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This work examines the concept of language variation in age and sex in Itu Mbon Uso speech community. Language is basically a human phenomenon. It is a means through which human beings communicate with one another. Language is said to be part of the totality of human cultural achievement because through language, we can communicate, interact with one another, carry out social and business transactions and many other things.  Language variation is therefore the use of certain linguistic items as observed in the speech patterns of the language users. We often speak of language as a monolithic entity that exists separately from its speakers. And as individual varies, so does their language. Languages vary at every level. Speakers of a language vary depending on their geographical origin, class, gender, age and ethnicity.  Language variation in age and sex, simply means how language varies according to age and sex. Relevant literatures were reviewed in relation to language variation in age and sex. The data collection was generated through oral interview. Data were tabulated using the ordinary analytical method. Findings revealed how language varies in age and sex in Itu Mbon Uso speech community.


Definition and Examples of Linguistic Variation













Title Page       –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           i

Declaration   –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           ii

Certification  –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           iii

Dedication     –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           iv

Acknowledgements –           –           –           –           –           –           –           v

Abstract         –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           vii

Table of Contents     –           –           –           –           –           –           –           viii



  • Introduction –           –           –           –           –           –           –           1
  • Background of the study –           –           –           –           –           2
  • Statement of the problem –           –           –           –           –           5
  • Research Objectives –           –           –           –           –           –           6
  • Research Questions – –           –           –           –           –           6
  • Significance of the study –           –           –           –           –           7
  • Delimitation of the study –           –           –           –           –           7




2.1       Introduction  –           –           –           –           –           –           –           8
2.2       Literature Review on Language Variation           –           –           8
2.3       Language variation in age and sex            –           –           –           –           13
2.4       Language and age     –           –           –           –           –           –           14
2.5       Age-grading in different age groups         –           –           –           15
2.6       Language and sex     –           –           –           –           –           –           16
2.7       Theoretical Framework       –           –           –           –           –           18
2.8       Quantitative Paradigm         –           –           –           –           –           18
2.9       Dynamic Paradigm   –           –           –           –           –           –           20

2.10    Summary on Review of Related Literature –       –           –           21



3.1       Introduction  –           –           –           –           –           –           –           22
3.2       Design of the Study –           –           –           –           –           –           20
3.3       Area of the Study     –           –           –           –           –           –           23
3.4       Population of the Study      –           –           –           –           –           23
3.5       Sampling Technique            –           –           –           –           –           –           23
3.6       Instrumentation        –           –           –           –           –           –           24
3.7       Procedure of Data Collection         –           –           –           –           24
3.8       Method of Data Analysis    –           –           –           –           –           24



4.1       Introduction  –           –           –           –           –           –           –           26

4.2       Data Presentation     –           –           –           –           –           –           26
4.3       Discussion of Findings        –           –           –           –           –           30

4.4       Summary on Presentation/Analysis of Data Collection-                       32 




5.1       Introduction  –           –           –           –           –           –           –           33
5.2       Summary       –           –           –           –           –           –           –           33
5.3       Conclusion    –           –           –           –           –           –           –           34
5.4       Recommendation     –           –           –           –           –           –           35

References    –           –           –           –           –           –           –           36





There is no language without variation.  Variation is a common phenomenon with every language of the world. Hence variation also exists in Itu Mbon Uso speech forms. The term linguistic variation of study according to Agbedo (2001:18) “….. is the use of certain linguistic items as observed in the speech patterns of the language users”. In variation studies therefore, the primary preoccupation is quantitative analysis of this observed behaviour. Linguistic variation is a universal phenomenon; there is never a language that does not have different ways of saying one thing. Yet, it does not bring about change in the semantic of the utterance made.

This research is based on sociolinguistics, which is the study of the relationship between language use and the structure of the society. It also takes into account such factors as the social background of both the speaker and the respondent, their age, sex, social class and region.

Everyone knows that language is variable.  Every language exhibits considerable internal variations of speakers, who are aware of their social significance make use of the many possibilities offered to them. Variability is everywhere in language from the unique details in each production of a sound or sign to the auditory or visual processing of the linguistic signal, (Agbedo, 2008:1). Nevertheless, in specific terms, the general term is to discern the principle of language variation and the relative significance of social factors such as gender, age, region and contact in accounting for this language behaviour. In fact, one of the amazing facts about human communication is the demonstrated ability to normalize the inherent variation within every spoken or signal message in processing the linguistic signal.

The study is aimed at investigating the existence of language variation in Itu Mbon Uso speech pattern and social factors such as age and gender.



This section talks about the Itu Mbon Uso people and their culture.

