Urhobo language

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Native toNigeria
RegionDelta and Bayelsa States
Native speakers
(2,000,000 cited 1993)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3urh
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Urhobo is a South-Western Edoid language[2] spoken by the Urhobo people of southern Nigeria.[3][4]

From the region of Delta and Bayelsa State.[5] They are also known as fishermen.[6] Their neighbours are the Isoko to the South East, the Itsekiri to the West, Ijaw to the South and Ukwuani people to the North East.

Urhobo people are referred to as "Urhobians" or "Urhobeans"


Urhobo has a rather reduced system of sound inventory compared to proto-Edoid. The inventory of Urhobo consists of seven vowels; which form two harmonic sets,[7] /i e ɛ a o ɔ u/ and /ĩ ẽ ɛ̃ ã ɔ̃ õ ũ/.[8]

It has a conservative consonant inventory for an Edoid language. It maintains three nasals, and only five oral consonants, /ɾ, l, β̞, j, w/, have nasal allophones before nasal vowels.[7]

  Labial Labiodental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-velar
Nasal m   (n)   ɲ   ŋ͡m
Plosive p  b   t  d d͡ʒ kʲ  ɡʲ k  ɡ k͡p  ɡ͡b
Fricative ɸ   f  v s ʃ (ç  ʝ) x  ɣ  
Trill     r̥  r        
Flap     (ɾ̥  ɾ)        
Lateral     l ~ n        
Approximant β̞ [β̞̃ ]   (ɹ̥  ɹ) [ɹ̃]   j [j̃] (ɰ  ɰ̥) w [w̃]
  • /l/ is interchangeable with [n] only before nasal vowels.
  • /d͡ʒ/ can be heard as [ɟ͡ʝ ~ ʝ] before non-front vowels.
  • Nasal consonants /m, [n], ɲ, ŋ͡m/ can have allophones of nasalized approximants as [β̞̃], [ɹ̃ ~ ɾ̃], [j̃], [w̃].
  • Approximants /β̞, j, w/ are heard as nasalized approximants [β̞̃, j̃, w̃] before and after nasal vowels.
  • Velar fricatives /x, ɣ/ can vary from being heard as [x, ɣ] to lowered fricatives [x̞, ɣ̞] and approximants [ɰ̥, ɰ]. /x/ can also be heard as a palatal fricative [ç] before /i/.
  • Rhotics /r̥, r/ may have different realizations as alveolar or retroflex, and can be articulated as approximants [ɹ̥, ɹ, ɻ̊, ɻ], or taps [ɾ̥, ɾ, ɽ̊, ɽ]. A retroflex lateral flap [ɭ̆] can also be heard in syllable-final position.

According to Ukere (1986), Urhobo has two tones, a high tone and a low tone. These can also combine to form rising and falling tones.[9]


Urhobo dictionaries have been compiled by Ukere, Osubele, Ebireri Okrokoto of Urhobo Language Institute,[10] and Julius Arerierian.[11] A wordlist of nouns and verbs of Okpe, Urhobo and Uvwie was compiled by Akpobọmẹ Diffrẹ-Odiete with funding from Foundation for Endangered Languages.


Urhobo has the SVO constituent order type as illustrated with the example below:










Òtítí ò chó ọhọ ná

Otiti 3SG steal.PST hen DET

‘Otiti stole the hen.’


  1. ^ Urhobo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Elugbe, B. O. 1989. Edoid: Phonology and Lexicon. Port Harcourt: University of Port Harcourt Press.
  3. ^ "Nigeria | History, Population, Flag, Map, Languages, Capital, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-03-09.
  4. ^ "Supplemental Information 3: An excerpt from Data Downloads page, where users can download original datasets". dx.doi.org. doi:10.7717/peerj.9467/supp-3. Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  5. ^ "Bayelsa State Government – The Glory of all Lands". Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  6. ^ van der Hoop, Julie (2017). Effects of added drag on cetaceans : fishing gear entanglement and external tag attachment (Thesis). Woods Hole, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. doi:10.1575/1912/8468.
  7. ^ a b Rolle, N. 2013. “Phonetics and phonology of Urhobo.”UC Berkeley Phonology Lab Annual Report, 2013: 281-326.
  8. ^ Archangeli & Pulleyblank, 1994. Grounded phonology, p 181ff
  9. ^ Ukere, Anthony Obakpọnọvwẹ. 1986. Urhobo-English dictionary. Benin City: Ilupeju Press.
  10. ^ "Urhobo to English Dictionary" (PDF). urhobolanguageinstitute.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  11. ^ Okeke, Chizoro. "Urhobo Dictionary by Ebireri Okrokoto Urhobo Language Institute". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)