Benue-Congo Languages
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Benue%E2%80%93Congo Languages
East Benue-Congo
Africa, from Nigeria eastwards and southwards
Linguistic classificationNiger-Congo
  • Bantoid-Cross
Map of the Benue-Congo languages.svg
The Benue-Congo languages shown within the Niger-Congo language family. Non-Benue-Congo languages are greyscale.

Benue-Congo (sometimes called East Benue-Congo) is a major subdivision of the Niger-Congo language family which covers most of Sub-Saharan Africa. It consists of two main branches:

  • the Central Nigerian (or Platoid) languages, spoken mostly in Nigeria
  • the Bantoid-Cross languages, spoken in Nigeria, Cameroon and most of Sub-Saharan Africa, since they contain the Bantu languages (through the Southern Bantoid branch).


Central Nigerian (or Platoid) contains the Plateau, Jukunoid and Kainji families, and Bantoid-Cross combines the Bantoid and Cross River groups.

Bantoid is only a collective term for every subfamily of Bantoid-Cross except Cross River, and this is no longer seen as forming a valid branch, however one of the subfamilies, Southern Bantoid, is still considered valid. It is Southern Bantoid which contains the Bantu languages, which are spoken across most of Sub-Saharan Africa. This makes Benue-Congo one of the largest subdivisions of the Niger-Congo language family, both in number of languages, of which Ethnologue counts 976 (2017), and in speakers, numbering perhaps 350 million. Benue-Congo also includes a few minor isolates in the Nigeria-Cameroon region, but their exact relationship is uncertain.

The neighbouring Volta-Niger branch of Nigeria and Benin is sometimes called "West Benue-Congo", but it does not form a united branch with Benue-Congo. When Benue-Congo was first proposed by Joseph Greenberg (1963), it included Volta-Niger (as West Benue-Congo); the boundary between Volta-Niger and Kwa has been repeatedly debated. Blench (2012) states that if Benue-Congo is taken to be "the noun-class languages east and north of the Niger", it is likely to be a valid group, though no demonstration of this has been made in print.[2]

The Benue-Congo branches of Nigeria and Cameroon

The branches of the Benue-Congo family are thought to be as follows:

Ukaan is also related to Benue-Congo; Roger Blench suspects it might be either the most divergent (East) Benue-Congo language or the closest relative to Benue-Congo.

Fali of Baissa and Tita are also Benue-Congo but are otherwise unclassified.

The Benue-Congo homeland and dispersal of the sub-branches[3]

Branches and locations (Nigeria)

Below is a list of major Benue-Congo branches and their primary locations (centres of diversity) within Nigeria based on Blench (2019).[4]

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Benue-Congo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Roger Blench, Niger-Congo: an alternative view
  3. ^ Watters, John R, eds. (2018). East Benue-Congo: Nouns, pronouns, and verbs (pdf). Berlin: Language Science Press. doi:10.5281/zenodo.1314306. ISBN 978-3-96110-100-9.
  4. ^ a b Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.
  • Wolf, Paul Polydoor de (1971) The Noun Class System of Proto-Benue-Congo (Thesis, Leiden University). The Hague/Paris: Mouton.
  • Williamson, Kay (1989) 'Benue-Congo Overview', pp. 248-274 in Bendor-Samuel, John & Rhonda L. Hartell (eds.) The Niger-Congo Languages - A classification and description of Africa's largest language family. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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