|Languages of Nigeria|
|Regional||Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulfulde, Ijaw, Edo, Ibibio, Kanuri, Tiv, Nupe and others|
|Signed||Nigerian Sign Language|
Hausa Sign Language
Bura Sign Language
|Part of a series on the|
|Culture of Nigeria|
There are over 525 native languages spoken in Nigeria. The official language of Nigeria is English, the language of former colonial British Nigeria. As reported in 2003, Nigerian English and Nigerian Pidgin were spoken as a second language by 100 million people in Nigeria. Communication in the English language is much more popular in the country's urban communities than it is in the rural areas, due to globalization.
The major native languages, in terms of population, are Hausa (over 63 million when including second-language, or L2, speakers), Yoruba (over 42 million including L2 speakers), Igbo (over 40 million, including L2 speakers) Fulfulde (15 million), Efik-Ibibio cluster (10 million), Kanuri (8 million), Tiv (4 million), and approx. 2 to 3 million each of Edo, Igala, Nupe, and Izon. Nigeria's linguistic diversity is a microcosm of much of Africa as a whole, and the country contains languages from the three major African language families: Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan and Niger–Congo. Nigeria also has several as-yet unclassified languages, such as Centúúm, which may represent a relic of an even greater diversity prior to the spread of the current language families.
The Afroasiatic languages of Nigeria is divided into Chadic, Semitic and Berber. Of these Chadic languages predominate, with more than 700 languages. Semitic is represented by various dialects of Arabic spoken in the Northeast and Berber by the Tuareg-speaking communities in the extreme Northwest.
The Hausa language is the best known Chadic language in Nigeria; though there is a paucity of statistics on native speakers in Nigeria, the language is spoken by 24 million people in West Africa and is the second language of 15 million more. Hausa has therefore emerged as lingua franca throughout much of West Africa, and the Sahel in particular. The language is spoken primarily amongst Northern Nigerians and is often associated with Islamic culture in Nigeria and West Africa on the whole.
Hausa is classified as a West Chadic language of the Chadic grouping, a major subfamily of Afroasiatic. Culturally the Hausa people became closely integrated with the Fulani following the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate by the Fulani Uthman dan Fodio in the 19th century. Hausa is the official language of several states in Northern Nigeria and the most important dialect is generally regarded as that spoken in Kano, an Eastern Hausa dialect, which is the standard variety used for official purposes.
Eastern dialects also include some dialects spoken in Zaria and Bauchi; Western Hausa dialects include Sakkwatanchi spoken in Sokoto, Katsinanchi in Katsina Arewanchi in both Gobir and Adar, Kebbi and Zamfara. Katsina is transitional between Eastern and Western dialects. Northern Hausa dialects include Arewa and Arawa, whilst Zaria is a prominent Southern version; Barikanchi is a pidgin formerly used in the military.
Hausa is a very atypical Chadic language, with a reduced tonal system and a phonology influenced by Arabic. Other well-known Chadic languages include Mupun, Ngas, Goemai, Mwaghavul, Bole, Ngizim, Bade and Bachama. In the East of Nigeria and on into Cameroon are the Central Chadic languages such as Bura, Kamwe and Margi. These are highly diverse and remain very poorly described. Many Chadic languages are severely threatened; recent searches by Bernard Caron for Southern Bauchi languages show that even some of those recorded in the 1970s have disappeared. However unknown Chadic languages are still being reported, such as the recent description of Dyarim.
Hausa, as well as other Afroasiatic languages such as Kanuri, Margi and Bade (another West Chadic language spoken in northeastern Nigeria), have historically been written in a modified Arabic script known as ajami. However the modern official orthography is now a romanization known as boko introduced by the British regime in the 1930s.
