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The dozen Luo, Lwo or Lwoian languages are spoken by the Luo peoples in an area ranging from southern Sudan to southern Kenya, with Dholuo extending into northern Tanzania and Alur into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They form one of the two branches of the Western Nilotic family, the other being Dinka–Nuer. The Southern Luo varieties are mutually intelligible, and apart from ethnic identity they might be considered a single language.

EthnicityLuo peoples
southwestern Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, northeastern Congo (DRC), northern Uganda, southwestern Kenya, northern Tanzania
Linguistic classificationNilo-Saharan?

The time depth of the division of the Luo languages is moderate, perhaps close to two millennia. The division within the Southern Luo dialect cluster is considerably shallower, perhaps five to eight centuries, reflecting migrations due to the impact of the Islamization of Sudan.[2]


  • Gilley, Leoma G. 2004. "The Lwoian family." Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages, 9, 165–174.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Luo–Burun". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Bethwell Ogot, History of the Southern Luo: Volume 1, Migration and Settlement.
  3. ^ Reh, Mechthild (1996): Anywa Language: Description and Internal Reconstructions. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, p. 5.