Wobé language

Northern Wèè
Native to Ivory Coast
Native speakers
(160,000 cited 1993)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wob
Glottolog weno1238[2]

Wobé (Ouobe) is a Kru language spoken in Ivory Coast. It is one of several languages in a dialect continuum called Wèè (Wɛɛ).


Wobé is known for claims that it has the largest number of tones (fourteen) of any language in the world.[3] However, this has not been confirmed by other researchers, many of whom believe that some of these will turn out to be sequences of tones or prosodic effects,[4][5][6] though the Wèè languages in general do have extraordinarily large tone systems.

The fourteen posited tones are:[3]

IPA ˥˦˧˨˧˥˧˦˨˥˨˦˨˧˥˩˦˩˧˩˨˩˨˧˩
B&L tone numbers 1234313241424315253545435
Newman adjustment 0123202130313204142434324
Asian convention 5432353425242351413121231


  1. Wobé at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "We Northern". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Singler, John Victor (1984). "On the underlying representation of contour tones in Wobe". Studies in African Linguistics. 15 (1): 59–75.
  4. Newman, Paul (1986). "Contour Tones in Grebo". In van der Hulst, Harry; Bogers, Koen; Mous, Marten. The Phonological Representation of Suprasegmentals. Publications in African Languages and Linguistics (Book 4). De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 190–191 (notes 12 and 14).
  5. Newman believes Singler is a valuable counterweight to Bearth & Link, but does not accept all his criticism; he accept the Wobe 43 toneme, for example, but believes it should be analyzed as /32/ (all tones being off by 1 compared to related dialects).

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