Tivoid languages

Last updated
Southeastern Nigeria, southwestern Cameroon
Linguistic classification Niger–Congo?
Glottolog tivo1239
Map of the Tivoid languages.svg
The Tivoid languages shown within Nigeria and Cameroon:

Uncertain affiliation:




other Tivoid:

  North Tivoid
  Central Tivoid

The Tivoid languages are a branch of the Southern Bantoid languages spoken in parts of Nigeria and Cameroon. The subfamily takes its name after Tiv, the most spoken language in the group.


The majority are threatened with extinction. The largest of these languages by far is the Tiv language for which the group is named; it had 2 million speakers in 1991. The second largest is the Bitare language; it had 110,000 speakers in 2000. Most apart from Tiv are extremely poorly known, and the next best, Esimbi, has not even been demonstrated to be Tivoid.


Following Blench (2010), Tivoid languages fall into three branches, though North Tivoid languages are almost unattested. The names in parentheses are dialects per Ethnologue, separate languages per Blench:

Esimbi is well attested, but there is not much reason to consider it Tivoid; it has just about as much in common with Grassfields languages. [1] The status of Buru within Tivoid is also uncertain. [1]

SIL Ethnologue lists three additional languages, Manta, Balo and Osatu, based on an old, provisional assignment of Blench; Blench (2010) states they are instead in the Southwest Grassfields (Western Momo) family.

The Momo languages, traditionally classified as Grassfields, may be closer to Tivoid, though that may be an effect of contact. [2]

Menchum, traditionally classified as Grassfields, may also be a Grassfields language or closer to Tivoid.

Names and locations (Nigeria)

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

LanguageClusterAlternate spellingsOwn name for language Endonym(s)Other names (location-based)Other names for language Exonym(s)SpeakersLocation(s)
Abon AbongAbõAbõAbonBa’banOnly spoken in Abong town Taraba State, Sardauna LGA, Abong town (east of Baissa)
Batu clusterBatu25,000 (SIL) Taraba State, Sardauna LGA, several villages east of Baissa, below the Mambila escarpment
Amanda–Afi clusterBatu Taraba State, Sardauna LGA, Batu Amanda and Batu Afi villages
Angwe Batu Taraba State, Sardauna LGA, Batu Angwe village
Kamino Batu Taraba State, Sardauna LGA, Batu Kamino village
Emane AmanaNo proof of permanent communities in Nigeria Cross River State, Obudu LGA; and in Cameroon
Evant Avande, Evand, OvandeBalagete, Belegete Cross River State, Obudu LGA and in Cameroon
Iceve clusterIceveBanagere, Iyon, Utse, Utser, Utseu5,000 in Nigeria, 7,000 in Cameroon (1990 est.) Cross River State, Obudu LGA and in adjacent Cameroon
Ceve IceveIcheve, Becheve, Bacheve, Bechere,IceveBaceveOchebe, Ocheve (names of founding ancestor) Cross River State, Obudu LGA and mainly in adjacent Cameroon
Maci IceveMatchiMaciKwaya, Olit, Oliti Cross River State, Obudu LGA
Iyive UiveYiiveNdirAsumbo (Cover term used in Cameroon)2,000 Benue State, Kwande LGA, near Turan; and in Cameroon (several villages in Manyu Département)
Otank Utanga, Otanga2,000 (1953 Bohannan); 2,500 (SIL) Cross River State, Obudu LGA; Benue State, Kwande LGA
Tiv Tív, TiviMunshi (not recommended)800,000 (1952); 1,500,000 (1980 UBS) Benue State, Makurdi, Gwer, Gboko Kwande, Vandeikya and Katsina Ala LGAs; Nasarawa State, Lafia LGA; Taraba State, Wukari, Takum, Bali LGA; and in Cameroon
Ugarә Binangeli, Messaka5000 (1994 est.)Cassetta & Cassetta (1994): ‘Probably 75‒80% of Ugare speakers live on the Cameroon side of the border, in the Akwaya subdivision of Cameroon’s Southwest Province.’
Bitare Njwande, Yukutare3,700 in Cameroon (1987 SIL); 3,000 in Nigeria (1973 SIL) Taraba State; Sardauna LGA, near Baissa; and in Cameroon
Ambo A single village east of Baissa Taraba State, Sardauna LGA

See also


  1. 1 2 Blench, Roger (2010). "The Tivoid Languages" (PDF). p. 13.
  2. Blenh, Roger (2010). "Classification of Momo and West Momo" (PDF).
  3. Blench, Roger (2019). An Atlas of Nigerian Languages (4th ed.). Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.

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