LANGUAGE ENDANGERMENT AND DEATH: THE STATUS OF IGBO LANGUAGE

AUTHOR: OKEKE, Vincent O.

Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State

PUBLISHED: OCTOBER 2017

ABSTRACT

A great part of the circumstances stated in this article seem to give credence to the belief that the Igbo language is on the path of possible disappearance and likely death but quite a number of prevailing and mitigating conditions highlighted in this same paper make that untenable.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org states that an endangered or moribund language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language. Language loss occurs when the language has no more native speakers and becomes a “dead language”. With the present status of Igbo spoken by about 40 million on people around the globe the likelihood of the above-mentioned conditions is far-fetched and the death of our revered language very unlikely. The speakers of this language will not die out, nor are they shifting to another language. What everyone is noticing are those natural mutations that generally take place when two languages are in contact (Weinreich, Uriel: 1963). For example, England and France occupied each other’s territory severally for many centuries and this explains the correspondence of many lexical items in both languages. But there are no-go areas in these exchanges and it is these no-go areas (the morphology and syntax and their phonetic/phonological systems) that make them assume the status of independent languages. Our work has analyzed that the conditions that are sine qua non for the existence of an autonomous language and concluded that for as long as most of the principal ingredients for the autonomy of a language are still intact and unique in Igbo and the future of those features guaranteed, the predictions on the death of Igbo would be unrealistic and unrealizable. Igbo is simply undergoing some of those changes that take place when two languages are in contact, adjusting and adopting strategies to cope with new challenges in a globalised era while English enjoys a status of “oga”/superiority. With mondialisation, all languages tend towards the same of development and that is what is happening to Igbo. It will not die.

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