Volta–Niger languages

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Volta–Niger
West Benue–Congo
East Kwa
Geographic
distribution
West Africa, from Eastern Ghana to central Nigeria
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
Subdivisions
  • Akpes
  • Ayere–Ahan
  • Gbe
  • yeai (= Defoid+)
  • noi
  • ? Ukaan
GlottologNone
Nigeria Benin Cameroon languages.png
Some important branches of the Volta–Niger and Benue–Congo families are concentrated in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin.

The Volta–Niger family of languages, also known as West Benue–Congo or East Kwa, is one of the branches of the Niger–Congo language family, with perhaps 70 million speakers. Among these are the most important languages of southern Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and southeast Ghana: Yoruba, Igbo, Bini, Fon, and Ewe.

These languages have variously been placed within the Kwa or Benue–Congo families, but Williamson & Blench (2000) separate them from both. The boundaries between the various branches of Volta–Niger are rather vague, suggesting diversification of a dialect continuum rather than a clear split of families, which suggest a close origin

Branches[edit]

The constituent groups of the Volta–Niger family, along with the most important languages in terms of number of speakers, are as follows (with number of languages for each branch in parentheses):

Volta–Niger  

Akpes (1)

Ayere–Ahan (2)

Gbe (21: Fon [2 million], Ewe [3 million])

  yeai  

Yoruboid (Igala [1 million], Yorùbá [22 million], Itsekiri [800,000])

Edoid (27: Edo [Bini, 1 million])

Akoko (1)

Igboid (7: Igbo [18 million])

 noi 

Nupoid (12: Ebira [1 million], Nupe [1 million])

Oko (1)

Idomoid (9: Idoma [600,000])

? Ukaan (1)

The Yoruboid languages and Akoko were once linked as the Defoid branch, but more recently they, Edoid, and Igboid have been suggested to be primary branches of an as-yet unnamed group, often abbreviated yeai. Similarly, Oko, Nupoid, and Idomoid are often grouped together under the acronym noi. Ukaan is an Atlantic–Congo language, but it is unclear if it belongs to the Volta–Niger family; Blench suspects it is closer to Benue–Congo.

Branches and locations[edit]

Below is a list of major Volta–Niger branches and their primary locations (centres of diversity) in Nigeria based on Blench (2019).[1]

Distributions of Volta–Niger branches[1]
Branch Primary locations
Akpes Akoko North LGA, Ondo State
Ayere–Ahan Akoko North LGA, Ondo State
Gbe Badagry LGA, Lagos State and adjacent areas
Yoruboid Southwestern Nigeria
Edoid Rivers, Edo, Ondo, Delta States
Akoko Akoko North LGA, Ondo State
Igboid Anambra, Rivers, Delta States (excluding Igbo proper)
Nupoid Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa States
Oko Okene LGA, Kogi State
Idomoid Benue, Cross River, Nasarawa States
Ukaan Akoko North LGA, Ondo State

Comparative vocabulary[edit]

Sample basic vocabulary in different Volta–Niger branches:

Language eye ear nose tooth tongue mouth blood bone tree water eat name
Yoruba ojú etí imú eyín ahọ́n ẹnu ẹ̀jẹ egungun igi omi jẹ orúkọ
Proto-Yoruboid[2] *e-jú *e-tĩ́ *ɪ-ŋmʊ̃́ *e-ɲĩ́ *ʊ-ɓã́ *a-rʊ̃ã *ɛ̀-byɛ̀ *V-k'ĩk'ũ *e-gĩ (i-) *o-mĩ *jɛ *o-ɗú
Proto-Edoid[3] *dhI-dhω *ghU-chɔGɪ *I-chuəNi; *-chuveNi *dhI-kωN *U-dhamhɪ *A-nuə *U-ɟɪ-, -ɟɪa *U-thaNɪ *A-mɪN *dhɪ *dhI-ni
Proto-Gbe[4] *-tó *aɖú *-ɖɛ́ *-ɖũ; *-ɖũkpá *-ʁʷũ *-χʷú *-tĩ́ *-tsĩ *ɖu *yĩ́kɔ́
Akoko (Arigidi)[5] ódʒù oto (odʒ)uw̃ɔ̃̀ éɲì̃ ɛŕɛ̀ õrũ ɛ̀dʒɛ̀ ɛ̀dʒɛ̀ ɔ́hɔ̃̄ edʒĩ dʒō
Proto-Akpes[6]; Akpes (Ajowa)[7] *èyò *àsùgù *àhũ *ìyũ *ìndàlì *onu ìkɔ̃̀n ɔhuni imi ìmũ̀nũ̀
Ayere[8] ɛ́jɛ́ éndí ówṹ éyĩ́ únú anu èʃwè egbe oŋwu oyin ʃe éwú
Ahan[8] ewú éndí owũ eɲĩ irɛ̃́ arũ èsè igbegbe oɲĩ
Oko[9] áɲẽ́ ɔ́tɔ̃́ ɔ́mɔ́dɔ́rɛ̀ írú ɛ́làárɛ́ ówó ɛ́ŋɔ̂ ófú esáma ébí íwúrù
Proto-Idomoid[10] *eyi *ʊrʊ/a- *eŋgwu *ìmàǹjī *ìmànyì; *ma-yeni ? *ri *ɛɲɪ
Proto-Ukaan[11] *ìdʒì *ʊrʊgV *ɔ̀kɔ̃́rɔ̃̀ *ʊ̀ɲʊ̀gV; jɔ̀r *ɛ̀ɲʊ̃́ *òŋʷṍ *ùɲṹ *òɣʷó *ɔ̀hʊ̃́nṽ *ùmɔ̃̀ *jé *ìnĩ́
Proto-Benue–Congo[12] *-lito *-tuŋi *-zua *-nini, *-nino; *-sana; *-gaŋgo (±) *-lemi; *-lake *-zi; *-luŋ *-kupe *-titi; *-kwon *-izi (±); *-ni (±) *-zina

Numerals[edit]

Comparison of numerals in individual languages:[13]

