The Gbe languages (pronounced [ɡbè]) form a cluster of about twenty related languages stretching across the area between eastern Ghana and western Nigeria. The total number of speakers of Gbe languages is between four and eight million. The most widely spoken Gbe language is Ewe (3 million speakers in Ghana and Togo), followed by Fon (1.7 million, mainly in Benin). The Gbe languages were traditionally placed in the Kwa branch of the Niger–Congo languages, but more recently have been classified as Volta–Niger languages. They include five major dialect clusters: Ewe, Fon, Aja, Gen (Mina), and Phla–Pherá.
Most of the Gbe peoples came from the east to their present dwelling-places in several migrations between the tenth and the fifteenth century. Some of the Phla–Pherá peoples however are thought to be the original inhabitants of the area who have intermingled with the Gbe immigrants, and the Gen people originate from the Ewe. In the late eighteenth century, many speakers of Gbe were enslaved and transported to the New World: it is believed that Gbe languages played some role in the genesis of several Caribbean creole languages, especially Haitian Creole.
Around 1840, German missionaries started linguistic research into the Gbe languages. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Africanist Diedrich Hermann Westermann was one of the most prolific contributors to the study of Gbe. The first internal classification of the Gbe languages was published in 1988 by H.B. Capo, followed by a comparative phonology in 1991. The Gbe languages are tonal, Isolating languages and the basic word order is subject–verb–object.
(parts of Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria)
Map showing the distribution of the major Gbe dialect areas (after Capo 1988, 1991).
The Gbe language area is bordered to the west and east by the Volta River in Ghana and the Weme River in Benin. The northern border is between 6 and 8 degrees latitude and the southern border is the Atlantic coast. The area is neighbored mainly by other Kwa languages, except for the east and north-east, where Yorùbá is spoken. To the west, Ga–Dangme, Guang and Akan are spoken. To the north, it is bordered by Adele, Aguna, Akpafu, Lolobi, and Yorùbá.
Estimates of the total number of speakers of Gbe languages vary considerably. Capo (1988) gives a modest estimate of four million, while SIL's Ethnologue (15th edition, 2005) gives eight million. The most widely spoken Gbe languages are Ewe (Ghana and Togo) and Fon (Benin, eastern Togo) at four million and 3 million speakers, respectively. Ewe is a language of formal education for secondary schools and universities in Ghana, and is also used in non-formal education in Togo. In Benin, Aja (740,000 speakers) and Fon were two of the six national languages selected by the government for adult education in 1992.
Greenberg, following Westermann (1952), placed the Gbe languages in the Kwa family of the Niger–Congo languages. The extent of the Kwa branch has fluctuated through the years, and Roger Blench places the Gbe languages in a Volta–Niger branch with former East Kwa languages to their east.
Gbe is a dialect continuum. Based on comparative research, Capo (1988) divides it into five clusters, with each cluster consisting of several mutually intelligible dialects. The borders between the clusters are not always distinct. The five clusters are:
|Name||Alternate names||Speakers||Some dialects||Region|
|Ewe||Vhe, Ɛ̀ʋɛ̀ gbè||ca. 3,600,000||Anlo, Kpando, Ho, Fodome||lower half of Ghana east of the Volta River; southwest Togo|
|Gen||Gẽ, Mina, Gɛn gbe||ca. 400,000||Gliji, Anexo, Agoi||Lake Togo, around Anexo|
|Aja||Aja gbe, Adja||ca. 500,000||Dogbo, Sikpi||Togo, Benin area, inland along the Mono River|
|Fon||Fɔn gbè||ca. 1,700,000||Gun, Kpase, Agbome, Maxi||southeast Togo, Benin west of the Weme River and along the coast|
|Phla–Pherá||Fla, Offra, Xwla gbe||ca. 400,000||Alada, Toli, Ayizo||Togo and Benin along the coast and around Lake Ahémé|
The dialect continuum as a whole was called 'Ewe' by Westermann, the most influential writer on the cluster, who used the term 'Standard Ewe' to refer to the written form of the language. Other writers have called the Gbe languages as a whole 'Aja', after the name of the local language of the Aja-Tado area in Benin. However, use of this single language's name for the language cluster as a whole was not only not acceptable to all speakers but also rather confusing. Since the establishment of a working group at the West African Languages Congress at Cotonou in 1980, H. B. Capo's name suggestion has been generally accepted: 'Gbe', which is the word for 'language/dialect' in each of the languages.
