Ukwuani: A Language or a Dialect

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Nigeria is a multilingual nation. It is estimated that there are over five hundred different ethnic groups within the Nigerian boarders, and each group has its own system of language. Language is said to be a uniquely powerful communication system that is stimulus and medium independent, abstract, arbitrary and productive. Dialects, on the other hand, “are mutually intelligible forms of a language that differ in systematic ways”. Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2007: 431). Many languages in Nigeria today are endangered as a result of non-identification or wrong classification. Ukwuani is a linguistic variety spoken, mainly, by people of Ukwani Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria. While some scholars like Blench and Dendo (2004: v) classify Ukwuani as a language of Igboid group, others like Nwaozuzu (2008: 12) classify Ukwuani as a dialect of Igbo. Moreover, a debate on the true classification of Ukwuani has been interestingly going-on on Nairaland Forum for about five years now. In view of the above controversies on the true position of Ukwuani, and bearing in mind the linguistic, socio-economic and political implications of getting it right in the placement of a linguistic variety, especially as one of the antidotes to language endangerment, the presenter tries to ascertain the true position of Ukwuani. He uses every linguistic and socio-cultural criterion for language and dialect classification within his disposal to test the supposed true identity of Ukwuani. It is discovered that Ukwuani is a language with its own peculiarities; and not a dialect.

Submitted: June 25, 2016

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Submitted: June 25, 2016

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UKWUANI: A LANGUAGE OR A DIALECT

 

by

 

Ejiofor, Eugene Uchechukwu

Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages

Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil

Kano State, Nigeria

 

Email:

nkegenee@yahoo.com

 

Abstract

Nigeria is a multilingual nation. It is estimated that there are over five hundred different ethnic groups within the Nigerian boarders, and each group has its own system of language. Language is said to be a uniquely powerful communication system that is stimulus and medium independent, abstract, arbitrary and productive. Dialects, on the other hand, “are mutually intelligible forms of a language that differ in systematic ways”. Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2007: 431). Many languages in Nigeria today are endangered as a result of non-identification or wrong classification. Ukwuani is a linguistic variety spoken, mainly, by people of Ukwani Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria. While some scholars like Blench and Dendo (2004: v) classify Ukwuani as a language of Igboid group, others like Nwaozuzu (2008: 12) classify Ukwuani as a dialect of Igbo. Moreover, a debate on the true classification of Ukwuani has been interestingly going-on on Nairaland Forum for about five years now. In view of the above controversies on the true position of Ukwuani, and bearing in mind the linguistic, socio-economic and political implications of getting it right in the placement of a linguistic variety, especially as one of the antidotes to language endangerment, the presenter tries to ascertain the true position of Ukwuani. He uses every linguistic and socio-cultural criterion for language and dialect classification within his disposal to test the supposed true identity of Ukwuani. It is discovered that Ukwuani is a language with its own peculiarities; and not a dialect.

 

  1. Introduction

Language is said to be a uniquely powerful communication system that is stimulus and medium independent, abstract, arbitrary and productive. Dialects, on the other hand, “are mutually intelligible forms of a language that differ in systematic ways” Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2007: 431). The great level of language endangerment in Africa is one of the challenges facing the contemporary linguists. A language is said to be endangered when “the socio-economic, political, technological, cultural and religious ecologies have altered to a point where some language species cannot survive or thrive in them.” Ifesieh, Agbogun and Tonukari in Anagbogu, P.N. (2006: 49). Back home in Nigeria, the Ethnologue of the Languages of the World reveals that “the number of individual languages listed for Nigeria is 529. Of these, 522 are living and 7 are extinct. Of the living languages, 21 are institutional, 76 are developing, 357 are vigorous, 26 are in trouble, and 42 are dying” (http://www.ethnologue.com/country/NG).

There are many causes of language endangerment. Some of them include: abandoning of a language by its native speakers in favour of another language seen as being prestigious, man-made or natural disaster which can cause exodus of native speakers, contact of languages, non-adoption of a language as a means of documentation and medium of instruction, national language policy, negative cultural behaviour of the native speakers towards their language, etc. For the scope of this paper, two causes of language endangerment will be discussed.

