Benue–Congo languages

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Benue–Congo (sometimes called East Benue–Congo) is a major subdivision of the Niger–Congo language family which covers most of Sub-Saharan Africa. It consists of two main branches:

  • the Central Nigerian (or Platoid) languages, spoken mostly in Nigeria
  • the Bantoid–Cross languages, spoken in Nigeria, Cameroon and most of Sub-Saharan Africa, since they contain the Bantu languages (through the Southern Bantoid branch).
East Benue–Congo
Africa, from Nigeria eastwards and southwards
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
  • Bantoid–Cross
Map of the Benue–Congo languages.svg
The Benue–Congo languages shown within the Niger–Congo language family. Non-Benue–Congo languages are greyscale.


Central Nigerian (or Platoid) contains the Plateau, Jukunoid and Kainji families, and Bantoid–Cross combines the Bantoid and Cross River groups.

Bantoid is only a collective term for every subfamily of Bantoid–Cross except Cross River, and this is no longer seen as forming a valid branch, however one of the subfamilies, Southern Bantoid, is still considered valid. It is Southern Bantoid which contains the Bantu languages, which are spoken across most of Sub-Saharan Africa. This makes Benue–Congo one of the largest subdivisions of the Niger–Congo language family, both in number of languages, of which Ethnologue counts 976 (2017), and in speakers, numbering perhaps 350 million. Benue–Congo also includes a few minor isolates in the Nigeria–Cameroon region, but their exact relationship is uncertain.

The neighbouring Volta–Niger branch of Nigeria and Benin is sometimes called "West Benue–Congo", but it does not form a united branch with Benue–Congo. When Benue–Congo was first proposed by Joseph Greenberg (1963), it included Volta–Niger (as West Benue–Congo); the boundary between Volta–Niger and Kwa has been repeatedly debated. Blench (2012) states that if Benue–Congo is taken to be "the noun-class languages east and north of the Niger", it is likely to be a valid group, though no demonstration of this has been made in print.[2]

The Benue–Congo branches of Nigeria and Cameroon

The branches of the Benue–Congo family are thought to be as follows:

Ukaan is also related to Benue–Congo; Roger Blench suspects it might be either the most divergent (East) Benue–Congo language or the closest relative to Benue–Congo.

Fali of Baissa and Tita are also Benue–Congo but are otherwise unclassified.

The Benue-Congo homeland and dispersal of the sub-branches[3]

Branches and locations (Nigeria)Edit

Below is a list of major Benue–Congo branches and their primary locations (centres of diversity) within Nigeria based on Blench (2019).[4]

Distributions of Benue–Congo branches in Nigeria[4]
Branch Primary locations
Cross River Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers States
Bendi Obudu and Ogoja LGAs, Cross River State
Mambiloid Sardauna LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon
Dakoid Mayo Belwa LGA, Taraba State and adjacent areas
Jukunoid Taraba State
Yukubenic Takum LGA, Taraba State
Kainji Kauru LGA, Kaduna State and Bassa LGA, Plateau State; Kainji Lake area
Plateau Plateau, Kaduna, and Nasarawa States
Tivoid Obudu LGA, Cross River State and Sardauna LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon
Beboid Takum LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon
Ekoid Ikom and Ogoja LGAs, Cross River State; Cameroon
Grassfields Sardauna LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon
Jarawan Bauchi, Plateau, Adamawa, and Taraba States

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Benue–Congo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Roger Blench, Niger-Congo: an alternative view
  3. ^ Watters, John R, eds. (2018). East Benue-Congo: Nouns, pronouns, and verbs (pdf). Berlin: Language Science Press. doi:10.5281/zenodo.1314306. ISBN 978-3-96110-100-9.
  4. ^ a b Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.
  • 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.

External linksEdit