Ewe - Évé - Eʋegbe, Fon - Fɔngbe, Mina - Gen, Aja - Adja, Phla-Pherá - Xwala-Xweda

1.  Classification / Classification

This dialect cluster belongs to the "Left Bank" or "Togo" Group of Kwa. ... While no common name is accepted by all, the term "Gbe" was proposed at the 1980 meeting at the West African Languages Conference in Cotonou (Duthie and Vlaardingerbroek, personal communication, 1985). (Webbook?)

The term "Gbe" is also used more narrowly to describe a subgroup of this cluster.

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Kwa, Left Bank, Gbe ...

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken in a coastal band extending about 200 kilometers inland, reaching from the Volta River in southeastern Ghana, through Togo and Benin, and into western Nigeria. (Webbook)

A map showing the approximate areas where Gbe languages are spoken follows (there is a question about how far Fon is actually spoken in SW Nigeria and about the presence of Phla-Phera; on the other hand, Gun is apparently spoken in part of that area):

(Source: Wikipedia; map created by Mark Dingemanse of Vormdicht under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. "The image and any derivatives should be attributed to its creator...")

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • Ewe:
    • 2,250,500 in Ghana (2003)
    • 861,900 in Togo (1991 Vanderaa)
    • Population total all countries: 3,112,400
    • 500,000 second-language speakers
  • Fon:
    • 1,700,000 in Benin (2000 Hoddenbagh)
    • 35,500 in Togo (1991)
    • Population total all countries: 1,735,500
  • Mina or Gen:
    • 200,900 in Togo (1991)
    • 158,000 in Benin (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • Population total all countries: 358,900
    • (no figure given for second-language speakers)
  • Aja:
    • 588,100 in Benin (2002 SIL)
    • 152,300 in Togo (2002 SIL)
    • Population total all countries: 740,400
  • Gun:
    • 243,000 in Benin (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • 258,804 in Nigeria (2000 WCD)
    • Population total all countries: 501,804
  • Gbe, Ayizo: 328,000 in Benin (2000 SIL)
  • Gbe, Ci: 25,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)
  • Gbe, Defi: 13,500 in Benin (2002 SIL)
  • Gbe, Eastern Xwla: 80,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)
  • Gbe, Gbesi: 65,000 (2002 SIL)
  • Gbe, Kotafon: 100,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)
  • Gbe, Maxi:
    • 66,000 in Benin (1993 Johnstone)
    • 25,300 in Togo (1991)
    • Population total all countries: 91,300
  • Gbe, Saxwe: 6,272 in Benin (2000 WCD)
  • Gbe, Tofin: 90,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)
  • Gbe, Waci:
    • 365,500 in Togo (1991)
    • 110,000 in Benin (1993 Johnstone)
    • Population total all countries: 475,500
  • Gbe, Weme: 60,000 (1991 L. Vanderaa)
  • Gbe, Western Xwla:
    • 50,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)
    • 21,000 in Togo (2002 SIL)
    • Population total all countries: 71,000
  • Gbe, Xwela: 65,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Gbe dialects fall into five groups: Ewe (Ghana, Togo, Benin), Mina (Togo), Aja (Togo, Benin), Xwala-Xweda (Benin), and Fon-Gun (Benin, Nigeria). For dialect survey works, see Duthie, Bibliography of Gbe (1981). (Webbook)

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Ewe/Évé [G=Ghana ; T=Togo]
    • Anglo (Anlo, Awlan) [G&T]
    • Awuna [G]
    • Hudu [G]
    • Kotafoa [G]
    • Adan [T]
    • Agu [T]
    • Aveno [T]
    • Be [T]
    • Gbin [T]
    • Ho [T]
    • Kpelen [T]
    • Togo [T]
    • Vlin [T]
    • Vo [T]
  • Fon
    • Agbome
    • Arohun
    • Gbekon
    • Kpase
  • Mina or Gen
    • Anexo
    • Gliji
    • Agoi
    • Gen
  • Aja
    • Dogbo/Dogo (somewhat distinct from the others)
    • Hwe (Ehoue)
    • Tado (Stado, Sado, Tadou)
    • Sikpi
    • Tala
  • Gun [B=Benin ; N=Nigeria]
    • Alada (Alada-Gbe) [B&N]
    • Ajra [B]
    • Asento [N]
    • Gbekon [N]
    • Gun (Gu, Egun, Goun) [N]
    • Phela [N]
    • Savi [N]
    • Weme [N]
    • Seto [B&N]
    • Toli [B]

Ethnologue also identifies "10 languages that make up the Gbe language cluster that extends from southeastern Ghana across southern Togo and southern Benin into southwestern Nigeria." (This group corresponds with that identified in the Webbook as Xwala-Xweda and in Wikipedia as "Phla-Phera"):