 

1.1. Language Abandonment by Its Native Speakers

It is observed that due to adaptive responses of the native speakers of a language to socio-economic and political conditions around them, they tend to abandon their language in favour of another one. It is in acknowledgement of this fact that Grenoble and Whaley (1998:22) claim that “speakers abandon their native tongue in adaptation to an environment where the use of that language is no longer advantageous to them,” hence, language shift. In Nigeria for instance, citizens are embracing the English language as a result of its social functions. English is the language of documentation, learning, governance, politics, etc. In other words, it is the official language. Even most of the cultural festivals in Nigeria are observed today with the use of English, which has resulted into what Owolabi (2004:23) calls ‘Language Prejudice Syndrome”.

 

1.2. National Language Policy

The language policy of a nation can encourage or checkmate language endangerment. In a nation where the language policy favours only few languages and fails to recognize others, the un-recognized languages are bound to be endangered. This is because no meaningful research could be done on those ignored languages. Consequently, native speakers would be discouraged from using the language. In a situation whereby the language policy of a nation is made in such a way that the native speakers are encouraged to use the language for communication and other social activities, that language is bound to be functional and developed. A very good example of such a favourable language policy is the adoption of Hebrew by the Israeli government after the 1949 resettlement of the Jews. The language policy made lots of earlier endangered languages including Hebrew to be resuscitated in Israel. Grimes (2002: 43). No doubt, the language policy of a nation only takes into cognizance languages, not dialects. Consequently, any supposed language that is wrongly classified as a dialect of a language, that possibly has great genetic relation with it, is bound to be ignored by the language policy of the concerned country. However, recognition of a language by government should be subjected to the ones already recognized on linguistic view point; and not wholly on socio-political consideration. It is in view of this that Agbedo (2000: 21) observes that most difficulties encountered in the classification of linguistic varieties are as a result of the fact that decisions on the language/dialect classifications “appear to have been made more on political and social grounds than strictly linguistic grounds”, and that “… many existing languages are hardly known because they are spoken in some parts of the world that are insufficiently studied from a linguistic viewpoint”. It is believed that a language is as good as a people. In view of this, any non-recognition or suppression of a language by the language policy of a nation invariably means the non-recognition or suppression of the people who use the language by their government. No wonder the need for proper classification of Ukwuani.

 

1.2.1. The Opposing Views

The table below is adapted from Blench and Dendo (2004: IV):

LanguageGroup AcronymReference

AbiniUpper Cross

AbuanCentral Delta Gardner 1980

Akpes Ukaan-Akpes Ibrahim 1989

ArigidiAkokoid

BanKegboid (Ogoni) Ikoro 1989

BeteBendi

Cen.DeltaDelta-Cross

Defaka Ijoid Jenewari 1983

Degema Edoid Thomas and Williamson 1967

EbiraNupoid

Edo Edoid Agheyisi 1986

EfikLower Cross

Egene Edoid Thomas and Williamson 1967

EkitLower Cross

EkoidS. Bantoid Crabb 1965

ElemeKegboid (Ogoni) Ikoro 1989

Emai Edoid Schaefer 1987

Epie Edoid Thomas and Williamson 1967

Ganagana Nupoid Sterk 1977

GokanaKegboid (Ogoni) Ikoro 1989

Gwari Nupoid Hyman 1970

IbaniIjoid

IbibioLower Cross Kaufman 1972, 1985

Idoma Idomoid Questionnaire: E.O.O. Amali

Igbo Igboid Williamson and Ohiri-Aniche in prep

IsekiriYoruboid

IzonIjoid

Kakanda Nupoid Sterk 1977

Kala?ar?Ijoid

Kambari Kainji Hoffmann 1965

KanaKegboid (Ogoni) Ikoro 1989

KenyangS.Bantoid Mbuagbaw [1991]

Koto Nupoid Sterk 1977

LegboUpper Cross

Lekono S.Bantoid Hedinger 1987

LokaaUpper Cross

Londo S.Bantoid Kuperus 1985

LunguPlateau

Magongo?k?

