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Nouns table

gloss layer type count sg pl
army lexeme 1 diicɛn diic
army suffix 1 ɛn zero
backbone lexeme 1 karatot karotwa
backbone suffix 1 ot wa
bee lexeme 2 meegɔwɔt meegɔk
bee suffix 2 ot k
bellows lexeme 10 akuba akubɛt
bellows suffix 10 a ɛt
black ant lexeme 42 agunac aguna
black ant suffix 42 c zero
calf lexeme 1 mol maala
calf suffix 1 zero a
camel lexeme 3 nyakaale nyakaalɛt
camel suffix 3 e ɛt
cave lexeme 46 bɔɔt bɔɔtwa
cave suffix 46 zero wa
chief lexeme 3 alaan alaat
chief suffix 3 n t
claw lexeme 1 coloyit colok
claw suffix 1 it k
cow with calf lexeme 9 golec golɛn
cow with calf suffix 9 ec ɛn
dry twig lexeme 1 ayiyoc ayiyi
dry twig suffix 1 oc i
durra lexeme 1 labitot labi
durra suffix 1 tot zero
face lexeme 12 ŋuum ŋuumti
face suffix 12 zero ti
female giraffe lexeme 1 bertu bertɛn
female giraffe suffix 1 u ɛn
finger lexeme 1 aziit azɛɛn
finger suffix 1 t n
fish hook lexeme 6 agolo agolɛt
fish hook suffix 6 o ɛt
flea lexeme 14 keloc kel
flea suffix 14 oc zero
fly lexeme 1 kiroŋit kɛroŋ
fly suffix 1 it zero
garden lexeme 3 mana manɛn
garden suffix 3 a ɛn
goat lexeme 4 bawot bawo
goat suffix 4 t zero
goose lexeme 47 botot bototnya
goose suffix 47 zero nya
guard platform lexeme 2 vaco vacɛn
guard platform suffix 2 o ɛn
hair lexeme 2 imitat im
hair suffix 2 itat zero
hawk lexeme 22 zuut zuutanɛ
hawk suffix 22 zero anɛ
hour, metal lexeme 1 ziit ziik
hour, metal suffix 1 t k
jacana lexeme 1 caramkurumoc caramkurumɛ
jacana suffix 1 oc ɛ
lake lexeme 10 boloc boloci
lake suffix 10 zero i
lamb lexeme 14 nyoon nyoo
lamb suffix 14 n zero
leaf lexeme 1 bolotot bɔlɔt
leaf suffix 1 ot zero
leg bell lexeme 6 cɔɔri cɔɔrɛn
leg bell suffix 6 i ɛn
lion lexeme 1 maa maat
lion suffix 1 zero t
locust lexeme 2 girococ girocwa
locust suffix 2 oc wa
maize lexeme 3 goracoc gora
maize suffix 3 coc zero
male buffalo lexeme 1 zuuri zuuritwa
male buffalo suffix 1 zero twa
minnow lexeme 23 bilbil bilbilɛ
minnow suffix 23 zero ɛ
pumpkin lexeme 11 akondoc akondɛn
pumpkin suffix 11 oc ɛn
quail lexeme 2 nyaluru nyalurɛt
quail suffix 2 u ɛt
red ant lexeme 3 kareecitot kareecit
red ant suffix 3 ot zero
root lexeme 1 agɛrnat agɛro
root suffix 1 nat o
saddle bill lexeme 36 kacawoc kacawocɛt
saddle bill suffix 36 zero ɛt
side lexeme 2 libir libiro
side suffix 2 zero o
skin lexeme 1 kuwin kuwa
skin suffix 1 in a
skirt lexeme 5 caram carama
skirt suffix 5 zero a
smal gourd lexeme 13 diic diicit
smal gourd suffix 13 zero it
small garden lexeme 9 calli callɛt
small garden suffix 9 i ɛt
stone lexeme 1 bɛyɛn
stone suffix 1 zero ɛn
sugar ant lexeme 4 ŋalamit ŋalamit
sugar ant suffix 4 it zero
testicle lexeme 1 tɛɛrnat teeri
testicle suffix 1 nat i
thief lexeme 22 agoryai agoryak
thief suffix 22 i k
thorn lexeme 3 bilɛt bila
thorn suffix 3 ɛt a
thumb lexeme 1 komolit komolo
thumb suffix 1 it o
tick lexeme 3 zigicac zigic
tick suffix 3 ac zero
tree lexeme 1 kɛɛt kɛɛn
tree suffix 1 t n
tsetse fly lexeme 1 duŋac duŋɛn
tsetse fly suffix 1 ac ɛn
womb lexeme 25 mom momɛn
womb suffix 25 zero ɛn
work lexeme 35 looc loocok
work suffix 35 zero ok
yooey tree lexeme 1 guulec guul
yooey tree suffix 1 ec zero
youth lexeme 1 logooz lɔgɔɔz
youth suffix 1 zero zero

