Ega language

Ega, also known as Egwa and Diès, is a West African language spoken in south-central Ivory Coast. It is of uncertain affiliation and has variously been classified as Kwa or an independent branch of Niger-Congo.

Native toIvory Coast
Regionnear Gly or Gli, Sud-Bandama region
Native speakers
2,500 (2001)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3ega


Ega is spoken in 21 villages near Gly in Diès Canton, Gôh-Djiboua District, Ivory Coast (Bole-Richard 1983: 359).[2] Some villages are Broudougou, Gly, Dairo, Didizo, and Douzaroko.[3] The Ega people are increasing in number, though some are shifting to Dida through intermarriage.


A language documentation fieldwork project on Ega was conducted by a team from Universität Bielefeld, Germany (Dafydd Gibbon) and Université Houphouet Boigny, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (Firmin Ahoua) from 2000 to 2003 in cooperation with York University, Canada (Bruce Connell).[4]


Ega is possibly a divergent Western Kwa language within the Niger–Congo language family spoken in Ivory Coast. It does not appear to belong to any of the traditional branches of Niger–Congo. Though traditionally assumed to be one of the Kwa languages, Roger Blench (2004) conservatively classified it as a separate branch of the Atlantic–Congo family, pending a demonstration that it is actually related to the Kwa or Volta–Niger languages. However, Blench (2017) classified Ega as a fully Western Kwa language that has borrowed from Kru, Gur, and Mande.[3]

Cultural and economic contextEdit

Like other Western Kwa languages, traditional story-telling among the Ega people has a fairly strict schedule: after an introduction by the narrator, a well-defined role in the village, the narration proceeds, punctuated by responder's interjection [sɛsɛ], and interspersed with song interludes with the call and response structure of work songs.

The economy of the Ega community is partly horticultural, partly dependent on plantation work. Hunting is practised with nets which are used to enclose an area of several hundred square meters, within which small game such as agouti (Thryonomys swinderianus) are cornered by a group of beaters. The nets resemble the local canoe trawling nets used on the southern Côte d'Ivoire coast about 100km further south, and possibly indicate a history of coastal migration.


Ega has twenty-seven consonants. Its stops have a three-way contrast between voiceless, voiced, and implosive.

Consonant phonemes[5]
Labial Alveolar Dorsal
front plain labial
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
implosive ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ ɠɓ
voiced b d ɟ ɡ gb
voiceless p t c k kp
Fricative voiced v z
voiceless f s x
Approximant l j w

There are nine vowels, with ATR contrast: /i̙/, /i̘/, /u̙/, /u̘/, /e̙/, /e̘/, /o̙/, /o̘/, and /a/.

There are three tones: high, mid, and low.


  1. ^ Ega at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Bole-Richard, R. 1983a. Ega. In: Atlas des langues Kwa de Côte d’ivoire, Vol 1. ed. G. Herault. 359-401. Abidjan: ILA.
  3. ^ a b Blench, Roger. 2017. The Ega language of Cote d'Ivoire: how can it be classified?
  4. ^ Gibbon, Dafydd and Bow, Catherine and Bird, Steven and Hughes, Baden. 2004. Securing interpretability: the case of Ega language documentation. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, LREC 2004, Evaluation and Language resources Distribution Agency (ELRA). pp.1369-1372.
  5. ^ Connell, Bruce and Ahoua, Firmin and Gibbon, Dafydd. 2002. Illustrations of the IPA: Ega. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 32. 99–104. Cambridge University Press.