Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

Nigerian Languages and Members' Development Plateau: the Case of Yorùbá

Adeleke A. Fakoya, PhD ( Lagos State University)



The threat of death and/or other hazards may befall a language on account of factors such as the unbroken demise of its speakers; the attitudes of the surviving speakers towards the language; certain oppressive airs about a foreign, dominant language; disinterest of the youth in that language and its culture; technology and speakers' desire to be involved in world affairs; travel; western education and the economic advantages of having a foreign/second language; and social status accorded a foreign language in that community: all, as it were, evils that make the growth or relevance of Nigeria's principal and grassroots languages somewhat pointless, leading to the 'birth' of a population with little regard for their own languages and an untamed interest in a foreign language and culture.

The present case, the Yorùbá language - currently suffering from the factors listed above - is purportedly spoken by about 30 million people, a figure that ordinarily should ensure its strength and survival for many years to come. Unfortunately, recent trends among these speakers reveal that while the language may not be really threatened with a danger as serious as death, its primal force (as a cultural index and an embodiment of the mores of an 'original' people) may have become a detail of history rather than a fact of day-to-day living among its speakers.

This paper demonstrates that despite the promising ambience of globalisation, most of the speakers cannot perform purely well in the language without using the crutches offered by the 'repressive' English language; hardly enrich their talk with the legacy of proverbs and axioms; appear not to have much familiarity with the vintage stock of wit and candour characteristic of the 'ancient masters'; do not know the meanings encoded in their own names; have totally lost contact with their ecological heritage, and are generally carried away by anyone who can speak the language efficiently, especially while translating from another language.

The sum of these observations, in the view of this paper, is that although Yorùbá has been written since as early as 1800 and possesses numerous speakers, it is facing a unique case of metalanguage failure. This is caused by the latent impact of Nigeria's colonial experience which has resulted in speakers' inability to express themselves completely without recourse or appeal to a foreign language. Also, in spite of its rich heritage, these speakers shun it and latch on to other languages for communicative efficiency. The net suspicion is that the Yorùbá as well as its speakers may have reached its development plateau.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-29