Gun language

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Native toBenin, Nigeria
EthnicityGun people
Native speakers
1.5 million (2020–2021)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3guw
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Video in Gun language introducing Gungbe Wikipedia

Gun (Gun: gungbe) is a language in the Gbe languages group. It is spoken by the Ogu people in Benin, as well as in south-western Nigeria.[2] Gun is part of the Fon cluster of languages inside the Eastern Gbe languages; it is close to Fon, especially its Agbome and Kpase varieties, as well as to the Maxi and Weme (Ouémé) languages. It is used in some schools in the Ouémé Department of Benin.[3]

Gun is the second most spoken language in Benin. It is mainly spoken in the south of the country, in Porto-Novo, Sèmè-Kpodji, Bonou, Adjarra, Avrankou, Dangbo, Akpro-Missérété, Cotonou, and other cities where Ogu people live. It is also spoken by a minority of Ogu people in southwest Nigeria near the border with Benin, particularly Badagry, Maun, Tube.



Bilabial Labio-
Palatal Labial-
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m ~ b n ~ ɖ (ɲ)
voiced d d͡ʒ ɡ͡b ɡ
voiceless (p) t t͡ʃ k͡p k
Fricative voiceless f ~ ɸ s (ʃ) x ~ χ ~ h
voiced v ~ β z (ʒ) ɣʷ ɣ ~ ʁ
Approximant l ~ j [] w []
Trill (r ~ )
Tap (ɾ)
  • Voiced plosives /b, ɖ/ fluctuate to voiced nasals [m, n] exclusively before nasal vowels, however; as a result of more recent loanwords, /b, ɖ/ also tend to not fluctuate when preceding nasal vowels.
  • In the case of the sounds /x ~ χ ~ h/, /ɣ ~ ʁ/; /f ~ ɸ/, /v ~ β/; /tʃ ~ ʃ/, /dʒ ~ ʒ/; these sounds are strictly realizations of individual sounds due to dialectal variation, and not as contrasting phonemes.
  • /p/ is mainly phonemic as a result of loanwords and ideophonic terms.
  • /ɖ/ is heard as a tap [ɾ] when in intervocalic position and followed by an oral vowel.
  • /j/ when occurring before nasal vowels can be heard as either [ɲ] or [j̃] in free variation. /l, w/ are nasalized as [l̃, w̃] when before nasal vowels.
  • /l/ is also realized as a trill [r] when occurring after laminal alveolars, palato-alveolars, and palatal consonants. It may also be nasalized as [r̃] when before nasal vowels in that position.[4]


Front Central Back
Close i ĩ u ũ
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɛ̃ ɔ ɔ̃
Open a ã


The language has been written with three orthographies, all of them based on the Latin alphabet. In Nigeria, it has been written with an orthography similar to that of Yoruba and some other languages of Nigeria, and using the dot below diacritic to indicate sounds.[clarification needed] In Benin, another orthography was developed for publishing a Bible translation in 1923, and it was updated in 1975, and is now used for teaching literacy in some schools in Benin; it is similar to the orthography of Fon, using letters such as ɛ and ɔ.[5] There are proposals to unify the orthographies, for example the one made by Hounkpati Capo in 1990.[4]


  1. ^ Gun at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "Gun". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2021-01-10.
  3. ^ Kluge, Angela (2007). "The Gbe Language Continuum of West Africa: A Synchronic Typological Approach to Prioritizing In-depth Sociolinguistic Research on Literature Extensibility" (PDF). Language Documentation & Conservation: 182–215.
  4. ^ a b Capo, Hounkpati B. C. (1990). "Towards a Viable Orthography for Egungbe". African Languages and Cultures. 3 (2): 109–125. doi:10.1080/09544169008717715. ISSN 0954-416X. JSTOR 1771717.
  5. ^ Iyetunde Ofulue, Christine (2015). Orie, Ọlanikẹ Ọla (ed.). Bilingualism and Language Maintenance in Small Language Communities: The Case of Gungbe. Ilọri, Johnson F., Yuka, Lendzemo Constantine. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-4438-8142-5. OCLC 954254260. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)


  • Saulnier, Pierre (1968). Manuel progressif de conversation en langue goun. Porto-Novo : Centre Catéchétique.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Aboh, Enoch (1996). "A propos de la syntaxe du Gungbe". Rivista di Grammatica Generativa.