Verbs table

gloss layer stem phonology imprf 1 sg imprf 2 sg imprf 3 sg imprf 1 inc pl imprf 1 pl imprf 2 pl imprf 3 pl prf 1 sg prf 2 sg prf 3 sg prf 1 inc pl prf 1 pl prf 2 pl prf 3 pl sbjv 1 sg sbjv 2 sg sbjv 3 sg sbjv 1 inc pl sbjv 1 pl sbjv 2 pl sbjv 3 pl
ask lexeme continuant-final kajin ajin ajin kajin kajinna ajinnu ajin kijina ijinu ijin kijinit kijinta ijintu ijinit kijin jin kijin kijinit kijinta ijinit kijinit
ask prefix continuant-final ka a a ka ka a a kV V V kV kV v V kV zero kV kV kV V kV
ask suffix continuant-final zero zero zero zero Ca Cu zero a u zero it ta tu it zero zero zero it ta it it
climb lexeme stop-final katoodi atoodi atɔɔt katɔɔt katoodda atooddu atɔɔt kotooda otoodu ɔtɔɔt kotoodit kotoodda otooddu otoodit kɔtɔɔt tɔɔt kɔtɔɔt kotoodit kotoodda otoodit kotoodit
climb prefix stop-final ka a a ka ka a a kV V V kV kV v V kV zero kV kV kV V kV
climb suffix stop-final i i zero zero Ca Cu zero a u zero it ta tu it zero zero zero it ta it it

Murle notes


  1. The analysis presnted here is based on the of 500 nouns in the singular and plural given by Arensen (1982), but the classification differs. In particular, Arensen takes the singular as basic, so that e.g. an alternation which is treated here as involving a suffix in the singular and none in the plural is treated by him as deletion of the stem-final segment. His approach obviously leads to the conflation of multiple singular suffixes into a single type, while plural suffixes are all treated as distinct.
  2. Most singular ~ plural pairs can be treated as involving suffixation in one or both numbers. There are also stem alternations involving stem-final consonants and ATR harmony, but these are nearly always predictable from the suffix itself (whether or not one wants to construe them as phonological), and are not represented in the database. These include:
    • Deletion/replacement of stem-final -k, -c and -t:
      • -kØ before -ɛ(...) or -ane
      • -cn before -ɛn (n.b. but not suffix -ɛ)
      • -cØ before -nya (occasionally final -t is deleted as well)
    • Effects of word-final position
      • Consoant devoicing of final consonant
      • -ry → -r
    • ATR alternations:
      • -ɛ → -e before pl -nya or sg -c
      • stem vowel ɔo where the suffix has o (across whole word form)
      • stem vowel ɛ → e where the suffix has e (across whole word form)
  3. A number of lexemes in Arensen's involve suffixes with a very limited distribution. Somewhat arbitrarily, suffixes with only one instantiation in the corpus have be left out of the database here, as well as a few suppletive items. That brings the number of lexemes under consideration down from 500 to 481.
  4. There is case marking too, with some allomorphy and syncretism. Unfortunately, complete paradigms cannot be constructed on the basis of the information given by Arensen (1982).