  • Gbe, Ci (Ci is very close linguistically to Fon and is considered to be the same by Ci speakers. Lexical similarity 80% with Fon, 77% with Ayizo, 59% with Aja)
  • Gbe, Defi (Defi is close linguistically to Gun)
  • Gbe, Eastern Xwla (Lexical similarity 90% with Gun, 82% with Fon, 68% with Gen, 68% with Aja)
  • Gbe, Gbesi (Lexical similarity 91% with Kotafon, 85% with Fon, 73% with Aja, 70% with Gen)
  • Gbe, Kotafon (Lexical similarity 82% with Gbe Ayizo, 81% with Fon, 69% with Gen, 65% with Aja)
  • Gbe, Maxi (Lexical similarity 80% with Fon, 68% with Ayizo, 51% with Aja)
  • Gbe, Tofin (Lexical similarity 88% with Gun, 87% with Fon, 82% with Eastern Xwla, 75% with Ayizo, 66% with Gen)
  • Gbe, Waci
  • Gbe, Western Xwla (Lexical similarity 86% with Gun, 84% with Fon, 73% with Gen, 68% with Aja, 90% with Xwela, 88% with Saxwe)
  • Gbe, Xwela (Lexical similarity 90% with Western Xwla, 85% with Fon, 71% with Gen, 82% with Saxwe, 68% with Aja)

Several other related forms of "Gbe" are also described in Ethnologue:

  • Gbe, Ayizo (Speakers have very good comprehension of Fon)
  • Gbe, Saxwe
  • Gbe, Weme

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Ewe is a national and regional language in Ghana and Togo. Mina is a lingua franca with about one million speakers in Togo and Benin. Fon is a regional language in Benin.

Standard Ewe is spoken on radio and television in Ghana and Togo and Fon in Benin. Standard Ewe appears (half page) in Togo's primarily French language La Nouvelle Marche. Ghana Information Service publishes Motobiala, an Ewe monthly. The University of Ghana also publishes a rural community newspaper for adult literacy, Kpodoga. (Webbook) [Is this information still current?]

Ewe has ... a considerable body of clerical and educational literature ; not as much literature exists for Mina, Fon, and Gun... (Webbook)

Notes from Ethnologue (accessed 2007):

  • (Ewe) Taught in primary and secondary schools in Ghana and primary schools in Togo
  • (Ewe in Ghana) Language of wider communication. Vigorous. All domains
  • (Ewe in Togo) Predominant language in southern Togo
  • (Fon in Benin) Language of wider communication. Vigorous. Limited oral use in administration, spoken use in education, religious services, commerce, and labor. Positive language attitude. ... Newspapers. Radio programs. TV.
  • (Mina/Gen) Language of wider communication in Togo and Benin. Gen is one of the languages used for adult literacy by the Benin government and one of the six with government post-literacy programs.
  • (Aja in Benin) The government selected Aja as one of the six national languages for post literacy.
  • Literacy rate of Ewe speakers in Ghana:
    • L1: 30% to 60%
    • L2: 75% to 100%
  • Literacy rate of Ewe speakers in Togo:
    • L1: 10% to 60%
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Fon speakers in Togo:
    • L1: 5% to 60% [sic]
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Fon speakers in Benin:
    • L1: 10%. 10% can read Fon, 7% can write it
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Mina (Gen) speakers in Togo & Benin:
    • L1: 1% to 5%
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Aja speakers in Benin & Togo:
    • L1: 19%
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Gun speakers in Benin:
    • L1: 1% to 5%
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Ci and Defi Gbe speakers in Benin:
    • L1: below 1%
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Maxi and Western Xwla Gbe speakers in Togo:
    • L1: below 1%
    • L2: ?
  • Literacy rate of Waci Gbe speakers in Togo & Benin:
    • L1: below 1%
    • L2: ?

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Ewe has had a standardized (Latin-based) orthography in Ghana and Togo for more than a century .... Mina, Fon, and Gun ... also have an established orthography. Aja and Waci (Ewe) have more recently established orthographies (Duthie, personal communication, 1985). (Webbook)

A "Gbe Uniform Standard Orthography" (GUSO) has been proposed for the Gbe languages [what is its status? How is it like/different from pre-existing usages?]

