Nupe language

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Native toNigeria
RegionNiger State, Kwara State, Kogi State, Federal Capital Territory
Native speakers
(800,000 cited 1990)[1]
L2 speakers: 200,000 (1999)
  • Nupe Tako (Bassa Nge)
Latin, Arabic[2])
Language codes
ISO 639-3nup

Nupe (also known as Anufe, Nupenci, Nyinfe, Tapa[3]) is a Volta–Niger language of the Nupoid branch primarily spoken by the Nupe people of the North Central region of Nigeria. Its geographical distribution stretches and maintains pre-eminence in Niger State as well as Kwara, Kogi, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory.[4]


Nupe is the language spoken by the Nupe people,[5] who reside mainly in Niger State in Nigeria, occupying a lowland of about 6,950 square miles (18,000 square kilometers) in the Niger Basin, mostly north of the river between the Kontagora and Guara confluents from Kainji to below Baro, and also Kwara State, Kogi State and the Federal Capital Territory.

Nupe is spoken mainly in Bida, Niger State and surrounding areas. It is also spoken in villages on the Benue River near Ibi and east of Lafia. Nupe has assimilated earlier ethnolinguistic groups such as the Benu of Kutigi (originally Kanuri-speaking), and the Gbagye at Lemu.[3]

Nupe Tako (meaning ‘The Nupe Below’; also known as Bassa-Nge) is lexically most closely related to central Nupe.[3]


The Nupe language belongs to the Nupoid branch of the Benue-Congo group of languages. Other languages in the group are Igbira (Ebira), Gade, and Kakanda. Nupe is related most closely to Kakanda in structure and vocabulary. There are at least two markedly different dialects: Nupe central and Nupe Tako.[6]


Nupe has 5 vowels: /a, e, i, o, u/. /a, i, u/ have nasalized forms.

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Labial-velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k k͡p ⟨kp⟩
voiced b d g ɡ͡b ⟨gb⟩
Affricate voiceless t͡s ⟨ts⟩ t͡ʃ ⟨c⟩
voiced d͡z ⟨dz⟩ d͡ʒ ⟨j⟩
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ ⟨sh⟩ h
voiced v z ʒ ⟨zh⟩
Nasal m n
Approximant l j ⟨y⟩ w
Trill r
Indication of tones
High tone (´) acute
Low tone (`) grave
Mid tone unmarked
Falling tone (ˆ) circumflex or (ˇ) caron
Rising tone (ˇ) caron or (ˆ) circumflex


Common sayings come in the forms of egankogi (parable), gangba (warning), egancin (idiom), ecingi (riddle/tales) and eganmagan (proverb).[7][clarification needed]

Eganmagan (proverb, plural eganmaganzhi) are wise sayings spoken among the Nupes. They are didactic proverbs which educate, entertain, and teach morality. They form part of the oral culture on norms and ethics of Nupe societies, and are passed from one generation to another through songs, stories, fables, folk tales, myths, legends, incantations, communal discussions, and worship.[citation needed]

Similar to other African proverbs, Nupe proverbs associate or relate people's action to their immediate environment in order to explain or correct particular situations, norms, issues, or problems. They also enlighten, warn and advise, or teach language in order to change perception which is believed to become reality.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Nupe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Roger Blench. «Oral literature genres of the Nupe of Central Nigeria». Pages 5—6.
  3. ^ a b c Blench, Roger. 2013. The Nupoid languages of west-central Nigeria: overview and comparative word list.
  4. ^ omotolani (2021-08-17). "Discovering the Nupe people". Pulse Nigeria. Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  5. ^ Abdullahi, Ndagi (2018). Nupe - The Origin (5th ed.). Bida: KinNupe Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-978-36187-0-1.
  6. ^ "Nupe |". Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  7. ^ Ibrahim, Isyaku Bala (2009) Eganmaganzhi Nupe (Nupe Proverbs), over a thousand (1000) proverbs). Minna: Gandzo Enterprises.

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