  1. V denotes a vowel whose quality matches that of following stem syllable.
  2. C denotes a consonant which, on the whole, is predictable from the preceding stem-final consonant (on vowel-final stems, see below):
    • /ny/ following /m/ or /ŋ/
    • /j/ following /b/ or /g/
    • /n/ following /r/
    • otherwise, it is identical to the stem-final consonant
  3. The suffixes -ta/-tu show some low-level assimilation with the preceding segment (-d+tV → -ddV, -ny + tV → -cnya)
  4. Vowel-final stems show somwhat different behaviour from consonant-final stems:

    • C is lexically specified as /n/ or /y/
    • -ta/-tu are realized as -wa/-wu or -ya/-yu (lexically specified?)

    Unfortunately, Arensen does not give a complete description of vowel-final stems, so it is not possible to give a paradigm with any confidence. (Further open questions include: what happens with the suffix -it?)


Arensen, Jon. 1982. Murle grammar (Occasional papers in the study of Sudanese languages 2). Juba: University of Juba and SIL.

Comparative Surmic notes: Subject affixes in Surmic

The subject-marking affixes of the Surmic languages display variation in the distribution of phonologically identical markers across different TAM paradigms. (And variation across the languages as well.) The geneological relationship of the languages discussed here, per Ethnologue, is given below; the sources for each languages are listed in the references.

North South
Southeast Southwest
Majang Koegu Me’en Tirmaga Murle, Tennet, (Laarim), (Baale)

The basic verb paradigm distinguishes two aspects, imperfective and perfective, morphologically distinguished from each other in various ways (prefixed vowels or suffixes, sometimes other types of stem alternation). The perfective stem is also the base for (what most of the descriptions call) the subjunctive. The Tennet paradigm below is an example:

Tennet ‘pour (something)’ (Randal 1995)
1SG kaddútâ kuddútâ kudduta
2SG addútâ uddútâ dduta
3SG addúta uddútá kuddúta
1INCL PL kaddúta kuddúta kuddutta
1PL kaddutáná kudduttáwa kudduttáwa
2PL addutánú udduttáu uddutta
3PL addúta uddúta kuddútta


1 Majang

No prefixes (Joswig 2011).

2 Koegu

Vocalic prefixes in 1st and 2nd person that appear to be related to pronouns. Prefix g- in the 3PL. This prefix is also used with plural imperatives, so perhaps it should be understood as a plural marker.

Koegu (Hieda 1998)
prefix pronoun
1SG a- aan
2SG i- iin
3SG irun, iʃi
1PL a- uao
2PL i- iyau
3PL g- galgitaʔan,

3 Me'en

Prefixed kV- in the 1SG and gV- in the 1INCL PL (where [V = the same vowel as in the following stem syllable). In the indefinite perfective (= subjunctive), kV**- is also found in the 1PL exclusive, and in the 3rd person, both singular and plural.

Me'en prefixes (Will 1998)
1SG kV- kV-
3SG kV-
1INCL PL gV- gV-
1PL kV-
3PL kV-

4 Tennet, Murle, Tirmaga

Prefixed k- in the 1SG and and 1PL, both inclusive and exclusive. In the subjunctive, k- also in the 3rd person, both singular and plural. Laarim appears to be the same, but lacks a 1INCL PL form (Stirtz 2011). Baale also lacks this form, and there is no information in the description about the subjunctive; but otherwise, it fits this pattern (Yigezu & Dimmendaal 1998). Note that the stem-initial vowel in these languages is deleted in the 2SG subjunctive (this vowel is a copy of the following stem vowel); see the form dduta in the Tennet paradigm above.

