Edoid languages

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South central Nigeria, west of the Niger River south the confluence of the Benue
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
  • Delta
  • North-Central
  • Northwestern
  • Southwestern

The Edoid languages are some two-to-three dozen languages spoken in Southern Nigeria, predominantly in the former Bendel State. The name Edoid derives from its most widely spoken member, Edo, the language of Benin City, which has 25 million native and secondary speakers.


The following classification is based on that of Elugbe (1989).[2]

Ihievbe and Aduge are unclassified within their branches.

Names and locations[edit]

Below is a list of language names, populations, and locations from Blench (2019).[3]

Language Branch Cluster Dialects Alternate spellings Own name for language Endonym(s) Other names (location-based) Other names for language Exonym(s) Speakers Location(s)
Degema Delta Atala, spoken in Degema town, and Usokun spoken in Usokun–Degema Dẹgẹma Atala, Usokun (Udekama not recommended) 10,000 (SIL) Rivers State, Degema LGA
Engenni Delta Ediro, Inedua, and Ogua; Zarama in Yenagoa LGA Ngene, Ẹgẹnẹ Ẹgẹnẹ 10,000 (1963); 20,000 (1980 UBS) Rivers State, Yenagoa and Ahoada LGAs
Epie Delta Two clans, Epie and Atiṣa in at least three towns: Agudiama, Akẹnfai, Yẹneguẹ Epie–Atissa, Epie–Atiṣa 12,000 (SIL) Rivers State, Yenagoa LGA
Emai–Iuleha–Ora cluster North-Central Emai–Iuleha–Ora Ivhimion. Spurious languages Ihievbe and Uokha are listed in Ethnologue (2009) Kunibum Ivbiosakon estimated 100,000 plus (1987 Schaefer)[4] Edo State, Owan, LGA
Emai North-Central Emai–Iuleha–Ora estimated 20–25,000 (1987 Schaefer)
Iuleha North-Central Emai–Iuleha–Ora Aoma estimated 50,000 (1987 Schaefer)
Ora North-Central Emai–Iuleha–Ora estimated 30,000 (1987 Schaefer)
Esan North-Central Many dialects Ishan Awain 183,000 (1952); 500,000 estimated in 1963: Okojie & Ejele (1987)[5] Bendel State (now Edo State and Delta State), Agbazilo, Okpebho, Owan and Etsako LGAs
Ikpeshi North-Central 1,826 (Bradbury 1957)[6] Edo State, Etsako LGA
Etsako North-Central Auchi, Uzairue, South Ivbie, Uwepa–Uwano, (Weppa–Wano), Avbianwu (Fugar), Avbiele, Ivbiadaobi Yẹkhee: not all speakers of the language recognise this as the name of the language. Etsakọ Iyẹkhee, Afenmai, Kukuruku (not recommended) 73,500 (1952), 150,000 (UBS 1987) Edo State, Etsako, Agbako and Okpebho LGAs
Ghotuọ North-Central Otwa, Otuọ 9,000 (1952) Edo State, Owan and Akoko–Edo LGAs
Ivbie North–Okpela–Arhẹ cluster North-Central Ivbie North–Okpela–Arhẹ 14,500 (1952); possibly 20,000 (1973 SIL) Edo State, Etsako and Akoko–Ẹdo LGAs
Ivbie North North-Central Ivbie North–Okpela–Arhẹ
Okpela North-Central Ivbie North–Okpela–Arhẹ Okpella, Ukpilla
Arhẹ North-Central Ivbie North–Okpela–Arhẹ Atẹ, Ate, Atte
Yẹkhee North-Central Auchi, Uzairue, South Ivbie, Uwepa–Uwano, (Weppa–Wano), Avbianwu (Fugar), Avbiele, Ivbiadaobi Yẹkhee: not all speakers of the language recognise this as the name of the language. Etsakọ: the language is not the only language listed as being spoken in Etsako LGA. Iyẹkhee, Afenmai, Kukuruku (not recommended) 73,500 (1952), 150,000 (UBS 1987) Edo State, Etsako, Agbako and Okpebho LGAs
Ẹdo North-Central Oviedo, Ovioba Benin Ẹdo (Binĩ 203,000 (1952), 1,000,000 (1987 UBS) Edo State, Ovia, Oredo and Orhionmwon LGAs
Ọsọsọ North-Central 6,532 (1957 Bradbury) Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA
Sasaru–Enwan–Igwẹ North-Central Enwan, Igwẹ, Sasaru 3,775 (1952) Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA
Unẹmẹ North-Central Uleme, Ileme, Ineme 6,000 (1952). Edo State, Etsako, Agbazilo and Akoko–Edo LGAs. The Uneme are a casted blacksmith group and live scattered among other language groups.
Uhami North-Western Isua 5,498 (1963) Ondo State, Akoko–South and Owo LGAs
Ukue North-Western Ukpe, Ẹkpenmi 5,702 (1963) Ondo State, Akoko South LGA
Ehuẹun North-Western Ẹkpenmi, Ekpimi, Epimi 5,766 (1963) Ondo State, Akoko South LGA
Iyayu North-Western Idoani 9,979 (1963) Ondo State, one quarter of Idoani town
Ẹmhalhẹ North-Western Somorika (Semolika) 249 in Semolina town (Temple 1922)[7] Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA
Ọkpamheri North-Western Ọkpamheri means ‘we are one’: Okulosho (Okurosho), Western Okpamheri, Emhalhe (Emarle, Somorika, Semolika). Various. Opameri Aduge (appears to be a town name) 18,136 (1957 Bradbury); 30,000 (1973 SIL) Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA, Kwara State, Oyi LGA
Ọkpẹ–Idesa–Akuku North-Western Ọkpẹ, Idesa, Akuku Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA
Ọlọma North-Western 353 (1957 Bradbury) Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA
Ẹrụwa South-Western Erohwa, Erakwa, Arokwa Delta State, Isoko LGA
Isoko South-Western various Igabo, Sobo (see also under Urhobo) Biotu (not recommended) At least 74,000 (1952 REB); 300,000 (1980 UBS) Delta State, Isoko and Ndokwa LGAs
Okpẹ South-Western Ukpɛ 8,722 (1957 Bradbury) Delta State, Okpe LGA
Urhobo South-Western Several dialects, Agbarho accepted as standard. Okpe and Uvbiẹ, often regarded as dialects of Urhobo, are treated as distinct languages (q.v.) on purely linguistic grounds Sobo (not recommended) (See also Isoko) Biotu (See also Isoko) at least 173,000 (1952 REB); 340,000 (1973 SIL) Delta State, Ethiope and Ughelli LGAs
Uvbiẹ South-Western Uvwie, Evrie, Uvhria, Effurum, Effurun, Evhro (not recommended) 6,000 (1952) Delta State, Ethiope LGA


