Language Endangerment in Nigeria: The Resilience of Igbo Language
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This chapter explores the viability of the Igbo language in Nigeria and its tendency to be endangered. Igbo has about 20 million speakers yet UNESCO classifies it as a threatened language that stands the risk of possible extinction by the end of the twenty-first century. Some scholars have contended this postulation. This study applies Fishman’s 8-level conceptual model as a framework for analyzing the Igbo language and makes prescriptions on possible actions to reverse the downturn. The data draws from a community of informants in randomly selected schools, churches, and homes from two Igbo speaking states in Nigeria – Ebonyi (Abakaliki) and Enugu (Enugu metropolis), through oral interviews and participant observations from September to November 2014 and February to July 2016. Respondents aged 18+ (adult) and below 18 years (children) constituted the representative population. Overall, 68 adults comprising 30 male and 38 female first language speakers of Igbo; 88 children were interviewed and observed. The children served as the control to check the validity and reliability of the information provided by their parents, and to determine if effective communication and intergenerational transfer occurs from parents to children. Findings reveal that Igbo language is no longer effectively transmitted to children, especially in urban areas. This is due to a negative attitude that some parents have toward the Igbo language and the preference of the younger population for foreign culture, identity, name, and language. There is loss of contact with ecological heritage, knowledge, and history which are usually transferred by oral traditions.
KeywordsIgbo Fishman Language endangerment Language death
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