Tiv - Orientation

Identification . The Tiv (sing. Or-Tiv) are a group of about a million people who live on both sides of the Benue River, 220 kilometers from its confluence with the Niger, in Nigeria. "Tiv" is the name of the common ancestor from whom all are descended. In Hausa they are called "Munshi" or "Munchi."

Location. The heartland of Tivland stretches from about 6°30′ to 8°00′ N and from 8°00′ E to 10°00′ E, although Tiv settlements are also found north and east of that area. In the southeast, Tivland borders the foothills of the Cameroons, from whence the Tiv say they originally came. Some hills, especially in southern Tivland, are as high as 1,200 meters. The undulating plains of tall grasses (as much as 3 meters high), dotted with savanna trees, lose elevation until they reach the Benue, at about 100 to 120 meters. The Tiv, who are an expanding people, are well along in their occuptaion of the similar plain that extends northward from the river toward the Jos Plateau.

Demography. The earliest estimate of the Tiv population, in 1933, was 600,000. In 1950 the count was about 800,000. By 1990, the figure had climbed to more than a million. The density of population in Tivland in 1950 was about 166 per square kilometer, but that figure is misleading. In the southern area, where the Tiv reside adjacently with the small groups of peoples they know collectively as the Udam, the density rises to at least 1,430 per square kilometer.

Linguistic Affiliation. There is a single Tiv language intelligible to all, although regional dialects allow one to distinguish the area from which a person comes. The language is classified as the only example of its subdivision (on the same level as Bantu languages) of the Niger-Congo Language Family.

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