1.0 Background to the study

The accession of English language in Nigeria can be traced back to 1553, when Britons visited the coastal areas of Nigeria for slave trade; the means of communication between the Nigerian traders at the time was ‘pidgin English’. With the abolition of slave trade, British explorers started moving beyond the coastal areas, penetrating deep into Nigeria to promote legitimate trade.

However, the arrival and existence of English language in Nigeria, which was also factored by the European colonization of Africa, had a huge influence on Nigerians and their indigenous languages. The Britons imposed ‘English’ on a largely fragmented linguistic group that is known today as ‘Nigeria’. The importance of English thus became overemphasized (even up till now) to the detriment of our indigenous languages. In the case of English in Igboland, the ability to speak and write English was so much valued that a competent user of English was accorded so much respect and recognition among his people. The Igbo people, known for their astuteness, dynamism and receptivity were so fascinated by this foreign tongue that everybody strove to learn it or strongly admired those who were able to speak what they referred to as “Asusu ndi ocha”. Loosely translated, it means ‘Whiteman’s tongue’.

Writing on languages in contact, Comrie (2009) asserts that while much change takes place in a given language without outside interference, many changes can result from contact with other languages. When two or more languages come in contact, some socio-linguistic phenomena take place, among which are bilingualism, multilingualism, code-switching, code-mixing, calquing, borrowing, language interference and, perhaps, creolisation and pidginisation (Olaoye, 2007).

Some Nigerian languages also had contact with Arabic and French. English, as Nigeria’s Lingua Franca, is a British colonial legacy which eventually became a major player in Nigerian education, politics, administration, economy and legislation. English today can be regarded as the lamp with which the Nigerian youth travels through the education tunnel. It is now being referred to as one of the major Nigerian languages (Ogundare, 2004). It is a compromise language of communication in Nigeria’s multi-lingual and multi-cultural setting.

The reason being that the orchestrated political resistance to the choice of an indigenous language

, as a national official language (NOL), has foreclosed choosing any of the three major Nigerian languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) as a Lingua Franca. English is thus seen as the socio-linguistic and symbolic embodiment of political power and authority (Adekunle, 1974).

English is a vehicle of globalization through which came information and communication technology (ICT), which has a pervasive influence on education delivery. Through English, western democracy has become a popular and regular news menu on the nation’s political agenda. Through ICT many exoglossic languages have had close contact with some Nigerian languages. The influence of these foreign languages has been overwhelming, contributing to the growth and development of the Nigerian ethnolects. Through language borrowing, vocabulary expansion is made possible by lexical modernization. Yoruba language in particular has become superbly enriched. This enrichment takes place in almost all aspects of Yoruba language.

The three major Nigerian languages, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba borrowed from English. Some of the characteristics of those borrowed words are that they are integrated into the borrowing Nigerian languages, and that consonant clusters in these words are broken with epenthetic vowels. This is an incidence of linguistic symbiosis. According to Brann (2008) the in road so exoglossic languages have brought a shift from monolingualism to multilingualism, and has thus created a class of polyglots in urban cities from the monoglots of the rural areas.

It is pertinent to note that English language is a ‘migrant language’. A language that migrates from its ancestral home and becomes established as a second language in a heterogeneous, multilingual society as English language left England for Nigeria will unavoidably impact on its new environment in several ways (Ekundayo 14). First, the imported language (i.e. second language) interacts with the users’ first language (L1) and/or mother tongue (MT). Such an interaction often leads to language transfer habits. Second, the imported language then assumes some of the features of the second language users after interacting with the new environment. Third, even features of the second language in the mind of the learner(s) interact and influence one another independently. Consequently, the psycho-sociolinguistic interaction of the languages in contact leads to the transfer of syntactic, pragmatic, morphological and semantic developments of both languages. Albeit, this research work takes a look at the morphological influences of English language on Igbo language.

