Ibibio language


Ibibio (proper) is the native language of the Ibibio people of Akwa Ibom State and Abia State, 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.

Usem Ibibio
Native toSouthern Nigeria
RegionAkwa Ibom State, Abia State, Cross River State
Native speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3ibb
An Ibibio speaker, recorded in the United Kingdom.



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 be used to 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. ^ Ibile, Fagbo (2022-04-25). "Ibibio language speakers". JoshuaProject.net. Retrieved 2022-04-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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)


  • Urua, Eno-Abasi E. (2004), "Ibibio", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 105–109, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001550

Further readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit

  • Ibibio kasahorow – language resources, including dictionary, books and proverbs.
  • Bachmann's Master Thesis, Paper, Presentation
  • BOSS-IBB documentation v0.1-r4
  • ELAR Documentation of Dirge songs among the Urban people [Efik, Ibibio]
  • ELAR Documentation of documenting drums and drum language in Ibibio traditional ceremonies