Dinka Vowel System (SIL International and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics, vol. 82)

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9780883120088: Dinka Vowel System (SIL International and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics, vol. 82)
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This study addresses one of the oldest topics in language analysis. While considering a thorough analysis of the sound system to be a prerequisite for developing an orthography is the current linguistic approach, the tradition at the time Dinka was first written appears to have been somewhat different. This difference is reflected in some aspects left unresolved in the analysis of Dinka vowel system. These aspects include a lack of a precise definition of breathiness and the role it and others like vowel length, tone, and centralized vowels play in the language. This thesis is, thus, a response to the unresolved questions.

The first part of the thesis advances an outline of the phonology of Dinka. The second part handles the definition of breathiness and its role in the language. The third part investigates the roles of vowel length, tone, and centralized vowels.

The investigations show that:
a. Breathiness in Dinka is distinctive as opposed to phonetic.
b. There are 78 distinctive vowel sounds in Dinka.

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction

  2. An Overview of Dinka Phonological Structure
    • 2.1 The Phonological Sentence
    • 2.1.1 Statement
    • 2.1.2 Imperative
    • 2.1.3 Subordinate Clause
    • 2.1.4 Interrogative
    • 2.2 The Phonological Word
    • 2.3 The Syllable
    • 2.3.1 Syllable Types
    • 2.3.2 Syllable Distribution
    • 2.4 The Sounds
    • 2.4.1 Consonants
    • 2.4.2 Vowels
  3. Breathy Versus Nonbreathy Vowels
    • 3.1Previous Work on Dinka
    • 3.1.1 Orthographic Approach
    • 3.1.2 Linguistic Approach
    • 3.1.3 Vowel Harmony Approach
    • 3.1.4 Recent Analysis
    • 3.2The Breathy and Nonbreathy Vowel Problem
    • 3.2.1 Physiology of Breathy and Nonbreathy Vowels
    • 3.2.2 Lexical-level Contrast between Breathy and Nonbreathy Vowels
    • 3.2.3 Grammatical Roles of Breathy and Nonbreathy Vowels
  4. Acoustic Characteristics of Breathy and Nonbreathy Vowels

  5. Tone
    • 5.1Tone Background
    • 5.2Tone in Dinka
    • 5.3Vowel Distribution in Relation to Tone
    • 5.4Tone Functions
  6. Vowel Length
    • 6.1Long Vowel at the Lexical Level
    • 6.2Distribution of Long Vowels in Relation to Consonants
    • 6.3Distribution of Long Vowels in Relation to Tone
    • 6.4The Function of Long Vowels at the Grammatical Level
    • 6.4.1 Third Person Singular/Plural Distinction
    • 6.4.2 Singular/Plural Noun Formation
    • 6.4.3 Prepositional Substitution
  7. Centralized Vowels
    • 7.1Centralized Vowels and Unreleased Consonants
    • 7.2Centralized Vowels at the Grammatical Level
  8. Summary and Conclusion




  • 1. Nilo-Sharan language family tree
  • 2. Dinka consonants
  • 3. Dinka nonbreathy vowels
  • 4. A seven-spoke vowel diagram
  • 5. Relative positions of the larynx
  • 6. Plurality alternations of nouns
  • 7. Verb/verbal noun alternations
  • 8. Vowel heights
  • 9. Possessive noun alterations
  • 10. Frequencies of first two formants of breathy and nonbreathy vowels
  • 11-17. Sonagrams for breathy and nonbreathy vowels
  • 18. Patterns of contour tracings
  • 19. Formant plots for three Dinka speakers


  • 1. Southern Sudan showing Dinka habitat
  • 2. The area of Western Nilotic Languages


  • 1. Air impedance in seconds
  • 2. Some plurality alternations of nouns
  • 3. First and second formant frequencies in Hertz
  • 4. First speaker
  • 5. Second speaker
  • 6. Third speaker

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