Igbo: ọ maka

Written by Isabel Harmse

According to the National African Language Resource Center, the Igbo language belongs to the Niger-Congo family and it has dozens of geographical dialects. Igbo is the second most populous indigenous language of southern Nigeria. It is spoken by about 20 – 25 million people in spite of the fact that about 1 million Igbo speakers died after the two coup d’etat of 1966 and during the civil war of 1967 – 1970. Culturally speaking, the Igbo have adopted education as part of their culture because they saw it as their only “ladder” for survival/prominence in a highly competitive Nigeria and the world. 

The Igbo people number between 20 and 25 million, and they live all over Nigeria since they cannot be accommodated in the original land area that is called Igboland, which is now situated in seven states of Nigeria. There is also a great number of Igbo speaking people in the Diaspora (U.S.A., Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and every part of the world). The Igbo have lived in the south-eastern part of Nigeria for a very long time, but because their language and culture had been primarily passed down by oral tradition, there is no written record of how they came to live in that part of Nigeria. Linguists, anthropologists, and other scientists have done some research about the origin of the Igbo, but no one has found out exactly where the Igbo came from. 


Igbo pronouns do not index gender, and the same pronouns are used for male, female and inanimate beings. So the sentence ọ maka can mean “he, she or it is beautiful”.

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