Igbo dialects and the citation-form: the possibility of a standard Igbo dictionary

  • Esther N. Oweleke


It is the norm in lexicography to have dictionary headwords in the standard variety of the language. But up to date, no Igbo dictionary exists in this variety. Most Igbo lexicographers have adopted the dialectal or multidialectal approach in their choice of a citation-form. The multiplicity of Igbo dialects accounts for this situation. This paper examines both sound and lexical variations in the language; describes the lexicographic problems of choice and arrangement of headwords, and discusses the suitability of the Igbo dictionary as a tool for standardizing the language. Two major sources of data were employed: the modified Ibadan 400 wordlist of basic items - used for a survey of the seven dialect zones identified by Manfredi (1989), and the dictionaries of Welmers and Welmers (1968), Williamson (1972), Igwe (1999) and Echeruo (2001). The paper demonstrated that sound and lexical variants in Igbo can be harnessed by Igbo lexicographers to produce an Igbo dictionary in the standard variety. Considering the optimal benefits derivable from a standard dictionary, the following suggestions for future Igbo lexicographers are proffered: words from different dialects of the language should be included in the dictionary; the standard forms be selected and consistently entered as headwords. Words with sound variation should be treated as sub-entries and lexical variants be cited as main-entries in their right alphabetical positions. The paper argued that, for the Igbo dictionary to fulfil its indispensable role as a language standardizing tool, the production of a Standard Igbo dictionary is imperative in Igbo lexicography and Igbo language studies.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2227-5460
print ISSN: 2225-8604