Last Update: 11/04/23 (The following article will be routinely updated).
Igboid languages (and dialects) are beautiful and rich. Although most people associate Igbo with the central Igbo dialect, there are many other wonderful varieties.
As per the Oxford Reference, Igboid languages are referred to as ‘Lower Niger languages,’ a group spoken in southeastern Nigeria, forming a branch of the Benue-Congo Languages.
They are classified as follows:
Parent Subgroup: Igboid; Igbo (igbd)
- – Ekpeye (1)
- – Igbo (9) Child Languages or Nuclear Igbo
- Ezaa, Ikwo, Izii and Mgbo (cluster)
- Ezaa Ezaa; Eza (eza)
- Ikwo Ikwo (iqw)
- Izii Izii; Izi; Izzi (izz)
- Mgbolizhia Mgbolizhia; Mgbo, Ngbo (gmz)
- Igbo Igbo; Ibo (ibo)
- Ika Ika (ikk)
- Ikwere Ikwere; Ikwerre; Ikwerri (ikw)
- Ogbah Ogbah; Ogba (ogc)
- Ukwuani-Aboh-Ndoni Ukwuani-Aboh-Ndoni; Ukwuani (ukw)
- Ezaa, Ikwo, Izii and Mgbo (cluster)
Each of these Igbo groups shares similar linguistic origins and culture. Furthermore, there are dialectical variations within some Igbo child languages across regions.
It can be confusing that the “Igbo language” is classified as an Igbo child language within the Igbo subgroup. The following are included in this subgroup:
- Oka (Nigeria)
We were asked to provide resources for those interested in learning their regional dialects. We have started a list below and encourage anyone who is willing to share resources or vocal recordings in their regional dialects to contact us.
Igboid Languages + Dialects Comparison Table
For further information on the comparison between Igboid ‘child languages’ see document provided by Cambridge linguist Roger Blench: Comparative Igboid complete
Izugbe Central Igbo
Chioma Onukwue – Ngwa Dialect – Abia
Ibeku Abia & Imo
Nkyvic Maku – Ohafia Dialect – Abia
Ebuka Okoli – Ndiowu Dialect – Anambra
Ika (Agbor) Delta
Ujagu Chinonso – Ebonyi (region unknown)
Nsukka (Waawa) Enugu
Jane Ada – Waawa Enugu
Nsukka Enugu version 1 – Abuchi Collins
Nsukka Enugu version 2 – Ejike Ugwu
Bible Excerpt Audio from: globalrecordings.net
Special thanks, daalu nnukwu to all those who donated an audio sample!
A Language or Dialect (Descriptions)
Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich Stated ‘A language is a dialect with an army and navy’ and it’s often accepted that the lines that separate language and dialect are undefined and blurry.
A key aspect of whether something is classified as a language or a dialect is its mutual inteligabiliy. This means that two or more languages or dialects are similar enough that people who speak one of them can understand and communicate with people who speak another one without much difficulty.
Often whether something is classified as a language or a dialect is political.
For instance, Scandinavian languages are highly mutually intelligible, yet Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are considered separate languages. On the other hand, Chinese refers to both Cantonese and Mandarin, which are not mutually intelligible.
This debate also arises when referring to Igboid languages and dialects, making them challenging to classify accurately. The term “Igboid” (or Igbo) is often used as an umbrella term to classify many subgroups of languages/dialects with similar tones, phonology, vocabulary, structure, and general linguistic patterns.
Despite these distinctions, Igboid people share similar cultures, linguistics, and traditional religious practices, indicating a common ethnic heritage. However, there are varying degrees of mutual intelligibility among the Igbo languages and dialects spoken in the southeastern part of Nigeria, with some words being shared by regions that do not necessarily border each other.
For example, the Igbo child languages spoken in Ebonyi are the least likely to be understood by central Igbo speakers among the five majority Igbo states (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo). Additionally, Igboid language speakers in Delta and Rivers states typically share some aspects of culture with neighbouring ethnic groups, which could account for the variation in dialects (see Ika).
