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1. The Acholi (Acoli) alphabet, according to the Standard Ortho- 
graphy now in use, is : 


That is, there are 5 vowels, 16 consonants (including the 
compounds bw pw ny) and two semi-vowels, w and y. 


2. Each vowel letter has two pronunciation values, ' close ' and 
' open ' (in the case of a, ' normal ' and ' centralized '), so that 
the reader must be careful to choose the right pronunciation in 
order to be understood. Thus : 

koyo pronounced with ' close o ' (phon. koyo) means the cold 

„ „ * open o ' (phon. koyo) „ to separate 

keto „ „ • close e ' (phon. keto) „ to put 

„ „ * open e ' (phon. keto) „ to scatter 

culo „ „ * close u ' (phon. culo) „ to dilute 

„ „ 'openu' (phon. culo) „ to pay 

gin „ „ • close i ' (phon. gin) „ thing 

,, „ • open i ' (phon. gm) „ they 

akan „ „ * normal a ' (phon. akan) „ let me keep 

„ M * centraUzed a ' (phon. akan) means 

safe keeping (1) 

Naturally it would be much simpler if each sound were re- 
presented by a dilGFerent sign in the orthography, but that would 
involve compUcations. So, in order in some way to overcome this 
pronunciation difficulty, without at the same time departing from 
the accepted Standard Orthography, it has been decided to dis- 
tinguish the ' open ' vowels and the ' centraUzed a ' by varying 
the type in this Grammar. (In normal readers etc. no such typo- 
graphical distinction is made). Thus : 

' close ' vowels. * open ' vowels. 

koyo (the cold) koyo (to separate) 

keto (to put) keto (to scatter) . 

culo (to dilute) cwlo (to pay) 

gin (thing gm (they) 

• normal a ' * centraUzed a ' 

akan (let me keep) akan (safe keeping) 

The values of these special vowels are represented by Muratori 
(English-Bari-Lotuxo-Acoli Vocabulary) and Crazzolara (A Study 
of the Acooli Language) as follows : 


Present work 














Vowel length 

3. There are a certain number of words, mostly monosyllabic, 
which end in a long or stressed vowel, which is here written double. 
In the Standard Orthography doubling is recommended in only 
a selected list of nouns viz. 

aluu (vapour) 
coo (porcupine) 
coo (guinea worm) 
daa (my grandmother) 
doo (weed) 
guu (ironstone) 
koo (bamboo) 
lee (animal) 
maa (my mother) 

moo (oil) 

od/z (form of beer) 

pii (water) 

raa (hippo) 

taa (tobacco) 

too (fox) 

yfee (content of stomach) 

Yioo (noise) 

yaa (shea butternut) 

In the present work, however, final long vowels, where they 
occur, are consistently doubled for the sake of accuracy. (1) e.g. 
daa (to quarrel) aa (to come) akakaa (maliciously) 

too (dead, to die) oo (to arrive atataa (at random) 

coo (to awake) oo (to get spilt) oyoo (mouse) 


4. All diphthongs in Acholi begin with the semi-vowel w or y : (2) 
the following vowel may be ' close or ' open,' short or long. 

' close ' ' open ' 

Iwenyo (to fight) gweno (hen) 

twiyo (to bring forth) jw/ko (to become thin) 

gwok (dog) kwoyo (to sew) 

myero (to be suitable) my do (to dance) 

' normal a ' 
cwarf (bug) 
dyag (cow) 

With long vowel : 
kwoo (theft, to steal) 
dwee (moon) 

' centralized a ' 
cwari (your husband) 
dy^gi (cows) 

kwoo (life, to live) 
CYfee (gravy) 

Sound change in vowels and diphthongs 

5. ' Open ' stem-vowels are rendered ' close,' and ' a ' is ' centra- 
lized ' under the following conditions : 

{a) When the second person suffix -i pi. -wu is added to the stem of 
a noun or a verb. 