Itu Mbon Uso is located at the northern part of the Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and takes almost half of the area in terms of land mass. It is an Island in shape extending from Itu Mbon Uso, Ikpe Ikon Nkon creek at the south, east to Awuwa stream, half a pole to Etiti Ulo of Bende Local Government Area of Abia State of Nigeria. And on the Northwest, it extends to Inyang (creek) Ntanaku through Itu Nta or Ibere Nta as it is now called Ikwano Local Government  Area of Abia State separating Ntai-aku of Ntan-obu with Nkari Clan and the North-Eastern part, it bounds at Ikwu river through Ndiebe Atan Abam of Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia state, and join the tributary from Idiaobong at Ndikereke axis to Nkana river where the twin river join as Asaka Mba un-reaching Nkana-River flows downward to form Enyong creek, thus leaving Itu Mbon Uso as an Island of about 50-60 square kilometers approximately with the population of more than 100,000 inhabitants. It is an Island in an oval shape.

The language of Itu Mbon Uso people is as old as the native speakers. It is yet to attain the status of a written language since it does not have an orthography of any kind yet. According to Eta Akwa of Itu Mbon Uso, a memorandum on the custom and tradition of the people of Itu Mbon Uso clan was written by Ntoeng Udo Effiong “Osung V”. There is an affinity between Itu Mbon Uso and Efik of the present Cross River State of Nigeria. As a result of this affinity, it is one of the varieties of Efik language. Although a group among the people are of the opinion that the name Itu Mbon Uso refers to the people whereas the language is called Mbou edem.

The Itu Mbon Uso language is mutually intelligible with some other languages in Akwa Ibom State such as Ibibio, Anaang, Efik in the Cross River State. Based on this mutual intelligibility among the languages, Itu Mbon Uso has been classified generally as a dialect of Ibibio under Benue-Congo family, one of the largest language families in Africa. Itu Mbon Uso belongs to the Lower Cross which is a sub-family of Benue-Congo, which in turn belongs to the Niger-Congo family according to Greenberg (1963).

In language affinity, Itu Mbon Uso speaks the same tongue with Ukwa, Nkari, Iwere and Ito our sister clans and slightly different from that of Ikpanya. However, since this hypothesis has not been verified through systematic studies based on linguistic principles, this research work will  rests on the most assertion regarding the status of Itu Mbon Uso language with respect to language classification as shown in the classification of the lower cross language according to Connel (1994:13).

According to ancient history, Ananamong Itu Mbon Uso remains the headquarters for the whole clan since the first settlement. The position is buttressed by the fact that Ananamong is the royal home where the rulers of the clans as kings or Osungs, and also contained the most important of all deities-Ndem Isong Itu for which the chief priests and kings usually comes from. It is believed that this Ndem Isong is the god of the Land that directs the affairs of Osung society and its administration. It was this religion and traditional society that made decision on major political and strategic issues such as territorial expansion, making of peace and waging of wars to secure borders with the neighbouring clans. The Ekpe society was also important for both political and religious life of the people. The Ekang society notifies everybody if important cases arose such as receiving order from Osung for announcement and for execution of order.

Itu Mbon Uso land is an area that has a fertile soil. Farming / agriculture is the main occupation due to the large extension of fertile land along the flood. The Itu Mbon Uso people cultivate rice, yams, cocoa, cassava, maize etc. that help them in selling out and in return buy some goods to their different homes.



“Indigenous languages are more than a means of communication, they are central sense of identity and the culture of their speakers. The loss of any indigenous language brings with it a loss of culture of a whole way of perceiving and representing the world. Linguistic diversity, perhaps particularly in the case of indigenous language needs to be protected as part of humanity’s global cultural heritage”.

The Itu Mbon Uso language users do not even realize the fact that there are variations in the language and this has motivated my intention to research on language variation in age and sex in Itu Mbon Uso.



Research objectives expected to be accomplished in the analysis are as follows, to:

  1. examine closely how language varies in age and sex.
  2. analyze how age and sex affects language change in Itu Mbon Uso.
  • learn about how the internal structure of language interacts with external factors.



The following questions are expected to be accomplished in the analysis:

  1. How does language vary in age and sex in Itu Mbon Uso?
  2. How does age and sex affect language change in Itu Mbon Uso?
  3. How does the internal structure of language interact with external social factors?


Language variation is an important research topic. It is important because it will help find out how language and society interact, how social attitudes, social ambitions and social bonding affect the manner in which people speak. It will also reveal how language varies in age and sex in Itu Mbon Uso.



This research project is only limited to language variation in age and sex in Itu Mbon Uso.







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