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In the Nigerian state lies the problem of unity ever since its existence. Overtime, several linguists have tried to look at the diverse ethnolinguistic groups and a way out of Nigeria‟s persistent ethnic problems. Presently, Nigeria has about three hundred and fifty (350) ethnic groups alongside five hundred and twenty two (522) languages. The main problem however is the challenge of harnessing our diversities towards a viable national development. This is obvious through the various challenging crisis enveloping the nation in recent times. This work focuses on the various effects of the interactions amongst diverse ethnolinguistic groups in Nigeria to create awareness for the need of an urgent and viable solution. The sociological theory is used because of its wide coverage on ethnic interactions and conflicts. The questionnaire method is used with the analysis of descriptive statistical method involving count and simple percentage. It also shows diverse effects of ethnolinguistic diversity emanating from diverse ethnic conflicts leading to economic, social and spiritual recession in Nigeria. The research concluded that a major solution to ethnicity, tribalism, fanatism and other vices discovered is altruism empowered by early formal education to all Nigerian children and teaching the language of tolerance at every level of the diverse sectors in Nigeria.




1.1 Background to the Study

Nigeria as a country was named by British journalist Flora Shaw in the 1890‟s. She named the area after the River Niger, which dominates much of the country‟s landscape. The word „Niger‟ is derived from Latin word which means black, hence the name River Niger and subsequently Nigeria. Nigeria as a nation is an aggregation of several nationalities and therefore from the beginning, ethnic identity has defined the scope of policies in Nigeria.

Over three hundred and fifty (350) ethnic groups make up the present day Nigeria. Having over one thousand dialects with different culture, Nigeria has a population of about one hundred and eighty-six million (186,000,000) people in (National Bureau of Statistics 2012). With the annual 2.5% increase, it‟s now a population of 190.5 million, the Country has adopted the federal system of government with thirty-six states and Federal Capital Territory.

Nigeria is seen as a country with a tripodal ethnic structure with the trio of Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo language constituting a pole each. According to Mustapha, (2007:3), the tripodal ethnic structure on one hand and the administrative structure on the other hand, has led to the eight major cleavages between the three hundred and fifty minority groups on the other hand, between the North and the South, between the thirty-six (36) states of the Federation and the six (6) geopolitical zones, three in the North and three in the South and finally, between different religious affiliations. For example, the South East Zone overlaps with Igbo ethnic group and Christian religious affiliations while the North Central overlaps with northern ethnic minority.

These differences lead to what linguists would call ethnolinguistic differences.

Ethnolinguistics, as a concept is the study of how language relates to culture and ethnicity. Ethnolinguistics, sometimes called cultural linguistics is the study of languages as an aspect of culture. Essentially, the term is concerned with the study of the influence of language on culture and or of the culture on language. It is a concept which originated between 1945 to 1950 ( For Collins (2008), Ethnolinguistics is a field of anthropological linguistics which deals with the study of languages of particular ethnic groups and the relationship between language and culture.

The field of Ethnolinguistics is therefore, concerned with the relationship between language and culture in such a way that it combines ethnology and linguistics. Ethnology, is the way of life of an entire community; that is all characteristics which distinguish one community from the other and linguistics is the scientific study of language. Ethnolinguistics study, therefore, is aimed at the way that perception and conceptualization influence language and show how this is linked to different cultures and societies. Sapir Whorf asserts in his work on ethnolinguistics in (February, 2015) that no two languages are ever similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. He says that the world in which different societies live in are distinct worlds not merely the same world with different labels attached.

Whorf‟s linguistic relativism known as Sapir Whorf‟s hypothesis exemplifies with the Inuit language which has that for a word snow alone, there are fifty words. It is obvious that different  perception and conceptualizing the word „snow‟ in Inuit language is the reason for producing fifty different words. This is an example of the nexus between language and cultural perception. Although language is associated to ethno-cultural groups, it is not a sufficient condition for ethnic group membership. There are many other things involved between language and cultural norms in diverse ethnic groups ranging from skin colour and dress to religious practices and food choices. This explains why Wolfram (2003) as cited David Herman (1996) puts it that linguistic boundaries are permeable constructed notions defined more adequately on the basis of sociopolitical and ideological consideration than on the basis of linguistic structures and sociolinguistics. Suffices it to say, ethnolinguistics is the study of the way world views construct the complex and flexible frameworks within which we think and feel.

Church Hill, J.W. (2012) views ethnolinguistics as that which can be studied deeply to show conflicts and paradoxical feeling of love and hate. He further explains that, we love in language just as we hate in language. We tell the truth or choose to lie in language. Language is our adventure. Thus, we think in our language and that involves our cultural understanding. Ultimately, language is not a prison but an ongoing act of creation. Consequently, we are as much  producers and the products of language. Our worldviews emerge within our own language visions of the world, conceptual words which oppose and contradict one another, incompatible ideologies which sometimes seek to exclude one another. Therefore, ethnolinguistics involves concepts like languages, ethnic groups, cultural norms which eventually links to diverse worldviews reflecting in religious, economical and political life of diverse societies.

Within the paradigm of Ethnolinguistics comes Ethnolinguistic diversity and it refers to the range of ethnic groups and languages that are very different from one another in terms of structure and culture. Federal Government Demographic Survey in 1976 identified three hundred and ninety-four (394) languages and the highest density is in Taraba and Adamawa states. ( By 2011, the number of languages has risen to five hundred and twenty-nine (529) with 522 of these languages living, 7 of the 522 living, 21 of them are institutional, 76 of them developing and 357 are vigorous (Bendo Samuel et al, Wikipedia 2011).

