Cross River languages

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Cross River
Southeastern Nigeria (Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa States); southwestern Cameroon
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
Map of the Cross River languages.svg
The Cross River languages shown within Nigeria and Cameroon:

Lower Cross:

  Lower Cross proper

Upper Cross:

  Upper Cross besides Central
Central Upper Cross:

The Cross River or Delta–Cross languages are a branch of the Benue–Congo language family spoken in south-easternmost Nigeria, with some speakers in south-westernmost Cameroon. The branch was first formulated by Joseph Greenberg; it is one of the few of his branches of Niger–Congo that has withstood the test of time.

Greenberg's Cross River family originally included the Bendi languages. The Bendi languages were soon seen to be very different and thus were made a separate branch of Cross River, while the other languages were united under the branch Delta–Cross. However, the inclusion of Bendi in Cross River at all is doubtful, and it has been tentatively reassigned to the Southern Bantoid family, making the terms Cross River and Delta–Cross now synonymous.


There are four primary branches of Cross River:

Branches and locations[edit]

Below is a list of major Cross River branches and their primary locations (centres of diversity) in southeast Nigeria based on Blench (2019).[2]

Distributions of Cross River branches in Nigeria[2]
Branch Primary locations
Upper Cross River Obubra and Akamkpa LGAs, Rivers State
Lower Cross River Akwa Ibom State
Ogoni Gokana, Tai, and Eleme LGAs, Rivers State
Central Delta Ahoada LGA, Rivers State and Brass LGA, Bayelsa State

Internal classification[edit]

Roger Blench (2008: 4)[3] classifies the Cross River languages as follows.

Cross River
  • ? Bendi (Yakoro, Bendi, Alege, Bumaji, Bokyi, etc.)
  • Delta-Cross
    • Upper Cross
      • Core
        • North-South (Koring, Kukele, Kohumono, Agwagwune, etc.)
        • East-West (Ikom, Mbembe, Legbo, etc.)
      • Ukpet-Ehom
      • Agoi, Doko, Iyongiyong
      • Kiong, Korop
    • Lower Cross
      • East (Efik, Ibibio, Anaang, Efiat, etc.)
      • Central (Enwang, Uda)
      • West (Ebughu, Oro, Usakade, Obolo, etc.)
    • Ogoni
      • Eleme; Baan (Ogoi)
      • Gokana; Tẹẹ (Tai); Kana
    • Central Delta
      • Abuan, Odual
      • Kugbo, Ogbia, etc.

Although Blench (2004) tentatively included the Bendi languages as possibly being a Cross River outlier branch, the Bendi languages are generally classified as Southern Bantoid.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Delta Cross". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.
  3. ^ Blench, Roger. 2008. The Ogoni languages: comparative word list and historical reconstructions.

External links[edit]