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Head direction
Initial Mixed Final
Primary word order
8 noun classes
Verbs conjugate according to...
Voice Mood
Person Number
Tense Aspect

General information

The ethnic flag of the Jukpë people.

The Jukpë language (English: [d͡ʒuːkpə], Jukpë: ghijúkpë [ɣìd͡ʒúk͡pə̥]) is the traditional language of the Jukpë people. It is spoken natively by around seventy thousand people in the north of Cameroon, eastern Nigeria, southern Chad and western Central African Republic. It is also used by Jukpë people and their descendants living abroad, most notably in Britain, France and South Africa.

Jukpë is an agglutinative language, it has a simple syllable structure and lacks diphthongs. There are thirty-two consonants and six vowels; with all vowels, except "ë", having two tones, high (◌́) and low (unmarked). Word order is mainly SVO but occasionally SOV and imperatives are normally placed at the beginning of sentences. Adpositions are prepositional and head direction is usually noun initial; that is that adjectives, numerals, demonstratives and genitives proceed the noun. Although Jukpë lacks grammatical gender there are eight noun classes that do in fact act similarly to grammatical genders. There are also two numbers and conjugations occur according to voice, mood, number, tense and aspect using various affixes.

Phonology and orthography

See also: IPA for Jukpë


Jukpë has thirty-two consonants.

Bilabial Labio-dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-velar Pharyngeal
Nasal m̥ m n̥ n ɲ̊ ɲ ŋ̊ ŋ ŋ͡m
Plosive p b t d c ɟ k g k͡p ɡ͡b
Fricative f v s z x ɣ ħ ʕ̝
Affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Approximant j
Trill ʙ
Flap or tap ɾ

The table below shows how consonants correspond to the letters of the alphabet.

Grapheme IPA Description
M m [m] bilabial nasal
MH mh [m̥] voiceless bilabial nasal
N n [n] alveolar nasal
NH nh [n̥] voiceless alveolar nasal
NM nm [ŋ͡m] labio-velar nasal
NY ny [ɲ] palatal nasal
NYH nyh [ɲ̊] voiceless palatal nasal
NG ng [ŋ] velar nasal
NGH ngh [ŋ̊] voiceless velar nasal
P p [p] voiceless bilabial plosive
B b [b] voiced bilabial plosive
T t [t] voiceless alveolar plosive
D d [d] voiced alveolar plosive
TH th [c] voiceless palatal plosive
DH dh [ɟ] voiced palatal plosive
K k [k] voiceless velar plosive
G g [g] voiced velar plosive
KP kp [k͡p] voiceless labial-velar plosive
GB gb [ɡ͡b] voiced labial-velar plosive
F f [f] voiceless labiodental fricative
V v [v] voiced labiodental fricative
S s [s] voiceless alveolar fricative
Z z [z] voiced alveolar fricative
KH kh [x] voiceless velar fricative
GH gh [ɣ] voiced velar fricative
H h [ħ] voiceless pharyngeal fricative
Q q [ʕ̝] voiced pharyngeal fricative
CH ch [t͡ʃ] voiceless palato-alveolar affricate
J j [d͡ʒ] voiced palato-alveolar affricate
Y y [j] palatal approximant
BR br [ʙ] bilabial trill
R r [ɾ] alveolar tap

For simplicity's sake [ʕ̝] will henceforth be represented as [ʕ].


There are six vowel phonemes in Jukpë and two tones; high (◌́) and low (unmarked).

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ə̥
Open a

The table below shows how the vowel phonemes correspond to letters.

Grapheme IPA Description
I i [i] close front unrounded vowel
U u [u] close back rounded vowel
O o [o̞] mid back rounded central vowel
Ë ë [ə̥] voiceless mid central vowel
E e [e̞] mid front unrounded vowel
A a [a] open front unrounded vowel

All vowels except [ə̥] change according to tone and vowels are never reduced, regardless of stress.

Hereafter, [e̞] and [o̞] will be represented by the simplified [e] and [o] respectively.


