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The ethnic flag of the Jukpë people.

Head direction
Usually noun initial
6 noun classes
Nouns decline according to...
Case Number
Definiteness Gender
Verbs conjugate according to...
Voice Mood
Person Number
Tense Aspect

General informationEdit

The Jukpë language (English: [d͡ʒuːkpə], Jukpë: ghìjúkpë [ɣìd͡ʒúk͡pə̥]) is the traditional language of the Jukpë people. It is spoken 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 isolating language, it has a simple syllable structure and lacks diphthongs. There are thirty-one consonants and six vowels; with vowels having two tones, high (◌́) and low (◌̀) - with the exception of "ë". Word order is mainly SVO but occasionally SOV. Adpositions are prepositional and head direction is 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 orthographyEdit

See also: IPA for Jukpë


Jukpë has thirty-one consonants.

Bilabial Labio-dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-velar Pharyngeal
Nasal m̥ m n̥ n ɲ̊ ɲ ŋ̊ ŋ
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
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 (◌̀).

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.

Henceforth, [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 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 "nhà").

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.



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)- person (people)
2. Animals v(á)- z(á)- bís bís fish
3. Plants p(ù)- b(ì)- tree(s)
4. Food h(ó)- ch(ú)- pót chúpót soup(s)
5. Body parts gb(ì)- kp(é)- gbì kpé eye(s)
6. Groups j(í)- t(í)- dhátà dhátà pride(s) of lions
7. Artefacts gh(ì)- k(é)- ghì knife (knives)
8. Other ú(ny)- ny(á)- ú nyá 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-dhátà" but elsewhere it would simply be written "vádhátà". 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]).



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

Class Singular Plural
1. People mèdhék nèdhék
2. Animals vèdhék zèdhék
3. Plants pèdhék bèdhék
4. Food hèdhék chèdhék
5. Body parts gbèdhék kpèdhék
6. Groups jèdhék tèdhék
7. Artefacts ghèdhék kèdhék
8. Other únyèdhék nyèdhék

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 vátéjò vábrúnòkú vághùr".

Constructions using "less" attach the suffix "-" to the adjective. For example, "The bird is younger [less old] than the bird" is translated as "Vághùr vátéjò vábrúnòdò vájá".

Constructions conveying equality, i.e. "as... as", place "" before the adjective and "" after it. For example, "The dog is as young as the bird" is translated as "Vájá vátéjò mí vámárònh mì vághùr".


To construct a superlative using "most" the suffix "-kúkù" is attached the adjective. For example, "The biggest [most big] dog" is translated as "Vájá vábrúnòkúkù".

In the same way, superlative constructions using "least" attach the suffix "-dòkù" to the adjective. For example, "The smallest [least big] bird" is translated as "Vághur vábrúnòdòkù".


  • dog: v-ájá
  • bird: vá-ghùr
  • to be: gété
  • to learn: kèpár
  • old: brúnò
  • young: márònh


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 ánhù ámhù
2nd ónhè ómhè
3rd (m/n) éjò éyò
3rd (f) újà úyà


Jukpë infinitive verbs begin with an infinitive prefix. There are six possible prefixes: "g(è)"-, "k(è)"-, "gh(ó)"-, "kh(ó)"-, "q(ù)"- and "h(ú)"-. For example "kèpár" 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. "kèpár" is written as "kè-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 -(ù)n -(ù)m
2nd -(è)k -(è)v
3rd (m/n) -(ó)jò -(ó)yò
3rd (f) -(á)jà -(á)yà
  1. Present: unmarked
  2. Past: -(í)r(í)-
  3. Future: -(á)z(á)-
  1. Imperfective: unmarked
  2. Perfective: -(è)m(è)-
  3. Habitual: -(à)r(à)-
  1. Indicative: unmarked
  2. Conditional: -(à)b(ù)-
  3. Interrogative: -(ù)dù(m)-
  4. Subjunctive: -(ë)t(ë)-
  5. Imperative: -(à)kh(à)-
  1. Active: unmarked
  2. Passive: -(d)ú(n)-
  3. Causative: -(è)ny(è)-
  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.
    • "Mápárójò": "He is learning"
  • The past tense refers to something that has happened or to an object that no longer exists.
    • "Márípárójò": "He was learning"
  • The future tense refers to an event that will happen or to something that will exist.
    • "Mázápárójò": "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.
    • "Mápárójò": "He is learning"
    • "Márípárójò": "He was learning"
  • The perfective denotes a completed event.
    • "Márímèpárójò": "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.
    • "Máràpárójò": "He learns"
    • "Máríràpárójò": "He was learning"


  • The indicative mood is used in ordinary factual or objective statements.
    • "Mápárójò": "He is learning"
  • The conditional mood is used to signify that something is dependant upon the out-come of something else.
    • "Mákìpárójò": "He would learn"
  • The interrogative mood is used for asking questions.
    • "Mádùpárójò?": "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 mátëpárójò": "It is necessary that he learn"
  • The imperative mood is used to express orders.
    • "Mákhàpárójò": "Learn!"


