The following article will be constantly updated.
Igboid languages (or and dialects) are beautiful and rich and although most people associate Igbo with the central Igbo dialect, there are many more wonderful varieties.
According to the Oxford Reference, Igboid Languages are referred to as ‘Lower Niger languages, a group spoken in southeastern Nigeria; forming a branch of Benue-Congo Languages’
These are classified as the following:
Each of these Igboid groups shares similar linguistic origins and culture. And within some of these Igbo child languages, there are dialects that vary from region to region.
What can be confusing is that the “Igbo language” is also classified as an ‘Igbo child language’ within the Igbo subgroup.
These include the following:
- Nsa (ibo-nsa)
- Umuahia (ibo-umu)
- Aniocha (ibo-ani)
- Oka; Awka (ibo-oka)
- Afikpo (ibo-afi)
- Mbaise (ibo-mba)
- Egbema (ibo-egb)
- Ohuhu (ibo-ohu)
- Orlu (ibo-orl)
- Ngwa (ibo-ngw)
- Owerri; Isuama (ibo-owe)
- Nsuka (ibo-nsu)
- Bonny-Opobo; Bonny (ibo-bon)
- Oguta (ibo-ogu)
- Onitsha (ibo-oni)
- Eche (ibo-ech)
- Unwana; Ungwana Lordji (ibo-unw)
We were asked if we could help provide resources for those who wish to learn their regional dialects. We have started a list below and encourage anyone willing to share resources/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
Ibeku Abia & Imo
Ika (Agbor) Delta
Audio from: globalrecordings.net
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.
Often whether something is classified as a language or a dialect is political. For example, Scandinavian languages are highly mutual intelligible but Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are all referred to as separate languages. Whereas Chinese is a language which refers to both varieties, Cantonese and Mandarin, which are not mutually intelligible.
These terms are often debated when referring to Igboid languages/dialects making them dificult to determine. As listed above, Igboid(Igbo) is the term many sources use as an umbrella word to classify many subgroups of languages/dialects with a similar tone, phonology, vocabulary, structure and general linguistic pattern.
Igboid peoples share similar cultures, linguistics and traditional religious practices, this suggests common ethnic heritage. Amongst the Igbo languages and dialects spoken in the south-east of Nigeria, there are varying degrees of mutual intelligibility and some words can be shared by regions that do not necessarily neighbour each other.
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).
Ukwuani (Delta) Are located in the southern part of Nigeria in the western part of the Niger Delta.
Ika, Agbor (Delta) Spoken by Ika people of Delta and Edo states of southern Nigeria. The Ika language has both elements of Edo and Igbo (with more Igbo influence).
Enuani (Delta) Enuani is an Igbo dialect spoken in Nigeria by the Igbo people of Delta State, Onitsha, Obosi and Ogbaru in Anambra State and Ndoni in Rivers State.
Izii (Ebonyi) Izi speakers are found east of Abakaliki, the capital of the Ebonyi State and extend as far as the Anambra and Imo State boundaries.
Ezaa (Ebonyi) Ezaa speakers are mainly in Ebonyi Central and in great numbers in Ebonyi North and South.
Ekpeye (Rivers) Ekpeye is an Igboid language of Rivers State and Imo State. It’s most likely the least mutually intelligible for central Igbo speakers.
Ikwerre (Rivers) 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 e.g, “rumu” (child) which would be “umu” in many other Igbo dialects.
Ogba (Rivers) An ethnic group in the northern part of Rivers state. It is generally known as an Igboid group.
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)
Ezaa – Igboid Language (Ebonyi)
Ika – Igboid Language (Rivers)
Ikwerre – Igboid Language (Rivers)
Izii – Igboid Language (Rivers)
Daalu @chiizii & Kelechi
If you are able to help us source audio/written content in your dialect, please contact us: