Variation in Language Use

The Igbo people are located in the southern part of Nigeria in West Africa, Igbo has an estimated population of about there is 1991 census. (1994:1). The territorial distribution of Igbo covers the Niger and cross Rivers areas with Ibibio and Efik in Akwa Ibom and cross Rivers States to the west and Igala Idoma Speaking people to the north, Nzimoro (1972;3)

The Igbo community is a federation which consists of a number of villages collectively called ‘Obodo’. The component villages are made up of ‘Umunna’ which forms the political structure of each village and the community in general. The Umunna is superior to any other political class and they are highly influential and powerful in terms of setting cases and general administration is in line will patrilineal linked to some groups of people Onwuejeogwu (1975:4).

However, the areas that constitute the present-day Igbo are made spread throughout Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi States. The Igbo’s are also found in some parts of Delta and Rivers States (example Ikwerre as Igboid group)


Orlu, one of the three electoral Zones in Imo State is made up of ten (10) local Government areas. They are Orlu, Orlu South, Orlu North, Nwangale, Isu, Orsu, Ideato South, Ideato North and Oguta Local government areas.

However, for the purpose of this research, we shall restrict ourselves to Orlu local government area (L.G.A.).

Orlu local government area is located about 39 Kilometer east of Onitsha in Anambra state. It shares borders with Ideato north Local government area, on the South and on the west, with Ihiala local government area of about 202 square kilometers, and a population of about 116.776 according to figure of Orlu local government area is not certain.


Two major seasons are experienced throughout the years as is also the case in other parts of Igbo land, east of the Niger. They are the dry season and the rainy season. November to March is noted for severe dryness. The raining season starts from April to September during which some farming activities are at their peak.

The dominant occupation of people of Orlu are farming and trading just like any other Igbo people. They also practice black smiting especially the Umuozu indigenes. That is from there they derived their name Umu-ozu as ‘Umu’ Children and ‘Ozu’ smiting meaning children of black smites. The Orlu people also normally engage in either urban or rural based commercial activities.

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Furthermore, the people of Orlu travel to any part of Nigeria and beyond for trading. In addition, some parts of Orlu are rich with natural water and streams which can be used for various industrial and developmental purposes. The people living close to the water and streams are involved in fishing activities in addition to farming. Some people of Orlu are noted for palm tapping as a means living hood. Agricultural items produced by the Orlu people includes: Maze, Yam, Coco-yam, and Palm Oil etc.

Umuozo in Orlu is essentially government offices (i.e. white collar jobs) and a commercial town in Imo state, Nigeria. The main populations are Igbo speakers but non-speakers of Igbo are found though not in large numbers. As a commercial town one is expected to find people from different linguistic backgrounds who came to reside in the town for one reason or another.


The language situation in Orlu does not make provision for a particular type of language for people, rather every individual speaks the language they know and understand depending on the occasion. Both English and Orlu (Igbo) could be used at home depending on whether the people concerned know the languages, (i.e. English and Igbo).


Language is a social activity and the choice of language varies according to the social function and personal intention of the speaker(s). Language also varies not only according to social characteristics of the speaker. (Such as his social class, ethnic group, age and sex) but also according to the social context in which he finds himself. The same speaker uses different situations and for different purposes. The totality of linguistic varieties in this way and there may be very many by a particular community of speakers may be called that linguistics community’s verbal repertoire (Trudgill 1974:100)

Many social factors determine which language form the verbal repertoire is actually to be used on a particular occasion.

Dolphyne (1982:27) also considers three other factors and important in determining language choice namely:

(a) Personal needs

(b) The background situation and,

(c) The immediate situation.

The personal needs refer to the person’s own need or desire to speak a particular language. The language choice will be determined by which of those three is uppermost at the time.

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A situational change in the value of one of the variable that defines a domain may result in code-switching (Lyons 1981:282). Also, individuals tend to switch from one language or language variety to the other depending on the contexts of situation as Odo (1986:53) notes.

Speakers can manipulate code-switching for their own purposes, to influence or define the situation as they wish to convey nuances of meaning and personal intention.

This can be done in two ways:

(1) Using two languages at once, that is language mixing.

(2) A speaker can switch completely from one language to another. (Trudgill 1974)


Many people have a way of thinking or feeling about a particular language. This refers to their attitude towards that language. In Orlu, English enjoys a high degree of prestige. The society places a lot of value on it and it is associated with social advance. The attitude of Orlu residents toward their various native languages is one of loyalty.


This refers to the internalized rules of the grammar of the language which the individual speaker makes use of, Odo (1986:31). Most of the inhabitants of Orlu are highly competent in their native language because they acquired it as their first language thereby learning the internalized rules of the grammar.


This is an important consideration of language use. The ability to be effective as clearly tied to the level of education one has acquired, Odo (1986:58). There are several varieties of English spoken in Orlu and of those are individual speaker.


This refers to the instances of derivation from the norms of either language which occur in the speech of bilinguals as a result of their familiarity with more than one language, i.e. as a result of language contact (Weinreich 1953:1) interference is right obvious in the use of English by some individuals in orlu. This is due to the influence of the mother tongue. The interference is phonic. Grammatical and lexical.

4.7.1 Phonic Interference

This is most obvious in pronunciation Weinreich (1993:14) notes that interference arises when a bilingual identifies a phones of the secondary system with one in the primary system and, in reproducing it.

4.7.2 Grammatical Interference

In language, it takes the form of the production of sentences which are structured along the times of the first language.

4.7.3 Lexical Interference

‘Borrowing from one language to the other to designate new concepts not found originally I that language, is common. Sometimes the borrowed words might be given an extended meaning.

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In the Orlu community, a variety of languages are in contact, these include English, Pidgin, Orlu (Igbo itself and many of the Nigerian languages.

4.8.1 English

This is basically the language or specialized in formation. It is used for a variety of official purposes and is the language of the courts education and specialized formal training. It is the most accepted official language in the country.

4.8.2 Nigerian pidgin

Here we are talking of Nigeria pidgin. This is the languages that are also used in Orlu. It is language in its own and has a structure of its own similarities at certain levels and in varying degrees to English and to the various substances (Adetugbo in Oduma (1977)

4.8.3 Various native languages

Other native languages are spoken Orlu. The main indigenous language of the area is the Orlu (i.e. Igbo). This is spoken mainly by the indigenes them selves and the various other native languages are spoken by the various people from different ethnic areas prominent among them are, Hausa, Edo etc. these are spoken by people from these linguistics areas who are residents in Orlu.


Both English and Orlu (Igbo) could be used at home depending on whether the people concerned know the language, (i.e. English and Igbo). Where they do not, any other language known to them could be used. Where the parties involved are illiterate, their mother tongue is used for communication depending on whether in is mutually intelligible to the two parties which is the linguistic situation for them. English is usually added here and there. On the other hand, if the individuals concerned are bilingual, both languages are used in their speech “linguistic situation”. The first speaker if and when speaking to a person who do not understand English speak in their mother tongue but with friends ho do not understand Igbo, will revert to English. Cases of children using English or addressing elders or mates who share the same mother tongue with them and abuses or very formal occasions like in the classroom. English then serves as a means of communication for people which are not mutually intelligible in their mother tongues.


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