Nawdm is a Togolese language spoken by the Nawdba ethnic group who all originally lived in the Prefecture of Doufelgou near Kara, Togo. There are a couple other names used to refer to this language including Loso (or Losu) or Nawdm (written naoudem or nawdam). The first of these terms is inappropriate and ambiguous, as it used by other linguistic groups to describe the Lamba (of Yaka, Agbandé and Défalé) and the Nawdba (who speak Nawdm).

The Doufelgou Prefecture consists of five cantons where Nawdm is spoken, namely: Niamtougou, Koka, Baga, Ténéga and Siou. The Nawdm is also spoken in the villages of Bogawaré and Kawa-Bas in the canton of Pouda, and in the village of Koré-Nata in the Canton of Massédéna, still a part of the Doufelgou prefecture. Historically, these latter groups are the descendants of the village of Banaa, at one time located about equidistant from Koka, Ténéga, and Siou-Kpadb, in the vicinity of what is actually called the SORAD, from where they were chased away by the people of Baga just before the arrival of the Germans. The immediate neighbors of the Nawdba in this prefecture are the Lamba of Défalé to the north, the Kabyè de Pya to the south, the Kabyè of Massédéna and of Péssaré to the east and the Lamba of Agbandé and Yaka to the west.

Many Nawdba have moved from the Prefecture of Doufelgou and settled in the central and southern areas of Togo and in Ghana, in search of cultivable land and jobs, which has resulted in only twenty five percent of the Nawdba still residing in the prefecture of Doufelgou; the other 75 percent live on the farms between Sokodé and Notsé, as well as in the cities of Kara, Sokodé, and especially Lomé, the capital. The gross data from the 1980 census mentions 111,579 Losos (Nawdba) in Togo. With necessary corrections and taking account of the increase in population, we can estimate in 2013 around 250,000 Nawdm speakers in Togo.

According to most recent classification systems (Bendor-Samuel, 1989[2]; Heine and Nurse, 2004[3]), the Nawdm language belongs to the Yom-nawdm group of the sub-family Oti-Volta of Gur languages or Central Voltaic, the Gur family being a branch of Niger-Congo languages. These classifications are based on historical and comparative linguistics done by Gabriel Manessy[4] who has demonstrated that Nawdm was not, as some had thought, a dialect Moore, but a language that, in all certainty came from Moore, belongs, however, to another linguistic sub-group.

Nawdm is spoken only within the Nadba. Only a few non mother-tongue speakers are interested in this language. Jacques Nicole, after studying the phonology and grammar of Nawdm, became interested in the dialectology of it, and regrouped the variants into three large groups: dialects of the west (combining the Cantons of Niamtougou, Koka and Baga; dialects of the east (combining the varieties of Siou-centre, Konfaga-Koukou, Hagou, Kpadb, and Jogrergou); central dialects (combining the varieties of Ténéga et de Banaa[5]. It is important to note that there is intercomprehension between these different dialects. This dictionary is based on the speech variety of Koka, that consists of the basic form currently used in written documents issued from the work of ASDN (Association to Preserve and Develop Nawdm), with the technical assistance of SIL.

We are aware that this dictionary, in preliminary version, includes gaps and errors. We hope that you will not hesitate to give us comments and suggestions for improvement.

The compilers

[1] The number given by the Ethnologue is 146,000 but it is far below the actual total. Le chiffre donné par Ethnologue ( est de 146 000, mais est en-dessous de la réalité.

[2] Bendor-Samuel, John T., ed., 1989, The Niger-Congo languages. A classification of Africa’s largest family, Lanham : University Press of America. The article on the Gur languages is by Naden, Anthony Johua, pp. 140-168. L’article sur les langues gur est de Naden, Anthony Johua, pp. 140-168.

[3] Heine, Bernd, and Nurse, Derek, ed., 2004, Les langues africaines, African languages. An introduction, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2000, Paris : Karthala. The article on Niger-Conger languages is by Williamson, Kay, and Blench, Roger, pp. 21-54.

[4] Especially see Manessy, Gabriel, 1975, Les langues Oti-Volta : Classification généalogique d’un groupe de langues voltaïques, Paris : SELAF, 314 p. The Oti-Volta languages: Genealogical classification of a group of Voltaic languages.

[5] Nicole, Jacques, 1987, Le nawdm et ses parlers locaux. Étude phonologique synchronique et comparative d’une langue voltaïque du Togo, (Thèse de Doctorat d’État), Nice : Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines, 626 p. Nawdm and its local dialects. Synchronic and comparative phonological study of Voltaic language of Togo.