Teso, Turkana

Ateso, Ng'aturk(w)ana, Karamojong, Toposa, Inyangatom

1.  Classification / Classification

The Teso-Turkana cluster consists of two major groupings in Eastern Nilotic: Ateso (or Teso) and Ng'aturk(w)ana (commonly, Turkana). (Webbook?)

Also included in this section is information on Karamojong (or Karimojong), Nyangatom and Toposa.

Ethnologue? lists the classifications as:

  • (Teso) Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Eastern, Lotuxo-Teso, Teso-Turkana, Teso
  • (Turkana, Karamojong, Nyangatom, Toposa) Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Eastern, Lotuxo-Teso, Teso-Turkana, Turkana

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Teso is spoken primarily in Uganda (Teso District) but also in Kenya (Busia District). Turkana is spoken in Kenya (Turkana District and around Isiolo town, Samburu District) (from Dimmendaal, personal communication, 1983). (Webbook)

There are also some Turkana in Ethiopia.

Karamojong is spoken in east and northeast Uganda. Toposa in southern South Sudan. Nyangatom in Ethiopia.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnnologue:

  • Teso:
    • 999,537 in Uganda (1991 census)
    • 279,000 in Kenya (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • Population total all countries: 1,278,537
  • Turkana:
    • 340,000 in Kenya (1994 I. Larsen BTL)
    • 25,163 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD)
    • Population total all countries: 365,163
  • Karamojong:
    • 370,000 in Uganda (1994 UBS)
  • Nyangatom:
    • 14,177 in Ethiopia (1998 census)
  • Toposa:
    • 100,000 in S. Sudan (2000 M. Schroeder)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Teso and Turkana are on opposite ends of a dialect continuum, with only 70.2 percent of mutual intelligibility. In addition, both groups have "major social differences" (Dimmendaal, personal communication, 1982). (Webbook)

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Teso:
    • Lokathan (Biri, Ketebo)
    • Orom (Rom)
    • (Limited intelligibility of other varieties in the Teso-Turkana group. The dialect in Ngoro is considered standard. Lexical similarity 76% with Turkana, 75% with Karamojong)
  • Turkana:
    • Northern Turkana
    • Southern Turkana
    • (Inherently intelligible with Toposa, .... Also partially intelligible with Karamojong, Jie, and Nyangatom, .... Northern Turkana and Eastern Toposa are closer; Southern Turkana and Western Toposa are farther apart linguistically. The four varieties form a cluster divided in the middle by the Kenya-S. Sudan border. Lexical similarity 85% similarity with Karamojong, 76% with Teso.)
  • Karamojong:
    • Karamojong
    • Jie (Jiye)
    • Dodos (Dodoth)
    • (The dialects have 83% to 95% lexical similarity. Lexical similarity 85% with Turkana, 75% with Teso.)
  • Nyangatom (Inherently intelligible with Toposa and Turkana)
  • Toposa
    • Eastern Toposa
    • Western Toposa
    • Jiye
    • (Eastern Toposa and Jiye are linguistically closer to Turkana; Western Toposa to Karamojong. Inherently intelligible with Nyangatom, Karamojong, and Turkana, .... Separate literature is needed also because of loans from different second languages, and different discourse structures. Limited intelligibility of Teso.)

Linguistic similarity does not necessarily connote social affinity or cultural similarity.

IDRC and CASAS (n.d.) did some research on interintelligibility of Teso and Karamojong dialects.

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Teso and Turkana are local languages and are used as a language of instruction in district schools. (Webbook)

Notes from Ethnologue (assessed 2007):

  • Teso in Uganda:
    • Literacy campaign in progress
    • Taught in primary schools
    • Newspapers
  • Turkana in Kenya:
    • Language use described as "vigorous"
    • Literacy rate:
      • L1: 5% to 10%
      • L2: 25% to 50%
  • Nyangatom in Ethiopia:
    • Ethnic identity attitudes are strong
    • Literacy rate:
      • L1: ?
      • L2: 1.9%
  • Toposa in S. Sudan:
    • Language use described as "vigorous" "Positive language attitude"
    • Neighboring groups use the language in trade
    • Literacy rate:
      • L1: Fewer than 5%
      • L2: ?
      • Perhaps 2,000 can read
    • Taught in primary schools

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Only Turkana has a standardized orthography. (Webbook) [need update, verify!]

These are written in the Latin alphabet.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

The "Language Museum" site has sample texts for:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any localisation efforts.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: -
  • ISO 639-3: teo


  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: -
  • ISO 639-3: tuv


  • ISO 639-3: kdj


  • ISO 639-3: nnj


  • ISO 639-3: toq

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

Differences between Teso and Turkana might necessitate separate approaches to localisation.

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/hiermenu.htm (page on "Teso/Turkana," http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/Teso_root.html )

International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS) (n.d.), "Report of the Evaluation of the Democratization of ICT Content for Africa Pilot Project" http://www.idrc.ca/uploads/user-S/10373084350EvalDemoContentAfrica.pdf

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Karamojong," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/kdj

______, "Nyangatom," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/nnj

______, "Teso," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/teo

______, "Toposa," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/toq

______, "Turkana," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/tuv

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Karamojong language,"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karamojong_language

______, "Nyangatom language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyangatom_language

______, "Teso language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teso_language

______, "Teso–Turkana languages," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teso-Turkana_languages

______, "Toposa language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toposa_language

______, "Turkana language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkana_language

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Categories: Languages, Uganda, Kenya, Southern SS, SW Ethiopia