Mambila N.Bantoid Perrin 1992

Mbo S.Bantoid Hedinger 1987

N.IbieEdoid

NembeIjoid

Nk?r??Ijoid

Nupe NupoidB

OboloLower Cross

?gbiaCentral Delta Wolff 1969

OkrikaIjoid

?k??k?

PyemPlateau

TarokCentral NigerianLB Longtau & Blench (ined.)

TivS.Bantoid

TuNenS.Bantoid

UbetengUpper Cross Ibrahim wordlist

UdoAkokoid

UfiaUpper Cross

Ukaan Ukaan-Akpes Ibrahim wordlist

Ukue Edoid Ibrahim wordlist

UkwuaniIgboid

UrhoboEdoid

VuteNorth Bantoid

YeskwaPlateau

Yoruba Yoruboid Abraham 1958

ZarekPlateau

 

 

The table above, no doubt, indicates that Blench and Dendo recognize and classify ?kw?ani as one of the Niger-Congo languages. They link ?kw?ani to the Niger-Congo phylum by adopting Williamson’s (1989) and Williamson & Blench’s (2000) classifications. The classifications place ?kw?ani as a language of Igboid group of Benue-Congo language family. However, Nwaozuzu, G.I. (2008: 12) has a contrary view to Blench and Dendo’s classification of ?kw?ani as a language. He rather classifies ?kw?ani as belonging to one of the West Niger Group of Dialects of the Igbo language. His position is manifested in the following extract:

WEST NIGER GROUP OF DIALECTS (WNGD)

The Western Igbo came under the influence and pressure from Benin and Idah and this has reflected especially in their political ideology and orientation. In fact they provided a vehicle for the encroachment of Edo and Igala culture on the Igbo people. This area of Igboland is found in the present Delta State of Nigeria. Territorially they are marked off from Bini and Warri, their non-Igbo neighbours. Like other dialect groups they exhibit a high degree of phonological, lexical and syntactic similarities. Some of the areas found under this dialect group are Ika (i.e. Agbor), Oshimili, comprising Asaba, Ibusa etc. Aniocha, comprising Ogwashiuku, Iseleuku. Such other groups as Ezechima, Ubulu ?n?, Olana, Obomkpa and Ogbodu are within this dialect area. Others are Ukwuani, Akoko, Illa, Kwalle etc.

Nwaozuzu (2008: 12)

Different scholars or groups in their different publications have, in one way or another classified ?kw?ani either as a language or as a dialect. This development, no doubt, is in affirmation by the claim of Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2007: 431) that “it is not always easy to decide whether the differences between two speech communities reflect two dialects or two languages”; a position Agbedo (2000: 21) affirms to. Though it is confusing to ascertain if Ikekeonwu (1987: 183) is in agreement with Nwaozuzu (2008) by classifying what she termed “Ukwali” as a “Niger Igbo” dialect. This confusion is as a result of the fact that there was nothing like “Ukwali” but ‘Kwale’ and ‘?kw?ani’ in Ndokwa Local Government Area of the defunct Bendel State at the time she presented her paper. Moreover, while ‘Kwale’ is presently the headquarters of Ndokwa West Local Government Area, ‘?kw?ani’ is a local government area in Delta State. However, in view of the earlier publications before the Ikekeonwu’s paper - Ida Ward (1941) and Oraka (1983) - which limited their collections of data on Igbo dialects to Kwale in Warri and Aboh provinces, repectively, it is likely that Ikekeonwu (1987) was referring to ‘Kwale’, and not ‘?kw?ani’. With this position, Ida Ward (1941), Oraka (1983) and Ikekeonwu (1987) belong to the scholars that separate ?kw?ani from Igbo.