The five hundred and twenty-two living languages, constitute the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria. Ethnic group according to Cohen (1974) cited in Babalola (2015:60) is a collection of people who share some patterns of nomative behavior and form a larger population interacting with people from other ethnic groups within the framework of a social system. In this definition, one major characteristics of ethnic group is sharing the same pattern of behavior. Osaghe (1994:44) notes that ethnic groups emphasize ethnic identity which is loyalty to an ethnic group in a competitive situation involving more than one of such identity which is aimed at furthering the interest of the individual and/or group. In this case, the interest of an individual ethnic group against the other is a major feature.

Mclean (1991:50) says ethnic group is the strongest sense of group feeling. With strong sense of ethnic group feeling amongst three hundred and fifty ethnic groups of the present day Nigeria, one can conclude that there are about three hundred and fifty (350) groups, each with her pattern of behavior, culture, and strong sense of groups feelings which sometimes generate conflict in their various struggle to compete with one another for social, economic, political and sometimes religious reasons hence affected national development. National development is therefore hinged on how a nation manages ethnolinguistic diversity for unity and peaceful coexistence among the ethnic groups. This could be achieved when we understand the concept of nationality. Similarly to understand the concept of nationality, it will be better to look at a nation. A nation is a selfidentified cultural group that regards itself as distinctive from others in some fundamental and significant ways. (, 2008). It is a social concept used to designate larger groups. The larger groups could only live and sustain or survive themselves if there is development for development is the backbone upon which such survival and sustainability of the groups depends. Development is the gradual growth of something (place or Person) so that it becomes more advanced and stronger.  Maryam Webster‟s dictionary sees effect as a change that results when something is done or happens; an event, condition, or state of affairs that is produced by a cause. It is a change that something, or person cause in another. It is seen as the implications of certain actions and happenings. The effect of these diverse ethnic groups and languages to Nigeria‟s national development is the focus of this research work.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Nigeria is characterized by enormous diversity and at the moment poses a threat to national development. Studies from various authors like Ajegbe (1987), Greenberry (1963), Elugbe (1991), Bamgbose (1992), Jekayinfa (2004) and Blench and Mahfouz (2004), have been embarked upon to examine the pattern of ethnic diversity and peaceful co-existence in Nigeria and show that there is a high level of diversity and lack of peace. Thus, the effect of ethnolinguistic diversity to national development in Nigeria is an attempt to highlight the implications of our various actions such as evident in

  1. The misuse of diversity and ethnicity
  2. The continuous struggle for recognition by speakers of various ethnic groups
  • The scramble for national resources on the platform of ethnic and political affiliations
  1. Religious intolerance amongst ethnic groups and the likes.

Based on the above, the researcher looks into the various challenges emanating from the diverse languages and ethnic groups, and how education can make positive contributions to reduce the problems if it cannot be totally eradicated.

    1.3       Research Questions

The following questions are raised to guide the study.

  1. What is the nature of the relationship among ethnolinguistic groups in Nigeria to her economic development?
  2. To what extent has ethnolinguistic diversity affected national peace and integration in Nigeria?
  • How have the diverse languages of Nigeria affected national development?
  1. What can be done to improve the relationship among ethnolinguistic groups in Nigeria?


1.3 Aims And Objectives Of The Study

The general aim of the study is to discuss the effect of ethnolinguistic diversity on the national development of Nigeria and proffer possible solutions. It seeks to create awareness that the diversity seems to pose a barrier to Nigeria‟s development and actions must be taken.

The main objectives of the study are to:

  1. Examine the nature of the relationship among ethnolinguistic groups in Nigeria.
  2. Appraise the effects of ethnolinguistic diversity to national peace and integration in Nigeria.
  • Analyse how these diverse languages affected national development.
  1. Recommend useful measures that can be employed to improve the relationship among ethnolinguistic groups in Nigeria.

    1.4       Justification Of The Study

Language is used everyday by people in different cultures and societies. The reason for this research is to disabuse the mistaken assumptions that it is the diversity or differences in nationality and ethnic groups alone that generate conflict in Nigeria. Ethnicity and diversity are unique gifts from God according to this researcher’s point of view. The effect of ethnolinguistic diversity on national development is what the study is interested in, highlighting the challenges of diverse ethnic groups so as to bring about a viable solution. Problems emanating out of our diverse groups, apart from the linguistic root, is as a result of deep rooted reflection and expression of human heart. This study views language and ethnic groups as a contributor to our cultural life and the way we perceive the world. There is a need to address the situation leading to diverse conflicts in Nigeria. The findings in this research will help individuals, ethnic groups and the government as a whole to reduce the various challenges of ethnolinguistic diversity in Nigeria.

1.4 Scope And Delimitation

The research involves students from three tertiary institutions across the country. The first is

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Kaduna State. The second and third are; Ebonyi State University (CAS) campus in Abakaliki and Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos State. The reason for selecting these institutions in Nigeria is that, each represents one arm of the tripodal structure of Nigeria. The researcher also sees the higher institution as a setting where youths and adults could objectively make positive contributions to this research through their various experiences.



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