Language shift and attrition: Typical sociolinguistic phenomena in Nigeria

Published: June 2019

AuthorsOlusanmi Babarinde & Florence Chika Nwosu

About Authors: Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages. University of Nigeria Nsukka. Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages. University of Ilorin

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The paper examines language shift and attrition in Nigeria, and the effect of insurgency in the northern Nigeria on minority languages. It notes that language shift induced by some factors including insurgency may lead to the death of some languages that put Nigeria on the world’s linguistic map by having three out of four language phyla in Africa. While some factors lead to gradual shift, it is discovered from our observation from different Internally Displaced Persons camps that the displaced survivors of insurgency rapidly shift to the (major or minor) languages of their host communities. Questionnaires were administered on 100 respondents chosen from four selected cities (Lagos, Benin, Warri and Port-Harcourt) to ascertain the extent of language usage and shift while oral interview was conducted on 60Internally Displaced Persons in three Internally Displaced Persons camps, namely Kano, Makurdi and Abuja, to ascertain the effect of insurgency on indigenous languages especially in the north-east and north central. Findings reveal that, some seriously endangered languages have become terminally-endangered. The language use of the immigrants in cities has been largely replaced by pidgin and the established language of the host communities.

Keywords: Boko Haram and herders’ insurgency, Internally-displaced persons IDP’s, language attrition, language shift, northern Nigeria