Ketu, settlement in present-day Benin Republic (formerly known as Dahomey), might be an appropriate starting point for a brief history of the Gbe-speaking peoples. Ewe traditions refer to Ketu as Amedzofe ("origin of humanity") or Mawufe ("home of the Supreme Being"). It is believed that the inhabitants of Ketu were pressed westward by a series of wars between the tenth and the thirteenth century. In Ketu, the ancestors of the Gbe-speaking peoples separated themselves from other refugees and began to establish their own identity.
Attacks between the thirteenth and the fifteenth century drove a large section of the group still further westward. They settled in the ancient kingdom of Tado (also Stado or Stádó) on the Mono river (in present-day Togo). The Tado kingdom was an important state in West Africa up to the late fifteenth century.
In the course of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, the Notsie (or Notsé, Notsye, Wancé) kingdom was established by emigrants from the Tado kingdom; Notsie would later (around 1500) become the home of another group of migrants from Tado, the Ewe people. Around 1550, emigrants from Tado established the Allada (or Alada) kingdom, which became the center of the Fon people. Tado is also the origin of the Aja people; in fact, the name Aja-Tado (Adja-Tado) is frequently used to refer to their language.
Other peoples that speak Gbe languages today are the Gen people (Mina, Ge) around Anexo and the Phla and Pherá peoples, some of whom consist of the traditional inhabitants of the area intermingled with early migrants from Tado.
Little is known of the history of the Gbe languages during the time that only Portuguese, Dutch and Danish traders landed on the Gold Coast (roughly 1500 to 1650). The trade of mostly gold and agricultural goods did not exercise much influence on social and cultural structures of the time. No need was felt to investigate the indigenous languages and cultures; the languages generally used in trade at this time were Portuguese and Dutch. Some loanwords remain from this period, for example atrapoe, 'stairs' from Dutch 'trap' and duku '(piece of) cloth' from Dutch 'doek' or Danish 'dug'. The few written accounts that stem from this period focus on trade. As more European countries established trade posts in the area, missionaries were sent out. As early as 1658, Spanish missionaries translated the Doctrina Christiana into the language of Allada, making it one of the earliest texts in any West African language. The Gbe language used in this document is thought to be a somewhat mangled form of Gen.
The relatively peaceful situation was profoundly changed with the rise of the transatlantic slave trade, which reached its peak in the late eighteenth century when as many as 15 000 slaves per year were exported from the area around Benin as part of a triangular trade between the European mainland, the west coast of Africa and the colonies of the New World (notably the Caribbean). The main actors in this process were Dutch (and to a lesser extent English) traders; captives were supplied mostly by cooperating coastal African states.
The Bight of Benin, precisely the area where the Gbe languages are spoken, was one of the centers of the slave trade at the turn of the eighteenth century. The export of 5% of the population each year resulted in overall population decline. Moreover, since the majority of the exported captives were male, the slave trade led to an imbalance in the female/male ratio. In some parts of the Slave Coast the ratio reached two adult women for every man. Several wars (sometimes deliberately provoked by European powers in order to divide and rule) further distorted social and economical relations in the area. The lack of earlier linguistic data makes it difficult to trace the inevitable linguistic changes that resulted from this turbulent period.
Around 1850, the transatlantic slave trade had virtually ceased. As the grip of European colonial powers strengthened, slave raiding became prohibited, trading focused on goods once more and the Europeans took it to be their calling to Christianize the colonized parts of Africa. In 1847 the Norddeutsche Missions-Gesellschaft (Bremen) started its work in Keta.
In 1857, the first Ewe grammar, Schlüssel der Ewesprache, dargeboten in den Grammatischen Grundzügen des Anlodialekts, was published by missionary J. B. Schlegel of the Bremen mission. Five different dialects of Gbe (at that time called the Ewé Language-Field) were already distinguished by Schlegel, notes Robert Needham Cust in his Modern Languages of Africa (1883). The dialects listed by Cust do not map exactly onto the five subgroups now distinguished by Capo, which is not too surprising since Cust himself admits that he relies on a multitude of often conflicting sources. Fon is in fact listed twice (once as 'the dialect of the province of Dahomé' and once as 'Fogbe').
