Nuer Field Project

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

Lesson 9

We continue with verbs and concentrate on the words "come" and "go" in the 2nd and 3rd Aspects. The explanation of nouns is also begun.

Someone comes to the door and says:
Visitor: Maali̲, jï̲̩n a thï̲̩n?
You are at peace, you are present?
You: Ɣɔ̲ɔ̲n, maalä̲. Ɣä̲n a thï̲̩n, Go̲o̲ri̲ ni̲ ŋu̲?
Yes I am at peace. I am present, what do you want?
Visitor: Ɣä̲n göörä̲ ki̲i̲m. Jɛn a ni̲? Jɛn a thï̲̩n?
I want Doctor. Where is he? Is he present?
You: Ɣëc, cɛ wä̲ duɛ̲ɛ̲l wal mïndan.
No, he went (to) house of-medicine a-little-while-ago.
Visitor: Ɣɔ̲ɔ̲, cɛ wä̲ duɛ̲ɛ̲l wal mïndan.
Oh, he went (to) house of-medicine? It is good.
You: Ɣɔ̲ɔ̲n, ci̲ wu̲t bɛ̲n mïndan, gatdɛ tëë kɛ juc̲y, kä̲ ci̲ ki̲i̲m ɛ nɛŋ duɛ̲ɛ̲l wal. Jɛn a thï̲̩n täämɛ.
Yes, man came a-little-while-ago, his child has sickness, and doctor him took (to) house of-medicine. He is present now.
Visitor: Ɛ jɛn, gɔaaɛ. Cä̲ wä̲.
It is so. It is good. I have gone.


-ë- 1. This sound is difficult. It is best learned by drilling. It is formed by pushing from the diaphragm
-e̲- 2. These sounds are not difficult but they require drilling because they differ from relative English sounds.
3. Practice previous drills.


2nd Aspect

  1. The 2nd Aspect of the verb indicates momentary completed action or state; or action thought of as completed.
  2. 2nd Aspect has what is called a "verb particle" which always accompanies it. This particle appears in two forms:
  3. The 2nd Aspect form of the verb itself cannot be predicted from the 1st Aspect conjugated form or stem form but must be learned separately.

3rd Aspect

  1. The 3rd Aspect of the verb expresses future action or anticipated change of action.
  2. The 3rd Aspect is formed on the same pattern as the 2nd Aspect and uses the same stem, but it has its own verb particle. This particle appears in two forms:

An explanation of subject word order in the three aspects of the verb is given here simply for recognition. Each is commonly used.

  Informal Meaning Distinctive Meaning Emphatic meaning
1st Aspect Ɣä̲n wa̲a̲. Wä̲ ɤä̲n. Wä̲ ni̲ ɤä̲n.
2nd Aspect Ɣä̲n cä̲ wä̲. Ci̲ ɤä̲n wä̲. (E. Nuer) Ci̲ wä̲ ni̲ ɤä̲n.
3rd Aspect Ɣä̲n bä̲ wä̲. Bi̲ ɤä̲n wä̲. (E. Nuer) Bi̲ wä̲ ni̲ ɤä̲n.
  1. Informal meaning -- This is used when the subject is not desiring any special attention in meaning.
  2. Distinctive Meaning -- This is used when the subject desires to be unmistaken and distinct.
  3. Emphatic meaning -- This is used when the subject desires to be emphasized in contrast to someone or something else.

Note: In the 2nd and 3rd Aspects when the subject follows the verb particle, the free or unassimilated form of the particle is always used. When the subject precedes the verb particle, or is understood, the assimilated form of the particle is used.
e.g. [Ci̲ ɤä̲n wä̲.] or [Ɣä̲n cä̲ wä̲.]


A Nuer noun has 4 cases when feasible and the vowel change indicating the cases are usually unpredictable so that every case of each noun must be learned almost as a separate word. (cf. Precis under Noun Cases)

The 4 cases are: nominative, objective, genitive and locative.

  1. The nominative case is used in the following environments:
    1. Subject -- [Ci̲ wu̲t bɛ̲n.] -- The man came.
    2. Predicate nominative -- [Nɛmɛ ɛ wu̲t] -- This is a man.
    3. Appositive -- [Ɛjɛn wu̲t.] -- (he) is he a man.
  2. The objective case in nouns has the same form as the nominative, but not in pronouns. It occurs in the following environments:
    1. Direct Object -- [Bä̲ wu̲t naŋ.] -- I will take the man.
    2. Indirect object -- [Bɛ yaŋ ɛmɛ ka̲m wu̲t ɛmɔ.] -- He will give this cow (to) that man. Sometime the word order is reversed.
    3. Object of Preposition -- [Cä̲ wä̲ kä̲ wu̲t ɛmɔ.] -- I went to that man.
      [Cɛ tɛ̲ kɛ jue̲y.] -- He existed with sickness.
Nuer Field Project Nouns Verbs Verb Book Expressions Grammar Genesis Others