  • a b br ch d dh e ë f g gb gh h i j k kh kp m mh n ng ngh nh nm ny nyh o p q r s t th u v y z

N.B.: All digraphs and trigraphs are considered to be separate letters, whereas vowels with tonal marks are not.


Jukpë words can only have the following forms:

  • V(F)
  • CV(F)
  • VCV(F)
  • CV...(F)
  • VCV...(F)

Where "V" is any vowel, "C" is any consonant and "F" is any consonant except "q", "h", "y" or "br". One of the only exceptions to these forms is the prevocalic form of "and" - "nh" (the preconsonantal form of which is "nha").

The two main phonotactic restrictions are:

  • Two vowels may not appear adjacent to one another within the same word.
  • If two adjacent words end and start with the same consonant then that consonant becomes geminate.

Despite these rules they may be broken by loan words, e.g. "Mákrisít" /mákɾìsít/ ("Christ").



Jukpë articles are used extremely sparingly, usually only for emphasis and in formal contexts. The definite article "ó" corresponds to the English "the" and the indefinite article "ë" corresponds to "a(n)" and "some". Articles are invariable.


Though Jukpë does not have grammatical genders per se, however there are eight noun classes which act similarly and are divided semantically, i.e. according to what kind of object the word is.

Class Prefix (sg) Prefix (pl) Example (sg) Example (pl) Translation
1. People m(á)- n(á)- to to person (people)
2. Animals v(á)- z(á)- bís bís fish
3. Plants nm(u)- b(i)- nmu bi tree(s)
4. Food h(ó)- ch(ú)- pót chúpót soup(s)
5. Body parts gb(i)- kp(é)- gbi kpé eye(s)
6. Groups j(í)- t(í)- dháta dháta pride(s) of lions
7. Artefacts gh(i)- k(é)- ghizek zek knife (knives)
8. Other up(u)- ny(á)- upuna nyána field(s)

The dictionary form of a noun divides the prefix from the rest of the word with a hyphen. For example the word for "lion" would appear in a dictionary as "vá-dháta" but elsewhere it would simply be written "vádháta". Dictionaries also sort by the first letter of the root word, not by the first letter of the prefix, so that "hó-bís" ("fish" [meat]) would appear above "vá-bís" ("fish" [animal]).

The lexical changes caused by the class prefixes can also be shown by using the root word "to":

  1. "máto": person, man, human
  2. "váto": barbarian, demon, infidel
  3. "*nmuto": n/a
  4. "hóto": victim
  5. "gbito": penis (slang)
  6. "jíto": a crowd or group of people, a people or nation, humanity, mankind
  7. "ghito": a slave, a serf, a servant, an employee
  8. "*uputo": n/a



Adjectives agree with the noun they describe regarding noun class prefix. For example the base adjective "edhék" ("red"), is shown below:

Class Singular Plural
1. People medhék nedhék
2. Animals vedhék zedhék
3. Plants nmedhék bedhék
4. Food hedhék chedhék
5. Body parts gbedhék kpedhék
6. Groups jedhék tedhék
7. Artefacts ghedhék kedhék
8. Other upuedhék nyedhék

N.B.: The dictionary form an adjective is prefixless.


Comparative constructions using "more" are made by adding the suffix "-" to the adjective. For example, "The dog is older [more old] than the bird" is translated as "Vájá vátéjo vábrúnokú vághur".

Constructions using "less" attach the suffix "-do" to the adjective. For example, "The bird is younger [less old] than the bird" is translated as "Vághur vátéjo vábrúnodo vájá".

Constructions conveying equality, i.e. "as... as", place "" before the adjective and "mi" after it. For example, "The dog is as young as the bird" is translated as "Vájá vátéjo mí vámáronh mi vághur".


To construct a superlative using "most" the suffix "-kúku" is attached the adjective. For example, "The oldest [most old] dog" is translated as "Vájá vábrúnokúku".

In the same way, superlative constructions using "least" attach the suffix "-doku" to the adjective. For example, "The youngest [least old] bird" is translated as "Vághur vábrúnodoku".