 

On the contrary, the Delta State Government classifies ?kw?ani as a dialect of Igbo by claiming that the people of ?kw?ani “are a mono-linguistic group – the ?kw?anis (an Igbo dialect)”. This position, no doubt, shows that the Delta State government classifies ?kw?ani as a dialect of Igbo language which is in agreement with the view of Nwaozuzu (2008). However, the native speakers of ?kw?ani do not agree with their state government’s classification. To them, ?kw?ani is a distinct language that exists in Nigeria like every other Nigerian language. They claim through the Ndokwa Association United Kingdom on http://na-uk.org/history.php that “the ?kw?ànì language is related to several languages in the Niger Delta region. The Ndokwa people speak ?kw?ani, with varying dialects spoken by various communities within Ndosumili area” and on http://ndokwaunite.org that the three local government areas in Ndokwa – Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and ?kw?ani - “speak ?kw?ani language and are known and recognized as distinct ethnic nationalities since pre-colonial times”. The divergent views on the classification of ?kw?ani variety are not limited to the above opposing views. For instance, while Wikipedia classifies it as a dialect of Igbo, Tony Nammor in his speech on “THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF NDOKWALAND AND PEOPLE IN DELTA STATE, ANIOMA AND NIGERIA” on Wednesday, September 6, 2006 in USA spoke extensively of ?kw?ani as a language. Moreover, it is interesting to note that for about five years now, a debate on the true classification of ?kw?ani as a language or as a dialect has been going-on on Nairaland Forum. It is in appreciation of this development that this paper applies linguistic/cultural point of view to ascertain the true classification of ?kw?ani.

 

1.3. Historical Background of ?kw?ani

?kw?ani is spoken in the nine clans that form the present Ukwani Local Government Area of Delta State. The nine clans include: Akoku, Amai, Ebedei, Eziokpor, Ezionuma, Obiaruku, Umuebu, Umukwata and Umutu. ?kw?ani is also spoken by the Ndoni people of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State. For the fact that there is scanty literature on the history of ?kw?ani people, many versions of the history of the ?kw?anis are being speculated in their oral history and folklore. A version has it that ?kw?ani is an extraction of the old Ndokwa which was made up of Ndosimili (the riverine people) and ?kw?ani (the upland people). This version claims that even the name “Ndokwa” was coined from NDOSIMILI and ?KW?ANI. That Ndosimili and ?kw?ani formed the two major districts of the Aboh Native Authoriy which had its headquarters in Kwale (Kwale was formerly known as Utagba-Ogbe). The Aboh Native Authoriy was later changed to Aboh Division in 1952. However, during the 1967 state creation, one of the Aboh districts known as Ndoni was carved out of the Aboh Native Authoriy and joined a part of the defunct Eastern Region to form the old Rivers State; while the remaining districts of the Aboh Native Authority remained in the defunct Bendel State (which was the state-structure name for the defunct Mid-West Region). Following the 1976 local governments reform in Nigeria, the Aboh Division was converted to Ndokwa Local Government Area with headquarters in Kwale. The 1991 local government creation divided Ndokwa into Ndokwa East and Ndokwa West Local Government Areas with headquarters at Aboh and Kwale, respectively. Then the 1996 local government creation finally separated the ?kw?anis from Ndokwa with the carving out of ?kw?ani Local Government Area with its headquarters at Obiaruku from the old Ndokwa West Local Government Area.

A different version traces the origin of the people of ?kw?ani to the ancient Benin Kingdom of Edo State; while another one also has it that the Ukwanis must have originated from Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw and Isoko which form a major part of the coastal ethnic groups of Delta State. Their claim is driven from the great affinities the culture, dressing code and custom of the ?kw?ani people have with the ones of those ethnic groups.

 

No matter what might be the true origin of ?kw?ani people, it is a common knowledge that the people of ?kw?ani are very peaceful. They live with one another in peace and accommodate strangers. Their main occupation is farming, both land cultivation and fishing. The Delta State Government claims that the ?kw?ani Local Government Area has an area of 2,016 square kilometres and cites the 1991 census conducted by the National Population Commission as placing the population of the ?kw?ani at 103,000.

