November 21, 2015

Why Nigerian languages are disappearing – Linguists

task FG to undertake language survey, documentation


LINGUISTS in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to undertake language survey, documentation and analysis of oral legislature and lexicon to have a correct statistics of languages in the country and to prevent them from going to extinction. They noted that some of these languages, which signify the strength and diversity of Nigeria were practically dying or disappearing due to recognition given to one language by law over another and the desirability of the users to abandon their languages over others.

A Professor of linguistics from the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Jos, Prof Andrew Haruna and other speakers spoke in Abuja,at a National Consultative Forum on Nigerian Endangered Languages with the theme; Creating Strategies for Preventing Language Loss in Nigeria.

The don said that Nigeria is the third richest country in the world in terms of language, as it has about 500 languages out of 7,000 languages in the world. He noted that Nigeria linguistic diversity is riddled in controversy, as no specific figure of languages in Nigeria due to lack of survey, adding that most of the figures (450 or 500 languages) given were emanated from survey undertaken by foreigners.

Haruna maintained that the disappearance of language is the disappearance of culture, meaning that the country would be witnessing depletion in its cultural heritage as languages disappear. Citing Bauchi State as an example, the don disclosed that a study had shown that there were 64 languages in the state, but only five of them are currently active.

Also, a  Former President of Linguistic Association of Nigeria,  Prof Ahmed Amfani  further explained that a research carried out in Kaduna State revealed that many languages in the state particularly in the southern Kaduna are gradually going into extinction. They told the government categorically that language could be used as an instrument to promote unity in diversity, if properly harnessed.

In his remarks, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said it is unfortunate that “80 percent of Nigerian youth, especially those between the age bracket (12-18) years, find it difficult to speak their mother tongue fluently or do not speak them at all.”

Represented by a Director in the ministry, Mr Adebola Kayode said western education and globalization had set Africa back significantly in the area of linguistics, which pertinently is the cornerstone of every nation’s development. The minister added that “language imperialism which causes the abandonment of cultures and traditions should be discouraged through international legislations and proclamations by UNESCO which is the body in charge of this discipline.”