Language is an integral part of any community. There are multi-language countries. So, how many languages in Nigeria? Which of them are spoken there nowadays? Find all the answers in the article.
Nigerian ethnic groups and their languages
Actually, Nigeria happens to be a multi-ethnic and linguistically diversified nation with many tribes and cultures as well as languages. Even a single tiny tribe can have more than one language. When it comes to a general language, all Nigerian people accept that English is the lingua franca. Moreover, it cannot be replaced by any other language no matter its popularity.
As for the ethnic groups, there are three major ones in Nigeria. They are Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.
According to official data, there are more than 520 languages spoken in Nigeria. By the way, nine of them are extinct. The other major languages are Igbo, Urhobo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibibio, Fulfulde, Edo, Pidgin English, Ijaw, Kanuri, and Tiv.
In general, the linguistic diversity of Nigeria is a reflection of Africa as a whole, comprising three major African languages families: Nilo-Saharan, Afroasiatic, and Niger–Congo. By the way, Nigeria also has several unclassified languages, such as Cen Tuum, which may constitute a relic of an even greater variety previous to the expansion of the current language families.
#1. Igbo language
Actually, Igbo is the second most popular language spoken by 24 million people in general. Its speakers are mostly found in Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, and the Imo States. The Igbo language is also spoken in some parts of Delta (Aniocha, Oshimili, and Ndokwa LGAs), Akwa Ibom (Ika LGA), and Rivers States (Bonny, Ikwerre, and Ahoada LGAs).
#2. Yoruba language
The Yoruba language is mostly found in the South-Western part of the country like Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Kwara, and Lagos and parts of Kogi State as well. In addition to these, the Yoruba language is spoken by many foreigners. So, the Yoruba language is so dynamic with several dialects including ijebu, Egba, Ijesha, and Awori.
#3. Nigerian English language
Basically, the English language is the official language of Nigeria. It is the ex-colonial language, which was chosen to contribute to the linguistic and cultural unity of the country. By the way, the communication in English is much more popular in the country's urban communities than in the rural areas.
#4. Hausa language
The Hausa language is most spoken language in Nigeria. Hausa native speakers can be found in the Northern States of the country like Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi, Kebbi, Zamfara, and the Gombe States. As per 20th electronic edition of Ethologue data - 1991 SIL, 18,500,000 in Nigeria speak Hausa as the first language and for 15 million it is the second language. Wikipedia gives a bit different figures, as per it's data for 2016, Hausa is native language for 70 million people, 50 million speak this language as the second. Even some foreigners in the South West of Africa speak this language. What is more, is that the Hausa language is highly respected by foreigners to the extent that it is given significance in international radio station like BBC.
#5. Fulfulde language
As for Fulfulde language, it is the language of Sahel cattle pastoralists. This language is usually spoken in the Northern parts of Nigeria. For more than 11.5 million Nigerian people, this language is native (Ethnologue data as per 2000). The representatives of this language can be found in Bororo, Sokoto, Jos plateau, Maiduguri, Kano, Zaria, and Katsina. Fulfulde language can be found in Fulani diaspora all over the world. Also, it is one of the most spoken languages for immigrants in Nigeria. It also happens to be one of the most popular languages for Nigerian culture and music.
#6. Kanuri language
Kanuri language is also one of the most spoken languages in the country with over 3 million of native speakers, which are mainly located in states like Yobe, Jigawa, and Borno. There are more than 500 000 people who can say that Kanuri is their second language (Gunnemark and Kenrick 1985). It is also spoken in countries like Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. As for the small minorities of this language, they can be traced to Sudan and Libya. This language is usually associated with Kane and Bornu Empires, which were dominated in Lake Chad many years ago. Actually, it is a written language, which uses Ajai Arabic script. It has now become firmly associated with Latin script.
#7. Ijaw language
You can hear Ijaw language from almost 2 million people in Nigeria. The majority of them are located in Delta, Ondo, Ekiti, and Bayelsa States. Nowadays, some dialects exist in Ikibiri, West Egbema, Tarairi, and Arogbo. Actually, Ijaw language can be traditionally traced to the Niger-Congo family of languages and is spoken by more than 100 000 people beyond Nigeria. This language is now become more widespread in states, like Bayelsa. Also, the Niger Delta University works on spreading the popularity of the Ijaw language by trying to provide a range of books on this language.
#8. Pidgin English language
The Pidgin English language is a mix of English and ethnic Nigerian languages. It is the native language for more than five million of Nigerian citizens. It can also be seen as the lingua franca throughout the country. What is more, each of the 250 Nigerian ethnic groups can speak this language and add some of their own additional words. Also, it has connections with Spanish and Portuguese languages. Notwithstanding, it can be seen as a mixtyre of various languages. By the way, the Pidgin language variations can be found in many different parts of the world, where British soldiers had been. Nowadays you can meet such variations as Pidgin Hindu Language, Pidgin Chinese language, Japanese Pidgin Language, etc.
#9. Tiv language
Tiv language is spoken by more than 2.2 million of Nigerian people (as per 1991). Some Tiv language speakers are in Cameroon, but in Benue State, you can find the majority of Nigerian Tiv speakers. You can also hear this language in states like Nasarawa, Cross River, Plateau, and FCT Abuja. Moreover, this language is a part of Niger-Congo family. That is why the Tiv speakers are mostly located in the South Eastern parts of Nigeria.
#10. Ibibio language
The next one is the Ibibio language, which is spoken as the first language by more than 1.5 million Nigerian people (1998, B. Connell). For about 4.5 million it is the second language (2013 SIL). Almost all of them are located in Akwa Ibom State. Not so long ago, Ibibio people even asked for the confession of their nation from the British. Actually, there are over 6 million Ibibio native speakers in the world and almost all of them are located in Nigeria. But you can also meet them in Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, and Cameroon. These people are have culture and individual views similar to Ekid, Anna, Oron, and Ibeno.
#11. Edo language
Edo is thought to be a native language for more than 1 million Nigerian people (1999). Almost all of them are located in Edo State. It happens to be the primary language of the Edo people of Igodomigodo kingdom. This kingdom was recalled Edo by Oba Eweka, as a result of which the Edos refer to themselves as Oviedo ('child of Edo'). Nowadays, a lot of people prefer to speak Pidgin English or just English in Edo State. What is more, some Edos do not speak their mother tongue on the streets and even at homes.
As you can see, there are many spoken languages in Nigeria. Each ethnic group has its own native language. But the most famous are English (because it’s the official language in Nigeria), Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo languages. By the way, English is known to be the lingua franca in many countries throughout the world. Whichever the case, everyone can always find a common language.
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