Abesabesi Grammar

1.1.3 Number of speakers

Typological Relevance
no figures
Relevance within Language
no figures
The number of speakers of Abesabesi is not easy to determine. The only existing estimation I could find is 10,000 Lewis, Simons, & Fennig (2018). This estimation is from 1992 and, therefore, quite dated. Agoyi does not present speaker estimations in any of her publications, but gives population census data from the Abesabesi settlements and mentions the difficulties of estimating speaker numbers (Agoyi 2014, p. 1).
Indeed, there are severe difficulties when it comes to estimating the amount of Abesabesi speakers. On the one hand, only old census data is available and data about languages or ethnicity is not included. On the other hand, the percentage of Abesabesi speakers among the population of the nine settlements can only be estimated. Lastly, quite a substantial part of the Abesabesi live elsewhere in Nigeria or abroad. The percentage of Abesabesi-speakers among these diaspora-Abesabesi, again, can only be an estimate. Nevertheless, I want to attempt an estimate in order to give a more accurate and current view on the speaker number. As an estimation depends on several factors, I will present a transparent description of how I reached the estimated number.
Starting with the population data of all Abesabesi-speaking settlements, the most suitable and current figures seem to be those collected in the scope of the Millennium Village Project Ikaram-Ibaram, a model project to exemplify the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (see Section 1.2. Chovwen et al. (2009) give figures for all Abesabesi-speaking settlements except for Akunnu (Table 1.1).
Table 1.1: Population figures by Chovwen et al. (2009)
Town name Population
Ikaram 4982
Ase 72
Ibaram 613
Iyani 514
Gedegede 995
Ajowa 8064
For Akunnu, Agoyi (2008) cites the Nigerian Population Census (NPC) 1991 and gives a population of 2385. As all figures of the NPC 1991 are about double the amount of the more recent Millenium Village figures, I assume a population of 1193 people in Akunnu (half of 2385). As Ajowa is composed of eight quarters, of which three are Abesabesi settlements, I assume a population of 3024 for Daja, Eshuku, and Ilodun (three eighths of 8064). This makes up a total population of 11,393 for all Abesabesi-speaking settlements.
Speaker percentages are not available - the closest figures are the speaker percentages across age groups in Agoyi (2014, p. 4). However, there is no population curve available, which is why speaker percentages can not be derived from those figures. The estimate I purely base on my own impressions and informal interviews with speakers is 50%. This is because most children and young adults under 30 years do not speak Abesabesi, people above 30 years have varying speaker percentages from 10% to 95% depending on the settlement, and most settlements have a small percentage of immigrants that do not speak it either. The estimated amount of Abesabesi speakers in the nine settlements is, therefore, 5697 people.
The Abesabesi population living outside the nine settlements can also only be estimated. From conversations with speakers and personal impressions, I assume the number is rather high, but only very little of the diaspora population speaks Abesabesi, as many of them are born and raised in the diaspora. I am estimating around 1300 more speakers to round up the total amount of speakers to 7000 people. As mentioned before, this estimation of around 7000 speakers is based on a lot of assumptions, personal impressions, and conversations with speakers and should be used with care.