Where previous literature consisted mostly of travel journals sometimes accompanied by short word lists, Schlegel's work marked the beginning of a period of prolific lexicographic and linguistic research into the various Gbe languages. Important writers of this period include Johann Gottlieb Christaller (Die Volta-Sprachen-Gruppe, 1888), Ernst Henrici (Lehrbuch der Ephe-Sprache, 1891, actually the first comparative Gbe grammar), J. Knüsli (Ewe-German-English Vocabulary, 1892) and Maurice Delafosse (Manuel Dahoméen (Fon), 1894).
In 1902 the missionary Diedrich Hermann Westermann contributed an article titled "Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Yewe-Sprachen in Togo" to Zeitschrift für Afrikanische und Oceanische Sprachen. Westermann became one of the most productive and influential writers on the Gbe languages, and his output dominated the Gbe literature and analysis of the first half of the twentieth century. He wrote mainly on the Western Gbe languages, especially on Ewe (though he often used the term 'Ewe' to denote the Gbe dialect continuum as a whole). Among his most important works on Ewe are his A Study of the Ewe language (1930) and Wörterbuch der Ewe-Sprache (1954).
From 1930 on, publications on various Gbe languages appeared rapidly, the vast majority of them dealing with individual Gbe languages. A significant exception is formed by the extensive comparative linguistic research of Hounkpati B Christophe Capo, which resulted in an internal classification of the Gbe languages and a reconstruction of the proto-Gbe phonology. Much of the comparative research for Capo's classification of the Gbe languages was carried out in the 1970s, and partial results were published in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the form of articles on specific phonological developments in various branches of Gbe and, notably, in the form of a unified standard orthography of Gbe. In his Renaissance du Gbe (1988), the internal classification of Gbe was published in full for the first time. In 1991, Capo published a comparative phonology of Gbe. In this period, Capo also initiated Labo Gbe (Int.), the 'Laboratory for research on Gbe languages', based in Benin, which has since fostered research and published several collections of papers on the Gbe languages.
In the early 1990s, SIL International initiated a study to assess which Gbe communities could benefit from existing literacy efforts and whether additional literacy campaigns in some of the remaining communities would be needed. Synchronised linguistic research carried out in the course of this study shed more light on the relations between the various varieties of Gbe. In general, the SIL studies corroborated many of Capo's findings and led to adjustment of some of his more tentative groupings.
The following phonetic segments are attested in Gbe languages:
No Gbe language exhibits all of the above forty-two phonetic segments. According to Capo (1991), all of them have the following twenty-three consonants in common: b, m, t, d, ɖ, n, k, g, kp, gb, ɲ, f, v, s, z, χ, ʁ, r, r̃, l, l̃, y, w.
The following vowels are found in Gbe languages:
|Close||i • ĩ||u • ũ|
|Close-mid||e • ẽ||o • õ|
|ə • ə̃|
|Open-mid||ɛ • ɛ̃||ɔ • ɔ̃|
|Open||a • ã|
Nasalization plays an important role in the vowel inventory: every vowel in the Gbe languages occurs in a non-nasalized and a nasalized form. Capo (1991) observes that the degree of nasality of nasal vowels is less when they occur after nasal consonants than after non-nasal ones.
Capo (1981) has argued that nasalization in Gbe languages should be analyzed phonemically as a feature relevant to vowels and not to consonants. This means that nasal vowels are distinct from oral vowels, while nasal and voiced oral stops are treated as predictable variants. For example, non-syllabic nasal consonants are always followed by a nasal vowel, and syllabic nasal consonants are analyzed as reduced forms of consonant–vowel syllables. This analysis is in line with reconstructions of the proto-Volta–Congo language, for which similar proposals have been made.
The Gbe languages are tonal languages. In general, they have three tone levels, High (H), Mid (M), and Low (L), of which the lower two are not phonemically contrastive. Thus, the basic tonemes of Gbe are 'High' and 'Non-High', where the High toneme may be realised as High or Rising and the Non-High toneme may be realised as Low or Mid. The tones of Gbe nouns are often affected by the consonant of the noun stem. The voicing of this consonant affects the realisation of the Non-High toneme roughly as follows: If the consonant is a voiced obstruent, the Non-High toneme is realised as Low (è-ḏà 'snake') and if the consonant is a voiceless obstruent or a sonorant, the Non-High toneme is realised as Mid (ām̲ē 'person', à-f̱ī 'mouse'). The consonants that induce tonal alternations in this way are sometimes called depressor consonants.
