Puneet Varma (Editor)

Ijaw languages

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Ethnicity:  Ijaw
Subdivisions:  East Central–West
Glottolog:  ijoo1239
Geographic distribution:  Southern Nigeria
ISO 639-2 / 5:  ijo
Linguistic classification:  Niger–Congo? Ijoid? Ijaw

The Ijaw /ˈɔː/ languages, also spelled Ịjọ, are the languages spoken by the Ijaw people in southern Nigeria.



The Ijaw languages are traditionally considered a distinct branch of the Niger–Congo family (perhaps along with Defaka in a group called Ijoid). They are notable for their subject–object–verb basic word order, which is otherwise an unusual feature in Niger–Congo, shared only by such distant potential branches as Mande and Dogon. Like Mande and Dogon, Ijoid lacks even traces of the noun class system considered characteristic of Niger–Congo. This motivated Joseph Greenberg, in his initial classification of Niger–Congo, to describe them as having split early from that family. However, owing to the lack of these features, Linguist Gerrit Dimmendaal doubts their inclusion in Niger–Congo altogether and considers the Ijoid languages to be an independent family.

The following internal classification is based on Jenewari (1989) and Williamson & Blench (2000).

  • East
  • Nkoroo
  • Kalabari (Bonny/Ibani, Okrika/Kirike)
  • Southeast Ijo
  • Nembe
  • Akassa
  • West (or Central)
  • Izon
  • Inland Ijaw
  • Biseni
  • Akita (Okordia)
  • Oruma
  • In the diaspora

    Berbice Creole Dutch, a creole spoken in Guyana, had a lexicon based partly on an Ịjọ language, perhaps the ancestor of Kalabari (Kouwenberg 1994).

    Usage and teaching

    In June 2013, the Izon Fie instructional book and audio CDs were launched at a ceremony attended by officials of the Government of Bayelsa State. The Niger Delta University is working to expand the range of books available in the Ijaw language. Translations of poetry and the Call of the River Nun by Gabriel Okara are underway.


    Ijaw languages Wikipedia

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