East Kainji languages

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East Kainji
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo

The 24 East Kainji languages are spoken in a compact area of the Jos Plateau in Nigeria, near Jos. They are poorly studied.


East Kainji was once thought to be a primary branch of the Kainji languages, but this is no longer the case.[2] Impressionistically, Piti and Atsam appear to be distinct, but the rest form a continuous dialect chain.[3] Nonetheless, Ethnologue indicates several branches; these will be retained here for reference:[4]

In Blench's classification, Piti–Atsam is named "Southern". Northern Jos is named "Jos", and the Jera languages are named "Northern Jos", which he further subdivides into several dialect clusters; Amo is placed in this group.[5]

Glottolog's classification is similar to Blench's, but the Piti–Atsam name is retained. In this classification, all languages except for Piti–Atsam are grouped under "Jos". Amo, while within the "Jos" group, is left out of both Kauru and Jera (or "Northern Jos", following Blench).[6]

Only Kurama, Gbiri-Niragu, Jere, Sanga and Lemoro have more than a few thousand speakers.


East Kainji languages are less internally diverse than some of the other Plateau branches in the Nigerian Middle Belt (Blench 2007). Historically, it had been influenced by Chadic languages that no longer exist in the region.[7] Today, there are at most 100,000 speakers of East Kainji languages, with almost all languages of the languages being threatened by larger languages such as Hausa and English.[7] Although they are morphologically simple, they have 4-level instead of the 3-level tones typical of the region.[7]

At the time of the British conquest, several of these languages were in the process of shifting from duodecimal to decimal systems. Languages attested with such systems include Janji, Gure-Kahugu (Gbiri-Niragu) and Piti.[8]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Eastern Kainji". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ http://www.rogerblench.info/Language/Niger-Congo/BC/Kainji/KOP.htm
  3. ^ Blench 2004, The status of the East Kainji languages of Central Nigeria, p. 8
  4. ^ "Eastern". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  5. ^ Blench 2004, The status of the East Kainji languages of Central Nigeria, p. 10
  6. ^ "Glottolog 3.0 - Kainji Lake". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  7. ^ a b c Blench, Roger. 2007. Language families of the Nigerian Middle Belt and the historical implications of their distribution. Presented to the Jos Linguistic Circle in Jos, Nigeria, July 25, 2007.
  8. ^ Shuji Matsushita, "Decimal vs. Duodecimal: An interaction between two systems of numeration"