Classification Language 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Akpes Akpes íɡbōn / ēkìnì īdīan(ì) īsās(ì) īnīŋ(ì) īʃōn(ì) ītʃānās(ì) ītʃēnētʃ(ì) ānāānīŋ(ì) ɔ̀kpɔ̄lɔ̀ʃ(ì) īyōf(ì)
Defoid, Akokoid Ariɡidi (Iɡasi) [kɛ̀ɛ́ɲɛ̃] [kèji] [kedà] [kenɛ] [kéntɔ̀] [kefà] [keɸi] [kerò] [kéndà] [kéjè]
Defoid, Akokoid Òɡè [ékán] [ìyí] [ídaː] [ínɛ́] [ítɔ̃̀] [ìfà] [ídʒúí] [írò] [ĩ́ŋa] [íyè]
Defoid, Ayere-Ahan Ayere (Úwû) ĩ̀kã̌ ìd͡ʒì ītā ĩ̄jẽ̄ ĩ̄tṹ ìfà īd͡ʒʷī īrō ĩ̄dã̂ īɡʷá
Defoid, Ayere-Ahan Ayu ɪdɪ ahwa /afah ataar anaŋaʃ atuɡen atɛɛr ataraŋaʃ (3 ?) anababoɡ (4 ?) atuluboɡ (5 ?) iʃoɡ / ajalaboɡ
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Cabe (Ede Cabe) ɔ̀kɛ̃ mɛ̃́d͡ʒì mɛ̃́ta mɛ̃́hɛ̃ mɛ́hú mɛ̃́fà méd͡ʒe mɛ̃́d͡ʒɔ mɛ̃́sɛ̃́ mɛ̃́wá
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Ede Ica (Ica) ɔkɔ̃ eɟi ɛta ɛ̃ɛ̃ ɛwu ɛfa ɛɟɛ ɛɟɔ ɛsɔ̃ ɛya
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Idaca (Ede Idaca) òbú méd͡ʒi mɛ́ta mírĩ mɛrú mɛ́fà méd͡ʒe mɛ́d͡ʒɔ mɛ́sã maa
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Ifè (1) ɛnɛ́ méèdzì mɛ́ɛta mɛ́ɛrɛ̃ mɛ́ɛrú mɛ́ɛfà méedze mɛ́ɛdzɔ mɛsã́ maá
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Ifè (2) ɛ̀nɛ / ɔ̀kɔ̃̀ méèdzì mɛ́ɛta mɛ́ɛrɛ̃ mɛ́ɛrú mɛ́ɛfà méedze mɛ́ɛdzɔ mɛsã́ maá
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Ulukwumi ɔ̀kɑ̃ mɛ́zì mɛ́tɑ mɛ́rɛ̃ mɛ́rú mɛ́fɑ̀ méze mɛ́zɔ mɛ̀hɑ̃́ mɛ́ɡʷɑ́
Defoid, Yoruboid, Edekiri Yoruba oókan [oókan] eéjì [eéɟì] ẹẹ́ta [ɛɛ́ta] ẹẹ́rin [ɛɛ́ɾin] aárùn [aáɾun] ẹẹ́fà [ɛɛ́fà] ẹẹ́je [ɛɛ́ɟe] ẹẹ́jọ [ɛɛ́ɟɔ] ẹẹ́sàn [ɛɛ́sàn] ẹẹ́wàá [ɛɛ́wàá]
Defoid, Yoruboid, Igala Igala (1) éɲɛ́ / ǒkâ èdʒì ɛ̀ta ɛ̀lɛ̀ ɛ̀lú ɛ̀fà èbʲe ɛ̀dʒɔ ɛ̀lá ɛ̀ɡʷá
Defoid, Yoruboid, Igala Igala (2) ínyé̩ [íɲɛ́] èjì [èdʒì] ẹ̀tā [ɛ̀tā] ẹ̀lè̩ [ɛ̀lɛ̀] è̩lú [ɛ̀lú] ẹ̀fè̩ [ɛ̀fɛ̀] ẹ̀biē [èbjiē] ẹ̀jọ̄ [ɛ̀dʒɔ] ẹ̀lá [ɛ̀lá] ẹ̀ɡwá [ɛ̀ɡwá]
Ukaan Ukaan (Ikaan dialect) ʃí tāːs / hrāhr nāʲ / nā hrʊ̀ːn / tòːn hràdá hránèʃì nàːnáʲ / nàːná hráòʃì òpú *
Edoid, Delta Degema ɔβʊ́ iβə́ sáj (ɪsáj) iní súwón (ɪsúwón) jɪ́sa (ɪjɪ́sá) síjéβə (isíjéβá) anɪ́ (ɪnʊ́mán) əsí (ɔβʊ óte mʊ iɡ͡beɲ) (10 -1) əɡ͡beɲ (iɡ͡béɲ)
