A Sketch of Uncunwee Grammar
by Jade Comfort


Our research reveals several interesting aspects of Uncunwee phonology. The Uncunwee consonant system is characterized by five places of articulation: labial, dental, alveolar, palatal, and velar. There is a contrast between voiced and unvoiced dental and alveolar stops, voiced and unvoiced velar and palatal stops, four nasals, and several liquids. The bilabial stop does not have a voiceless counterpart. Unlike some other Kordofan Nubian languages (e.g. Karko, Wali), Uncunwee does not have /f/. Word final position is restricted to voiced phonemes. Alveolar stops are not permitted at word-final position, and unique among the Kordofan Nubian languages, Uncunwee replaces the proto Kordofan Nubian word final alveolar nasal with the velar nasal. The vowel system has seven phonological vowels and nine surface vowels with a pattern of ATR harmony for mid vowels. Uncunwee is a tone language, with three surface tones and downstepping.


The Uncunwee morphosyntactic system is extremely rich and complex. For verbal inflection, there are numerous aspectual, mood, plurality and polarity sensitive constructions in addition to person-tense marking. An applicative marker attaches to the verb, whereas object, instrumental, locative and genitive cases are marked by enclitics on the corresponding constituent. Object marking is not obligatory (differential object marking). Like other Nilo-Saharan languages, Uncunwee has a rich number marking system for nouns involving singulative, replacive and non-replacive plural suffixes, and the absence of number markers.


The basic constituent order in Uncunwee is SOV. The language has noun-adjective order, enclitics, and noun-relative clause order. Determiners precede nouns. In order to express a sequence of events, Uncunwee uses converbs and medial verbs, i.e. dependant verb forms that take a restricted set of inflectional morphemes. Only the finite verb is fully inflected.