|Region||Cross River State|
Mbe is a language spoken by the Mbube people of the Ogoja, Cross River State, region of Nigeria, numbering about 14,300 people in 1973. As the closest relative of the Ekoid family of the Southern Bantoid languages, Mbe is fairly close to the Bantu languages. It is tonal and has a typical Niger–Congo noun-class system.
Vowels are i e ɛ a ɔ o u. Tones are high, low, rising, falling, and a downstep; rising and falling may be tone sequences.
Mbe has a rather elaborate consonant inventory compared to the Ekoid languages, presumably due to contact from neighboring Upper Cross River languages.
All Mbe consonants apart from the labial–velars (kp ɡb w) and n have labialized counterparts. (/jʷ/ is presumably [ɥ].) In addition, the non-labialized peripheral stops (m p b k ɡ; palatalized ŋ would be ɲ) and the liquids (l r) have palatalized counterparts.
|m mʷ mʲ||n||ɲ ɲʷ||ŋ ŋʷ|
|p pʷ pʲ||t tʷ||k kʷ̜ kʷ̹ kʲ||kp|
|b bʷ bʲ||d dʷ||ɡ ɡʷ ɡʲ||ɡb|
|ts tsʷ||tʃ tʃʷ|
|dz dzʷ||dʒ dʒʷ|
|f fʷ||s sʷ||ʃ ʃʷ|
|r rʷ lʲ|
|l lʷ lʲ||j jʷ||w|
There are a few consonants that only occur in ideophones, such as /fʲ hʲ/.
An interesting additional contrast is between fortis and lenis /kʷ/. Fortis (long?) /kʷ̹/ half-rounds a following vowel such as /e/, whereas lenis /kʷ̜/ does not. This distinction may be being lost. (Blench)
- Roger Blench, 'Ekoid' (with Mbe)
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