Proto-Edoid is reconstructed as having a contrast between oral and nasal consonants and oral and nasal vowels typical for the region. However, in some Edoid languages nasal vowels have been reanalyzed as allophones of oral vowels after nasal consonants, and in others nasal consonants have been reanalyzed as allophones of oral consonants before nasal vowels, reducing the number of phonemically nasal consonants. Urhobo retains three nasals, /m, n, ɲ/, and has five oral consonants with nasal allophones, /ɺ, l, ʋ, j, w/; in Edo this is reduced to one phonemic nasal, /m/, but eight additional consonants with nasal allophones, /p, b, t, d, k, ɡ, kp, ɡb/; and in Ukue there are no indisputably phonemic nasals and only two consonants with nasal allophones, /l, β/.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Edoid". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Elugbe, Ben Ohiọmamhẹ. 1989. Comparative Edoid: Phonology and Lexicon. (Delta Series, 6.) Port-Harcourt: University of Port Harcourt Press.
  3. ^ Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.
  4. ^ Schaefer, R.P. 1987. An initial orthography and lexicon for Emai: an Edoid language of Nigeria. Indiana University Linguistics Club, Studies in African Grammatical Systems, 5, Bloomington.
  5. ^ Okojie, C. and P.E. Ejele 1987. Esan orthography. In: Orthography Manual V. ed. R.N. Agheyisi. National Language Centre, Federal Ministry of Education, Lagos.
  6. ^ Bradbury, R.E. 1957. The Benin kingdom and the Edo-speaking peoples of south-western Nigeria (Ethnographic survey of Africa, Western Africa 13). London: Oxford Univ. Press; International African Inst. (IAI).
  7. ^ Temple, Olive 1922. Notes on the Tribes, Provinces, Emirates and States of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria. Argus Printing and Publishing Co. Cape Town.


  • Frank Kügler, Caroline Féry, Ruben Van De Vijver (2009) Variation and Gradience in Phonetics and Phonology
  • Elugbe, Ben Ohiọmamhẹ. 1989a. "Edoid". In Bendor-Samuel (Ed.), The Niger–Congo Languages. Lanham: The United Press of America. 291-304.
  • Elugbe, Ben Ohiọmamhẹ. 1989b. Comparative Edoid: phonology and lexicon. Delta Series No. 6. Port Harcourt: University of Port Harcourt Press.
  • Blench, Roger. Delta Edoid wordlists.