(b) When the plural suffix -i is added to the stem of a noun. 
(a) kom (chair but kommi (your chair) 

am/to (I like) 
aculo (I pay) 
akayo (I reap) 
(b) gweno (hen) 

jago (sub chief) 

amiti (I Uke you sg.) 
aculwu (I pay you pi.) 
kayu (Reap ! pi.) 
gweni (hens) 
jagi (sub chiefs) 


6. bw and pw are preferred in the Standard Orthography to 
Crazzolara's bv and pf, though the latter sounds are often heard. 

c is always pronounced like the * ch ' in ' charity.' 

j is always pronounced like the ' j ' in ' gem.' 

ny is pronounced as in the ItaUan word ' signore ' or the 

French word * monseigneur.' 
is pronounced Uke the ' ng ' as in ' smger ' (never as in 

' finger ' ; ng, when it occurs, is pronounced as in 'vanguard' 

e.g. pyengi, their hides). 
k is often softened between two vowels almost to ' h,' but it 

never written so. 
t is often softened between two vowels almost to ' r,' but is 

never written so. (Crazzolara's letter / for this softened 

sound is unnecessary). 

Double consonants 

7. Double consonants occur before certain suffixes. 

(a) ' non-intimate ' genitive : 

pyeane (his hide for sitting on) cf. pyene (its hide) 

batta(mylegofmeat) bada (my arm) 

(b) Certain demonstratives. 

ot-ti (this house) cf. ot (house) 

pyen-no (that hide) pyen (hide) 

(c) Indirect object suffixes, 

ocwalla cente (he sent me money) cf. ocwala (he sent me) 

(d) Reflexive suffix. 

anenne (I see myself) cf. an^ne (I see him). 


(8) For the accent of the works the following notes may help. 

(9) (a) in words composed of a v-c-v the accent is on the last 

vowel, which is long. 

E.g. abaa (father), ohwoo (net), oboo (lungs) etc. . . . 
The verbs make an exception. E.g. uru (to wonder), 
ono (to cough), umu (to cover), etc. .... 


(10) (b) in words with a c-v-c the stress is on the only vowel 

they have. E.g. bol (handle), ret (wound), tic (work), 
cam (food), etc. .. . 

(11) (c) in words with a v-c-v-c the accent is on the last vowel. 

E.g., olik (bat), obwol (nauchroom), clam (fig tree), 
ogwal (frog), etc. ... 

(12) (d) in words with a c-v-c-v the accent is on the stem- vowel. 

E.g., geno (to hope), balo (to spoil), jago (sub-chief), 
banya (debt), cuyu (to pierce with red-hot iron), jiibl 
buffalo), keda (gall bladder), etc. . . . 

(13) (e) in words with a v-c-v-c-v the accent is on the central 

vowel. E.g., ohoTo (shell), aboro (eight), okado (bee- 
eater), otigu (kind of vegetables), ad/ta (little basket), 
akuri (dove), adola (ulcer on leg), etc. ... 

(14) The position of the accent remains the same even when the 
word is suffixed, or prefixed as in the case of verbs. 

E.g. hoT^Oy cloth boo^na, my cloth 

banya, debt bany^wu, your debt 

konyo, to help akonyo, I help 

akonyowu, I help you, 
etc. . . . 

(15) The glottal stop is worthy of mention. It is a plosive made 
by closing and then releasing the vocal cords. 

It occurs clearly when a verb beginning with a vowel is 
prefixed with the verbal prefixes of the conjugation. 
E.g., a'aa, I am coming 

gi^onyo pii, they poured the water 
wa'oo, we arrived 
Vom kwOT, fetch the hoe, 
etc. . . . 


(16) Acholi is a tonal language and some words may be dis- 
tinguished by tone alone. 

E.g. hhl with low tone means wrinkled 

bel with high tone means corn 

kk\ with low tone means place enclosed by a palisade 

kal with high tone means millet 

Tone is not indicated in the Standard Orthography, nor in 
the present work except in verb conjugation. (1) 

Malandra, Alfred. 1955. A new Acholi Grammar. 
Kampala: Eagle Press.