The basic syllable form of Gbe languages is commonly rendered (C1 )(C2 )V(C3 ), meaning that there at least has to be a nucleus V, and that there are various possible configurations of consonants (C1 ₋3 ). The V position may be filled by any of the vowels or by a syllabic nasal. It is also the location of the tone. While virtually any consonant can occur in the C1 position, there exist several restrictions on the kind of consonants that can occur in the C2 and C3 positions. In general, only liquid consonants may occur as C2 , while only nasals occur in the C3 position.
Most verbs in Gbe languages have one of the basic syllable forms. Gbe nominals are generally preceded by a nominal prefix consisting of a vowel (cf. the Ewe word aɖú, 'tooth'). The quality of this vowel is restricted to the subset of non-nasal vowels. In some cases the nominal prefix is reduced to schwa or lost: the word for 'fire' is izo in Phelá, ədʒo in Wací-Ewe and dʒo in Pecí-Ewe. The nominal prefix can be seen as a relic of a typical Niger–Congo noun class system.
The Gbe languages are isolating languages, and as such express many semantic features by lexical items. Of a more agglutinative nature are the commonly used periphrastic constructions. In contrast to Bantu languages, a major branch of the Niger–Congo language family, Gbe languages have very little inflectional morphology. There is for example no subject–verb agreement whatsoever in Gbe, no gender agreement, and no inflection of nouns for number. The Gbe languages make extensive use of a rich system of tense/aspect markers.
Reduplication is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word, or part of it, is repeated. The Gbe languages, like most other Kwa languages, make extensive use of reduplication in the formation of new words, especially in deriving nouns, adjectives and adverbs from verbs. Thus in Ewe, the verb lã́, 'to cut', is nominalised by reduplication, yielding lãlã́, 'the act of cutting'. Triplication is used to intensify the meaning of adjectives and adverbs, e.g. Ewe ko 'only' → kokooko 'only, only, only'.
The basic word order of Gbe clauses is generally subject–verb–object, except in the imperfective tense and some related constructions. The Gbe languages, notably Ewe, Fon and Anlo, played a role in the genesis of several Caribbean creole languages—Haitian Creole for example is classifiable as having a French vocabulary with the syntax of a Gbe language.
The Gbe languages do not have a marked distinction between tense and aspect. The only tense that is expressed by a simple morphological marker in Gbe languages is the future tense. The future marker is ná or a, as can be seen from the examples below. Other tenses are arrived at by means of special time adverbs or by inference from the context, and this is where the tense/aspect distinction becomes blurred. For example, what is sometimes referred to as perfective aspect in Gbe blends with the notion of past tense since it expresses an event with a definite endpoint, located in the past (see example sentences below).
Focus, which is used to draw attention to a particular part of the utterance, to signify contrast or to emphasize something, is expressed in Gbe languages by leftward movement of the focused element and by way of a focus marker wɛ́ (Gungbe, Fongbe), yé (Gengbe) or é (Ewegbe), suffixed to the focused element.
Questions can be constructed in various ways in Gbe languages. A simple declarative sentence can be turned into an interrogative utterance by the use of the question marker à at the end of the sentence. Another way of forming questions is by using question words. These so-called question word questions are much akin to focus constructions in Gbe. The question word is found at the beginning of the sentence, as is the focus marker. The close relationship to focus is also clear from the fact that in Gbe, a sentence cannot contain a question word and a focused element simultaneously.
Topicalization, the signalling of the subject that is being talked about, is achieved in Gbe languages by the move of the topicalized element to the beginning of the sentence. In some Gbe languages, a topic marker is suffixed to the topicalized element. In other Gbe languages the topic has to be definite. A topicalized element precedes the focused element in a sentence containing both.
