Tiv language

Last updated
Native to Nigeria
RegionCentral Nigeria
Ethnicity Tiv
Native speakers
4.6 million (2020) [1]
Language codes
ISO 639-2 tiv
ISO 639-3 tiv
Glottolog tivv1240

Tiv is a Tivoid language spoken in some states in North Central Nigeria, with some speakers in Cameroon. It had over 4.6 million speakers in 2020. The largest population of Tiv speakers are found in Benue state in Nigeria. The language is also widely spoken in the Nigerian states of Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Cross River, Adamawa, Kaduna, and Abuja. It is by far the largest of the Tivoid languages, a group of languages belonging to the Southern Bantoid languages


Geographic distribution

Tiv is widely spoken in the States of Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Kaduna, and Abuja. Other parts of Nigeria also speak Tiv.


Benue State

Tarkaa, Makurdi, Gwer East, Gwer west, Ukum, Logo, Konshisha, Gboko, Kwande, Vandeikya, Katsina Ala, Guma, Buruku, and Ushongo Local Government Areas.

Nassarawa State

Doma, Nasarawa, Lafia, Obi, Keana, and Awe Local Government Areas

Plateau State

Qua’an Pan and Shendam Local Government Areas

Taraba State

Bali, Donga, Ibi, Gassol, Takum, Gashaka, Kurmi and Wukari Local Government Areas

Cross River State

Yala, Bekwara, Obudu, and Obanliku Local Government Areas.


There are 1700 Tiv households with approximately 11,000 people at the south-western border of Cameroon, Manyu division, north east of Akwaya on the Nigerian border, and bordering the Iyom tribes of Cameroon. Their paramount ruler is Zaki Abaajul, who has the Tiv and Ulitsi as his subjects. The Cameronian Tiv are well educated and live in anglophone Cameroon as their ancestral land, while a few others live in the francophone region. They are mostly farmers but others work in the government.


Tiv has no dialects. Tiv speakers can understand each other across their territory. However, accents (ham) exist. [2]



Front Central Back
Close iu
Near-close ɪːʊː
Mid e
Open-mid ɜːɔ, ɔː
Open a, ɒ


Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Palato-
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lab. pal.
Stop voiceless ptk
voiced bdɡɡʷɡʲ
prenasal ᵐbⁿd
Affricate voiceless t͡st͡ʃk͡p
voiced (d͡z)d͡ʒɡ͡b
prenasal ⁿd͡z
Fricative voiceless fsʃ(x)h
voiced vzɣ
Nasal m(ɱ)nɲŋ
Trill r
Approximant wlj


Tiv has three main tones (five if rising and falling are counted as separate tones instead of composites of existing tones). They are most importantly used in inflection. [2]


The accents of Tiv are as follows:

Vocabulary, particularly plant and tool names, changes from one part of Tiv territory to the other. [2]

History and classification [4]

The first reference to the Tiv language (dzwa Tiv) was made by Koelle (1854) from liberated slaves from Sierra Leone. Johnston (1919) classified it as a peculiar language among the Semi-Bantu languages, and Talbot (1926) concurred. Abraham (1933), who has made the most complete linguistic study of Tiv, classifies it as Bantu, stating that its vocabulary is more similar to the East African Nyanza group of Bantu languages than to Ekoi or other neighbouring languages. Malherbe (1933) agrees with Abraham that Tiv is essentially Bantu. [2]

All material on Tiv seems to point to a recent expansion, perhaps in the early 15th century. [5]


Tiv has nine noun classes. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hausa language</span> Chadic language of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and neighbouring countries

Hausa ; Ajami: هَرْشٜن هَوْسَ) is a Chadic language spoken by the Hausa people in the northern parts of Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Cameroon, Benin and Togo, and the southern parts of Niger, Chad and Sudan, with significant minorities in Ivory Coast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Niger–Congo languages</span> Large language family of Sub-Saharan Africa

Niger–Congo is a hypothetical language family spoken over the majority of sub-Saharan Africa. It unites the Mande languages, the Atlantic-Congo languages, and possibly several smaller groups of languages that are difficult to classify. If valid, Niger-Congo would be the world's largest in terms of member languages, the third-largest in terms of speakers, and Africa's largest in terms of geographical area. It is generally considered to be the world's largest language family in terms of the number of distinct languages, just ahead of Austronesian, although this is complicated by the ambiguity about what constitutes a distinct language; the number of named Niger–Congo languages listed by Ethnologue is 1,540.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benue River</span> Tributary of the Niger River in Cameroon and Nigeria

Benue River, previously known as the Chadda River or Tchadda, is the major tributary of the Niger River, with a length of approximately 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) long and almost entirely navigable during the summer months. The size of its catchment basin is 319,000 km2 (123,000 sq mi). As a result, it is an important transportation route in the regions through which it flows. The name Benue comes from Binuwe meaning 'Mother of Waters’ in the Batta language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benue State</span> State of Nigeria

Benue State is one of the North Central states in Nigeria with a population of about 4,253,641 in 2006 census. The state was created in 1976 among the seven states created at that time. The state derives its name from the Benue River which is the second largest river in Nigeria after the River Niger. The state borders Nasarawa State to the North; Taraba State to the East; Kogi State to the West; Enugu State to the South-West; Ebonyi and Cross-Rivers States to the South; and has an international border with Cameroon to the South-East. It is inhabited predominantly by the Tiv, Idoma, Orring and Igede. Minority ethnic groups in Benue are Etulo, Igbo, Jukun peoples etc. Its capital is Makurdi. Benue is a rich agricultural region; popularly grown crops include: oranges, mangoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, soya bean, guinea corn, flax, yams, sesame, rice, groundnuts, and Palm tree.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tiv people</span> West African ethnic group

