Effect of Language Shift and Language Death in Nigeria


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This research work was on the effect of Language shift and Language death in Nigeria it should be noted that language shift means the process in which a population changes from using one language to another. This study became imperative as majority of homes in AkwaIbom no longer promote indigenous languages; their children cannot speak their mother tongue as expected but are gradually shifting to a new language called English Language.

The study aimed at highlighting the possible effect of Language shift and it should be noted that language shift leads to culture and traditions, lost of dignity aid identity, lost of ideas, lost of political values among others. To amice at the result, a total of 200 people were randomly selected from the population and the results showed that there is an effect of language shift; therefore certain measures should be taken to prevent it. These included: No Language should be regarded as inferior, government should promote dialects and parents should encourage their children to speak their indigenous language.


Effect of Language Shift and Language Death in Nigeria



1.1  Background to the Study

In this research work, language shift means the process, or the event, in which a population changes from using one language to another. As such recognition of it depends on being able to see the prior and subsequent language as distinct, and therefore the term excludes language change which can be seen as evolution the transition from older to newer forms of the same language. Language shift is a social phenomenon, whereby one language replaces another in a given (continuing) society, it is due to underlying enhances in the composition and aspiration of the sociality, which goes from speaking the old to the new language.

By definition, it is not a old structural change caused by the dynamics of the old language as a system. The new language is adopted as a result of contact with another language community, and so it is usually possible to identify the new language as “ the same” as that is, a descendant of language spoken somewhere else, even if the new language has some new perhaps unprecedented, properties on the lips of the population that is adopting it.

Language shift result in the spread of the new language, some or all of whose speakers are changing their allegiance. As a result some readings on language spread and endangerment are relevant to language shift language shift may be an object of conscious policy. But equally if may be a phenomenon which is unplanned, and often unexplained in the other hand, language death can be called language extinction or linguicide,and rarely also glottophagy occurs when a language death is a process that affects speech communities where the level of Linguistic competence that speakers possess of a given language vanity is decreased, eventually resulting in no native or fluent speakers of the vanity.

Language death may affect any language idiom, including dialects and language. Language death should not be confused with language attrition which is also called Language Loss, which described the Loss of proficiency in a language at the individual level.

It should be noted that language death is typically the final outcome of language shift and may manifest itself in one of the following ways:

  • Gradual language death
  • Bottom – to – top language death ; when language shift begins in a high level environment such as the government
  • Radical language death
  • Linguincide (also known as sudden death language genocide, physical language death, biological language death).
  • The most common process leading to language death is one in which a community of speakers of one language becomes bilingual with another language, and gradually allegiance to the second language until they cease to use their original, heritage language.

This is a process of assimilation which may be voluntary or may be forced upon a population.

Speakers of some language particularly regional or minority language may decide to abandon them based on economic or utilitarian grounds, in favour of languages regarded as having greater utility or prestige. This process is gradual and can occur from either bottom to top or top – to – bottom.

Language with a small, geographically isolated population of speakers can also die when their speakers are wiped out by genocide, disease, or natural disaster.

A language is often declared to be dead even before the language has died. If there are only a few elderly speakers of a language remains, and they no longer use that language for communication, them the language that has reached such a reduced stage of use is generally considered moribund.

Half of the spoken languages of the world are not being taught to new generations of children are being socialized into it as their primary language – the process of transmission is ended and the language itself will not survive past the current generation. This is rarely a sudden event, but a slow process of each generation learning less and less of the language, until. It use is relegated to the domain of traditional use, such as in poetry and song.

Typically the transmission of the language from adults to children becomes more and more restricted, to the final setting that adults speaking the language will raise children who never acquire fluency. One example of this process reaching its conclusion is that of the Dalmatian Language.

Language death can be fast, when the children are reasons such as work opportunities and social status. Many children are rather being taught a lingual Franca with English being the most widespread. At other times, minority languages service much longer for example when the speakers try to 180 late themselves against a minority population often, especially historically, governments have tried to promote language death, not wishes to have minority languages.

To this end language shift, also known as language assimilation is the process whereby a speech community of a language shifts to speaking another language. Often languages that are perceived to be higher status stabilize or spread at the expense of other languages that are perceived by their own speakers to be lower – status.

However it be should be known, that the language situation in Nigeria and specifically, Akwa Ibom State is leading to languages death are we are gradually shifting allegiance to a second language (English).


Effect of Language Shift and Language Death in Nigeria

1.2  Statement of the Problem

The issue of language shift and possible death is very alarming to this part of the world. A situation where Ibibio speakers of English shift allegiance to the second language (English) is what will lead to the death of the language.

Majority of Ibibio children do not find pride in speaking their language, even their parents behave it is right for their children to use English even at informal occasions, like a home.

This is not favourable to us at all as it may kill our language and by retention kill our cultural heritage.

Language is a symbol of unity, once last, so many thing follow. One cannot claim a good identification of his or her tribe without having a fluent ability of speaking his or her language.

This often happen when people regard their language is intenor to another language and this is a clear example of what happens in this part of the world. Akwaibom speakers of English believe their language is intenor to English, which make them to shift all their effort to learning English.

However, this is not so as socio- typists believe all language are equal there is no superior or intenor language. This is problematic and this work aims at revealing the effects so as to guide the populace to be properly guided and have hope in their language.


1.3  purpose of the Study

The study aims at highlighting the effect of language shift which language death is said to be the final stage of it. It should be noted that language death affects both the language themselves and the people that speak them. This study will reveal to the readers that the death of their language will not only affect the language but them as well.

Specifically, the study aims at studying the following:

  1. Effects of language shift and death on language
  2. The problems of language death to speakers of the language


Effect of Language Shift and Language Death in Nigeria

1.4  significance of the Study

This study will  be very helpful to Nigerian speakers of English who believe their language are intenor  to English language and therefore see themselves as intenor too because whatever affects the speakers of the language too.

The research work will also help students of English in sub-sequent works of similar topic.

The importance of the study cannot be over emphasize, so reader of the work will be of great benefit to the work, especially those who believe their language is intenor to another.


1.5  Research Questions

To guide the research work, the followings research questions were formulated.

  1. Is there any effect of language shift and death on Nigeria?
  2. Is languages shift and death a problem to people?


1.6  Delimitation of the Study

The study will not go beyond Akwa Ibom Language which is the area of the study. The study will only concentrate on Ibibio language as this is known to the researcher.


1.7 Limitation of the Study

This study would have been extended to other Local Government Areas, but because of time and finance, this was not possible. We would have also loved to look at other Nigerian Language but the researcher can only speak Ibibio.


1.8 Definition of Operational Terms

Speech Community: A speech community is a group of people who share a set of linguistic norms and expectations with regard to how their language should be used.

Dialects: This is a language that is socially subordinated to a regional standard language often historically cognate or genetically related to standard language.

Language Attrition: Language attrition is the process of decay that a language experiences for lack of use.

Assimilation: a process by which a person or a group’s language and / or culture come to resemble those of another group.

Genocide: systematic destruction of all a significant part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group.

Kasabe: A language in the Manbily region of Cameroon’s Adamawa province which crystal found to have died.

Anomie: A situation in which a society provides little moral guidance to individuals.

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