Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 132

Full Length Research Paper

Gender diglossia and its maintenance among the Ubang

Lewis Demola
  • Lewis Demola
  • Department of Linguistics and African Languages, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 04 July 2020
  •  Accepted: 17 May 2022
  •  Published: 30 June 2024


Ubang, a Bendi language spoken in Obudu, Nigeria, has gender-based language varieties whereby different terms are used for certain basic items in female and male speech forms. For instance, “okwakwe” and “abu” are respective female and male words for ‘dog’. There are also gendered nuances in the use of vowels and tone. Apparently, the non-cognate gender-differentiated lexicon derives from genetic differences; while the dual-sex disparities observed in cognate words arguably stem from the conscious attitude of polarisation, whereby male and female folks intentionally sound different. This gender-based dual-sex language pervades all domains of human activity. Hence, a diglossic situation exists prima facie, whereby each gender uses its own variety consistently, regardless of whether the discussants are of the same or opposite gender. This paper adopts a socio-cognitive framework and an ethnographic design to investigate the diglossic nature of Ubang gender speech, as well as identify the ethno-cultural factors responsible for its sustenance and intergenerational transfer. While the gender diglossic nature of Ubang was illustrated, it was found that the shared knowledge of Ubang dual-sex speech is premised on a common ground of polarisation established by lore and fostered through social agentive factors such as parental linguistic role, workplace regimes, table etiquette, age-group censorship and the mutual demotion of the other gender variety.


Keywords: Ubang gender diglossia, Gender dialect, Gender speech domain, Mutual demotion, Polar-farming.