Status Struggle: Evaluation of the English Language and the Indigenous Languages in Nigeria.


The presence and the use of the English language in Nigeria has been seen as a threat to the indigenous languages. The truth lies in the fact that Nigeria has adopted the language of her colonial master and has given it priority over the indigenous languages that were in existence before her existence.

This act can lead to loss of identity as language is not only a means of communication but an aspect of a people’s identity.

However, the awareness of this danger and the proclamation of UNESCO that the Igbo language will go into extinct in fifty (50) years, beginning from 2001 if nothing is done to revive the language have made Nigerians in the Diaspora engage in the struggle of dethroning the English language and restoring the indigenous languages to what they used to be before the coming of the British.

Therefore, this research is anchored on key issues such as language and identity struggle, the national language question, the status of English in Nigeria, the status and struggle of the indigenous languages in Nigeria and the struggle for status recognition in the language of Nigerian literature, especially fictional prose.

It justifies

through a rationalistic view that the English language will win in the struggle if things remain the way they are.


Title Page i
Certification ii
Approval Page iii
Dedication iv
Acknowledgments v
Abstract vi
Table of Contents vii

Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study 1
1.2 Statement of the Problem 4
1.3 Purposeof the Study 5
1.4 Significance of the Study 6
1.5 Scope of the Study 6
1.6 Limitation of the Study 7
1.7 Research Questions 7
1.8 Definition of Terms 8

Chapter Two: Review of Related Literature

2.0 Introduction 9
2.1 Language and Identity Struggle 9
2.2 Language Endangerment and Revitalisation Struggle 13
2.3 The National Language Question 17
2.4 The Status of English in Nigeria 20
2.6 The Status and Struggle of Nigeria’s Indigenous Languages 24
2.6.1 The Official Language Policy 24
2.6.2 The Educational Language Policy 26
2.6.1 The Status of Indigenous Languages in Science, Technology and the Media 27
2.7 Status Struggle in the Language of Nigerian Literature 29

Chapter Three: Theoretical Framework and Research Methodology

3.0 Introduction 35
3.1 Theoretical Framework 35
3.2 Methodology 39
3.2.1 Design of the Study 39
3.2.2 Area of the Study 40
3.2.3 Population of the Study 41
3.2.4 Sample and Sampling Technique 41
3.2.5 Instrument for Data Collection 42
3.2.6 Method of Data Collection 42
3.2.7 Method of Data Analysis 43

Chapter Four: Data Presentation, Analysis and Interpretation

4.0 Introduction 44
4.1 Responses to Questionnaires 44
4.2 Data Presentation 54
4.3 Interview 56
4.4 Analysis of Interview 68

Chapter Five: Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion

4.1 Summary 60
4.2 Conclusion 63

Appendix 72


1.1 Background to the Study

Language is seen as the main tool of communication between the members of a society that use it.

According to Alan D. DeSantis, language is “a structured system of signs, sounds, gestures, or marks that is used and understood to express ideas and feelings among people within a community, nation, geographic area or cultural tradition” (80).

I. O. Balogun sees language as “a cultural tool for the easy identification of a people and should be allowed to be learnt from birth to adulthood for the promotion of a people’s culture and tradition” (1).

The English language in Nigeria stands against the three major indigenous languages which are; Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. The minor languages in Nigeria are believed to be over 450 in number.

A language can only gain prominence with reference to the people who speak it. The presence and use of the English language in Nigeria have shown greater importance more than the other three national languages.

This is because in a multilingual environment, it is the usefulness of a language that determines the status or importance of the language in the midst of other competing languages in the linguistic market place.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report on endangered indigenous languages states that the Igbo language in Eastern Nigeria faces the risk of possible extinction in the next  50 years (beginning from 2001), if nothing is done to revive the language.


Aboderin, Yemi. “Problem Areas in English Language Learning: Experiment with Some College Freshmen”. Paper presented at 5th Annual Conference of Curriculum Organisation of Nigeria, Ibadan, 1986.

Achebe, Chinua. “English and the African Writer” In Ali, M.A. (Ed.)The Political Intergroup Behaviour. Oxford: Blackwell, 1981. Print.

Adegbija, E. “Lexico-semantic Variation in Nigerian English”, World Englishes. Vol. 8, No. 2, 1989. Print.

Adéníyì, Harrison and Rachael Béllò. “Nigerian Media, Indigenous Languages and Sustainable Development”. In Selected Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, ed. Olaoba F. Arasanyin and Michael A. Pemberton, 155-160.

Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, 2006. Print.

Adetugbo, A. The English language in the Nigerian Experience. Lagos University Press, 1984. Print.

Afigbo, A. E. “The Study of Igbo Language and the Making of a Linguistic Dilemma”. A Seminar Paper on Igbo Language and Literature, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. (July, 1972).

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *