Open main menu

The Nupoid languages are a branch of Volta–Niger spoken in central Nigeria, including the city of Kaduna and the capital Abuja. They include the Nupe, Gbagyi and Ebira languages, each with about 1 million speakers.

Central Nigeria; along the Niger River from the confluence of the Benue and North
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
  • Ebira–Gade
  • Nupe–Gbagyi

Most Nupoid languages have 3 level tones.[2]



Roger Blench (2013: 4) classifies the Nupoid languages as follows.[2]

Names and locationsEdit

Below is a list of language names, populations, and locations from Blench (2019).[3]

Language Cluster Dialects Alternate spellings Own name for language Endonym(s) Other names (location-based) Other names for language Exonym(s) Speakers Location(s)
Dibo Dibo Dibo Shitako, Zitako, Zhitako Ganagawa, Ganagana 4 18,200 (1931 DF); estimate more than 100,000 (1990) – an unknown number of Dibo living among the Gbari no longer speak their own language. Niger State, Lapai LGA; Federal Capital Territory; Nasarawa State, Nasarawa LGA
Nupe–Nupe Tako cluster Nupe–Nupe Tako Central Nupe has become the accepted literary form. 360,000 (1952); 1,000,000 (1987 UBS) may include closely related languages Niger State, Lavun, Mariga, Gbako, Agaie, and Lapai LGAs; Kwara State, Edu and Kogi LGAs; Federal Capital Territory; Kogi State, Bassa LGA.
Nupe (Central) Nupe–Nupe Tako Nife, Nyffe, Anupe Nupe Nupe Nupe Central Ampeyi, Anupecwayi, Anuperi, Tappah, Takpa, Tapa, Nupenci, Nupencizi Anufawa, Nyffe 283,000 (1931 DF); estimated 1,000,000 (2000)
Nupe Tako Nupe–Nupe Tako Ibara Basa Nge 19,100 (1931 DF) Kogi State, Bassa LGA, Kwara State
Gade Gede Gade Gade 60,000 (Sterk 1977) Federal Capital Territory; Nasarawa State, Nasarawa LGA
Ebira cluster Ebira Igbirra, Igbira, Egbira, Egbura 154,500 (1952 P.Bruns), 500,000 (1980 UBS); about 1M (1989 Adive) Kwara State, Okene, Okehi, and Kogi LGAs; Nasarawa State, Nasarawa LGA; Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA
Okene Ebira Kwara State, Okene, Okehi, and Kogi LGAs
Etuno Ebira tụnọ Igara Edo State, Akoko–Edo LGA, Igara town
Koto[disambiguation needed] Ebira Igu (Egu, Ika, Bira, Birĩ, Panda Nasarawa State, Nasarawa LGA, Toto and Umaisha towns, Kogi State, Bassa LGA
Gbagyi A spread of lects not clearly defined but the variation represented here by town names: Vwezhi, Ngenge (Genge, Gyange), or Tawari, Kuta, Diko, Karu, Louome, Kaduna Ibagyi, Gbagye East Gwari, Gwari Matai Gwari 200,000 (1952 G&C) including Gbari; 250,000 (1985 UBS) Niger State, Rafi, Chanchaga, Shiroro and Suleija LGAs; Federal Capital Territory; Kaduna State, Kachia LGA; Nasarawa State, Keffi and Nasarawa LGAs
Gbagyi Nkwa Gbagyi Gbagyi more than 50,000 (1989 est.) Niger State, Rafi LGA
Gbari A spread of lects are named according to town names: Botai, Jezhu, Konge, Kwange (Agbawi, Wake, Wĩ Wahe, or Kwali, Paiko, Izom, Gayegi, Yamma (Gwari Gamma); other lects are also based on river locations: Shigokpna, Zubakpna, Abokpna, Sumwakpna Gwari Yamma, West Gwari 200,000 (1952 G&C) including Gbagyi Niger State, Chanchaga, Suleija, Agaie and Lapai LGAs; Federal Capital Territory; Kaduna State, Kachia LGA; Nasarawa State, Nasarawa LGA
Gupa–Abawa Gupa, Abawa estimated more than 10,000 Gupa and 5,000 Abawa (1989) Niger State, Lapai LGA around Gupa and Edzu villages
Kami more than 5000 (Blench 1989 est.) Niger State, Lapai LGA, Ebo town & 11 villages
Asu Asu Asu Abewa Ebe 5000 (Blench 1987) Niger State: Mariga LGA: several villages south of Kontagora on the Mokwa road
Kakanda cluster Kakanda Akanda Hyabe, Adyaktye 4,500 (1931); 20,000 (1989 Blench) Kwara State, Kogi LGA; Niger State, Agaie and Lapai LGAs; communities along the Niger centered on Buda)
Kakanda–Budon Kakanda
Kakanda–Gbanmi/Sokun Kakanda
Kupa Kwara State, Kogi LGA, around Abugi (52 villages)


The following Proto-Nupoid reconstructions are from Blench (2013).

Gloss Proto-Nupoid
tree *ɔ́ʧĩ́
leaf #avini
charcoal *ekana
sand *mu-ʒin
smoke *àmʷú
fire *n-ra
wind *efè
rain *ègbã
to sharpen *rɛ́
elephant *-dogba
buffalo *ɛ̀ya; *ʊ̀-fá (?)
Dioscorea guineensis *iti
Colocasia esculenta (cocoyam) *-koko
Sorghum bicolor (guinea corn, sorghum) *àkwʊ́
one *ɔ̀ɲɪ
three *ɛ̀tá
four *ɛ̀ɲi
five *ɛ̀tsun
six *twaɲi
seven *ǹtwaba
ten *ɛ̀bwʊ́n

Some Proto-Nupe-Gbari crop name reconstructions are (Blench 2013):

Gloss Proto-Nupe-Gbari
Pennisetum americanum (long-season millet) *màkwú
Pennisetum americanum (short-season millet) *sàkwú; *kpàyì
Digitaria exilis *-furu


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nupoid". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b Blench, Roger. 2013. The Nupoid languages of west-central Nigeria: overview and comparative word list.
  3. ^ Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.

External linksEdit