Dendi language

Dendi is a Songhay language used as a trade language across northern Benin (along the Niger River. It forms a dialect cluster with Zarma and Koyraboro Senni but it is heavily influenced by Bariba.

Native speakers
270,000 (2000-2018)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3ddn
Songhay languages.svg
Location of Songhay languages[2]

Northwest Songhay:


Eastern Songhay:


Dendi has been described as a four-tone language.[3]


Dendi is mainly spoken in Northern Benin, but also in other parts of Benin, and neighbouring countries. The Dendi people are the main group in the Departments of Alibori, Borgou, Donga, and Atakora.

In Nigeria, the Dendi people are found in Bordering States (Kebbi, Kwara, Niger, and Sokoto), and in other parts of Nigeria. They are usually referred by the Hausa name Dendawa (which is also used for the Songhai people).

Writing systemEdit

Dendi alphabet [4]
Uppercase A B C D E Ɛ F G Gg H I J K Kp L M N NY Ŋ Ŋw/Ŋm O Ɔ P R S T W Y Z
Minuscules a b c d e ɛ f g gb h i j k kp l m n ny ŋ ŋw/ŋm o ɔ p r s t w y z

The grave accent, the acute accent and the macron are used on vowels to indicate tones.[5]


  1. ^ Dendi at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)  
  2. ^ This map is based on classification from Glottolog and data from Ethnologue.
  3. ^ Joe Salmons, Accentual change and language contact: Comparative survey and a case study of early Northern Europe
  4. ^ CENALA 1990.
  5. ^ CENALA 2008.


  • Centre national de linguistique appliquée (CENALA) (1990), Alphabet des langues nationales (2 ed.), Cotonou: CENALA
  • Centre national de linguistique appliquée (CENALA) (2008), Alphabet des langues nationales béninoises (in French) (6 ed.), Cotonou: CENALA avec le concours de l’Initiative francophone pour la formation à distance des maîtres (IFADEM)