Nupe language

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Native to Nigeria
Region Niger State, Kwara North, Kogi State, Federal Capital Territory
Native speakers
(800,000 cited 1990)[1]
L2 speakers: 200,000 (1999)
  • Nupe Tako (Bassa Nge)
Latin, Arabic (in the past[2])
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nup
Glottolog nupe1254[3]

Nupe is a Volta–Niger language of the Nupoid branch primarily spoken by the Nupe people of the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. Its geographical distribution is limited to the west-central portion of this region, and it maintains pre-eminence in Niger State.


Nupe is a language spoken by the Nupe people, 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. Linguistic evidence suggests that the Nupe language belongs to the branch Nupoid of the Benue-Congo group of languages. Other languages in the group are Igbira (Ebira), Gbagyi (Gbari), Gade, and Kakanda. Nupe is related most closely to Gbari and Kakanda in structure and vocabulary. There are at least two markedly different dialects: Nupe central and Nupe Tako.


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

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Labial-velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k kp /k͡p/
voiced b d g gb /ɡ͡b/
Affricate voiceless ts /t͡s/ c /t͡ʃ/
voiced dz /d͡z/ j /d͡ʒ/
Fricative voiceless f s sh /ʃ/ h
voiced v z zh /ʒ/
Nasal m n
Approximant l y /j/ 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).[4][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.[5]


  1. ^ Nupe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Roger Blench. «Oral literature genres of the Nupe of Central Nigeria». Pages 5—6.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nupe-Nupe-Tako". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Ibrahim, Isyaku Bala (2009) Eganmaganzhi Nupe (Nupe Proverbs), over a thousand (1000) proverbs). Minna: Gandzo Enterprises.
  5. ^ Ibrahim, Isyaku Bala (2009) Eganmaganzhi Nupe (Nupe Proverbs), over a thousand (1000) proverbs). Minna: Gandzo Enterprises.

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