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Comment regarding the language name "Shilluk"

Kevin Warfel, Fri, 2015-09-04 06:42
Alternate Names
ISO 639-3: 

I recently led a Rapid Word Collection workshop for the "Shilluk" language. As part of that, we uploaded data collected during the first week of the workshop to and showed the participants a draft of what their efforts would result in on the Internet. The demo was done in two installments, since the room we used was too small to accommodate the entire group at once. Having based the creation of the Webonary site on the Ethnologue information for the language, the URL for it was and each page had the header "Shilluk Dictionary." Reaction was quite strong from each of the two groups independently against the use of the term "Shilluk" for their language, their claim being that "that word means nothing in [their] language." They refer to both themselves and their language by the term "Cøllø" (as they write it in their orthography). The initial consonant is pronounced, based on what I heard during my two weeks in South Sudan, either as a voiceless postalveolar fricative [ ʃ ] or as a voiceless palatal plosive [ c ], depending on the speaker (dialect or ideolect?). The vowel written as "ø" corresponds to the IPA voiced rounded open-mid back vowel [ ɔ ]. The bulk of the existing linguistic and cultural literature refers to this people group and their language as "Shilluk," but this is a term applied to them by non-Cøllø people, according to the 50+ Cøllø speakers who were present at the RWC workshop. We have altered the Webonary site to reflect this; we elected to accomplish that by changing the page header from "Shilluk Dictionary" to "Cøllø (aka Shilluk) Dictionary." If the Ethnologue is intended to reflect the native peoples' preference for how their language is referred to, you should consider changing the primary name of the language and making "Shilluk" one of the alternate names. Leoma Gilley (SIL) knows much more about this topic than I do, so please get her input on all of this before making any changes.

Editorial Action

We will wait for a Change Request to be submitted to the ISO 639-3 Registrar for this name change for Shilluk [shk] in South Sudan.  No action taken.