 

  1. Exploring the Linguistic and Cultural Criteria for Language/Dialect Classifications

This paper would be counter-productive if a conclusion is made on the true classification of ?KW?ANI VARIETY without the adoption of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO’s) criteria for language identification. The ISO 639-3 standard applies the following basic criteria for defining a language in relation to varieties which may be considered dialects:

  1. That two related linguistic varieties are normally considered varieties of the same language if speakers of each variety have inherent understanding of the other variety at a functional level (that is, can understand based on knowledge of their own variety without needing to learn the other variety).
  2. That where spoken intelligibility between varieties is marginal, the existence of a common literature or of a common ethno linguistic identity with a central variety that both understand can be a strong indicator that they should nevertheless be considered varieties of the same language.
  3. That where there is enough intelligibility between varieties to enable communication, the existence of well-established distinct ethno linguistic identities can be a strong indicator that they should nevertheless be considered to be different languages.

 

2.1. Applying Criterion i

This criterion, which Agbedo (2000: 21) confirms, simply indicates that for two different varieties to be considered as a language, the native speakers of either of the varieties should have inherent understanding of each of the two varieties at a functional level. That is, the native speakers of the two varieties in question should be speaking one another’s variety without any previous learning. This criterion overrules a situation whereby the native speakers of say variety ‘A’ understand and speak say variety ‘B’ or the native speakers of variety ‘B’ understand and speak variety ‘A’ as a result of contact or earlier conscious or unconscious learning. Consequently, this paper would be going contrary to this criterion if we use the Ndoni people who are surrounded by and intermingle with different dialects of Igbo in their daily activities for the analysis of criterion i. No doubt, the following Igbo and ?kw?ani data have great similarities:

Igbo (Orlu)?kw?ani (Obiaruku)Glossary

  1. lee nee look
  2. ga je go
  3. ah?h? af?f? suffering
  4. nah? las? sleep
  5. kwuo kwu speak
  6. mmi/m? mme me
  7. any? any? we
  8. mmiri mmiri water
  9. az?za eziza broom
  10. jide jide hold
  11. eke eke first market day
  12. orie orie second market day
  13. af? af? third market day
  14. nkw? nkw? fourth market day
  15. ?ka ?ka church
  16. chukwu chukwu God
  17. su s? pound (yam)
  18. s? s? wash (cloth)
  19. ite ite pot
  20. ?nwa ?nwa month
  21. ?nwa ife moon
  22. ?k? ?kw? fire
  23. ?k? upke light (bulb)
  24. ishi ishi head
  25. akw?kw? ekw?kw? book
  26. ukwu oshishiukwu oshishi tree
  27. were weri take
  28. loruo n?d? stay
  29. ebe ebei where
  30. mm?? mmanya a drink
  31. nt? nt? ashes
  32. unyi unyi charcoal
  33. iko okwukwu cup
  34. oche oche chair
  35. ihu isu front
  36. oshi oshi to steal
  37. akw? ekw? palm fruit
  38. ak? akw? palm kernel
  39. ego ego money
  40. iši egiši house fly
  41. anw? enw? mosquito/sun
  42. ehihie efifie afternoon
  43. ara ela madness
  44. agwa egwa beans
  45. ala ani land
  46. anyanw? enyanw? the sun
  47. ishe ise to draw
  48. nuo nu push
  49. ah?r? enw?l? smoke
  50. ah?a af?a market
  51. ?kw? ?kw? leg
  52. were weri take
  53. ?ma ?mar? to know
  54. ?ch? ?ch? to search for

 

The native speakers of both the Igbo language and the Ukw?an? variety can understand any of the above words in isolation. But this does not translate into the fact that the native speakers of either variety can understand each other, even when the use of any of the above words is involved. For instance, when I presented the ?kw?ani version of the under listed structures to some native Igbo speakers whom I am sure never had any contact with the ?kw?ani people, they could not understand the meanings of the structures. Similarly, when I presented the Igbo version to some native speakers of ?kw?ani, though they made lots of attempts, unlike the Igbo native speakers (even some of them almost guessed right the meanings of some of the constructions), they never confidently got the meanings of those structures.