Edoid, Delta Engenni ávʊ̀ ívà ɛ́sàà ínìì ìsyònì ɛ̀nyísà ìsyovà ɛ̀nʊ̀màní àvʊ́mó (10 -1) íɡ͡bèì
Edoid, North-Central, Edo-Esan-Ora Ẹdo (1) òwó [òwó] (used only to count) èvá [èvá]́ èhá [èhá] èné [ènɛ́] ìsén [ìsɛ́] or [ìsɛ̃́] ?? èhàn [èhã̀] ìhírọ̃n [ìhĩɺɔ]̃ èrẹ̀nrẹ̀n [èɺɛ̃ɺɛ̃] ìhìnrín [ihĩɺĩ] ìɡ͡bé [ìɡ͡bé]
Edoid, North-Central, Edo-Esan-Ora Edo (Bini) (2) ɔ̀k͡pá / òwo (used only to count) èvá èhá ènɛ́ ìsɛ́n ěhàn ìhinrɔ̀n èrɛ̀nrɛ́n ìhìnrín ìɡ͡bé
Edoid, North-Central, Edo-Esan-Ora Emai (Emai-luleha-Ora) ɔ̀k͡pa èvà èéà èélè ìíhìɛ̀n èéhàn ìhíɔ́n èɛ́n ìsín ìɡ͡bé
Edoid, North-Central, Edo-Esan-Ora Esan ɔ̀k͡pá èvá éà énɛ̃̀ ìsɛ̃́ éhã́ ìhĩ́lɔ̃̀ èlɛ̃́lɛ̃̀ ĩ̀sɪ̃́lɪ̃̀ ìɡ͡bé
Edoid, North-Central, Ghotuo-Uneme-Yekhee Etsako (Yekhee) ọkpa [ɔk͡pà] eva [évà] ela [élà] ejiẹ [éʒié] ise [ìsé] esa [ésà] isevha [ìsévhà] eleeh [éːléː] ithi [ìtií] iɡbe [ìɡ͡bé]̄
Edoid, North-Central, Ghotuo-Uneme-Yekhee Ghotuo ɔ̀k͡pā èvā èēsà èēnè ìīʒè / ìīʒìè ìjhēhà / ìēhà jh = a week, vd ìhīɲã̄ ènhīē nh = n̥ voiceless n ? ìsī ìɡ͡bē LM͡L
Edoid, North-Central, Ghotuo-Uneme-Yekhee Okphela (1) oɡ͡ɣʷo ˥˩ ˨ evɑ ˨ ˧ esɛ ˧ ˨ ene ˧ ˨ iʃe ˧ ˨ esesa ˨ ˧ ˨ iʃilʷɑ ˨ ˧ ˨ elele ˨ ˩˥ ˨ itili ˨ ˩˥ ˧ iɡ͡be ˨ ˧
Edoid, North-Central, Ghotuo-Uneme-Yekhee Ivbie-North-Okphele-Arhe (2) oɣuo eva esɛ ene iʃie esesa iʃilua elele itili iɡ͡be
Edoid, North-Central, Ghotuo-Uneme-Yekhee Ososo oɡwo [òɡwò] eva [èvá] esa [èsá] ene [èné] ichie [ìt͡ʃè] esesa [èsâsà] ifuena [ìfwènà] inyenye [ìɲèɲẽ́] isini [ìsĩ̀nĩ̀] iɡbe [ìɡ͡bé]
Edoid, Northwestern, Southern Okpamheri ɔkpa eva esa enen ishe eaza izuonua ɛnien isie iɡ͡be
Edoid, Southwestern Isoko (1) ɔvʊ ɪ́vɛ ɪ́sa ɪ́nɪ ɪ́sɔɪ ɪ́zɪ́za ɪ́hɾɛ ɪ́rɪ́ː ɪ́zɪ́ː ɪ́kpe
Edoid, Southwestern Isoko (2) ọvụ ịvẹ ịsạ ịnị isoi ịzịza ihrẹ ịrịị izii ikpe
Edoid, Southwestern Urhobo ɔ̀vò ǐvɛ̀ ěrà ɛ̌nè ǐjòɾĩ̀ ěsã́ ǐɣwɾɛ̃́ ɛ̌ɾéɾẽ ǐríɾĩ ǐxwè
Igboid, Ekpeye Ekpeye nwùrnér, ŋìnɛ́ ɓɨ̂bɔ́ bh = IPA [ɓ] ɓɨ́tɔ́ ir = IPA [ɨ] ɓɨ́nɔ̂ o̠r = IPA [ɔ] ɓísê ɓísû ɓɨ́sábɔ̀ ɓɨ́sátɔ́ ɓɨ́sánɔ̂ or nàzáma or nàzáma ɗi ɗì dh = IPA [ɗ]
