Youth language in Nigeria: A case study of the Ágábá Boys


  • Eyo Offiong Mensah University of Calabar Author



youth language, anti-language, argot, agaba boys, lexical manipulation, mixed language


This paper examines the sociolinguistic import of an emerging hybrid street language by a group known as the Ágábá Boys in Calabar South, Cross River State, South-eastern Nigeria. The paper explores the lexically and contextually driven ingroup code of the Ágábá Boys which is manifested in slang, metaphors and a variety of taboo expressions embodied in expletives, profanities, insults, curses and swear words. The group uses its peculiar language in addition to other socially constructed dialects to reinforce anti-establishment behaviour, conceptualize identity, enhance solidarity and foster group integration. Youth language in Calabar South is full of improvization and allows enormous creative possibilities. It is adjudged to be generally deviant and exotic and mainly perceived as a mark of poor parentage, unemployment, limited education and low social orientation. It enables youth (Ágábá Boys) to identify their individuality and express their deviant tendencies against established norms and conventions. The paper highlights how youth in Calabar South produce and reinforce their marginal/deviant status through iterative and creative language use which is essential for the creation of urban subculture and their group dynamics.

Author Biography

  • Eyo Offiong Mensah, University of Calabar
    Eyo Mensah, PhD is an African Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Communication Studies, University of Calabar, Nigeria. His research interests include morphology, syntax, African Linguistics and Sociolinguistics. His latest publications are ‘Grammaticalization in Nigerian Pidgin’ (Íkala, Revista de Lenguaje y Cultura 17.2, 2012) and ‘Proverbs in Nigerian Pidgin’ (Journal of Anthropological Research 69.1, 2013). Dr Mensah is also the editor of Ndunode: Calabar Journal of the Humanities.






How to Cite

Mensah, E. O. (2013). Youth language in Nigeria: A case study of the Ágábá Boys. Sociolinguistic Studies, 6(3), 387-419.