Igbo Ukw?an? Glossary

  1. Ana m aga njem.Njek? ?z?.‘I am travelling.’
  2. Ah?h? ekweghi ya zuo ike.Af?f? an?na zuike.‘Suffering never left him/her.’
  3. ?nwa na agba. Ife n’eti.‘The moon is bright.’
  4. Ara na-agba nwata ah?.Ela na-ak? arugbe kenu. ‘That child is mad.’
  5. Iši juru n’ulo a.Egiši eju ?n? kene.‘This house is full of

  houseflies.’

The great cognates that exist between the varieties can be attributed to the fact that both Igbo and ?kw?ani belong to one language group, the igboid, as Blench and Dendo rightly identified. Secondly, the dominance of the Igbo language in the present day Delta State, especially those in the old Abor Native Authority, is not controversial. This development has consequently given the Igbo language a great social status in that part of the country. It is a well known fact that once a language enjoys some prestigious status; people find it interesting and profitable to learn and use the language. Hence, many communities in the old Abor Native Authority embraced the Igbo language, especially as they are surrounded by Igbo neighbours and business associates. This development must have contributed to the borrowing of Igbo words into ?kw?ani. Moreover, due to the Nigerian earlier national language policy that for any Nigerian citizen to be certified by the West African Examinations Council as a Senior School Certificate holder, the citizen must have passed a national language with at least credit level. As ?kw?ani is not among the national languages of Nigeria, the closest language that was then taught and registered by the secondary students from the ?kw?ani area, in compliance to the then national policy on education (in extension, language), was the Igbo language. That, no doubt, must have popularized the Igbo language among the native speakers of ?kw?ani; hence, the great absorption of Igbo words.

 

2.2. Applying Criterion ii

In elaboration, this criterion states that in a situation whereby even when the native speakers of a variety say variety C understand and use another variety say variety D. Variety C and D can only be considered to be the dialects of a given language if, and only if, the native speakers of variety D also understand and use variety C as well. Otherwise, varieties C and D should be seen and considered as two different languages. Agbedo (2000: 21) also identifies with this criterion. I believe, this is the implication of Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2007: 431) position that “sometimes this rule-of-thumb definition is used: when dialects become mutually unintelligible – when the speakers of one dialect group can no longer understand the speakers of another dialect group – these dialects become different languages”. This criterion further means that even if variety C and variety D share a common literature with a central variety (i.e. variety E) and the native speakers of the two varieties also share common ethno linguistic identity with one another, the two varieties should be considered as two different languages as far as the first condition exists.

 

As stated earlier, due to the social status of the Igbo language among the native speakers of ?kw?ani, the learning of the Igbo language against ?kw?ani in schools, and the sharing of a language group with the Igbo language, most native speakers of ?kw?ani do, at least, understand the Igbo language expressions. Inversely, the native speakers of the Igbo language who have not in one way or another had any contact with ?kw?ani do not understand ?kw?ani, much to talk of speaking it. No wonder the native speakers of ?kw?ani made lots of positive attempts to understand those earlier given Igbo structures. No doubt, this criterion makes it clear that notwithstanding the earlier listed cognates, ?kw?ani and Igbo are two different varieties. This is manifested with the fact that the level of mutual intelligibility between the Igbo and ?kw?ani is marginal. Moreover, the two varieties are gradually separating their literature. For instance, in most of the churches (as ?kw?ani people are predominantly Christians) in ?kw?ani, they have different programs and literature for English, Igbo and ?kw?ani. There is also the teaching and learning of ?kw?ani at the primary and secondary schools in ?kw?ani Local Government Area of Delta State. The teachers of ?kw?ani in those schools are not below NCE holders in ?kw?ani (not Igbo).

 

2.3. Applying Criterion iii

This criterion stipulates that in a situation where intelligibility is very high and there exists great evidence that the native speakers of the concerned varieties share lots of commonness in ethno linguistic activities, the varieties should be considered as different dialects of a language. In other words, this criterion states that wherever the level of intelligibility among the native speakers of two or more varieties is highly mutual, and not marginal, in addition to great ethno linguistic affinities among them, the varieties concerned should be considered as dialects of a given language.

