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The purpose of this paper is to present a tentative classification of the Ede language varieties (Defoid language group), spoken in the southeastern part of West Africa. Further, given the chaining pattern of the Ede cluster, this paper discusses whether the individual Ede speech varieties should be regarded and classified as dialects of one larger language or as closely related but distinct languages. To date no satisfying solution is available.
Further, this paper serves as an introduction to the 8-volume series “A sociolinguistic survey of the Ede language communities of Benin and Togo, represented in a series of reports published in SIL Electronic Survey Reports. Volume 1 of this series, Ede language family: Background and assessment methodology (Kluge 2009), presents pertinent material on the larger Ede language area and discusses the research questions and methodology applied for the sociolinguistic study of the Ede language continuum, material that would otherwise be repetitive in each of the other volumes. Volumes 2–8 report on the individual sociolinguistic surveys conducted among the Cabe speech communities (Kluge 2009), Ica, (Kluge 2009), Idaca (Kluge 2009), Ije (Jeff Schmidt 2009), Kura (Durieux, Durieux-Boon and Kluge 2009), Northern Nago (Durieux, Durieux-Boon and Kluge 2009), and Southern Nago (Michael McHenry 2009).