Tiv are a Tivoid ethnic group. They constitute approximately 2.4% of Nigeria's total population, and number over 5 million individuals throughout Nigeria and Cameroon. The Tiv language is spoken by over 5 million people in Nigeria with a few speakers in Cameroon. Most of the language's Nigerian speakers are found in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau, Cross rivers, Adamawa, Kaduna, and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. The language is a branch of Benue–Congo and ultimately of the Niger–Congo phylum. In pre-colonial times, the Fulani ethnic group referred to the Tiv. They depend on agricultural produce for commerce and sustenance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taraba State</span> State of Nigeria

Taraba State is a state in North Eastern Nigeria, named after the Taraba River, which traverses the Southern part of the state. Taraba State capital is Jalingo. Its slogan is Nature's Gift to the Nation. The main ethnic groups are the Fulbe or Fulani, Mumuye, Mambilla, Jukun, Tiv, Kuteb, Wurkun, Yandang, Ndola, Itchen, Jenjo, Tigun, Jibu. The northern part is mainly dominated by the Fulbe or Fulani Mumuye, Wurkuns, Yandang, Jenjo, and Kona. The southern parts are dominated by the Jukun, Chamba, Tiv, Kuteb and Ichen.The central region is mainly occupied by Fulbe or Fulani Mambilla, Ndola, Tigun, Jibu, Wurbo and Daka peoples. There are 77 distinct ethnic groups, and their languages in the State.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nasarawa State</span> State of Nigeria

Nasarawa State is a state in the North Central region of Nigeria, bordered to the east by the states of Taraba and Plateau, to the north by Kaduna State, to the south by the states of Benue and Kogi, and to the west by the Federal Capital Territory. Named for the historic Nasarawa Emirate, the state was formed from the west of Plateau State on 1 October 1996. The state has thirteen local government areas and its capital is Lafia, located in the east of the state, while a key economic centre of the state is the Karu Urban Area—suburbs of Abuja—along the western border with the FCT.

Articles related to Nigeria include:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Languages of Nigeria</span> Languages of the country and its peoples

There are over 525 native languages spoken in Nigeria. The official language and most widely spoken lingua franca is English, which was the language of Colonial Nigeria. Nigerian Pidgin – an English-based creole – is spoken by 30 million people in Nigeria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jukun people (West Africa)</span> West African ethno-linguistic group

Jukun are an ethno-linguistic group or ethnic nation in West Africa. The Jukun are traditionally located in Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States in Nigeria and parts of northwestern Cameroon. They are descendants of the people of Kwararafa. Most of the tribes in the north central of Nigeria trace their origin to the Jukun people and are related in one way or the other to the Jukuns. Until the coming of both Christianity and Islam, the Jukun people were followers of their own traditional religions. Most of the tribes, Alago, Agatu, Rendere, Goemai in Shendam, and others left Kwararafa when it disintegrated as a result of a power tussle. The Jukuns are divided into two major groups; the Jukun Wanu and Jukun Wapa. The Jukun Wanu are fishermen residing along the banks of the river Benue and Niger where they run through Taraba State, Benue State and Nasarawa State. The Wukari Federation, headed by the Aku Uka of Wukari, is now the main centre of the Jukun people.

The following lists events that happened during 2000 in Nigeria.

See also: Timeline of Nigerian history

This article is about the particular significance of the year 2006 to Nigeria and its people. See also Timeline of Nigerian history

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jarawan languages</span> Bantu language group of Central Africa

Jarawan is a group of languages spoken mostly in Bauchi State, Nigeria, with some also scattered in Plateau State, Taraba State, and Adamawa State in the same country. Two related languages formerly spoken in Cameroon are now extinct but are believed to have belonged to the group. This connection between Nigerian and Cameroonian Jarawan is attributed to Thomas (1925). Whether Jarawan languages are best classified alongside other Bantu languages or among non-Bantu Bantoid languages is a matter of ongoing debate. A number of descriptions and classifications in the early 20th century suggest that they be may historically related to Bantu languages but not necessarily Bantu themselves. Other perspectives based on lexicostatistic modeling and other phylogenetic techniques for language comparison argue instead that Jarawan languages are properly classified alongside Zone A Bantu languages (A31-A40-A60). For classifications based on these more recent studies, see for example Blench (2006), Piron (1997), and Grollemund (2012).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1999 Nigerian parliamentary election</span>

Parliamentary elections were held in Nigeria on 20 February 1999, following the annulling of the 1998 elections. The result was a victory for the People's Democratic Party, which won 59 of the 109 Senate seats and 206 of the 360 House seats. Voter turnout was 42.1%.

Mambila is a dialect chain stretching across Nigeria and Cameroon. It is one of the Mambiloid languages, a branch of Benue–Congo.

Iyive, also referred to as Uive, Yiive, Ndir, Asumbos, is a severely endangered Bantoid language spoken in Nigeria and Cameroon. The ethnic group defined by use of this language is the Ndir.

This article is about the particular significance of the year 2008 to Nigeria and its people.

The following lists events that happened during 2007 in Nigeria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lists of villages in Nigeria</span>

Lists of villages in Nigeria organised by state:


  1. Tiv at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed Access logo transparent.svg
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bohannan, Laura; Bohannan, Paul (2017-02-03). "Language". The Tiv of Central Nigeria: Western Africa. Routledge. ISBN   9781315295794.
  3. Sokpo, Rosaline M. (2016). An Autosegmental Analysis of Tiv Phonology.
  4. Bohannan, Laura; Bohannan, Paul (3 February 2017). The Tiv of Central Nigeria: Western Africa Part VIII. ISBN   9781315295794.
  5. Blench, Roger (June 2016). "The Tivoid languages: overview and comparative wordlist" (PDF). p. 16.

Religious materials