Below is a list of major Chadic branches and their primary locations based on Blench (2019). Like the Adamawa and Bantu languages, Chadic branches are also referred to by lettered codes.
|Bole–Tangale||A2||Darazo LGA, Bauchi State; Yobe, Taraba, Gombe, Borno states|
|Angas||A3||Shendam and Mangu LGAs, Plateau State|
|Ron||A4||Mangu LGA, Plateau State|
|Bade||B1||Bade LGA, Borno State|
|Warji (North Bauchi)||B2||Darazo and Ningi LGAs, Bauchi State|
|Barawa (South Bauchi)||B3||Bauchi State (Toro, Dass, Tafawa Balewa, Bauchi LGAs)|
|Tera||A1||Gombi LGA, Adamawa State and Biu LGA, Borno State|
|Bata||A8||Mubi LGA, Adamawa State|
|Kamwe (Higi)||A3||Michika LGA, Mubi North LGA, Hong LGA, Madagali LGA Adamawa State; Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State|
|Mandara||A4||Gwoza LGA, Borno State and Michika LGA, Adamawa State|
Other than Chadic languages, Arabic varieties, particularly Shuwa Arabic, are also spoken throughout northern Nigeria.
Niger–Congo predominates in the Central, East and Southern areas of Nigeria; the main branches represented in Nigeria are Mande, Atlantic, Gur, Kwa, Benue–Congo and Adamawa–Ubangi. Mande is represented by the Busa cluster and Kyenga in the northwest. Fulfulde is the single Atlantic language, of Senegambian origin but now spoken by cattle pastoralists across the Sahel and largely in the northeastern states of Nigeria, especially Adamawa.
The Ijoid languages are spoken across the Niger Delta and include Ịjọ (Ijaw), Kalabari, and the intriguing remnant language Defaka. The Efik language is spoken across the coastal southeastern part of Nigeria and includes the dialects Ibibio, Annang, and Efik proper. The single Gur language spoken is Baatọnun, in the extreme Northwest.
The Adamawa–Ubangian languages are spoken between central Nigeria and the Central African Republic. Their westernmost representatives in Nigeria are the Tula-Waja languages. The Kwa languages are represented by the Gun group in the extreme southwest, which is affiliated to the Gbe languages in Benin and Togo.
The classification of the remaining languages is controversial; Joseph Greenberg classified those without noun-classes, such as Yoruba, Igbo, and Ibibio (Efik, Ibibio, and Annang), as 'Eastern Kwa' and those with classes as 'Benue–Congo'. This was reversed in an influential 1989 publication and reflected on the 1992 map of languages, where all these were considered Benue–Congo. Recent opinion, however, has been to revert to Greenberg's distinction. The literature must thus be read with care and due regard for the date. There are several small language groupings in the Niger Confluence area, notably Ukaan, Akpes, Ayere-Ahan and Ọkọ, whose inclusion in these groupings has never been satisfactorily argued.
Former Eastern Kwa, i.e. West Benue–Congo would then include Igboid, i.e. Igbo language proper, Ukwuani, Ikwerre, Ekpeye etc., Yoruboid, i.e. Yoruba, Itsekiri and Igala, Akokoid (eight small languages in Ondo, Edo and Kogi state), Edoid including Edo (sometimes referred to as) Bini in Edo State, Ibibio-Efik, Idomoid (Idoma) and Nupoid (Nupe) and perhaps include the other languages mentioned above. The Idoma language is classified in the Akweya subgroup of the Idomoid languages of the Volta–Niger family, which include Alago, Agatu, Etulo and Yala languages of Benue, Nasarawa and Northern Cross River states.
East Benue–Congo includes Kainji, Plateau (46 languages, notably Gamai language), Jukunoid, Dakoid and Cross River. Apart from these, there are numerous Bantoid languages, which are the languages immediately ancestral to Bantu. These include Mambiloid, Ekoid, Bendi, Beboid, Grassfields and Tivoid languages.
