Computation of Numerals in Nupe Gbagyi, Egbira: Evidence from the Morphological Structure

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Dalhatu Abigail Musa
Francis Oyebade


In an important agenda setting study in 1976, Bendor-Samuel investigated the numeral system of twelve Nigerian languages. In the process, he established some sort of template by which the numeral systems of other languages may be studied. Almost four decades after this landmark study, the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) revisited this issue on the sidelines of its conference in 2013. The importance of these studies as noted in Oyebade (2013, 2014, 2016) ranges from the clue they could provide about genetic and contact history of languages, to insight into the cognitive process of numbers computation in the minds of ancient Africans. This paper explores the numeral systems of three genetically related and geographically coterminous languages- Nupe, Gbagyi and Ebira- to investigate their computation system through the analysis of their morphological structure. A most obvious finding is that, while Nupe and Ebira exploit quinary (base 5) and vigesimal (base 20) systems, Gbagyi uses a decimal (base 10) system. The three Nupoid languages exploit the arithmetical operations of addition, subtraction and multiplication in varying degrees. We suggest, based on our findings, that Nupe retained the closest similarity to the Proto numeral system of Nupoid, while Gbagyi has veered furthest from the Proto form. Furthermore, we conclude that the traditional Nupoid numeral system is severely endangered, as is the case with most of the languages in Nigeria. This underscores the imperative to urgently describe and document this aspect of our communication system. 

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How to Cite
Abigail Musa, D. ., & Oyebade, F. . (2018). Computation of Numerals in Nupe Gbagyi, Egbira: Evidence from the Morphological Structure. Journal of The Linguistic Association of Nigeria, 21(2), 47–61. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Dalhatu Abigail Musa, Department of Languages and Linguistics

Nasarawa State University, Keffi


Francis Oyebade, Department of Languages and Linguistics

Nasarawa State University, Keffi



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