Counting in Acholi
The Acholi language (also known as Acoli and Lwo) belongs to the Nilo-Saharan family, and more specifically to the Luo languages of the Western Nilotic branch. It is spoken in Uganda and South Sudan by the Acholi people, and counts about 1,215,000 speakers.
Due to lack of data, we can only count accurately up to 99,999 in Acholi. Please contact me if you can help me counting up from that limit.
Acholi numbers list
- 1 – acel
- 2 – aryo
- 3 – adek
- 4 – aŋwen
- 5 – abic
- 6 – abicel
- 7 – abiro
- 8 – aboro
- 9 – aboŋwen
- 10 – apar
- 11 – apar wiye acel
- 12 – apar wiye aryo
- 13 – apar wiye adek
- 14 – apar wiye aŋwen
- 15 – apar wiye abic
- 16 – apar wiye abicel
- 17 – apar wiye abiro
- 18 – apar wiye aboro
- 19 – apar wiye aboŋwen
- 20 – pyeraryo
- 30 – pyeradek
- 40 – pyeraŋwen
- 50 – pyerabic
- 60 – pyerabicel
- 70 – pyerabiro
- 80 – pyeraboro
- 90 – pyeraboŋwen
- 100 – miya
- 1,000 – elfu
Acholi numbering rules
Now that you’ve had a gist of the most useful numbers, let’s move to the writing rules for the tens, the compound numbers, and why not the hundreds, the thousands and beyond (if possible).
- Digits from one to nine are specific words, namely acel , aryo , adek , aŋwen , abic , abicel  (5+1), abiro  (5+2), aboro , and aboŋwen  (5+4). From the digit names, we can see that the Acholi language follows a quinary numeral system.
- The tens are formed by the word pyer (plural form of apar, ten) prefixing the multiplier digit, except for ten itself: apar , pyeraryo , pyeradek , pyeraŋwen , pyerabic , pyerabicel , pyerabiro , pyeraboro , and pyeraboŋwen .
- Compound numbers are formed by saying the ten, then the word wiye (meaning on top of it), and the digit (e.g.: apar wiye acel , pyerabic wiye aŋwen ).
- The hundreds are built stating the multiplier digit after the word for hundred (miya), except for one hundred itself when not compound: miya , miya aryo , miya adek , miya aŋwen , miya abic , miya abicel , miya abiro , miya aboro , and miya aboŋwen .
- The thousands follow the same structure, the word for thousand being elfu, or tuntumiya: elfu [1,000], elfu aryo [2,000], elfu adek [3,000], elfu aŋwen [4,000], elfu abic [5,000], elfu abicel [6,000], elfu abiro [7,000], elfu aboro [8,000], and elfu aboŋwen [9,000].
- The compound hundreds and thousands both use the coordinator ki (and) to link them to the lower numbers, whether hundreds, tens or units (e.g.: miya acel ki adek , miya abicel ki apar wiye aŋwen , elfu aŋwen ki miya aryo ki pyerabiro wiye aboro [4,278]).
Write a number in full in Acholi
Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Acholi. Will you guess how to write a number in full? Enter a number and try to write it down in your head, or maybe on a piece of paper, before displaying the result.
Coono Leb Acoli (introduction) Acoli Accented Orthography
by Janet Lakareber, editors Gbila (2011)
Oteka Okello Mwoka Lengomoi: A Legend Among the Acholi of Uganda
by Jim Ocitti, editors Sahel Books (2010)
Lwo English Dictionary
by Alexander Odonga, editors Fountain (2001)
- The Essentials of Lwo (Acoli), G. A. R. Savage, 1956
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