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These Nigerian Languages Will Soon Be No More

Nigeria is one the most linguistically and ethnically diverse nations in the world. Ethnologue, the premier authority on languages, estimates that there are 517 different languages spoken in Nigeria.

But over the years many of these languages are fast becoming endangered and others have even gone extinct with no speaker(s) alive. Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) reportedly said unless proactive steps were taken, more than 50 minority languages in the country might become extinct in a few years.

Cultural, political or economic marginalization, political repression, war, natural disasters, urbanization and intermarriage have been listed as some of the causes of language endangerment.

According to Roger Blench's Atlas of Nigerian Languages and National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), about 29 minor languages in Nigeria have become extinct while another 29 local languages are in the danger of extinction.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), defines 4 levels of endangerment between "safe" and "extinction" i.e vulnerable, definitely endangered, severely endangered and critically endangered.

Below is a list of endangered languages in Nigeria, using the above criteria:

1. Vulnerable language

Note: Language spoken by most children, but restricted to certain domains e.g home.

Bade language (Yobe and Jigawa States)

Reshe language (Kebbi and Niger States)

Gera language (Bauchi State)

2. Definitely Endangered:

Note: In this case, children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home.

Polci cluster (Bauchi State)

Duguza (Tunzu) language (Plateau and Bauchi States)

3. Critically Endangered languages

Note: Languages that the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently.

Akum language (Taraba State)

Bakpinka language (Cross River State)

Defaka language (Rivers State)

Dulbu language (Bauchi State)

Gyem language (Bauchi State)

Ilue language (Akwa Ibom State)

Jilbe language (Borno State)

Kiong language (Cross River State)

Kudu-Camo language (Bauchi State)

Luri language (Bauchi State)

Mvanip language (Taraba State)

Sambe language (Kaduna State)

Somyev language (Taraba State)

Yangkam language (Plateau State)

4. Severely Endangered language

Note: Languages that are spoken by grandparents and older generations, while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves.

Gurdu-Mbaaru language (Bauchi State)

Fyem language (Plateau State)

Geji cluster (Bauchi State)

Gura language (Borno State)

Gurdu-Mbaaru language (Bauchi State)

Hya language (Adamawa State)

Kona language (Taraba and Adamawa States)

Ndunda Language (Taraba State)

Ngwaba language (Adamawa State)

Please let us try to teach the younger generation our culture and language so that it will not become extinct.

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Atlas of Nigerian Languages Linguistic Association of Nigeria National Council for Arts and Culture Nigeria United Nations Educational


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