Yom language

Yom, or Pilapila, and formerly Kiliŋa or Kilir, is a Gur language of Benin. It is spoken in the town of Djougou and the surrounding area by the Yoa-Lokpa people. A very closely related dialect called taŋgələm is also spoken by the Taneka people.

Native toBenin
EthnicityTemba people, Yoba people
Native speakers
300,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pil


Where it differs from the IPA symbol, the conventional orthography is given below the phoneme.


In Yom orthography, long vowels are written as double vowels, e.g. ⟨ɛɛ⟩ for /ɛː/.

Front Back Non-front,
High i, u, ʊ, ʊː
Mid e, o, ə
Low ɛ, ɛː ɔ, ɔː a,


Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Labial-velar
Stop p  b t  d k  ɡ k͡p  ɡ͡b
Nasal m n ɲ
ŋ ŋ͡m
Affricate t͡ʃ  d͡ʒ
⟨c⟩  ⟨j⟩
Fricative f  v s  z ʁ
Lateral l [1]
Approximant j

^1 Generally, /l/ is realised by [ɾ] in medial and final position. For some speakers, the two allophones are in free variation.



Nouns are divided into genders or noun classes which can be distinguished by the pronoun used to refer to them and by their suffix, which generally bears some resemblance to the pronoun. If the noun is modified by adjectives, then the suffix appears on the adjectives and not on the noun. The table gives the singular and plural forms of the pronouns used to refer to a noun of each gender. There are also some nouns which have the pronoun or without having a plural form.

Gender Includes
Mass nouns, liquids and languages
a / ba Most nouns referring to people, kinship terms, personal names, some abstract nouns and borrowings
ka / sə Various nouns, diminutives
kʊ / i Various nouns, augmentatives, territories
ŋʊ / i Long and slender objects
bə / i A small class of semantically diverse nouns
də / a Body parts, material culture, some animals and foods
kʊ / də Tree and plant terms
də / ba A small class of marginal cultural items
Only two nouns: dɛn (today) and nən (location)

Word orderEdit

Yom is predominantly an SVO language, although SOV word order is also possible. Genitives precede nouns and relative clauses follow. Adjectives, numerals and demonstratives follow the noun in that order and agree with it in number and gender. Many different constituents can preposed to the beginning of the sentence using a focus construction - for example:

  • ma ji ma maŋgoŋʊ, "I am eating my mango"
  • ma maŋgoŋʊ ra ma ji ra, "It's my mango that I'm eating"


  1. ^ Yom at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  • Beacham, Charles Gordon (1968). The Phonology and Morphology of Yom (Ph.D dissertation). Hartford Seminary Foundation.