The unavoidable questions here are “Is the mutual intelligibility among the native speakers of Igbo and ?kw?ani not great enough to be considered as one language?” and “Is there no ethno linguistic affinity among the native speakers of Igbo and ?kw?ani?” There is no gainsaying the fact that due to the great number of cognates listed earlier, it will be logical to conclude that the mutual intelligibility among the native speakers of the two varieties is great enough for them to be seen as one language. However, this is not the situation. We should remember my earlier clarification that though the two varieties share lots of cognates in isolation, mutual intelligibility is not always there when the words are used in structures. Moreover, as we can go on and on to list lots of cognates in Igbo and ?kw?ani, so also we can go on and on to list words that are far from being cognates in the two varieties. This claim can be buttressed with the following data:

S/N Igbo ?kw?aniGlossary

  1. ugbo ogofarm
  2. g? iyoyou
  3. ay? otitaonion
  4. mman? nni ofigbopalm oil
  5. iyi onokwustream
  6. agw? ifugbokopython
  7. nte eb?z?cricket
  8. ?tele/ike ?kp?buttocks
  9. nk?ta awadog
  10. enyo uhegbemirror
  11. njile atakpanasnail
  12. nwany? onyinyefemale
  13. nwoke onyekemale
  14. oshishi mb?stick
  15. ede akash?cocoyam
  16. ?bara edekeblood
  17. igidere nd?d?earthworm
  18. akp? ?malakacassava
  19. akp?nk?r? mp?k?food made from fermented cassava
  20. ?k?r?an?n? okra
  21. ngwere okpolizard
  22. mma-oge mpama cutlass
  23. abal? ngedenight
  24. ndewo, ib?lachiajie/ogbuiji (for men) different greetings

oteofe/?w?es? (for women)

  1. okie mb?karat
  2. ab?b?ishi egirishi hair
  3. njem ?z? journey
  4. guzoro nishi stand up
  5. ?g? egbedi twenty
  6. k?nk?r? mkp?r??ka? gravel
  7. uwe ewo dress
  8. nka kash? old age
  9. nwantak?r? arugbemmad? a child
  10. umengw? ulee laziness
  11. nsh? aya faeces
  12. meshie/mezie r?k?me repair
  13. ?t? enine sweet (taste)
  14. ?z?/mkposhi ekwo door
  15. ah??n? ajaf? beard
  16. ?ch?ch?r?/itiri bii darkness
  17. cheta nyar? remember
  18. ihere ekp? shame
  19. ifo inu story
  20. ?h? isume to roast
  21. ?h?a ugboko bush
  22. ?t?ghie ?gw?me to wrap
  23. teta nishi wake up
  24. tana kete today
  25. uru ah?a elile profit
  26. af? as?a year
  27. ah?r? eshish? sweat
  28. amusu ogbome witch
  29. ?kara mb?r?b? half
  30. mehie/mepe kpufu open
  31. elili ilolo melon seed
  32. ntu ipele nail
  33. guzoro turu stand

There is no way we can logically conclude that two varieties that have as much un-related words as they have cognates do have mutual intelligibility among their ‘raw’ native speakers.

On the condition of having ethno-linguistic affinity, we cannot claim, at this juncture, that such exists. As noted earlier, some versions of ?kw?ani history trace the origin of ?kw?ani people to the Benin Kingdom in Edo State, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw and Isoko in Delta State. Moreover, this claim is not unconnected with the fact that Ukwanis have lots of ethno-cultural practices with those ethnic groups. More on the ethno cultural behaviour of the ?kw?anis is discussed in (2.3.1).

Having explored the ISO’s criteria for language and dialect classification, let us x-ray two other salient criteria in agreement with Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2007: 431) that “it is also not easy to draw a distinction between dialects and languages on strictly linguistic grounds”. These criteria include cultural practices and the views of the native speakers.