  • dog: v-ájá
  • bird: vá-ghur
  • to be: ge-té
  • to learn: ke-pár
  • old: brúno
  • young: máronh


Possessive adjectives modify a noun by attributing possession or belonging to someone or something. This corresponds to the English "his" or "your". Just as normal adjectives do possessive adjectives agree with the prefix of noun they describe.

Person Singular Plural
1st ánhu ámhu
2nd ónhe ómhe
3rd (m/n) éjo éyo
3rd (f) úja úya


Jukpë infinitive verbs begin with an infinitive prefix. There are six possible prefixes: "g(e)"-, "k(e)"-, "gh(ó)"-, "kh(ó)"-, "q(u)"- and "h(ú)"-. For example "kepár" means "to learn". This verbal affix system means that unusually Jukpë has no irregular verbs at all. Note that as with nouns verbs have a dictionary form, e.g. "kepár" is written as "ke-pár" in a dictionary.

Conjugations occur by replacing the infinitive prefix with another that agrees with the subject in class and number. Suffixes are added according to person. Infixes are added to further conjugate verbs according to voice, mood, tense and aspect. These infixes are added in the order tense, aspect, mood and then voice.


Person Singular Plural
1st -(u)n -(u)m
2nd -(e)k -(e)v
3rd (m/n) -(ó)jo -(ó)yo
3rd (f) -(á)ja -(á)ya
  1. Present: unmarked
  2. Past: -(í)r(í)-
  3. Future: -(á)z(á)-
  1. Imperfective: unmarked
  2. Perfective: -(e)m(e)-
  3. Habitual: -(a)r(a)-
  1. Indicative: unmarked
  2. Conditional: -(a)b(u)-
  3. Interrogative: -(u)du(m)-
  4. Subjunctive: -(ë)t(ë)-
  5. Imperative: -(a)kh(a)-
  1. Active: unmarked
  2. Passive: -(d)ú(n)-
  3. Causative: -(e)ny(e)-
  4. Reflexive: -(s)á(m)-
  5. Reciprocal: -(r)ú(g)-


  • The present tense refers to an occurrence which is happening now or to an object that currently exists.
    • "Mápárójo": "He is learning"
  • The past tense refers to something that has happened or to an object that no longer exists.
    • "Márípárójo": "He was learning"
  • The future tense refers to an event that will happen or to something that will exist.
    • "Mázápárójo": "He will learn"


  • The imperfective denotes an action or condition that does not have a fixed temporal boundary, but is unfinished, continuous or in progress.
    • "Mápárójo": "He is learning"
    • "Márípárójo": "He was learning"
  • The perfective denotes a completed event.
    • "Márímepárójo": "He learnt"
  • The habitual is similar to the imperfective, it denotes an action or condition that does not have a fixed temporal boundary, but is habitual or repetitive.
    • "Márapárójo": "He learns"
    • "Márírapárójo": "He was learning"


  • The indicative mood is used in ordinary factual or objective statements.
    • "Mápárójo": "He is learning"
  • The conditional mood is used to signify that something is dependant upon the out-come of something else.
    • "Mákipárójo": "He would learn"
  • The interrogative mood is used for asking questions.
    • "Mádupárójo?": "Does he learn?"
  • The subjunctive mood is used to express an action or state that is hypothetical or anticipated rather than actual, including wishes and commands.
    • "It is necessary that mátëpárójo": "It is necessary that he learn"
  • The imperative mood is used to express orders and does not take a class prefix.
    • "Khapárójo": "Learn!"


  • The active voice is used to show that the subject of a verb carries out an action.
    • "Mápárójo": "He is learning"
  • The passive voice is used to show that the subject of a transitive verb receives an action.
    • "Mádúnyepárójo": "He is being taught"
  • The causative voice is used to show that a subject causes someone or something else to do or become something or causes a change in state.
    • "Mányepárójo": "He is teaching"
  • The reflexive voice is used to show that the subject of a verb carries out an action on itself.
    • "Mányesápárójo": "He is teaching himself"
  • The reciprocal voice is used to show that the subject(s) of a verb perform an action on each other.
    • "Mányerúpáróyo": "They are teaching each other"


Verbs are negated by the use of the negative prefix "ngh(i)"- which is affixed to the very front of the verb. For example, "nghinápárev" means "you [pl] aren't learning" and "nghimányesápárójo" means "he isn't teaching himself".