Igboid, Igbo Igbo (1) ótù àbʊ̄ɔ́ àtɔ́ ànɔ́ ìsé ìsiì àsáà àsátɔ́ ìtólú ìri
Igboid, Igbo Échiè Igbo (2) otù àbʊ̀ɔ́ ~ m̀bʊ̀ɔ̀ ~ nam̀̀ tɔ ~ àtɔ (ǹ)nɔ ~ ànɔ se~ ìse ʃiì ~ ìʃiì saà ~ àsaà satɔ̄ ~ àsatɔ̄ totū ~ ìtolū ìri
Igboid, Igbo Igbo (3) otù àbʊɔ́ àtɔ ànɔ ìse ìsiì àsaà àsatɔ́ ìtolú, ̀tolú ìri
Igboid, Igbo Ikwere ótù ɛ̀bɔ̀ ɛ̀tɔ́ ɛ̀nɔ̂ ìsẽ̂ ìsínù ɛ̀sâ ɛ̀sátɔ́ tólú ǹrí
Oko Oko (Oko-Eni-Osayen) ɔ̀ɔ́rɛ / ɔ̀jɛ́rɛ ɛ̀bɔ̀rɛ̀ ɛ̀ta ɛ̀na ùpi ɔ̀pɔ́nɔ̀ɔ́rɛ (5 + 1) * úfɔ́mbɔ̀rɛ̀ (5 + 2) * ɔ̀nɔ́kɔ́nɔkɔ́nɔ ùbɔ́ɔ̀rɛ̀ (< 'ten is less than one ') * ɛ̀fɔ
Nupoid, Ebira-Gade Ebira ɔ̀ɔ̀nyɪ̄ ɛ̀ɛ̀vā ɛ̀ɛ̀tá ɛ̀ɛ̀nà ɛ̀ɛ̀hɪ́ hɪ̋nɔ̋nyɪ̄ (5+ 1) hɪ̋m̋bā (5+ 2) hɪ̋n̋tá (5+ 3) hɪ̋ǹnà (5+ 4) ɛ̀ɛ̀wʊ́
Nupoid, Nupe-Gbagyi, Gbagyi-Gbari Gbari ɡ͡bᵐaːɾí ŋʷã̂ba ŋʷã̂t͡ʃa ŋʷã̂ɲi ŋʷã̂tⁿù tⁿúwĩ (5+ 1) tⁿâba (5+ 2) tⁿẫ̂t͡ʃa (5+ 3) tⁿâɲi (5+ 4) ŋʷã̂wò
Nupoid, Nupe-Gbagyi, Nupe Kakanda ɡúní ɡúbà ɡútá ɡúni ɡútũ ɡútuaɲĩ̀ (5+ 1) ɡútuabà (5+ 2) ɡútòtá (5+ 3) ɡútuani (5+ 4) ɡúwo
Nupoid, Nupe-Gbagyi, Nupe Nupe niní ɡúbà ɡútá ɡúni ɡútsũ ɡútswàɲĩ (5+ 1) ɡútwàbà (5+ 2) ɡútotá (5+ 3) ɡútwã̀ni (5+ 4) ɡúwo
Idomoid, Akweya, Eloyi Eloyi (Afo) (1) ńɡwònzé ńɡwòpó ńɡwòlá ńɡwòndó ńɡwolɔ́ ńɡwɔ̀rɛ́nyí ńɡwòrówó ńɡwòràndá ńɡwòròndó úwó
Idomoid, Akweya, Eloyi Eloyi (Afo) (2) ònzé òpā ōlá ōndō ɔ̄lɔ̀ o̠= ɔ ōròwò ɔ̀rɛ̀nyi ōràndá òròndō ūwó
Idomoid, Akweya, Eloyi Eloyi (3) ònzé òpā ōlá ōndō ō̠lò̠ ōròwò ò̠rɛ̀nyi ōràndá òròndō ūwó
Idomoid, Akweya, Etulo-Idoma, Idoma Agatu óyè [ɔ́jè] ẹ̀pà [ɛ̀pà] ẹ̀tá [ɛ̀tá] ẹ̀nẹ̀ [ɛ́nɛ̀] ẹ̀họ́ [ɛ̀hɔ́] ẹ̀hílí [ɛ̀hílí] àhápà [àhápà] àhàtá [àhàtá] àhànè [àhànè] ìɡwó [ìɡwó ]
Idomoid, Akweya, Etulo-Idoma, Idoma Alago óje èpà èta ènɛ̀ ɛ̀hɔ ìhirì àhapà àhatá àhánɛ̀ ìɡʷó
Idomoid, Akweya, Etulo-Idoma, Idoma Idoma éyè [éjè] ẹpà [ɛ́pà] ẹtá [ɛtá] ẹhẹ [ɛ́hɛ́] ẹhọ [ɛ́hɔ] ẹhili [ɛ́hili] àhapà [àhapà] àhátá [àhátá] àhánẹ [àhánɛ́] iɡwó [iɡwó ]
Idomoid, Akweya, Etulo-Idoma, Idoma Igede óòk͡pók͡póh îmíìyèh ītā īnêh ērʊ̄ / īrʊ̄ īrʷɔ̀nyɛ̀ īrùyèh īnêkúh ìhíkítʃú īwō
Idomoid, Akweya, Etulo-Idoma, Idoma Yala ósè ɛ̀pà ɛ̀ta ɛ̀nɛ̀ èrwɔ èríwi àrapà àratá àranɛ̀ ìɡwó

