Why globalised English stays put in Nigeria

Why globalised English stays put in Nigeria

Saturday, March 5, 2016 11:31 am

Professor Lekan Oyeleye delivering his inaugural lecture

Professor Lekan Oyeleye delivering his inaugural lecture

Here is how globalisation has created great varieties in spoken and written English in Nigeria


Though, Professor Albert Lekan Oyeleye of the Department of English, University of Ibadan, UI, is a man of average height. At 65 he stood tall recently at the institution’s Trenchard Hall, to deliver his inaugural lecture entitled, “In My Father’s House: Globalization, Linguistic Pluralism and the English Language in Nigeria”. In attendance were the institution’s principal officers, led by their Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka; Oyeleye’s first PhD student, now a professor at Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Anthony Lekan Dairo; Professor Akin Odebunmi; Professor Ayo Ogunsiji, who was also the lecturer’s PhD student; Dr. Adenike Akinjobi and families, friends and colleagues of the lecturer.

Starting off, Oyeleye disclosed that the occasion availed him an opportunity to give an account of his stewardship to the premier university, which has nurtured his scholarship, and the Nigerian public, which has equipped him with the materials with which he had developed his intellectual and research agenda over many years.

Oyeleye was the third to present inaugural from the language arm of English in the department and the ninth from the total presentations so far in the department with the first inaugural titled, “Bilingualism”, presented in November 17, 1984 by Professor Paul Christopherson, followed by Professor Ayo Banjo’s with the title, “Grammars and Grammarians”. Others who were from the Literature arm were: Professor Molly Mahood, “The Place of English Studies in African University”, 1954; Professor M.JC. Echeruo on “Poets, Prophets and Professors” 1976; Professor Dan Izevbaye, “In his own Image”, 1985; Professor Isidore Okpewho, “The Portrait of the Artist as a Scholar”, 1990; Professor Sam Asein, “Literature and the State: Thoughts on the Scholar-critic as Mediator”, 1995 and Professor Aderemi Raji-Oyelade, ‘Fluent in(ter)ventions: Webs of the Literary Discipline, 2013.

Professor Lekan Oyeleye in group photograph with principal officers  of UI

Professor Lekan Oyeleye in group photograph with principal officers of UI

The don, in his lecture, disclosed that his scholastic enterprise ‘In My Father’s House’ has revolved round varieties of English as they acclimatize to the Nigerian environment adding, “Most explorations in a second language context like the Nigerian situation direct their search at variety differentiation which sieves the several domain-distinguished forms of English and shows their distribution in the Nigerian public and private spaces. Varieties of English have emerged not only from aspects of the native dialect, but also from local habitualisations and user-initiatives anchored to the context of use”.

According to him, the first part of the title, “In My Father’s House”, is an inter-textual foray to the Bible: in my father’s house are many mansions…(John 14:1-2) while the second bit, “Globalization, Linguistic Pluralism and the English Language in Nigeria”, describes the link with the context carved out in the first bit, and foregrounds the global impact of the context, courtesy of Internet technology, the ethno-linguistic situation in Nigeria, and the place of English in Nigeria.

“My research and publications effort have largely concentrated on the issues of globalization, linguistic pluralism and the English language in Nigeria. I have examined the lexical, semantic, stylistic discoursal and pragmatic properties of Nigerian English and compared it with other varieties of English of the world. Nigerians are creative users of English, although a good number of the items deployed may not necessarily be consistent with native English usage. Yet, in a pluralistic linguistic setting like Nigeria, a cross-nationally intelligible variety suffices for informal intra-national communication”, he pointed out.

On globalization, he reiterated his consistent argument that globalization is the most noticeable of the several socio-cultural, political and economic phenomena currently changing the face of the world, stressing that given that these changes are tangentially connected with world powers, globalization has been associated with western imperialism and has consequently been claimed to have heralded the supremacy of capitalism. He emphasized, irrespective of how globalization has been viewed, one outstanding denominator stands: globalization “creates a world without boundaries in which people of this world can communicate with each other, interact and share cultures, economies and generally their lives via developments in the fields of information technologies, communication and transportations.”

Professor Lekan Oyeleye, in the middle, walking with UI VC,  Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka  right, and  DVC Admin, left

Professor Lekan Oyeleye, in the middle, walking with UI VC, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka right, and DVC Admin, left

“Whatever the perspective from which one looks at globalization, it connected with imperialism. Thus, the imperialistic nature of globalization has been linked up with the wide and expanded promotion of English. Philipson (1992) describes the strong political and economic motivations of this promotion as “English linguistic imperialism”. Pennycook (2001) notes that the promotion of English is achieved through systematized material and institutional structures (for example, its dominant status as the language of the internet). These roles of English in a globalized world, of necessity, call for significant linguistic alterations of the language, a situation that has led to the semantic extension of many English words to accommodate the cross-cultural and cross-geographical platforms of globalization”.

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