The copula in Jukpë makes use of a regular verb ("ge-té") and also of the "conjugation" of pronouns (and sometimes nouns and rarely adjectives). Compare the sentences below:

  • Vádháta vátéjo vákpá.
    • The lion is large.
  • Vánhojo vádháta vákpá.
    • He is the large lion.
  • Vádháta vákpárójo.
    • The lion "larges".
  • Márasarán títi mánhun.
    • I think therefore I am.


  • big, large: kpá
  • lion: vá-dháta
  • therefore, so, as a result: títi
  • to think: hú-sará

Verb serialisation

In Jukpë, rather than sequences of verbs using subordination, as in English, verbs sequences undergo serialisation. Verb serialisation usually means that two conjugated verbs are put together in a sequence in which no verb is subordinated to an other, however this is not exactly the case in Jukpë. Instead of the subordinated verb being in the infinitive it is conjugated yet rather than adding a class prefix and pronoun suffix, the infinitive prefix is kept. If the verb is instead fully conjugated then a different meaning is conveyed. Examples are given below with no object, a direct object and an indirect object. The first example given corresponds to "... in order to..." in English and the second corresponds to "... and...".

No object:

  • Jukpë: Márísájo húrítam.
    • IPA: [máɾísád͡ʒò ħúɾítàm]
    • Gloss: He went played [inf].
    • English: He went to play.
  • Jukpë: Márísájo márítamójo.
    • IPA: [máɾísád͡ʒò máɾítàmód͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: He went he played.
    • English: He went and played.

Direct object:

  • Jukpë: Máríjájo ghité khóríqé.
    • IPA: [máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɣìté xóɾíʕé]
    • Gloss: He came book took [inf].
    • English: He came to take the book.
  • Jukpë: Máríjájo ghité máríqéjo.
    • IPA: [máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɣìté máɾíʕéd͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: He came book he took.
    • English: He came and took the book.

Indirect object:

  • Jukpë: Máríjájo nyhë upudúk qurísá.
    • IPA: [máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɲ̊ə̥ ùpùdúk ʕùɾísá]
    • Gloss: He came to shop went [inf].
    • English: He came to go to the shop.
  • Jukpë: Máríjájo nyhë upudúk márísájo.
    • IPA: [máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɲ̊ə̥ ùpùdúk máɾísád͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: He came to shop he went.
    • English: He came and went to the shop.

Direct and indirect object:

  • Jukpë: Nyhë upudúk máríjájo ghité khóríqé.
    • IPA: [ɲ̊ə̥ ùpùdúk máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɣìté xóɾíʕé]
    • Gloss: To shop he came book brought [inf].
    • English: He came to the shop to bring the book.
  • Jukpë: Nyhë upudúk máríjájo ghité máríqéjo.
    • IPA: [ɲ̊ə̥ ùpùdúk máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɣìté máɾíʕéd͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: To shop he came book he brought.
    • English: He came to the shop and brought the book.


  • to go: qu-sá
  • to play: hú-tam
  • to come: ge-já
  • book: ghi-té
  • to take, to bring: khó-qé
  • to: nyhë
  • shop: upu-dúk


Adverbs are formed very simply. An adverbial affix is simply added to the base adjective, "'kí(k)"-. As an example the base adjective meaning "quick" is "haqá" and the adverb "quickly" in Jukpë is "kíhaqá". Adverbs also take relevant class prefixes.

There are however some exceptions to this rule of adverb formation. The prime the adverbial form of "good" (i.e. "well"), as in English, is irregular in Jukpë. In Jukpë "good" is "jékhón" whereas "well" is "kíchëmen".



Personal pronouns take the appropriate noun class prefixes except for class 1 nouns (people).

