Tera language

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Region Nigeria
Native speakers
101,000 (2000)[1]
  • Pidlimdi (Hinna)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ttr
Glottolog tera1251[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Tera is a Chadic dialect cluster spoken in north-eastern Nigeria in the north and eastern parts of Gombe State and Borno State.[3] Blench (2006) believes Pidlimdi (Hinna) dialect is a separate language.[4]


Labial Alveolar Post-al.
Velar Glottal
plain palatal. central lateral plain labial.
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop1 plain p b t2 d2 2 2 k g
prenasal. ᵐb ⁿd ᶮdʒ ᵑɡ ᵑɡʷ
implosive ɓ ɓʲ ɗ ɠ
Fricative f v s z ɬ ɮ ʃ ʒ x ɣ ɣʷ h3
Approximant plain l j w
glottal. 4
Trill r
^1 Voiceless plosives are lightly aspirated but unreleased before another consonant.[6]
^2 /t/ and /d/ formally had /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ respectively as allophones but the two pairs have split; however, the alveolar plosives never precede front vowels and the postalveolar affricates rarely precede anything but front vowels.[6]
^3 /h/ is a relatively new phoneme, appearing in loanwords from English and Hausa.[6]
^4 /jˀ/ derives from a /ɗʲ/ that has lost its alveolar contact while retaining the palatal and glottal action.[6]
Monophthongs of Tera, from Tench (2007:230)
Diphthongs of Tera, from Tench (2007:231)
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid e o
Open a

Vowel length contrasts are neutralized in monosyllabic words with no coda consonants.[7]

All vowels but /a/ and /aː/ are more open in closed syllables such as in [ɮɛp] ('to plait') and [xʊ́r] ('to cook soup'). /a/ and /aː/ tend to be fronted to [æ, æː] when following palatalized consonants.[8]

Diphthongs, which have the same length as long vowels, consist of a non-high vowel and a high vowel:[8]

Diphthong Example Orthography Gloss
/eu/ /ɓeu/ ɓeu 'sour'
/oi/ /woi/ woi 'child'
/ai/ /ɣài/ ghai 'town'
/au/ /ɮàu/ dlau 'sickle'
  • Phonetically, these diphthongs are [e̞ʊ, o̞ɪ, ɐɪ, ɐʊ].[8]


Tera is a tonal language, distinguishing high, mid and low tone. Tone is not indicated orthographically since no minimal trios exist; minimal pairs can be distinguished by context.[9]


The first publication in Tera was Labar Mbarkandu nu Yohanna Bula Ki, a translation of the Gospel of John, which established an orthographic system. In 2004, this orthographic system was revised.[3]


  1. ^ Tera at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tera". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ a b Tench (2007:227)
  4. ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List (ms)
  5. ^ Tench (2007:228)
  6. ^ a b c d Tench (2007:229)
  7. ^ a b c d Tench (2007:230)
  8. ^ a b c Tench (2007:231)
  9. ^ Tench (2007:232)