Tennet prefixes
(Randal 1995, 1998)
1SG k- k-
3SG k-
1INCL PL k- k-
1PL k- k-
3PL k-

Thus there are two main features worth noting:

  • Both Koegu and Me'en have a g- prefix in the plural. In Me'en it is exclusively for 1INCL pl, while in Koegu it is found either in the 3PL or the (2PL) imperative. In Me'en this g- contrasts with k-, while Tennet, Murle and Tirmaga have k- in both contexts.
  • Comparing the non-subjunctive and subjunctive paradigms of Me'en and Tennet/Murle/Tirmaga, k- is added in the subjunctive to all the unprefixed forms except those of the 2nd person.


Interesting variation occurs in the plural forms, and in Tirmaga at least, in the singular forms in Tirmaga.

Several of the languages show a remarkable contrast between the perfective and subjunctive (or equivalents therof) in the plural.

In Me'en, all the plural forms take a -t suffix in the definite perfective (equivalent to the perfective elsewhere, but the -t is lacking for the 1INCL plural in the indefinite perfective, at least in the examples given by Will (1998). It may be significant that this is the one TAM paradigm where prefixal number distinctions are neutralized for all the other person values (see above), so that there is a neat complementarity: number is marked either entirely on the prefix (1st inclusive) or entirely on the suffix (elsewhere). Note also that this form is generally aberrant, and may take a different stem from the rest of the paradigm, or be suppletive.

Me'en suffixes (Will 1998)
1PL -t -t
2PL -t -t
3PL -t -t

In Tennet and Murle there is a -t suffix throughout the perfective plural, as Me'en, with pronominal suffixes appended in the 1PL (exclusive) and 2PL. The subjunctive is the same, but the pronominal suffix is missing from the 2PL.

Tennet suffixes
(Randal 1995, 1998)
1INCL PL -t -t
1PL -t-wa -t-wa
2PL -t-u -t
3PL -t -t
Murle suffixes (Arenson 1982)
1SG -a
2SG -u
1INCL PL -it -it
1PL -ta -ta
2PL -tu -it
3PL -it -it

Tirmaga shows a similar contrast, except that (i) in the the non-narrative perfective, the 1PL and 2PL suffixes are syncretic, and (ii) in the subjunctive. In addition, the narrative perfective shows the same 1PL/2PL distribution of -to as the non-narrative perfective, but lacks the -t suffix in the other plural forms.

Tirmaga suffixes (Bryant 1999)
SBJV narrative 
1SG -Ca -Ca
2SG -u
3SG -Cá
1INCL PL -tá -ɛyɛ
1PL -tó -tó -to
2PL -tó -to
3PL -tá -a -ɛyɛ

note: C indicates an underspecified consonant that duplicates the preceding stem-final consonant

Tirmaga is also some interesting variation in the distribution of singular suffixes. Compare the three paradigms below: the non-narrative perfective, with and without the directional suffix -a, and the narrative perfective:

Tirmaga suffixes (Bryant 1999)
non-narrative PFV,
w/ directional suffix
1SG -á-ú -Ca -Ca
2SG -á-ú -u
3SG -á-á -Cá

The first paradigm has a -u suffix in the 1st and 2nd person, the second has it only in the 2nd person, and the third has it in the 2nd and 3rd. The second paradigm has the suffix Ca in the 1st and 3rd person, the third paradigm has it only in the 1st. Note that this means that both the non-narrative and the narrative perfective have the same set of singular suffixes (tone excluded), but with different distribution.

Appendix: Full prefix-suffix paradigms

Majang (Joswig 2011)

The subject suffix is followed here by the intranstive suffix-ŋ (which assimilates to the subject suffix in the 2SG).

suffixes ‘sleep’
1SG aa ɗeegaraaŋ
2SG in ɗeegarin
3SG ɗeegarŋ
1PL ii ɗeegariiŋ
2PL ari ɗeegarariŋ
3PL ar ɗeegararŋ

Koegu (Hieda 1998)

unmarked PFV PFV in -e/-u
1SG a-…-i a-…-i a-…-i
2SG i-…-i i-…-i i-…-i
3SG …-i
1PL a-…-a a-…-a a-…-te-i
2PL i-…-i i-…-a i-…-te-i
3PL g-*…-a g-* g-*