Subject (nominative)

Due to the pronouns that are effectively built into conjugated verbs, nominative personal pronouns are rarely if ever used. When employed they are mostly used as emphatic pronouns, somewhat analogous to the French "Moi, je...".

Person Singular Plural
1st nhu mhu
2nd nhe mhe
3rd (m/n) nho mho
3rd (f) nha mha

Direct object (accusative)

Accusative personal pronouns are used when the pronoun is the direct object of a transitive verb. For example, "I used to teach them" would translate as "Máríranyepárun nyóyo", (literally "I used to cause them to learn").

Person Singular Plural
1st nyun nyum
2nd nyek nyev
3rd (m/n) nyójo nyóyo
3rd (f) nyája nyáya

Possessive (genitive)

Genitive pronouns are the equivalent of English's "mine", "yours", "his" et cetera.

Person Singular Plural
1st nhuth mhuth
2nd nhedh mhedh
3rd (m/n) joth yoth
3rd (f) jath yath

Indirect object (dative)

Person Singular Plural
1st unhë umhë
2nd enhë emhë
3rd (m/n) johë yohë
3rd (f) jahë yahë


Interrogative pronouns are in a questions and correspond to the five English, the five interrogative pronouns "what", "which", "who", "whom" and "whose". In Jukpë interrogative pronouns are used much like in English:

These pronouns do vary according to what they refer to. In the cases of "ke" and "keke" they can take any class prefix except class 1 (people) and "kudh" may take any class. If the class required is unknown (for example in the question "What did that?" the class of the noun referred to is unknown or at least unclear) then a class 8 (other) prefix is used.

Since "má-ku" already has a singular prefix attached for class 1 (people), the only prefix variation possible is changing "má-" to "ná-" for pluralisation.

N.B.: The prefix attached to "kudh" refers to the noun who posses the object in question and not to the possessed object.


In English the main five relative pronouns are "that", "which", "who", "whom" and "whose". Jukpë has three main relative pronouns:

Just as with the interrogative pronouns, prefixes can be attached to relative pronouns. "Tet" and "tuthá" obey the same rules as "ke", "keke" and "kudh" whereas "má-tut" obeys the same rules as "má-ku".

Despite the fact that Jukpë has relative pronouns it is more common to use constructions without them informally, especially with animate objects, i.e. people and animals:

  • Jukpë: Mánhojo matu ghifránsa mírarapárunójo.
    • IPA: [mán̥òd͡ʒò màtù ɣìfɾánsà míɾàɾàpáɾùnód͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: He person French taught-me
    • English: He is the man who taught me French.

Note the fact that the example sentence does not use the verb "ge-té" ("to be") but rather adds conjugation to the third person pronoun "nho" (see above).


In English "this", "that", "these", "those" are demonstrative pronouns. They indicate whether they are replacing singular or plural words and give the location of the object. However, where in English there are only two sorts of demonstrative pronouns (i.e. "this"/"these" and "that"/"those") there are five in Jukpë:

  • "this-near-to-me-and/or-us"
  • "that-near-to-you-but-not-to-me"
  • "that-far-from-me-and/or-us"
  • "that-far-from-you-but-not-me"
  • "that-which-cannot-be-seen-or-no-longer-exists"


Colour terms

There are twelve basic colour terms in Jukpë. These are shown below:

Colour terms
English Jukpë
black/dark gháso
white/light mheréme
grey chudó
purple áraní
sky blue táke
blue/green (grue) míqoro
(light) green gbína
yellow ngazá
red edhék
pink jóyó
light brown/light orange henyhá
dark brown/dark orange úhadha
Colour spectrum
File:Jukpë spectrum.png

The word "gbína" is usually only used to denote the colour of something that is naturally a lighter green and when it is used to describe the colour of, for example, a garment it is akin to something like "I have a beautiful green dress". The word "míqoro" can be used for any item, natural or not, but only covers the colour "gbína" when neutrally referring to unnaturally coloured objects.

"Gháso" means black or more broadly dark but can also encompass some darker shades of blue. Likewise, "mheréme" means white or light (i.e. not dark) as well as some very light shades of yellow.