Ibibio language

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Usem Ibibio
Native toSouthern Nigeria
Native speakers
Native: 10 million (2022)[1]
L2: 5 million (2022)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3ibb
An Ibibio speaker, recorded in the United Kingdom.

Ibibio is the native language of the Ibibio people of Nigeria, belonging to the Ibibio-Efik dialect cluster of the Cross River languages. The name Ibibio is sometimes used for the entire dialect cluster. In pre-colonial times, it was written with Nsibidi ideograms, similar to Igbo, Efik, Anaang, and Ejagham. Ibibio has also had influences on Afro-American diasporic languages such as AAVE words like buckra, and buckaroo, which come from the Ibibio word mbakara, and in the Afro-Cuban tradition of abakua.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Ibibio is the language of the Ibibio people. The Ibibio people are found in Southeastern Nigeria in Akwa Ibom State, Cross River State, and Eastern Abia State (Arochukwu and Ukwa East LGA's). Ibibio communities in Opobo Nkoro and Oyigbo LGA's of Rivers State are largely unknown.

Some Ibibio are found in other countries (Western Cameroon, Bioko and Ghana).



Ibibio consonant phonemes[2]
Labial Coronal Palatal Velar Labial-velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless b t k k͡p
voiced d
Fricative voiceless f s
Approximant j w

Intervocalic plosives are lenited:[2]

  • /b/[β]
  • /t, d/[ɾ]
  • /k/[ɢ̆] or [ɰ]


Ranges for Ibibio monophthongs, from Urua (2004:106)
Ibibio vowel phonemes[2]
Front Back
unrounded unrounded rounded
Close i u
Mid e ʌ o
Open a ɔ
  • /i, u/ are phonetically near-close [ɪ, ʊ].[2]
  • /e, ʌ, o/ are phonetically true-mid; /ʌ/ is also strongly centralized: [, ʌ̝̈, ].[2]
  • /a, ɔ/ are phonetically near-open; /a/ is central rather than front: [ɐ, ɔ̞].[2]

Between consonants, /i, u, o/ have allophones that are transcribed [ɪ, ʉ, ə], respectively.[2] At least in case of [ɪ, ə], the realization is probably somewhat different (e.g. close-mid [e, ɘ]), because the default IPA values of the symbols [ɪ, ə] are very similar to the normal realizations of the Ibibio vowels /i, ʌ/. Similarly, [ʉ] may actually be near-close [ʉ̞], rather than close [ʉ].

In some dialects (e.g. Ibiono), /ɪ, ʉ, ə/ occur as phonemes distinct from /i, u, o/.[2]


Ibibio has five tones: high, mid, rising, falling and low. A word can mean two or more different things based on the tone ascribed to it.


Ibibio alphabet[4]
a b d e ǝ f gh h i k kp m n ñ ñw ny o ʌ p s t u w y


  1. ^ a b Ibibio at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Urua (2004), p. 106.
  3. ^ Urua (2004), pp. 105–106.
  4. ^ Essien, Okon E. (1990). "0.3.6". A Grammar of the Ibibio Language. Ibadan: University Press Ltd. ISBN 978-2491-53-5. OCLC 24681999.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)


Further reading[edit]

  • Bachmann, Arne (2006): "Ein quantitatives Tonmodell für Ibibio. Entwicklung eines Prädiktionsmoduls für das BOSS-Sprachsynthesesystem." Magisterarbeit, University of Bonn.
  • Kaufman, Elaine Marlowe (1972) Ibibio dictionary. Leiden: African Studies Centre / Cross River State University / Ibibio Language Board. ISBN 90-70110-46-6

External links[edit]