THE EFFECTS OF ETHNOLINGUISTIC DIVERSITY ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: THE EXAMPLE OF NIGERIA

THE EFFECTS OF ETHNOLINGUISTIC DIVERSITY ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: THE EXAMPLE OF NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

In the Nigerian state lies the problem of unity ever since its existence. Overtime, several linguists have tried to look at the diverse ethnolinguistic groups and a way out of Nigeria‟s persistent ethnic problems. Presently, Nigeria has about three hundred and fifty (350) ethnic groups alongside five hundred and twenty two (522) languages. The main problem however is the challenge of harnessing our diversities towards a viable national development. This is obvious through the various challenging crisis enveloping the nation in recent times. This work focuses on the various effects of the interactions amongst diverse ethnolinguistic groups in Nigeria to create awareness for the need of an urgent and viable solution. The sociological theory is used because of its wide coverage on ethnic interactions and conflicts. The questionnaire method is used with the analysis of descriptive statistical method involving count and simple percentage. It also shows diverse effects of ethnolinguistic diversity emanating from diverse ethnic conflicts leading to economic, social and spiritual recession in Nigeria. The research concluded that a major solution to ethnicity, tribalism, fanatism and other vices discovered is altruism empowered by early formal education to all Nigerian children and teaching the language of tolerance at every level of the diverse sectors in Nigeria.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

Nigeria as a country was named by British journalist Flora Shaw in the 1890‟s. She named the

area after the River Niger, which dominates much of the country‟s landscape. The word „Niger‟ is derived from Latin word which means black, hence the name River Niger and subsequently Nigeria. Nigeria as a nation is an aggregation of several nationalities and therefore from the beginning, ethnic identity has defined the scope of policies in Nigeria.

Over three hundred and fifty (350) ethnic groups make up the present day Nigeria. Having over one thousand dialects with different culture, Nigeria has a population of about one hundred and eighty-six million (186,000,000) people in (National Bureau of Statistics 2012). With the annual 2.5% increase, it‟s now a population of 190.5 million, the Country has adopted the federal system of government with thirty-six states and Federal Capital Territory.

Nigeria is seen as a country with a tripodal ethnic structure with the trio of Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo language constituting a pole each. According to Mustapha, (2007:3), the tripodal ethnic structure on one hand and the administrative structure on the other hand, has led to the eight major cleavages between the three hundred and fifty minority groups on the other hand, between the North and the South, between the thirty-six (36) states of the Federation and the six (6) geopolitical zones, three in the North and three in the South and finally, between different religious affiliations. For example, the South East Zone overlaps with Igbo ethnic group and Christian religious affiliations while the North Central overlaps with northern ethnic minority. These differences lead to what linguists would call ethnolinguistic differences.

Ethnolinguistics, as a concept is the study of how language relates to culture and ethnicity. Ethnolinguistics, sometimes called cultural linguistics is the study of languages as an aspect of culture. Essentially, the term is concerned with the study of the influence of language on culture and or of the culture on language. It is a concept which originated between 1945 to 1950 (www.dictionary.com). For Collins (2008), Ethnolinguistics is a field of anthropological linguistics which deals with the study of languages of particular ethnic groups and the relationship between language and culture.

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The field of Ethnolinguistics is therefore, concerned with the relationship between language and culture in such a way that it combines ethnology and linguistics. Ethnology, is the way of life of an entire community; that is all characteristics which distinguish one community from the other and linguistics is the scientific study of language. Ethnolinguistics study, therefore, is aimed at the way that perception and conceptualization influence language and show how this is linked to different cultures and societies. Sapir Whorf asserts in his work on ethnolinguistics in (February, 2015) that no two languages are ever similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. He says that the world in which different societies live in are distinct worlds not merely the same world with different labels attached.

Whorf‟s linguistic relativism known as Sapir Whorf‟s hypothesis exemplifies with the Inuit

language which has that for a word snow alone, there are fifty words. It is obvious that different perception and conceptualizing the word „snow‟ in Inuit language is the reason for producing fifty different words. This is an example of the nexus between language and cultural perception. Although language is associated to ethno-cultural groups, it is not a sufficient condition for ethnic group membership. There are many other things involved between language and cultural norms in diverse ethnic groups ranging from skin colour and dress to religious practices and food choices. This explains why Wolfram (2003) as cited David Herman (1996) puts it that linguistic boundaries are permeable constructed notions defined more adequately on the basis of sociopolitical and ideological consideration than on the basis of linguistic structures and sociolinguistics. Suffices it to say, ethnolinguistics is the study of the way world views construct the complex and flexible frameworks within which we think and feel.

Church Hill, J.W. (2012) views ethnolinguistics as that which can be studied deeply to show conflicts and paradoxical feeling of love and hate. He further explains that, we love in language just as we hate in language. We tell the truth or choose to lie in language. Language is our adventure. Thus, we think in our language and that involves our cultural understanding. Ultimately, language is not a prison but an ongoing act of creation. Consequently, we are as much producers and the products of language. Our worldviews emerge within our own language visions of the world, conceptual words which oppose and contradict one another, incompatible ideologies which sometimes seek to exclude one another. Therefore, ethnolinguistics involves

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concepts like languages, ethnic groups, cultural norms which eventually links to diverse worldviews reflecting in religious, economical and political life of diverse societies.

Within the paradigm of Ethnolinguistics comes Ethnolinguistic diversity and it refers to the range of ethnic groups and languages that are very different from one another in terms of structure and culture. Federal Government Demographic Survey in 1976 identified three hundred and ninety-four (394) languages and the highest density is in Taraba and Adamawa states. (www.thenationonline


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