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Apr 24, 2017

Nigerian Indigenous Languages: Negotiating Place in the Face of Imminent Abandonment

Nigerian Indigenous Languages: Negotiating Place in the Face of Imminent Abandonmen
Boma Batubo, the Author
Through years of paying close attention to language, I have arrived at one striking truth which happens to be that language is very much alive and kicking. As much as humans grow, move and interact, language enjoys same luxury on a leveled platform. This is no creation error but is a perfect practical display of the creator’s wisdom and benevolence. Language is a thing of the soul; the soul being the storehouse of the intellect, the emotions and the mind. These three components are what are expressed in language as a communicative tool irrespective of the age, class, educational qualification, religion, sex of the users of language (known in linguistic circles as interlocutors) and the situation/context such users may have to deal with. The growth of language is synchronous to the growth of the individual (speaker or user); being mindful of the fact that language here could refer to any language at all and not just the English language which has indisputably claimed for itself the front seat out there in the field; a disposition which I, at best, term “mock superiority.”


Mock Superiority? Why this assertion? The rationale behind this is not far-fetched. Once successful interaction between two or within more parties in a given language as a communicative tool can take place, then that particular language has acquired some level of maturity and can stay afloat, being second to none. In the light of this, it suggests that Kalabari, Igbo, Ịzọn, Yoruba, Efik, Ibibio, Hausa, Urhobo, Ibani and others are full languages in themselves and play no second fiddle to the English language. As much as the English language has grown, all these aforementioned languages and more possess the potency to attain the same height. None is superior to the other. Apparently, English is a non-native language in Nigeria but we can lay claim to it due to the relevant roles it plays in the Nigerian society. Take English away and the Nigerian nation will cease to exist. It is the binding force of the national fabric. As much as we as Nigerians, and by extension Africans, are concerned about English, we must also pay due attention to our indigenous languages in the same vein. Our indigenous languages are major constituting factors of our cultural heritage; each tribe has a language (usually with varying dialects); each tribe is microcosmic of the Nigerian nation at large. Our cultural heritage is our identity. It is what makes us a people. Set culture aside and be greeted with a people bemused and wandering hopelessly in a desert with no margin, tossed from side to side by the whirlwind.

Without doubt, the arms and feet of our indigenous languages measure up to that of the English language. Their roots run deep into the soil of interaction and their heartbeats are no less precious than that of English. Human attitude towards these languages is what makes all the difference and differences, usually, are conspicuous.

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Article Authored by Boma Batubo
B.A (English and Literary Studies).

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