
  3. Who is eating?
  4. Who is sleeping?
  5. Who is dying?

Note: bëë in #1 is an exception since it is conjugated. bëë, tëë, and wëë will occur in relative constructions where all other verbs are not conjugated.

GROUP 2E -- 1st Aspect with Object -- Singular

  1. E ŋa nähk ɛ mɔ?
  2. E ŋa lar ɛ mɔ?
  3. E ŋa lahr ɛ jih mɔ?
  4. E ŋa luahk ih mɔ?
  5. E ŋa cam kɛ mɔ?


  1. Who killed it?
  2. Who says so? (it)
  3. Who told you? (Who told it to you?)
  4. Who is helping you?
  5. Who ate them?

GROUP 3E -- 2nd Aspect -- 3rd Aspect -- Singular

  1. E ŋa cih bɛhn ɔ?
  2. E ŋa cih jiɛɛn ɔ?
  3. E ŋa cih lihw ɔ mëë ciäŋëë?
  4. E ŋa cih jɛ uähk ɔ?
  5. E ŋa wih tɛh wanɛmɛ mɔ?


  1. Who came?
  2. Who left?
  3. Who died the other day?
  4. Who killed it?
  5. Who will stay here?

GROUP 1F -- 1st Aspect of Relative Pronoun -- Negative -- Singular
The subj. of the rel. clause ins in the vb.

  1. E ŋuh cih bäh mɔ?
  2. E ŋuh cíh míhth ɔ?
  3. E ŋuh cih niɛɛn ɔ?
  4. E ŋuh cih wäh mɔ?
  5. E ŋuh cih ruac ɔ?


  1. Why aren't you coming?
  2. Why aren't you eating?
  3. Why aren't you sleeping?
  4. Why aren't you going?
  5. Why aren't you talking?

GROUP 2F -- 2nd-3rd Aspect of Relative Pron. -- Negative -- Singular

  1. E ŋuh kehuɛ wɛhn ɔ mindan?
  2. E ŋuh kehnih jɛ cam ɔ?
  3. E ŋuh cih bih wäh ɔ?
  4. E ŋuh cɛ wuhr ɛmɔ bih luähk ɔ?
  5. E ŋuh kehn wuht ɛmɔ jiɛɛn ɔ?


  1. Why didn't he come a little while ago?
  2. Why didn't you eat it?
  3. Why won't you go?
  4. Why won't he help that man?
  5. Why didn't that man leave?
Nuer Field Project Nouns Verbs Verb Book Expressions Grammar Genesis Others