Negation is expressed in various ways in the Gbe languages. In general, three methods of negation can be distinguished: Languages like Gungbe express negation by a preverbal marker má; Fongbe-type languages express negation either like Gungbe, or with a sentence-final marker ã; and languages like Ewegbe require both the preverbal marker mé and a sentence-final marker o.
|Kɔ̀jó má xɔ̀ kátikáti lɔ́||Kojo NEG buy kite DET||Kojo did not buy the kite||(Gungbe)|
|Kɔ̀kú má ná xɔ̀ àsɔ́n ɔ́||Koku NEG FUT buy crab DET||Koku will not buy the crab||(Fongbe)|
|Kɔ̀kú ná xɔ̀ àsɔ́n ɔ́ ã||Koku FUT buy crab DET NEG||Koku will not buy the crab||(Fongbe)|
|Kòfi mé ɖù nú ò||Kofi NEG eat thing NEG||Kofi did not eat||(Ewegbe)|
Gbe languages share an areal feature found in many languages of the Volta basin, the serial verb construction. This means that two or more verbs can be juxtaposed in one clause, sharing the same subject, lacking conjunctive markings, resulting in a meaning that expresses the consecutive or simultaneous aspect of the actions of the verbs.
The Aja language is a Gbe language of the Niger–Congo language spoken by the Aja people; and it is closely related to other Gbe languages such as Ewe, Mina, Fon, and Phla Phera.Aguna language
Aguna, or Awuna, is a Gbe language of Benin and Togo.Alada language
Alada (Arba) is a Gbe language of Nigeria and Benin that has proven difficult to classify. Ethnologue counts it and Tɔli as dialects of Gun, but Capo (1988) considers it one of the Phla–Pherá languages. Kluge (2000) found elements of both Fon–Gun and Phla–Pherá.Arafundi languages
The Arafundi languages are a small family of clearly related languages in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, namely
Andai (Meakambut), Nanubae, Tapei and Karamba (Kansomai)Alfendio is an old synonym for Arafundi, from when it was still considered a single language.
The Arafundi languages form a dialect continuum where distinct language boundaries are highly blurred, not unlike the Gbe languages of West Africa.Ayizo language
Ayizo (Ayizɔ) is a Gbe language of Benin. It is a dialect cluster of Ayizo proper, Kotafon (Ko, Kogbe), and Gbesi.Case variants of IPA letters
With the adoption of letters from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) in various national alphabets, letter case forms have been developed. This usually means capital (uppercase) forms were developed, but in the case of the glottal stop ʔ, both uppercase ⟨Ɂ⟩ and lowercase ⟨ɂ⟩ are used.
The adoption of IPA letters has been particularly notable in Sub-Saharan Africa, in languages such as Hausa, Fula, Akan, Gbe languages, Manding languages, and Lingala. The most common are open o ⟨Ɔ ɔ⟩, open e ⟨Ɛ ɛ⟩, and eng ⟨Ŋ ŋ⟩, but several others are found. Kabiyé of northern Togo, for example, has ⟨Ɔ ɔ, Ɛ ɛ, Ɖ ɖ, Ŋ ŋ, Ɣ ɣ, Ʃ ʃ, Ʊ ʊ⟩ (or ⟨Ʋ ʋ⟩), as in this newspaper headline:
MBƱ AJƐYA KIGBƐNDƱƱ ŊGBƐYƐ KEDIƔZAƔ SƆSƆƆ TƆM SE.Some of the IPA letters that were adopted into language orthographies have since become obsolete in the IPA itself.Ewe language
Ewe (Èʋe or Èʋegbe [èβeɡ͡be]) is a Niger–Congo language spoken in southeastern Ghana by approximately 4.5 million people as a first language and a million or so more as a second language. Ewe is part of a cluster of related languages commonly called Gbe; the other major Gbe language is Fon of Benin. Like many African languages, Ewe is tonal.