The geographic distribution of Nigeria's Niger-Congo languages is not limited to the middle east and south-central Nigeria, as migration allows their spread to the linguistically Afro-Asiatic northern regions of Nigeria, as well as throughout West Africa and abroad. Igbo words such as 'unu' for 'you people', 'sooso' for 'only', 'obia' for 'native doctoring', etc. are used in patois of Jamaica and many Central American nations, Yoruba is spoken as a ritual language in cults such as the Santeria in the Caribbean and South-Central America, and the Berbice Dutch language in Surinam is based on an Ijoid language.
Even the above listed linguistic diversity of the Niger–Congo in Nigeria is deceptively limiting, as these languages may further consist of regional dialects that may not be mutually intelligible. As such some languages, particularly those with a large number of speakers, have been standardized and received a romanized orthography. Nearly all languages appear in a Latin alphabet when written.
The Efik, Igbo, and Yoruba languages are notable examples of this process. The more historically recent standardization and romanization of Igbo have provoked even more controversy due to its dialectical diversity, but the Central Igbo dialect has gained the widest acceptance as the standard-bearer. Many such as Chinua Achebe have dismissed standardization as colonial and conservative attempts to simplify a complex mosaic of languages.
Such controversies typify inter- and intra-ethnic conflict endemic to post-colonial Nigeria. Also worthy of note is the Enuani dialect, a variation of the Igbo that is spoken among parts of Anioma. The Anioma are the Aniocha, Ndokwa/Ukwuani, Ika and Oshimilli of Delta state. Standard Yoruba came into being due to the work Samuel Crowther, the first African bishop of the Anglican Church and owes most of its lexicon to the dialects spoken in Ọyọ and Ibadan.
Since Standard Yoruba's constitution was determined by a single author rather than by a consensual linguistic policy by all speakers, the Standard has been attacked regarding for failing to include other dialects and spurred debate as to what demarcates "genuine Yoruba". Linguistically speaking, all demonstrate the varying phonological features of the Niger–Congo family to which they belong, these include the use of tone, nasality, and particular consonant and vowel systems; more information is available here.
Below is a list of major Niger–Congo branches and their primary locations based on Blench (2019).
|Akpes||Akoko North LGA, Ondo State|
|Ayere–Ahan||Akoko North LGA, Ondo State|
|Gbe||Badagry LGA, Lagos State and adjacent areas|
|Edoid||Rivers, Edo, Ondo, Delta States|
|Akoko||Akoko North LGA, Ondo State|
|Igboid||Anambra, Rivers, Delta States (excluding Igbo proper)|
|Nupoid||Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa States, Kogi, FCT|
|Oko||Ogori-Magongo LGA, Kogi State|
|Idomoid||Benue, Cross River, Nasarawa States|
|Ukaan||Akoko North LGA, Ondo State|
|Cross River||Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers States|
|Bendi||Obudu and Ogoja LGAs, Cross River State|
|Mambiloid||Sardauna LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon|
|Dakoid||Mayo Belwa LGA, Taraba State and adjacent areas|
|Yukubenic||Takum LGA, Taraba State|
|Kainji||Kauru LGA, Kaduna State and Bassa LGA, Plateau State; Kainji Lake area|
|Plateau||Plateau, Kaduna, and Nasarawa States|
|Tivoid||Obudu LGA, Cross River State and Sardauna LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon|
|Beboid||Takum LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon|
|Ekoid||Ikom and Ogoja LGAs, Cross River State; Cameroon|
|Grassfields||Sardauna LGA, Taraba State; Cameroon|
|Jarawan||Bauchi, Plateau, Adamawa, and Taraba States|
|Duru (Vere)||Fufore LGA, Adamawa State|
|Leko||Adamawa and Taraba States; Cameroon|
|Yendang||Mayo Belwa and Numan LGAs, Adamawa State|
|Waja||Kaltungo and Balanga LGAs, Gombe State|
|Kam||Bali LGA, Taraba State|
|Baa||Numan LGA, Adamawa State|
|Laka||Karim Lamido LGA, Taraba State and Yola LGA, Adamawa State|
|Jen||Karim Lamido LGA, Taraba State|
|Bikwin||Karim Lamido LGA, Taraba State|
|Yungur||Song and Guyuk LGAs, Adamawa State|
In addition, Ijaw languages are spoken in Rivers State, Bayelsa State, and other states of the Niger Delta region. Mande languages are spoken in Kebbi State, Niger State, and Kwara State.
