There’s no doubt that Nigeria has numerous ethnic groups counting more than 250 in numbers, and these tribes speaks more than 300 dialects and languages. With these being voluminous, there is need to know these languages of these Nigerian tribes.
In this article, we will list out Nigerian tribes and their languages respectively. The overview and states where these dialects are spoken will also suffice in this writeup.
Languages in Nigeria
No one can practically claim to know the first language in Nigeria since the country came into existence. Language is basically the medium of communication which can be either spoken or written. This means of comunication brings about understanding as different ethnic group, culture and background can only communicate when they understand what the other is speaking.
Nigeria has a diverse numbers of over 300 ethnic groups which speaks different languages. Precisely, Nigeria’s language statistics numbers over 520 and it make the country to be ranked as the 3rd in list of countries with most spoken language. English language is the official language of Nigeria, and the foreign language came in to ease communication among the numerous numbers of ethnic dialects in the country.
The origin of Nigerian languages could be traced to African roots. These languages are from three major African lingual families; Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Niger-Congo.
The Major Nigerian Languages
Though there are hundreds of languages in the country, but there are some prominent ones that are considered as major because of the number of it speakers. The major languages spoken in Nigeria are Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Urhobo, Ibibio, Pidgin English, Fulfulde and Kanuri. Here is a snippet of them;
- Hausa: It’s crystal clear that Hausa is the most spoken language in Nigeria aside from the foreign English language. The language is prominent in Northern Nigeria, as they have about 35 million speakers in states like Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Bauchi, Zamfara, Jigawa as well as Gombe states.
- Igbo: The Igbo language which originates from the Niger- congo family is a popular language in Nigeria. The language spreads across the south-easthern region of the country, and it’s spoken by over 24 million people from the Igbo states. The region and states where Igbo is predominantly spoken are Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states. Notwithstanding parts of Akwa Ibom, Delta and Rivers State also speak the Igbo language.
- Yoruba: Yoruba is another popular language in the country. They have a good population of approximately 25.2 million people speak the language and the accompanied dialects. States that speak this language in Nigeria include: Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Kwara, Lagos and some parts of Kogi states. The people of Benin Republic, and Togo also speak Yoruba. We will further list the dialects in Yoruba language subsequently in our write-up.
- Ibibio-Efik: The Ibibio-Efik language is a relation of Efik and Ibibio dialects together with others. This language is tipped as the follower of the majoe three Nigerian languages – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. It is of note that Ibibio-Efik language incorporates about 9 million people in Akwa Ibom and Cross River state. The different dialects in the language include; Anaang, Ekit, Oron, Ibeno, Central Ibibio, Itak and Nsit.
- Pidgin English: Pidgin English is also in the list of Nigerian languages by definition. The language is a variant of the English language. It blends in the official English language and the native languages of Nigerian tribes. Pidgin language is a wide language in the country as it is used on the streets, marketplace and rural areas for informal communications.
Nigerian Tribes and Their Languages
Here we examine the differents ethnic groups in Nigeria, their dialects and languages;
Hausa ethnic group is the major largest tribe in the country. The group encompasses Bauchi, Borno , Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Taraba, and Sokoto states of northern Nigeria.
Hausa dialects include;
- Sakkwatanci in Sokoto
- Katsinanci in Katsina
- Arewanci in Gobir, Adar, Kebbi, and Zamfara
- and Kurhwayanci in Kurfey and Niger
- Katsina is transitional between Eastern and Western dialects.
Yoruba is the second leading major tribe in the country. The Yoruba language is widely spoken in Edo state, Ekiti state, Kogi state, Kwara state, Lagos state, Ogun state, Ondo state, Osun and Oyo states in South-Westhern Nigeria. Although, they have various dialects that are different to each yoruba speaking state.
Alternatively known as Ibo, Igbo is a major sect located majorly in the South-east of the country. These people are specifically found in Abia, Anambra, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.
Igbo tribes use languages and dialects such as;
- Owerre (Isuama)
Fulani is a Senegambian language spoken by Fulanis in the far Northern region of the country. This tribe speaks Fulah and Hausa languages in Nigeria. Their languages is not limited to Nigeria only as it stretches across some 20 countries in West and Central Africa.
The Ibibio tribe is situated in the coastal southern part of the country. These people speak a general language known as Ibibio-Efik.
Dialects in Ibibio include;
The Andoni people is a tribe in southern Nigeria that lives in the coastal part of the country especially in Rivers State.
Ijaw group is closely related to the preceeding ethnic group. The language is spoken in Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
Ijaw languages and dialects includem:
Tiv language is a Southern Bantoid language spoken in some states in Benue, Plateau and Taraba, with some speakers in Cameroon. The language has close dialects that is similar in all.
Idoma is another tribe in Nigeria, and they are found in Cross River, Enugu and Nasarawa States in Nigeria. The Idoma language is among the Akweya subgroup of the Idomoid languages of the Volta–Niger family.
The languages and dialects of Idoma people includes;
- and Yala languages.
We believe you now know the different tribes in Nigeria and the dialects they speak. One thing you should know about these ethnic groups and their respective languages is that no one can fully list out every language in Nigeria and their states because of the massive size of the country. This is the size of this article as we’ve at least given an answer to the languages of the various Nigerian tribes.
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