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Index / Languages / Nilo-Saharan /
Nubia /
Nubian language



Dialects
Figures in 1000.
Nobiin
600 65.0%
Kenuzi-Dongola
320 35.0%
By country
Figures in 1000.
% of country population.
Egypt
370 0.5%
Sudan
550 1.4%

Spoken
Nubian language is the common feature that characterizes Nubian of today and it is the centre of their identity. Ethnologically this spoken language is divided into two main groups. Both language group bear a lot of lexical similarities and a good number of people of Dongola and Kunuz understand the Fadidja-Mahas which is the tongue of the majority of Nubians.

Fiadidja-Mahas
Sudan is the country of this language group, although slightly more than 50% of Nubian in Egypt are Fadidja. In Sudan it is the main spoken language group among the majority of Nubian south of Dongola and up to the borders with Egypt. While in Egypt it is spoken by all Nubian to the Kunuz areas in the north. Fadidja and Mahas are two variants of this group, but there is only a slight difference in accent between them.

Kenuzi-Dongola
This is talked by people of Dongola of Sudan and Kunuz of Egypt.

Written
While old Nubia had had systems for archiving and documentation prior to the Christian Nubia era, most if not all of the ancient texts date back to this era.
The context of these manuscripts are of Christian Nature and the most known of all is the 'MS or The Old Nubian Miracle of Saint Menas' from Qasr Ibrim and Serra East. This manuscript is one of the basic texts of Old Nubian literature.
The MS was purchased by the British Museum in 1908. According to Dr. Budge's description it measures about 15.5 by 110 cm and consists of 8 leaves of parchment in three quires, and is bound in covers of brown leather (Griffith).
The scientific study of the Old Nubian language started very late, in 1913 by Griffith' monumental edition of all available Nubian text then. This was followed by several studies of other scholars.
During the Christian Nubian era the Old Nubian alphabets had resemblance to Old Greek and Coptic alphabets. Both Coptic (31 or 32 letters) and Old Nubian (26) had more letters than old Greek (24), either to add special letters with no equivalent in old Greek (the Old Coptic) or to represent special sounds (the Old Nubian).
As for today no standard method of writing Old Nubian has been adopted. However recently somescholars are active on establishing such a standard like Prof. Browne and Dr. M. M. Khalil.
Recently the Nubian Archaeologist Dr. M. M. Khalil has drafted a textbook on how to write old Nubian. His study is based on an assumption that since Old Nubian relies mainly on produced tones (intonation or chanting) then a Nubian who talks and masters the language is more qualified and capable to establish a standard method of writing.
The structure and formation of the Old Nubian language is characterized by its reliance on produced tones that is known as intonation or chanting. In this respect the general structure of this language is not a group of words linked by a common syntax to form a sentence. The speaker tackles this formation by putting parts together integrally with intonation and chanting. This takes place without interruption to conform with grammar thus most parts of a sentence are composed by adding a suffix or prefix to the word stem.




By Abubakr Sidahmed