Ijaw languages

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Ethnicity: Ijaw
Southern Nigeria
Linguistic classification: Niger–Congo
  • East
  • Central–West
ISO 639-2 / 5: ijo
Glottolog: ijoo1239[1]

The Ijaw /ˈɔː/[2] languages, also spelled Ịjọ,[3] are the languages spoken by the Ijaw people in southern Nigeria. They form a divergent branch of the Niger–Congo family (perhaps along with Defaka in a group called Ijoid), and are noted 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, and so may have split early from that family.

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

Usage and teaching[edit]

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.[4]


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


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ijo". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. ^ generally pronounced /ˈ/ in English
  4. ^ Garba, Kabir Alabi (2013-06-08). "Izon Fie… Popularising An Indigenous Tongue". The Guardian Nigeria. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 


  • Freemann, R. A., and Kay Williamson. 1967. Ịjọ proverbs. Research Notes (Ibadan) 1:1-11.
  • Kouwenberg, Silvia 1994. A grammar of Berbice Dutch Creole. (Mouton Grammar Library 12). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Lee, J. D., and Kay Williamson. 1990. A lexicostatistic classification of Ịjọ dialects. Research in African Languages and Linguistics 1:1.1-10.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1963. The syntax of verbs of motion in Ịjọ. J. African Languages 2.150-154.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1966. Ịjọ dialects in the Polyglotta Africana. Sierra Leone Language Review 5. 122-133.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1969. 'Igbo' and 'Ịjọ', chapters 7 and 8 in: Twelve Nigerian Languages, ed. by E. Dunstan. Longmans.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1971. Animal names in Ịjọ. Afr. Notes 6, no. 2, 53-61.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1973. Some reduced vowel harmony systems. Research Notes 6:1-3. 145-169.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1977. Multivalued features for consonants. Language 53.843-871.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1978. From tone to pitch-accent: the case of Ịjọ. Kiabàrà 1:2.116-125.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1979. Consonant distribution in Ịjọ. In: Linguistic and literary studies presented to Archibald Hill, ed. E.C. Polome and W. Winter, 3.341-353. Lisse, Netherlands: Peter de Ridder Press.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1979. Medial consonants in Proto-Ịjọ. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 1.73-94.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1987. Nasality in Ịjọ. In: Current trends in African linguistics, 4, ed. by David Odden, 397-415.
  • Williamson, Kay. 1989. Tone and accent in Ịjọ. In Pitch accent systems, ed. by Harry v.d. Hulst and Norval Smith, 253-278. Foris Publications.
  • Williamson, Kay. 2004. The language situation in the Niger Delta. Chapter 2 in: The development of Ịzọn language, edited by Martha L. Akpana, 9-13.
  • Williamson, Kay, and A. O. Timitimi. 1970. A note on number symbolism in Ịjọ. African Notes (Ibadan) 5:3. 9-16.
  • Williamson, Kay & Timitime, A.O. (197?) 'A note on Ijo number symbolism', African Notes, 5, 3, 9-16.
  • Filatei, Akpodigha. 2006. The Ijaw Language Project. (Editor of www.ijawdictionary.com). www.ijawdictionary.com
On specific languages
  • Williamson, Kay. 1962. (Republished by Bobbs-Merrill Reprints 1971.). Changes in the marriage system of the Okrika Ịjọ. Africa 32.53-60.
  • Orupabo, G. J., and Kay Williamson. 1980. Okrika. In West African language data sheets, Volume II, edited by M.E. Kropp Dakubu. Leiden: West African Linguistic Society and African Studies Centre.

External links[edit]