In Nigeria, the Nilo-Saharan language family is represented by:
This is a non-exhaustive list of languages in Nigeria.
|Language||Alternate names||Number of speakers||States spoken in||Current status|
|Abanyom||Abanyum, Befun, Bofon, Mbofon||13,000||Cross River||Active|
|Abon||Abong, Abõ, Ba'ban||1,000||Taraba|
|Afade||Affade, Afadeh, Afada, Kotoko, Moga||Borno, Yobe|
|Angas||368000||Bauchi, Jigawa, Plateau|
|Arabic||Chadian Arabic also known as Shuwa Arabic||100,000||Borno by Baggara Arabs|
|Auyoka||Auyokawa, Auyakawa, Awiaka||Jigawa|
|Babur||Adamawa, Bomo, Taraba, Yobe|
|Basa||Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Plateau|
|Bura||Bura-Pabir||Borno, Adamawa, Yobe|
|Cipu||Western Acipa||20,000||Kebbi, Niger|
|Ebirra||Igbirra||1,000,000||Edo, Kogi, Ondo|
|Fula||Fulani, Fulbe, Fulfulde||15,000,000||Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe|
|French||8,100||Bordering states of Nigeria|
|Gamergu||Mulgwa, Malgo, Malgwa||Borno|
|Gbo||Agbo, Legbo||Cross River|
|Gwandara||Kaduna, Niger, Plateau|
|Gwari||Gbari||Kaduna, Niger, FCT, Nasarawa,Kogi|
|Hausa||34,000,000||Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kastina, Kebbi, Niger, Taraba, Sokoto, Zamfara|
|Hyam||Ham, Jaba, Jabba||Kaduna|
|Igbo||40,000,000||Abia, Anambra, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Rivers|
|Izere||Izarek, Fizere, Fezere, Feserek, Afizarek, Afizare, Afusare, Jari, Jarawa, Jarawan Dutse, Hill Jarawa, Jos-Zarazon.||100,000||Plateau|
|Izondjo||Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo, Rivers|
|Jara||Jaar, Jarawa, Jarawa-Dutse|
|Jere||Jare, Jera, Jera, Jerawa||Bauchi, Plateau|
|Jukun||Bauchi, Benue, Taraba, Plateau|
|Kadara||Ajuah, Ajure, Adaa, Adara, Azuwa, Ajuwa, Azuwa, Eda||Kaduna, Niger|
|Kamaku||Karnukawa||Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger|
|Kamwe||Adamawa, Borno and Republic of Cameroon||Active|
|Kanuri||Borno, Kaduna, Adamawa, Kano, Niger, Jigawa, Plateau, Taraba, Yobe|
|Koro||Kwaro||Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa|
|Kurama||Jigawa, Kaduna, Niger, Plateau|
|Mbembe||Cross River, Enugu|
|Ngweshe||Ndhang, Ngoshe-Ndhang||Adamawa, Borno|
|Nsukka||Enugu State and some parts of Kogi state|
|Nupe||Niger, Kwara, Kogi, FCT|
|Obolo||Andoni||Akwa Ibom, Rivers|
|Saya||Sayawa, Za’ar||Bauchi, Plateau, Kaduna, Abuja, Niger, Kogi|
|Tiv||2,000,000||Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa|
|Ukelle||Kele, Kukelle||Cross River|
|Uncinda||Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto|
|Yoruba||30,000,000||Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi|
|Zarma||Dyerma, Dyarma, Dyabarma, Zabarma, Adzerma, Djerma, Zarbarma, Zerma, Zarmawa||Kebbi|