Tee language

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Native toNigeria
RegionTai, Rivers State
Native speakers
310,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tkq
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Tẹẹ ([tɛ̀ː]), or Tai, is an Ogoni language and the language of the Tai tribe of the Ogoni people of Rivers State, 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 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.


There are seven oral vowels, /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/, spelt (i e ẹ a ọ o u), and five nasal vowels, /ĩ ẽ ã õ ũ/ (spelt this way also). All may occur in long or short forms.


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labial-
central lateral plain lab.
Plosive voiceless p t k kʷ <kw> k͡p <kp>
voiced b d ɡ ɡʷ <gw> ɡ͡b <gb>
Fricative voiceless s
voiced z
Nasal voiceless (m̥) <hm> n̥ <hn>
voiced m n ɲ <ny> ŋʷ <nw>
Approximant voiceless l̥ <hl> ȷ̊ <hy> w̥ <hw>
voiced ɹ <r> l j <y> 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/.


Tẹẹ has three tones: high, mid and low.

  • The high tone is indicated by an acute accent : á, ã́, é, ẹ́, ẽ́, í, ĩ́, ó, ọ́, ṍ, ú, ṹ;
  • The low tone is indicated by a grave accent : à, ã̀, è, ẹ̀, ẽ̀, ì, ĩ̀, ò, ọ̀, õ̀, ù, ũ̀;
  • The middle tone is indicated with no diacritic.


  1. ^ Tẹẹ at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tee". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: 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.