Gbe languages are written using some extended characters; diacritics are used to mark tone in at least some cases.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Togolese version of Ewe alphabet can be seen on the "Langues Togolaises et les NTIC" board, , message #2. (See also the Wikipedia and Omniglot pages on Ewe language - references below.) [is the Ewe alphabet in Ghana the same?]. Summary here:
a b d ɖ e ɛ f ƒ g ɣ h i k l m n ŋ o ɔ p r s t u v ʋ w x y z

Fon alphabet can be seen on the "Langues Béninoises et les NTIC" board, , message #2. Summary here:
a b d ɖ e ɛ f g h i k l m n o ɔ p r s t u v w x y z

The Mina alphabet according to Ako and de Barros is:
ã b d ɖ e ẽ ɛ f g h i ĩ k l m n ŋ o ɔ p r s t u ũ w̌ x y z

Concerning diacritics and tone in Ewe, Omniglot notes the following:

  • A tilde (~) indicates a nasal.
  • Ewe is a tonal language with four tones: a rising tone marked by an acute accent (é), a falling tone marked by a grave accent (è), a falling-rising tone marked by a caron accent (ě), and a rising-falling accent marked by circumflex accent (ê). However the tones are not always marked.

Alphabet as reported by Hartell (1993) and presented in Systèmes alphabétiques:

For examples of Ewe alphabet, see also:

For examples of Fon alphabet, see also:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Unicode fonts with extended Latin ranges are necessary for these languages. The following extended ranges include the characters indicated in 6.2, above:

8-bit fonts (not recommended for current use):

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

Some keyboard layouts at are intended to cover these languages.

Kasahorow has a Gbe keyboard (MSKLC) at

There is a virtual keyboard for Ewe at:

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Wikipedia in Ewe at (apparently just the site has been reserved)

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

The SPIP interface has been translated into Fon

There is(was? a group in Benin interested in localising OpenOffice in Fon.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


  • ISO 639-1: ee
  • ISO 639-2: ewe
  • ISO 639-3: ewe


  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: fon
  • ISO 639-3: fon

Gen (Mina)

  • ISO 639-3: gej


  • ISO 639-3: ajg


  • ISO 639-3: guw

Gbe, Ayizo

  • ISO 639-3: ayb

Gbe, Ci

  • ISO 639-3: cib

Gbe, Defi

  • ISO 639-3: gbh

Gbe, Eastern Xwla

  • ISO 639-3: gbx

Gbe, Gbesi

  • ISO 639-3: gbs

Gbe, Kotafon

  • ISO 639-3: kqk

Gbe, Maxi

  • ISO 639-3: mxl

Gbe, Saxwe

  • ISO 639-3: sxw

Gbe, Tofin

  • ISO 639-3: tfi

Gbe, Waci

  • ISO 639-3: wci

Gbe, Weme

  • ISO 639-3: wem

Gbe, Western Xwla

  • ISO 639-3: xwl

Gbe, Xwela

  • ISO 639-3: xwe

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

7.7  Other / Autre

Sites about the Fon language:

Sites about the Ewe language:

Document on Mina:

kasahorow Gbe Dictionary (Ewe-English glossary)

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

Xavier Fantognon (Mina, Fon)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

This is a complex group of languages/dialects with varying degrees of intercomprehensibility and apparently a fair amount of multilingual/multidialectal skill among speakers.

Probably separate localisations would be necessary for software. It is not known the extent to which versions in these related languages might benefit from collaboration and whether harmonisation of terminologies would be possible or useful.

10.  References / Références

Ako, Léopold, et Philip de Barros (1969, 2006), "Grammaire Mina Complète." 1ère Edition, Lomé, Togo, 1969 / 2eme Edition (électronique), San Marcos, 2006. /

Capo, Hounkpatin C. (1983), "Le Gbe est une langue unique," Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 53(2): 47-57 (abstract and first page available at )

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS,

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Gbe (Ewe/Mina/Fon)," )

Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993), The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. (The French edition, published the same year, is entitled Alphabets de Langues Africaines).

Omniglot, "Ewe (Eʋegbe),"

______, "Fon (Fon gbè),"

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Aja,"

______, "Éwé,"

______, "Fon,"

______, "Gbe, Ayizo,"

______, "Gbe, Ci,"

______, "Gbe, Defi,"

______, "Gbe, Eastern Xwla,"

______, "Gbe, Gbesi,"

______, "Gbe, Kotafon,"

______, "Gbe, Maxi,"

______, "Gbe, Saxwe,"

______, "Gbe, Tofin,"

______, "Gbe, Waci,"

______, "Gbe, Western Xwla,"

______, "Gbe, Weme,"

______, "Gbe, Xwela,"

______, "Gen,"

______, "Gun,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language,"

Wikipedia, "Eʋegbe,"ʋegbe

______, "Ewe language,"

______, "Ewe (langue),"

______, "Fon-gbe,"

______, "Fon language,"

______, "Gbe languages,"

______, "Gen,"

______, "Langues gbe,"

______, "Phla-Pherá languages,"á_languages

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Categories: Languages, Ghana, Togo, Benin, SW Nigeria