Yoruboid languages

Yoruboid is a 'megagroup' of 14 related language clades, composed of the Igala group, of related dialects spoken in central Nigeria, and the Edekiri group, the members of which are spoken in a band across Togo, Ghana, Benin and southwestern Nigeria.

Central Togo, Southern and Central Benin, Western, Southern and Central Nigeria
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
Yoruboid Glottolog.svg


The name Yoruboid derives from its most widely spoken member, Yoruba, which has more than 35 million speakers. Another well-known Yoruboid language is Itsekiri (Nigeria, 600,000–800,000 speakers). The Yoruboid group is a branch of Defoid, which is combined using "Ede" (meaning 'language' in most languages within the grouping) and -"foid". The Defoid group itself is a branch of the Benue–Congo subfamily of the Niger–Congo language family.

All Yoruboid languages are tonal, with most of them having three level tones. Grammatically, they are isolating with a subject–object–verb basic word order.


Igala is a key Yoruboid language, spoken by 1.8 million people in the Niger-Benue confluence of central Nigeria; it is excised from the main body of Yoruboid languages to the west by Ebirra and the Edo languages. Igala is closely related to both Yoruba and Itsekiri languages.

The Itsekiris are a riverine Yoruboid people who live in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They maintain a distinct identity separate from other Yoruboid people but speak a very closely related language. Their neighbouring languages are the Urhobo the Edo, the Ijo, and the Mahin / Ilaje, a Yoruba dialect spoken in neighbouring Ondo State.


Ede (Yoruba Proper)*Itsekiri*
Western EdeMokoleEastern Ede
N. Nago & KuraSouthwestern EdeEde ShabeSoutheastern Ede
Isha & ManigriEde IdaashaAna-IfeNuclear YorubaEde Ije, South Nago
Yoruba - LucumiOlukumi*
NWY & SWYCentral YorubaNEY & SEY
  • All dialects in the Ede cluster share between 85-95% lexical similarity and are thus all mutually intelligible without needing different specialized literature to achieve universal understanding.
  • Itsekiri is actually most closely related to SEY (South-Eastern Yoruba), and is a divergent branch thereof, but has a different standard writing orthography.
  • Some standards classify Olukumi as separate variant of Nuclear Yoruba, Others as a dialect of SEY.

Names and locationsEdit

Below is a list of selected Yoruboid language names, populations, and locations from Blench (2019).[2]

Language Dialects Alternate spellings Own name for language Endonym(s) Other names (location-based) Other names for language Exonym(s) Speakers Location(s)
Ulukwumi Unukwumi Fewer than 10,000 Delta State, Aniocha and Oshimili LGAs
Igala Ánkpa and Ògùgù in Ankpa LGA; Ìfè in Ankpa and Dekina LGAs; Ànyìgbá in Dekina LGA; ‘Idáh and Ìbàjì in Idah and Anambra(?) LGAs; and Èbú in Oshimili LGA Igara 295,000 (1952), 800,000 (1987 UBS) Benue State, Ankpa, Dekina, Idah and Bassa LGAs; Edo State, Oshimili LGA; Anambra State, Anambra LGA
Iṣẹkiri Itsekiri, Ishekiri, Shekiri, Chekiri, Jekri, Izekíri, Tshekeri, Dsekiri Iwere, Irhobo, Warri Iselema–Otu (Ịjọ name for Warri/Itsekiri people), Selemo 33,000 (1952); over 100,000 (1963 Omamor); 500,000 (1987 UBS) Delta State, Warri, Bomadi and Ethiope LGAs
Yoruba Many dialects Yorùbá Yorùbá Aku, Akusa, Eyagi, Nago 5,100,000 (1952), 15,000,000 (UBS 1984) Most of Kwara, Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Ondo States; western LGAs in Kogi State; and into Benin Republic and Togo. Yoruba is spoken as a ritual language in Cuba and Brazil

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yoruboid". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.

External linksEdit