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.
  2. ^ Akinkugbe, Olufẹmi Odutayo. 1978. A comparative phonology of Yoruba dialects, Iṣẹkiri and Igala. Doctoral dissertation, University of Ibadan.
  3. ^ Elugbe, Ben Ohiọmamhẹ. 1989. Comparative Edoid: phonology and lexicon. Delta Series No. 6. Port Harcourt: University of Port Harcourt Press.
  4. ^ Capo, Hounkpati B.C. 1991. A Comparative Phonology of Gbe. Publications in African Languages and Linguistics, 14. Berlin/New York: Foris Publications & Garome, Bénin: Labo Gbe (Int).
  5. ^ Fadọrọ, Jacob Oludare. 2010. Phonological and lexical variations in Akokoid. Doctoral dissertation, University of Ibadan.
  6. ^ Blench, Roger. 2011. Comparative Akpes. m.s.
  7. ^ Ibrahim-Arirabiyi, Femi 1989. A comparative reconstruction of Akpes lects: Akoko North, Ondo State. MA thesis. Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Port Harcourt.
  8. ^ a b Blench, Roger. 2007. The Ayere and Ahan languages of Central Nigeria and their affinities.
  9. ^ Jungraithmayr, Herrmann. 1973. Eine Wortliste des Ọkọ, der Sprache von Ogori (Nigeria). Africana Marburgensia 6: 58-66.
  10. ^ Armstrong, Robert G. 1983. The Idomoid Languages of the Benue and Cross River Valleys. Journal of West African Languages 13: 91-147.
  11. ^ Abiodun, Michael Ajibola. 1999. A comparative phonology and morphology of Ukaan dialects of Old Akoko division. Doctoral dissertation. University of Ilorin.
  12. ^ de wolf, Paul. 1971. The Noun-Class System of Proto-Benue-Congo. Janua Linguarum. Series Practica 167. The Hague: Mouton.
  13. ^ Chan, Eugene (2019). "The Niger-Congo Language Phylum". Numeral Systems of the World's Languages.
  • Wolf, Paul Polydoor de (1971) The Noun Class System of Proto-Benue–Congo (Thesis, Leiden University). The Hague/Paris: Mouton.
  • Williamson, Kay (1989) 'Benue–Congo Overview', pp. 248–274 in Bendor-Samuel, John & Rhonda L. Hartell (eds.) The Niger–Congo Languages — A classification and description of Africa's largest language family. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.
  • Williamson & Blench (2000) 'Niger–Congo', in Heine & Nurse, African Languages