The German Africanist Diedrich Hermann Westermann published many dictionaries and grammars of Ewe and several other Gbe languages. Other linguists who have worked on Ewe and closely related languages include Gilbert Ansre (tone, syntax), Herbert Stahlke (morphology, tone), Nick Clements (tone, syntax), Roberto Pazzi (anthropology, lexicography), Felix K. Ameka (semantics, cognitive linguistics), Alan Stewart Duthie (semantics, phonetics), Hounkpati B. Capo (phonology, phonetics), Enoch Aboh (syntax), and Chris Collins (syntax).Fon language
Fon (fɔ̀ngbè, pronounced [fɔ̃̀ɡ͡bē]) is part of the Eastern Gbe language cluster and belongs to the Volta–Niger branch of the Niger–Congo languages. Fon is spoken mainly in Benin by approximately 1.7 million speakers, by the Fon people. Like the other Gbe languages, Fon is an analytic language with an SVO basic word order.Gen language
Gen (also called Gɛ̃, Gɛn gbe, Gebe, Guin, Mina, Mina-Gen, and Popo) is a Gbe language spoken in the southeast of Togo in the Maritime Region. It is also spoken in the Mono Department of Benin. It is part of the Volta–Niger branch of the major African Niger–Congo language family. Like the other Gbe languages, Gen is a tonal language.
There were 200,000 Gen-speakers in Togo in 1991, and 130,000 in Benin in 2006.Kwa languages
The Kwa languages, often specified as New Kwa, are a proposed but as-yet-undemonstrated family of languages spoken in the south-eastern part of Ivory Coast, across southern Ghana, and in central Togo. The name was introduced 1895 by Gottlob Krause and derives from the word for 'people' (Kwa) in many of these languages, as illustrated by Akan names.Pherá language
Pherá, also spelled Xwela, is a Gbe language of Benin. It forms a dialect chain with Western Phla.Phla language
Phla (Kpla), also spelled Xwla and also known as Popo, is a Gbe language of Benin and Togo.Phla–Pherá languages
The Phla–Pherá (Xwla–Xwela) languages form a possible group of Gbe languages spoken mainly in southeastern and southwestern Benin; some communities are found in southeastern Togo and southwestern Nigeria. The group, comprising about ten varieties, was introduced by H.B. Capo in his 1988 classification of Gbe languages as one of the five main branches of Gbe. Additional research carried out by SIL International in the nineties corroborated many of Capo's findings and led to adjustment of some of his more tentative groupings; in particular, Phla–Pherá was divided in an eastern and a western cluster. Phla–Pherá is one of the smaller Gbe branches in terms of number of speakers. It is also the most linguistically diverse branch of Gbe, due partly to the existence of several geographically separated communities, but mainly because of considerable influence by several non-Gbe languages in the past. Some of the Phla–Pherá peoples are thought to be the original inhabitants of the region having intermingled with Gbe immigrants.
The term Phla–Pherá is a conjunction of the names of two major dialects of this grouping. There exist many spelling variants of both names. Phla, pronounced [χʷlà], has been previously spelt Pla, Kpla, Xwla, Hwla, and Fla . Pherá, pronounced [χʷèlá] or [χʷèrá], has been previously spelt Peda, Fida, Péda, and Houéda. For simplicity's sake, this article will use the unified standard orthography of Gbe set forth by Capo.Saramaccan language
Saramaccan (autonym: Saamáka) is a creole language spoken by about 58,000 ethnic African people near the Saramacca and upper Suriname River, as well as in the capital Paramaribo, in Suriname (formerly also known as Dutch Guiana), 25,000 in French Guiana, and 8,000 in the Netherlands. It has three main dialects. The speakers are mostly descendants of fugitive slaves who were native to West and Central Africa; they form a group called Saamacca, also spelled Saramaka.
Linguists consider Saramaccan notable because its vocabulary is based on two European source languages, English (30%) and Portuguese (20%), and various West and Central African languages (50%), but it diverges considerably from all of them. The African component accounts for about 50% once ritual use is taken into account, the highest percentage in the Americas, and is derived from Niger–Congo languages of West Africa, especially Fon and other Gbe languages, Akan and Central African languages such as Kikongo.Saxwe language
Saxwɛ, also spelled Tsáphɛ, is a Gbe language of Benin.Tofin language
Tɔfin (Toffi) is a Gbe language of Benin.Tɔli language
Tɔli (Toli) is a Gbe language of Benin. Ethnologue counts it and Alada as dialects of Gun, but Capo (1988) considers it one of the Phla–Pherá languages.Waci language
Waci (also spelled Ouatchi) is a Gbe language of Togo and Benin. It is part of a dialect continuum which also includes Ewe, and is scattered in an area Capo designates as Ewe speaking.Wudu language
Wudu is a language spoken in Togo. It is part of a dialect continuum which also includes Ewe and Gen.