  • The active voice is used to show that the subject of a verb carries out an action.
    • "Mápárójò": "He is learning"
  • The passive voice is used to show that the subject of a transitive verb receives an action.
    • "Mádúnyèpárójò": "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.
    • "Mányèpárójò": "He is teaching"
  • The reflexive voice is used to show that the subject of a verb carries out an action on itself.
    • "Mányèsápárójò": "He is teaching himself"
  • The reciprocal voice is used to show that the subject(s) of a verb perform an action on each other.
    • "Mányèrúpáróyò": "They are teaching each other"


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

Verb serialisationEdit

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: Márísájò húrítàm.
    • IPA: [máɾísád͡ʒò ħúɾítàm]
    • Gloss: He went played [inf].
    • English: He went to play.
  • Jukpë: Márísájò márítàmójò.
    • IPA: [máɾísád͡ʒò máɾítàmód͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: He went he played.
    • English: He went and played.

Direct object:

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

Indirect object:

  • Jukpë: Máríjájò nyhë údúk qùrísá.
    • IPA: [máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɲ̊ə̥ údúk ʕùɾísá]
    • Gloss: He came to shop went [inf].
    • English: He came to go to the shop.
  • Jukpë: Máríjájò nyhë údúk márísájò.
    • IPA: [máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɲ̊ə̥ údúk máɾísád͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: He came to shop he went.
    • English: He came and went to the shop.

Direct and indirect object:

  • Jukpë: Nyhë údúk máríjájò ghìté khóríqé.
    • IPA: [ɲ̊ə̥ údúk máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɣìté xóɾíʕé]
    • Gloss: To shop he came book brought [inf].
    • English: He came to the shop to bring the book.
  • Jukpë: Nyhë údúk máríjájò ghìté máríqéjò.
    • IPA: [ɲ̊ə̥ údúk máɾíd͡ʒád͡ʒò ɣìté máɾíʕéd͡ʒò]
    • Gloss: To shop he came book he brought.
    • English: He came to the shop and brought the book.


  • to go: qù-sá
  • to play: hú-tàm
  • to come: gè-já
  • book: ghì-té
  • to take, to bring: khó-qé
  • to: nyhë
  • shop: ú-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 "hàqá" and the adverb "quickly" in Jukpë is "kíhàqá". 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 "kíchëmèn".

Interrogative pro-adverbsEdit

  • Where? (location)
  • Whence? (source)
  • Whither? (goal)
  • When? (time)
  • Why? (reason, purpose, cause)
    • почему (reason)
    • зачем (purpose)
    • отчего (cause)
  • How? (manner)

Demonstrative adverbsEdit

  • Where?
    • Here
    • There
  • Whither?
    • Hither
    • Thither
  • Whence?
    • Hence
    • Thence



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, analogous to the French "Moi, je...".

Person Singular Plural
1st nhù mhù
2nd nhè mhè
3rd (m/n) nhò mhò
3rd (f) nhà mhà

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 "Márírànyèpárùn nyóyò", (literally "I used to cause them to learn").

Person Singular Plural
1st nyùn nyùm
2nd nyèk nyèv
3rd (m/n) nyójò nyóyò
3rd (f) nyájà nyáyà

Possessive (genitive)

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

Person Singular Plural
1st nhùth mhùth
2nd nhèdh mhèdh
3rd (m/n) jòth yòth
3rd (f) jàth yàth

Indirect object (dative)

Person Singular Plural
1st ùnhë ùmhë
2nd ènhë èmhë
3rd (m/n) jòhë yòhë
3rd (f) jàhë yàhë


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 "" and "kèkè" they can take any class prefix except class 1 (people) and "kùdh" 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-kù" 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 "kùdh" 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. "Tèt" and "tùthá" obey the same rules as "", "kèkè" and "kùdh" whereas "má-tùt" obeys the same rules as "má-kù".


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 six in Jukpë:

  • "this-near-to-me" (or "this-near-to-us" [inclusive and exclusive])
  • "that-near-to-you-but-not-to-me"
  • "that-far-from-me" (or "that-far-from-us" [inclusive and exclusive])
  • "that-far-from-you-but-not-me"
  • "that-which-cannot-be-seen"
  • "that-which-no-longer-exists"

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