 

2.3.1. The Igbo’s versus the ?kw?ani’s Cultures

Culture is said to be the way of life of a given people. The culture of a people can never be separated from their linguistic behaviour. No wonder language is said to be a part of a people’s culture. The culture of the Igbos and that of the ?kw?anis are far from being the same. The Igbos have their unique cultural practices. They are known for their state of acephalous. Traditionally, the headship of a typical Igbo setting falls on the family level. No wonder the popular saying “Igbo e nwe eze” (No king in Igboland). The present ezeship status in Igboland is fallout of the colonial era in Nigeria. History has it that for the British colonial administration to successfully implement their Indirect Rule System in Igboland, they had to introduce the ezeship stool and use their superior authorities to compel the Igbos to subject themselves to ‘ndi ezes’ (traditional rulers). But this is not the case in ?kw?ani. The ?kw?ani people culturally practice gerontocracy, where the oldest man is installed the traditional ruler, designated Okpala-Uku. Retrieved from http://www.deltastate.com.ng/Local-Government/?kw?ani-local-government.html. They have their cultural observance on how to identify the oldest person in their kingdoms and designate him as the Okpala-Uku. Once a person is designated, his subjects will immediately develop the palace and transfer every symbol of authority from the former Okpala-Uku to his residence. He will remain the Okpala-Uku throughout the remaining part of his life time.

 

Moreover, other cultural practices like the ways of greetings, dressing codes, eating habits, marriage, festivals, young/elder relationship, heritage, burial ceremonies, farming system, traditional religion, etc. of the people of ?kw?ani are far from being similar to the ones found in Igboland. For instance, while it is a taboo for an adult to be addressing his mother (except in some occasional or emphatic situations) with her name in Igboland, it is a cultural practice in ?kw?ani for adults to address their mothers on daily basis by their names as they address their own children. While ?kw?ani practice both patrilineal and matrilineal heritage, the Igbos practice only patrilineal heritage. Similarly, while a married woman who is still with her husband can acquire a landed property without the involvement of her husband in ?kw?ani, such practice is seen as a taboo in a typical Igbo community. While a man is at liberty to marry as many wives as he can and leave his wives to remain with their parents while he invites or visits them at will, though an Igbo man can marry many wives, he must relocate them from their maiden homes. A married Igbo woman can only live with her parents when there is a serious misunderstanding between her and her husband. In fact, the ethno cultural differences between the Ukwanis and the Igbos can continue, if time and space can permit us. As the ethno-cultural practices of the native speakers of the two linguistic varieties – ?kw?ani and Igbo – are different, it translates into a simple fact that the two varieties are different languages.

 

2.3.2. The Native Speakers’ Views

This linguistic criterion is a very sensitive criterion that is usually taken for granted. It is more logical for the native speakers to tell us their mother-tongues than the other way round. In other words, no matter how strong our argument might be, the native speakers and users of a particular linguistic variety should be allowed to tell us what they speak and use. In view of this, the native speakers of Igbo have no role to play in this criterion. A simple research using questionnaire reveals that the native speakers of ?kw?ani see themselves as ?kw?anis but admitted that they have lots of affinity with the Igbos. However, they agree that their neighbors like the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Urhobos, Isokos, including the Ikas, Asabans, Abohs, etc. see them as Igbos. Out of 275 native speakers presented with the question “Is ?kw?ani Igbo?” 178 (64.7%) responded that ?kw?ani is not Igbo. They argued that those who see them as Igbos do that in error; 42 (15.3%) agreed that ?kw?ani is a variety of Igbo; 36 (13.1%) claimed that it could be that they migrated from the Igbo, but they should not be seen as Igbos in the present; while 19 (6.9%) were indifferent.

 

  1. Conclusion

So far we have looked at the classification of ?kw?ani which is one of the necessary steps of saving it from being endangered.  We have seen different reasons why ?kw?ani should be classified as a language. Moreover, due to the presence of great cognates existing in ?kw?ani and Igbo, I agree with Blench and Dendo (2004), Blench and Crozier (1992), Ruhlen (1987), and other linguists who argue that Ikwere, Ika, Igbo, ?kw?ani, Izii, Ogba and Ekpeye languages belong to one language group. More research should be done in ?kw?ani to enhance its further development. Its inclusion among the Nigerian languages should be encouraged. This will make it possible for the language to be included among the focus languages of the Nigerian language planning and policy. The native speakers of ?kw?ani should be encouraged to use and appreciate literatures in ?kw?ani.

 

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