The Languages of the South East Zone of Nigeria: A Geopolitical Profile


The Languages of the South-East Zone of Nigeria: A Geopolitical Profile is a linguistic survey of the area in focus, comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States,with a view to providing a database for the languages of the zone, and assisting interested persons in describing and documenting them. It is aimed at identifying endangered languages so that they can be saved from extinction because of their sociocultural relevance.
This is the second in the series. The first being The Languages of the South-South Zone of Nigeria: A Geo-
political Profits (2003). The author plans a similar analysis for the remaining four zones, namely, South-West, North-East, North-Central and North-West.

It consist of the following contents:
0.1 Background on Nigeria
0.2 The South-East Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria

1. Abia State — Jane Ndubuisi
1.1 Background on Abia State
1.2 The Linguistic Situation in Abia State

2. Anambra State – Idongesit Okon Etim
2.1 Background on Anambra State
2.2 The Linguistic Situation in Anambra State

3. Ebonyi State – Ekpoudia Ikpeumo
3.1 Background on Ebonyi State
3.2 The Linguistic Situation in Ebonyi State

4. Enugu State – Fortune Archibong
4.1 ‘Background on Enugu State
4.2 The Linguistic Situation in Enugu State

5. Imo State — Nkechi Christopher
5.1 Background on Imo State
5.2 The Linguistic Situation in Imo State

6. The Development of Igbo and the Linguistic Situation in the South-East Zone

7. Conclusion
Appendix: Languages of Nigeria — A Geopolitical Profile, Questionnaire Update



This book, The Languages of the South East Zone of Nigeria: A Geopolitical Profile, is the second volume in a series of volumes on the languages of Nigeria. It arose out of the course LIN 422 – The Problems of a Multilingual Nation, which I taught in the second semester of the 2001/2002, and 2003/2004 sessions in the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. This course was supposed to appraise the linguistic situation in Nigeria, with particular reference to : the language groupings,
where they are spoken, languages used in education, lingua franca and other such problems that we face in a multilingual nation like Nigeria. Appraising the linguistic situation in Nigeria is quite a herculean task, what with such a complex network of languages and ethnic groups to consider. Simply put, the linguistic and socio-political problems Nigeria faces are numerous, and these problems are further compounded by a lack of materials to work with.

I was really frustrated by the lack of materials on the languages spoken in Nigeria. Although the linguistic situation in different sections of the country has been documented, there is no concise volume on the linguistic situation
in the whole country. Apart from the Crozier/Blench 1992 and Grimes 2000, it was difficult to find other materials on the different linguistic and ethnic groups in the whole country. These two works provided linguistic maps and some kind of classification, but we had the problem of identifying easily where the languages classified were spoken. Besides, the political map of Nigeria keeps changing with the creation of new states and new Local Government Areas (L.G.As).

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has thirty-six states and a Federal Capital Territory, further broken down into seven hundred and seventy four (774) L.G.As. It was an attempt to explore the languages spoken in such a large number of geopolitical units and the multilingual problems deriving from such a network, that inspired the research that turned out to be such a big project. Since we lacked materials to work with, I decided that the students do something to put to practice some of the theories they had learnt over the years as students of linguistics. Each of the thirty-four students offering the course was assigned a state to work on. Besides the students, some colleagues who showed interest were invited to join the project. This book is therefore a group effort of
both the final year students in the 2001/2002 session who offered LIN 422 and some of my colleagues in the department.

In an attempt to marry the linguistic and geographical maps of Nigeria, we set out to look into the languages spoken in each L.GA. of every state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, using the following giidelines:

  • Background on the state, which included information on the political history of each state
  • Linguistic classification and genetic affiliation of the languages of the state, using Crozier/Blench (1992) and Grimes (2000), or any other classification that made more sense in a particular state.
  • The L.GAs. in each state, their population estimates, the major ethnic groups and the languages and/or dialects spoken in the state
  • The status of the languages and their fixture, including the effect of the creation of states and L.GAs. on these languages (if any)
  • Any other interesting information on the languages of the states
Professor Joe Nwabueze Obinaju
Department of Foreign Languages
University of Uyo
Akwa Ibom State
September, 2004

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