Bube language

Bube, Bohobé or Bube–Benga (Bobe, Bubi), is a Bantu language spoken by the Bubi, a Bantu people native to, and once the primary inhabitants of, Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea. The language was brought to Bioko from continental Africa more than three thousand years ago when the Bubi began arriving on the island.[3]

Native toEquatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon
EthnicityBubi, Wovea
Native speakers
51,000 (2011)[1]
Early form
Language codes
ISO 639-3bvb – inclusive code
Individual code:
bbx – Bubia (Wovea)
A.31, A.221[2]

It has around 50,000 speakers, with three variants: North, South and Central-East. It is noted for its tonal character and the divergence of words by gender. The language is also spoken by Bubi native to Gabon and Cameroon.

The Bube language is divided into six different dialects that vary in the northern and southern regions of Bioko Island. For example, in the North, people speak Rebola and its variations: Basile, Banapa and Basupa. However, in the North-East, Bakake is spoken.

Bube is also spoken in a small area on the mainland closest to the island, where speakers are shifting to Wumboko.[4] This has been reported as "Bube", "Bubia" or "Wovea" (see Wovea people).

The first works on the Bube language were those of the Baptist missionary John Clarke, published in 1846 and 1848.[5] A later Bube-to-English primer was authored in 1875 by William Barleycorn, a colonial era Primitive Methodist missionary of Igbo and Fernandino descent, while he was serving in the Bubi village of Basupu. An official language dictionary and grammar guide was published by the ethnic Bubi scholar Justo Bolekia Boleká.

Other namesEdit

Other names and forms of the name include Bubé, eVoové, eBubée, Bhubhi, Bubi, Ibubi, Ibhubhi, Pove and Eviia.



Bube has 7 vowels that can be either short or long:

Vowel phonemes
Front Back
Close i iː (ĩ) u uː (ũ)
Close-mid e eː (ẽ) o oː (õ)
Open-mid ɛ ɛː (ɛ̃) ɔ ɔː (ɔ̃)
Open a aː (ã)

The nasal vowels are allophones of respective oral vowels.


Bube has 29 consonants. Some of them are prenasalized:

Consonant Phonemes
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal voiceless m n ɲ
Stop plain voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
prenasal voiceless ᵐp ⁿt ᶮc
voiced ᵐb ⁿd ᶮɟ
Fricative voiceless f s h
voiced v
prenasal ⁿs
Approximant l j w
Rhotic r


The numbers one through ten in Bube are as follows:[6]

Number Northern Bube Northwestern Bube Southern Bube
1 buule buule muule
2 eppa eppa memba
3 betta betta metta
4 yeele yeele myeeme
5 betto betto metto
6 ra'a
metto na muule
7 ra'a la buule
ra'a la buule
metto na memba
8 yeele ketoppa
ra'a la eppa
metto na metta
9 yeele ketoppa la buule
baa buule ka yo
metto na myeene
10 yo yo myo


  1. ^ Bube at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Bubia (Wovea) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ EquatorialGuinea.org; Retrieved 12/08/1998
  4. ^ Harald Hammarström (2013) Review of the Ethnologue, 16th Ed.
  5. ^ See Bibliography.
  6. ^ C. Junyent, Las lenguas del mundo, p. 66


  • Biddulph, Joseph, Fernandian (1988). The Bubi Bantu language of Bioco/Fernando Po. Pontypridd, Wales: Languages Information Centre, WorldCat no. 17838738.
  • Bolekia, Justo Bolekia (1991). Curso de lengua bubi. (Coleccion ensayos, 8.) Malabo: Centro Cultural Hispano-Guineano.
  • Bolekia, Justo (2009). Diccionario español-bubi. Madrid: Ediciones AKAL. 544pp.
  • Clarke, John (1846). Sentences in the Fernandian Tongue. Dunfermline Press, Bimbia.
  • Clarke, John (1848). Introduction To The Fernandian Tongue, Part 1. Berwick-on-Tweed.

External linksEdit