Oti–Volta languages

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Burkina Faso, northern Ghana and Benin
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo?

The Oti–Volta languages form a subgroup of the Gur languages, comprising about 30 languages of northern Ghana, Benin, and Burkina Faso spoken by twelve million people. The most populous language is Mooré, the national language of Burkina Faso, spoken by over 55% of Burkina Faso’s 20 million population and an additional 1 million in neighboring countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, and Mali.

The family is named after the Oti and Volta rivers.


The internal classification of Oti–Volta, as worked out by Manessy 1975–79[1][2] and Naden 1989[3][4] (Williamson & Blench 2000[5][6]) is as follows:


Buli–Koma: Buli, Konni

Eastern (Somba): Biali, Mbelime, Tammari (Ditammari), Waama

(Mole–Dagbani, Mabia) 


Northwest: Mõõré, Frafra, Safaliba, Wali, DagaareBirifor

Southeast: Dagbani, Hanga, Kamara, Kusaal, Nabit, Talni, Mampruli, Kantosi

Gurma: Ngangam, Gourmanchéma, Moba (Bimoba), Ntcham (Akaselem), Nateni, Miyobe, Konkomba

Yom–Nawdm: Nawdm, Yom

Native Dagbani speakers assert that Dagbani is mutually intelligible with Dagaare, Frafra, Mamprusi, and Wali, but in the case of Dagaare, Frara and Wali it is rather the case that many people can understand some of a language which is not their mother tongue. These languages are not mutually intelligible with Mõõré or Kusaal (a language spoken in Bawku West District and adjacent areas).

Bodomo (2017)[edit]

Bodomo (2017) refers to the Western Oti–Volta group (and also including Buli–Koma) as Central Mabia.[7][8] The term Mabia is a portmanteau of the two lexical innovations ma- 'mother' + bia 'child'.[9]

The following is a classification of the Central Mabia languages from Bodomo (2017), as cited in Bodomo (2020).[9] Bodomo's Central Mabia group consists of 7 subgroups.

See also[edit]


  • Bodomo, Adams, Hasiyatu Abubakari and Samuel Alhassan Issah (2020). Handbook of the Mabia Languages of West Africa. Glienicke: Galda Verlag. ISBN 978-3-96203-118-3.


  1. ^ Manessy, Gabriel (1975). Les langues Oti-Volta. Paris: SELAF.
  2. ^ Manessy, Gabriel (1979). Contribution à la classification généalogique des langues voltaïques : - le proto-central (Langues et civilisations à tradition orale №37 ed.). SELAF: PARIS.
  3. ^ Naden, Tony (1989). Gur. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. pp. 141–168.
  4. ^ Bendor-Samuel, John T. [ed.] (1989). The Niger-Congo Languages. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ Heine, Bernd and Derek Nurse [eds] (2000). African Languages — An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ Williamson, Kay and Roger Blench (2000). Niger–Congo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 11–42.
  7. ^ Bodomo, Adams. 2017. Mabia: its etymological genesis, geographical spread and some salient genetic features. Paper presented at the Mabia Languages Conferences in Winneba, Ghana and Vienna, Austria.
  8. ^ Naden, Tony. 2021. Comparative Dictionary of Central Mabia Languages (Formerly Western Oti-Volta) / Dictionnaire Comparatif Des Langues Mabia-Central (anciennement Western Oti-Volta). m.s.
  9. ^ a b Bodomo, Adams. 2020. "Mabia: Its Etymological Genesis, Geographical Spread, and some Salient Genetic Features." In: Bodomo A., Abubakari H. & Issah, S. 2020. Handbook of the Mabia Languages of West Africa. Galda Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 400 pages, ISBN 978-3-96203-117-6 (Print); ISBN 978-3-96203-118-3 (E-Book)