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Nigerian Languages



Nigerian languages is an integral part of the culture. It is commonplace to find persons in Nigeria who’re unable to speak their indigenous dialect asides the central language, thus not being recognized as true sons of the soil. The concept of the Nigerian languages is a fascinating topic, usually seen as a medium of communication between individuals from varied social class and background, with such spoken languages offering the speakers a vivid definition of their origin.

Nigeria is a multi-lingual State that has over five hundred spoken languages, ranging from Yoruba to Igbo, Hausa, Efik, Fulfude, Ibibio, Edo and a host of others. Howbeit, it is believed that around 7-9 languages that was formerly in use in the country had disappeared.

That brings us to the broad classification of the Nigerian languages into three distinct linguistic groups i.e. Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo. The Afro-Asiatic linguistic group is much larger and is made up of Margi, Bade and Hausa, among others. The Fulanis and Tivs are thought to be recent immigrants, but if we consider modern linguistic research, it is presumed that the majority of Nigerian languages-especially those that are of the Kwa subgroup i.e. they have been spoken in about the same geographic setting in about 4,000 years. The Nilo-Saharan group is comprised primarily of Kanuri, although present is the Bagirmi and Zerma speakers in the country.

Fig. 1.0. A map showing come distinct Nigerian languages across different geographical zones.
Thirdly, we have the very big Niger-Congo group which is split further into nine sub-groups, comprising Ijoid subgroup, which is used in the Niger Delta region, the Kwa branch, which is understood around the extreme southwestern corner of Nigeria; the Atlantic subclass, which predominantly includes Fula; the Ijoid subclass, is understood in the Niger Delta region; the vast Benue-Congo subclass is made up of Jukun, Edo, Igbo, Igala, Idoma, Yoruba, Nupe, Gwari and other languages that are spoken in Cross River basin i.e. Anang, Ibibio, Efik, and Ekoi; and there is the Adamawa –Ubangi languages i.e. Tula, Waka, Waja, and Awak, that are spoken in northern Nigeria.

There are complexities that are associated with communication between various ethnic groups, but English language remains a key bridge when different groups need to do so. The invasion of the Brits in the early nineties, saw the colonial masters leave behind the English language and it became the official language in Nigeria within schools, public events and a lot more places.

More on Languages Spoken in Nigeria
A larger portion on Nigeria speaks English quite fluently, although so many do with varied accents, with Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba remaining the most spoken languages. Other minorities in the country communicate with their kinsmen in their language, while employing English language as a means of communicating and doing business with fellow countrymen in other parts of Nigeria.

Secondary schools and universities in Nigeria do offer a little bit of Portuguese and French. Although they are not frequently spoken, they still constitute a small group of the languages spoken in Nigeria.

There’s also the Pidgin English which is a distorted form of English, spoken on the street and other informal places like market places, which is usually substituted for the much formal English language that is seen as a gentle man’s language.