Tee language

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Native to Nigeria
Region Rivers State
Native speakers
310,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tkq
Glottolog teee1242[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Tẹẹ, or Tai, is the language of the Tai tribe of the Ogoni nation of Nigeria. It is to a limited degree mutually intelligible with Khana, the main Ogoni language, but its speakers consider it to be a separate language.


The Tẹẹ ([tɛ̀ː]) sound system is typical of an Ogoni language and identical to that of Khana, with the exception of four or five voiceless sonorants not found in that language. The voiceless w is also found in other Ogoni languages, and voiceless j and l are also found in other languages of Nigeria.

Tẹẹ has three tones, high, mid, and low. There are seven oral vowels, /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/, and five nasal vowels, /ĩ ẽ ã õ ũ/. All may occur long or short. The consonants are as follows:

Tẹẹ consonants
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labial-
central lateral plain lab.
Plosive voiceless p t k k͡p
voiced b d ɡ ɡʷ ɡ͡b
Fricative voiceless s
voiced z
Nasal voiceless (m̥)
voiced m n ɲ ŋʷ
Approximant voiceless ȷ̊
voiced ɹ l j w

A glottal stop [ʔ] appears before any otherwise vowel-initial stem. The alveolar consonants are apical.

Tẹẹ includes a rather unusual series of voiceless sonorants. The voiceless palatal /ȷ̊/ sounds rather like the voiceless palatal fricative [ç], but is not as noisy (that is, there is not much random-frequency noise in its sound spectrum). Similarly, /l̥/ is a voiceless approximant, not a voiceless fricative *[ɬ]. The voiceless bilabial nasal, /m̥/, is only known to occur in one word, /àm̥èː/ (an unidentified abdominal organ), and then only for some speakers. All of the voiceless sonorants are actually voiced during the second half of their enunciation. That is, /n̥/ is pronounced [n̥͡n] However, they are considerably shorter than their voiced homologues, and hence cannot be considered /hC/ sequences with an otherwise unattested consonant */h/.


  1. ^ Tẹẹ at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tee". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  • Ladefoged, Peter (October 1995). "Voiceless approximants in Tee". Fieldwork Studies of Targeted Languages III. UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics. 91: 85–88.