Marriage and the Expression of Linguistic Identity in Edo (Benin)




Language is obviously and undeniably a vital tool and not only is it a means of communicating thoughts, ideas, feelings, opinions and needs, language but also a tool in the hands of our ancestors via which cultural norms, values, friendships and economic relationships, have flourish. Festivals, rituals and ceremonies particularly, marriage ceremonies are conducted via language. This paper examines the different terms used during marriage ceremonies in Benin. The focus is on the language used during traditional marriage ceremony in a typical Benin environment and how this is used to project the identity of the people. The data for the research were collected through interviews and observation (participant observation during traditional marriage rites in Benin), especially in the area of the ceremonies. The researchers employed audio recording and writing, the data were drawn principally from established personalities in the Benin society. This work has helped to bring to limelight the intangible cultural heritage of the Bini people in ceremonies like marriages and the style of language employed in the different stages of the ceremony.


Marriages, Identity, Benin, Ẹdo (Benin) Variation


Language generally tends to be made up of many different varieties. And the terms and expressions used in this language of traditional marriage are many which in the context of situation of the occasion are a variety of Ẹdo language spoken in Benin City. Ẹdo has become predominantly linguistic and ethnic labels referring in scope to the language and people of the entire Benin Division. In addition, Ẹdo however, has served as the indigenous name for the city (Agheyisi, 1986). The name Ẹdo (the old name for Benin) is used by some writers to cover all the languages of the Ẹdoid group of languages, but a writer like Greenberg, on the other hand, did not use the name Ẹdo at all in any of his classifications, but merely listed the languages of the group by their individual names, using Bini for ‘Ẹdo’ language. Melzian in his famous dictionary of the language refers to the Ẹdo language as Bini following various controversies which are not relevant to his work. The Ẹdo language was properly suggested at the 1974 seminar on Ẹdo language which took place at the University of Lagos that the designation ‘Ẹdo-Bini’ be used in formal writing to eliminate its confusion with the language group (Egharevba 1956, 1966). With this agreement, ‘Ẹdo’ was freed to be used or referred to as a single language only. It is also very important to point out that ‘Ẹdo’ is intended to refer to an ‘Ẹdo’. That is a speaker of Ẹdo is also a Benin person. The Ẹdo language is today spoken natively throughout Benin as it was spoken in most of the territory conterminous with the Benin Division of the former Mid-Western State of Nigeria which has now been demarcated into OrẸdo, Ego, Ikpoba-Okha, Ovia-North-East and Ovia-South-West. These constitute the permanent core of the Benin metropolis today and are the geographical area of the paper’s focus as already mentioned


Language allows its speakers to talk about anything within their realm of knowledge in the sense that language impose different perceptions of the world on their speakers or predispose them to look at the world in certain ways which is the case with the Ẹdo language. Adejinu (2000) argues that different varieties of a language serve specific functions in communication in which they are used. Variety for him is therefore described as any form of a language which can be identified in a speech community. Trudgill (2004) claims that language varies not only according to social characteristics of the speaker but also according to the social context in which he finds himself. He posited his claims by saying that the same speaker uses different linguistic varieties in different situations and for different purposes. He was actually saying that contextual constraints also affect language use in a community whether in the form of songs or words in that community...


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