Learn more about Gur languages
The Gur languages belong to the Niger-Congo languages. There are about 85 languages belonging to this group. They are spoken in southeast Mali, northern Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, northern Ghana and northern Togo, Benin and northwest Nigeria.
Like most Niger-Congo languages, Gur languages have a noun class system. A common property of Gur languages is the verbal aspect marking. Gur languages are tonal. The tonal systems of Gur languages are rather divergent. Most Gur languages have a two tone downstep system, but the tonal system of the Senufo subgroup is mostly analysed as a three level tone system (High, Mid, Low).
Koelle first mentions twelve Gur languages in his 1854 Polyglotta Africana, which represent ten languages in modern classification. Notably, he correctly identified these languages as being related to one another; his 'North-Eastern High Sudan' corresponds to Gur in modern classification.
There are two main subgroups, Central Gur and Senufo, and a number of languages which are not subclassified further. The membership of Senufo has been called into doubt in recent years, for example by Tony Naden (1989:143). Because of this, Williamson and Blench (2000:18,25-6) place Senufo as a branching immediately before Gur in the Volta-Congo node of the Niger-Congo phylum.
- Naden, Anthony J. (1989) 'Gur', in Bendor-Samuel, John & Hartell, Rhonda L. (eds) The Niger-Congo languages. A classification and description of Africa's largest language family. Lanham, New York, London: University Press of America, 140–168.
- Roncador, Manfred von; Miehe, Gudrun (1998) Les langues gur (voltaïques). Bibliographie commentée et inventaire des appelations des langues. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
- Williamson, Kay & Blench, Roger (2000) 'Niger-Congo', in Heine, Bernd & Nurse, Derek (eds.) African languages: an introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 11—42.