1.1 Statement of the problem

The contact and influence of English language on Nigerian indigenous languages is not without controversies or problems. Many Nigerian linguistic communities feared that the reception of English language will lead to the extinction of their culture and even their language. This was the reason for the resistance of English language in the early Nigeria by many language groups. Nwala (1985) describes the Igboman’s receptivity to change in the following words: “it…was paradoxical that the group that most resisted the Whiteman’s rule and the Whiteman’s way of life, eventually turned around to be the most anglicised and the most Europeanized among Nigerians”. Other people have rather criticized the Igbo peoples’ desire for foreign things. Afigbo(1979) describes the Igbo people as those “who more than most other  Nigerian people have tend rather recklessly to abandon their indigenous culture for the European culture”. This research does not aim at projecting the contact between English language and Nigerian languages as a weakness or a curse; rather, it will focus on the morphological influences and contributions of English to Igbo nouns.

1.2 Scope of study

The peculiar grammatical or linguistic influence that the English language had on Igbo spans through phonetics, phonetics, lexico-semantics, pragmatics, morphology, etc. this research will concern itself with the ‘morphological influence of the English language on Igbo, using some utterances of Igbo-English bilinguals.

1.3 Purpose of study

The major purpose of this research is to examine the influence of English on Igbo nouns morphologically in code-mixed and code-switched utterances. In the process of creating some Igbo nouns, verbs play important roles (even though they belong to a different word class). Igbo verbs accept different types of affixation (prefix, interfix, and suffix) which enables them to move from one word class to another, especially to nominal. This research therefore projects the verb as a beast of burden, because of its role in nominalization

1.4 Methodology

This research will base its analysis on ‘morphology’, which is the science of the shape of words. The data for this research work was gathered through simple unstructured selection of lexical items in the language (Igbo).


1.5 Limitations

The study of Igbo nouns can never be exhausted. There are different ways of analysing them like; phonological, semantically, pragmatic, and stylistic ways of analysing them, but research will concern itself with the morphological analysis of Igbo nouns.

1.6 Significance of study

Code-switching and mixing are known to be a universal phenomenon among bilinguals. Not until recently, code-switching and mixing was seen as an evidence of “internal-mental confusion, the inability to separate two languages sufficiently to warrant the description of true bilingualism (Lipski 1982). This study shows that code-switching/mixing is not a manifestation of mental confusion, but a rule governed behaviour among bilinguals which is motivated by various socio-psychological as well as linguistic factors.

1.7 A linguistic sketch of the Igbo language

The Igbo language is a ‘Kwa language’ of the Benue-Congo subfamily of the Volta-Congo and Atlantic-Congo branches of the Niger-Congo language family. It is one of the four largest languages in West Africa. Within Nigeria, Igbo is spoken in the following southern delta region: Abia, Anambara, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. It is also spoken in the Northeast of Delta state and Southeast of Rivers state, but it is rarely spoken outside Nigeria. Igbo speakers are typically bilinguals, speaking as well.

The phoneme inventory consists of eight vowels, thirty consonants and two tones, depending on the analysis. The double articulation in the consonant system, in particular the (implosive) labiovelars (e.g. [kp], [gb]) is a defining feature of the Igbo sound system. Likewise, aspiration and nasalization are also phonemic (contrastive) in the language.

The tone system of Igbo consists of two primary tones (high and low). When these tones are combined, in a variety of ways, various complex derived tone changes and tonal melodies occur. As in many West African languages, tone is both lexically contrastive and grammatical. In fact, the grammatical relations are expressed via tone than by word order or morphology.

Igbo is an isolating language with relatively little morphology. That is to say, grammatically, on discrete root morphemes as opposed to word-internally via a series of affixes. As is typical of Kwa languages, the majority of Igbo words are morphologically simple, showing little to no morphological structure. Igbo verbs, however, do bear a modest amount of morphological structure. Verbs inflect for tense (past, present, future) and aspect (progressive, perfective, durative, inchoative), via both prefixation and suffixation. In addition, verbs bear additional morphology depending on the sentence-type. For example, verbs in imperative sentences bear special suffixes, and in negative sentences they take certain prefixes. Reduplication is a productive derivational morphological process in the language (e.g. it is the primary means by which verbs are nominalized). Syntactically, verbs are among the most complex category of expressions in the language.