*only before V-initial stems

Me'en (Will 1998)

1SG kV-…-i kV- kV-
2SG …-i
3SG kV-
1INCL PL gV- gV-…t gV-
1PL …-t kV-…-t
2PL …-o …-t …-t
3PL …-t kV-…-t

Tennet (Randal 1995, 1998)

1SG k- kV- k-
2SG *
3SG k-
1INCL PL k- k-…-t k-…t
1PL k-…-Ca k-…t-wa k-…t-wa
2PL …-Cu …-t-u …-t
3PL …-t k-…t

*deletion of stem-initial consonant

Murle (Arenson 1982)

1SG k-…-i k-…-a k-
2SG …-i …-u *
3SG k-
1INCL PL k- k-…-it k-…-it
1PL k-…-Ca k-…-ta k-…-ta
2PL …-Cu …-tu …-it
3PL …-it k-…-it

*deletion of stem-initial consonant

Tirmaga (Bryant 1999)

IPFV non-narrative PFV narrative
  w/ directional
1SG k-…-i k-…-Ca k-…-á-ú k-…-Ca k-
2SG …-i …-ú …-á-ú …-u *
3SG Ø …-Cá …-á-á …-ú k-
1INCL PL k- k-…-tá k-…-t-á-á k-…-ɛyɛ k-…-á
1PL k-…-Co k-…-tó k-…-t-á-ó k-…-to k-…-tó
2PL …-Co …-tó …-t-á-ó …-to …-á
3PL …-Cɛ …-tá …-t-á-á …-ɛyɛ k- …-a

*deletion of stem-initial consonant

Baale (Yigezu & Dimmendaal 1998)

1SG k-…-i k-…-a
2SG …-i …-u
3SG …-a
1PL k…-Ca k-…-ta
2PL …-Cu …-tu
3PL …-Ce/ɛ …-iða

Laarim (Stirtz 2011)

From the subjunctive, Stirtz (2011) only discusses the 3SG form; the rest here is conjectural.

1SG k-…-i k-…-a k-…-a ?
2SG …-i …-u …-u ?
3SG k-
1PL k-…-Cia k-…-C2a k-…-C2a ?
2PL …-Ciu …- C2u …- C2u ?
3PL …-īt, -ito k-…-īt, -ito ?


Arensen, Jon. 1982. Murle grammar (Occasional papers in the study of Sudanese languages 2). Juba: University of Juba and SIL.

Bryant, Michael Grayson. 1999. Aspects of Tirmaga grammar. M.A. dissertation, University of Texas, Arlington.

Hieda, Osamu. 1998. A sketch of Koegu grammar -- Towards reconstructing Proto-Southeastern Surmic. In Gerrit Dimmendaal and Marco Last (eds), Surmic languages and cultures, pp. 345-373. Cologne: R. Köppe.

Joswig, Andreas. 2011. A brief grammar of the Majang language. Addis Ababa: SIL Ethiopia.

Randal, Scott. 1995. Nominal morphology in Tennet. M.A. dissertation, University of Texas, Arlington.

Randal, Scott. 1998. A grammatical sketch of Tennet. In Gerrit Dimmendaal and Marco Last (eds), Surmic languages and cultures, pp. 219-272. Cologne: R. Köppe

Stirtz, Timothy L. 2011. Laarim (loh) tone. SIL Electronic Workpapers. Online:

Will, Hans-Georg. 1998. The Me'en verb system -- Does Me'en have tenses? In Gerrit Dimmendaal and Marco Last (eds), Surmic languages and cultures, pp. 437-58. Cologne: R. Köppe.

Yigezu, Moges & Gerrit J. Dimmendaal. 1998. Notes on Baale. In Gerrit Dimmendaal and Marco Last (eds), Surmic languages and cultures, pp. 273-313. Cologne: R. Köppe.