Nubian - Nubien - نوبيان

Nòbíín, Kenuzi, Dongola(wi), Meidob, Hill Nubian

1.  Classification / Classification

The Nubian languages belong to the Nubian group of Eastern Sudanic branch of Chari Nile. (Webbook)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

They are spoken in southern Egypt and in the Sudan. (Webbook)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Nobiin:
    • 295,000 in Sudan (1996)
    • 200,000 in Egypt (1996)
    • Population total all countries: 495,000
  • Kenuzi-Dongola:
    • 180,000 in Sudan (1996)
    • 100,000 in Egypt (1996)
    • Population total all countries: 280,000
  • Midob: 50,000 in Sudan (1993 R. Werner)
  • (Hill)
    • Ghulfan: 16,000 (1984 R. C. Stevenson)
    • Kadaru: 12,360 (2000 WCD)
    • Dilling: 5,295 (1984 R. C. Stevenson)
    • Dair: 1,000 (1978 GR)
    • El Hugeirat: 200 (2000 Brenzinger)
    • Karko: 12,986 (1984 R. C. Stevenson)
    • Wali: 487 (1977 Voegelin and Voegelin)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

... Nubian is generally considered to be divided into Hill or Kordofan, Meidob, Kenuz, Mahas or Nobiin, and Dongolawi. The latter three, spoken along the Nile, are most likely candidates for language materials, according to Thelwall (personal communication, 1983). Although geographically separated by Mahas, Kenuz and Dongolawi are highly mutually intelligible. (Webbook)

The Nubian language group, according to the most recent research by Bechhaus-Gerst] comprises the following varieties:

  1. Nobiin (previously called Mahas or Fadicca/Fiadicca).
  2. Dongolawi and Kenzi. Kenzi is spoken north of Mahas in Egypt while Dongolawi is spoken south of Mahas around Dongola. With population displacement due to the Aswan High Dam there are communities of Nubian speakers in Lower Egypt and in Eastern Sudan (Khashm el-Girba). Apart from these two distinct varieties spoken along the Nile, three other varieties existed.
  3. Midob (Meidob) in and around the Malha volcanic crater in North Darfur.
  4. Birgid - originally spoken north of Nyala around Menawashei until the 1970s. The last surviving aged speakers were interviewed by Thelwall at this time. Some equally aged speakers on Gezira Aba just north of Kosti on the Nile south of Khartoum were interviewed by Thelwall in 1980.
  5. Hill Nubian - a group of closely related dialects spoken in various villages in the northern Nuba Mountains - in particular Dilling, Debri, and Kadaru. {Wikipedia)

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Nobiin (Not intelligible with Kenuzi-Dongola. Lexical similarity 67% with Kenuzi-Dongola)
    • Mahas (Mahasi, Mahass)
    • Fiyadikka (Fedicca, Fadicha, Fadicca, Fadija, Fiadidja)
  • Kenuzi-Dongola (Not intelligible with Nobiin. Lexical similarity 67% with Nobiin, 56% with Debri)
    • Dongola
    • Kenuzi (Kenuz, Kunuzi)
  • Midob or Meidob (Lexical similarity 51% with Birgid (closest)
    • Shelkota (Shalkota)
    • Kaageddi
    • Urrti (Uurti)
  • Birked/Birgid (extinct)
  • ("Hill")
    • Ghulfan (Wunci)
    • Kadaru (Kodhin)
    • Dilling (Lexical similarity 94% with Debri, 93% with Kadaru)
      • Dilling
      • Debri
    • Dair (Thaminyi)
    • El Hugeirat (El Hagarat)
    • Karko (Kithonirishe)
    • Wali

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Nubian is a regional language. (Webbook)

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

"There is no standardized orthography for Nubian. It has been written in both Latinized and Arabic scripts." (Webbook) There was a historical Nubian script that some activists are apparently attempting to revive use of.

"There are three currently active proposals for the script of Nubian: the Arabic alphabet, the Latin alphabet and the Old Nubian alphabet. Since the 1950s, Latin has been used by 4 authors, Arabic by 2, and Old Nubian by 1, in the publication of various books of proverbs, dictionaries, and textbooks." (Wikipedia, Nubian languages, accessed c.2007) A more recent count of authors using Old Nubian is three. (Wikipedia, Nubian languages, accessed 12 Jan 2019)

"The Nubian Language Society (NLS) developed a phonemic orthography known as “nobiin agii” to write Nobiin based on Old Nubian script." (N. Khalil, "A brief description of the Nobiin language and history")

"Nobiin is one of the few African languages having a written history that can be followed over the course of more than a millennium." (Wikipedia, Nobiin)

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

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

This website may actually be in Arabic language [verify]:

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any software localisation efforts for this language.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Nubian languages / langues nubiennes

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


  • ISO 639: drb


  • ISO 639: dil

El Hugeirat

  • ISO 639: elh


  • ISO 639: ghl


  • ISO 639: kdu


  • ISO 639: kko


  • ISO 639: kzh


  • ISO 639: mei


  • ISO 639: fia


  • ISO 639: wll

7.6  Other / Autre

A presentation on Nobiin, developed from materials produced in the context of a linguistic field methods course at Georgetown University taught by Prof. Hannah Sande (includes descriptions of the project and main participants, description of the language and its history (including writing system), and audio files with transcripts:

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

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Nubian," )

Khalil, Nubantood, (2018?), "A brief description of the Nobiin language and history" (document prepared as part of the Georgetown University Nobiin Documentation Project)

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Birked,"

______, "Dair,"

______, "Dilling,"

______, "El Hugeirat,"

______, "Ghulfan,"

______, "Kadaru,"

______, "Karko,"

______, "Kenuzi-Dongola,"

______, "Midob,"

______, "Nobiin,"

______, "Wali,"

______, (Language Family Trees: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Nubian),

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

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,"

Wikipedia, "Nobiin language,"

______, "Nubian languages,"

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