Within the 5 majority Igbo states (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo) Igbo child languages spoken in Ebonyi are the least likely to be understood by central Igbo speakers. Igboid languages speakers of Delta and Rivers state typically share some aspects of culture with neighbouring ethnic groups that inhabit the state with them. This could be a reason for the variation in dialects. (See Ika).
Some well known Igboid languages and dialects include:
Ukwuani is an Igboid language/dialect spoken in the southern part of Nigeria in the western part of the Niger Delta. It is spoken by the Ukwuani people who are primarily found in Delta State, Nigeria. They are also found in other states such as Rivers and Edo. The Ukwuani people are known for their rich cultural heritage, including traditional dances and festivals.
Ika is another Igbo dialect spoken in Nigeria by the Ika people of Delta and Edo states of southern Nigeria. The Ika language has both elements of Edo and Igbo, with more Igbo influence. This is due to the historical interactions and migrations of these ethnic groups in the region. The variations of Ika can be quite divers and some regions may have more Edo influence.
Enuani is an Igbo dialect spoken in Nigeria by the Igbo people of Delta Statei (e.g. Asaba) as well as in Onitsha, Obosi and Ogbaru in Anambra State, and Ndoni in Rivers State. It is one of the many dialects that make up the core Igbo language group, and it is known for its unique linguistic features and cultural practices. Read more about the Enuani dialect here.
Izii speakers are found east of Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State, and extend as far as the Anambra and Imo State boundaries. They are known for their rich cultural heritage, including traditional music, dance, and festivals. Izii shares similarities with other Igbo dialects, but it also has some unique features that set it apart from other subgroups.
Ezaa speakers are mainly in Ebonyi Central and in great numbers in Ebonyi North and South. They are one of the numerous ethnic groups that make up the Igbo language group. Ezaa is an Igboid language spoken in the central, north and south regions of Ebonyi State. The language has many similarities with other Igbo dialects but also has unique features that distinguish it. Ezaa speakers share cultural similarities with other ethnic groups in the region, but it also has some unique linguistic features.
Ekpeye is an Igboid language of Rivers State and Imo State. Although it falls under the same linguistic family as nuclear or child Igbo languages it is fairly distinct and is most likely the least mutually intelligible for core Igbo speakers. The Ekpeye people are known for their rich cultural heritage, a similarity they share with many Igboid groups is the name “Chineke” for the supreme god.
Ikwerre’s classification as a language or dialect is often debated. The language/dialect is spoken by the Ikwerre people of Rivers state. There are notable differences between central Igbo and Ikwerre, but it’s often understood. A noticeable element is the prominent “R” sound, for example, “rumu” (child) which would be “umu” in many other Igbo dialects.
Ogba or Ogbah is an ethnic group in the northern part of Rivers state. It is generally known as an Igboid group and shares some cultural and linguistic similarities with other Igboid languages/dialects, especially in Rivers State.
Igboid language resources:
BBC News Igbo
Central Igbo: Bbc.com/igbo/
Ekpeye language (Rivers & Imo)
Etche/Echie (Rivers, Delta, Edo, Abia +)
Ogba – Igboid Language (Rivers)
Onitsha – Igbo dialect (Anambra)
WORD FILE: (ENGLISH – ONITSHA IGBO – FRENCH)
- Onitsha Igbo – English Dictionary
- PDF Version (Columbia University)
Ezaa – Igboid Language (Ebonyi)
Ika – Igboid Language (Rivers)
Ikwerre – Igboid Language (Rivers)
Izii – Igboid Language (Rivers)
OLAC resources in and about the Igbo language
Daalu @chiizii & Kelechi
If you are able to help us source audio/written content in your dialect, please contact us:
4 responses to “Igbo Dialects and Igboid Languages”
Love this page, keep it up guys.
Daalu David 💛🖤
[…] See full article here: https://okwuid.com/2020/04/22/igbo-dialects/ […]
This is a wonderfully well-thought-out page, and I very much appreciate the writer’s inclusivity and attention to detail. The linguistics of Igbo/Igboid is itself a fascinating topic, and I’m glad that you’re forwarding it to a broader audience. I definitely trust that OkwuID’s and its work will continue to be well-received. All the best, and jisie ike!