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The English article system is a complex system that is nevertheless indispensable for users of English. The articles perform several important functions and aid greatly in the art of communication. Despite this indisputable importance of the English articles, Nigerian newspapers misuse them to a great degree. It is a fact that newspapers are extremely useful learning tools to students and the general public. However, Nigerian newspapers fail to live up to the high standard expected of them. In spite of this aberration, studies on the misuse of the English articles by Nigerian newspapers have been particularly rare. The aim of this is to assess the misuse of the English articles by Nigerian newspapers. The data were collected from Newspapers, Umuahia, which represents other media houses all over the country. Each of the above English articles was selected and surveyed on a daily basis for a period of three weeks and was finally used for the study. The data used were analysed using a simple percentage calculations, while a simple randomisation method was adopted in collecting the data. From the findings, it was believed that those grammatical errors were as a result of the low level of education of the media workers, especially the journalists and the incomplete mastery of the English language among the broadcasting corporation bodies like the news casters or reporters which has a negative impact on the readers because readers rely on word meanings of these news as absolutely correct. However, to remedy these ugly situations that have befallen the media houses here in Nigeria, the researcher recommended that broadcasting authorities should employ only well-qualified language experts that are highly proficient in the English language to serve as editors who will competently proofread the news lines before they are broadcast.
1.1 Background to the Study
English is accepted as the official language, a second language (L2) as well as a restricted lingua franca in Nigeria. English in Nigeria is not acquired in a native speaker environment so learners undergo more difficulties than native speakers do in acquiring the language. Mother tongue interference alongside a learner’s socio-cultural background contributes immensely to the difficulties encountered in learning the language.
The English language is not a native Nigerian language. It is a legacy of British colonisation. The language was introduced by British administrators and missionaries. English was adopted as the official language of Nigeria during the period of colonisation. However, it must be noted that English existed in Nigeria in one form or the other even before Nigeria officially became a British colony. Activities like slave trade, coastal trade, and the abolition of slave trade led to the implantation of the English language in Nigeria. Freed slaves that had learnt the language to an extent served as interpreters, messengers and clerks and even introduced the language to members of their family. According to Dadzie and Awonusi, “some of these Nigerians, particularly the Yorubas locally known as Akus in SierraLeone, returned to their villages where they were known as saros and Krios, and freely used the English language in their new settlements”(53).The English language is the only language that has been generally accepted officially in Nigeria today.It has really broken language barriers between interactants from various ethnic and linguistic groups. As the official language in Nigeria, the English language is the language of the media, education, politics, et cetera.It is the commonest used language in the Nigerian media i.e. both the print and electronic media and it has been naturalized and domesticated to suit our socio-cultural context.
Over the years, English has garnered a silent hostility by Nigerians because it was never freely adopted as the official language. The circumstances surrounding its imposition are well known. The long-term deleterious effects of this national attitude are only beginning to show on the linguistic horizon.
According to Ikkideh:
English is not taken half as seriously as it was twenty years ago…in vain, we blame poor teachers of English, lazy students, inadequate, textbooks and educated, the grammatical use of the language is today the exception rather than the rule. (qtd. in Unoh 16)
Because English is in most cases learnt rather than acquiredin Nigeria, there are instances of L1 interference in the English of the majority of Nigerians. For example, in written communication, even though certain wordscan be omitted from a sentence i.e. ellipsis, words that are necessary for the effective communication of clear meaningsare never omitted in Standard English. One such class of words that should never be omitted in Standard English is the article. The word “article” is derived from the Latin word “articulus” which means “joint”. Articles are classified as grammatical words and they refer to determiners which play the primary role of differentiating the uses of nouns. Articles belong to a small group of important little elements but they exert a great deal of influence in the contexts where they are used.As a matter of fact, the classification and syntactic function of a word or expression can change with the misuse of an article.Articlesare placed before nouns, and they determine whether the nouns referred toare specific in nature or general, among other things.
Where an article is wrongly used, the resultant construction is inevitably erroneous. Second language learners of English in Nigeria demonstrate language transfer errors within the English language article system. This is especially evident where the native languages of these learners lack articles. According to Eyisi:
The major error in the use of determiners is mainly with the omission of the definite or indefinite article where it is obligatorily needed. This omission is, no doubt, a result of interference of our mother tongues since most Nigerian Languages do not possess any separate morpheme for the article. (2)
This misuse of the English article is manifest even in the pages of national newspapers in Nigeria. There are several instances of erroneous constructions in Nigerian newspapers that can be traced back to the misuse of articles.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Newspapers are extremely useful learning tools to students and the general public. People that read newspapers have a better awareness of the world around them because they are better informed of the current issues happening around the world.Newspapers are continuous sources of information and education for those who read them, and so, their sentence structures have to be as lucid as possible. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria.Thepages of many Nigerian newspapers are replete with various types of errors, prominent among which is the misuse of articles in sentence structures. Every newspaper needs to uphold avery high standard before their varied reading public, as newspapers and journalists are taken to be models of linguistic excellence. Newspapersin Nigeria use the English language in ways that suit them, not minding whether their language usecontain structures that contravene grammaticality. If articles are wrongly used, the connection between the noun and the article which defines the meaning of the noun is lost. Generally, these deviations (omissions of English articles) affect comprehension of the whole text. This causes a considerable degree of confusion for speakers and second language learners of the English language.
There have been some studies that attempt to depict the poor standard of English in Nigerian newspapers. However, relatively few studies, if any, have fully focused on the misuse of the English articles in Nigerian newspapers. Also, little has been said about how these errors affect comprehension. These lacunae in knowledge inspired the researcher to carry out this research in order to supplement the knowledge currently available in this field.
1.3 Purpose of the study
Considering the huge importanceof the English language both locally and internationally, an urgent need for attention to be paid to the misuse of the English articles in Nigerian newspaper arises. English is an asset in most facets of life and therefore, a functionally correct knowledge of the language is needed.
The aim of this research is to highlight the alarminglyincreasing occurrence and frequency of the misuseof the English articles in our newspaper today.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions are put in place to guide the study:
i) To what extent do the kinds of errors committed by journalists who write the English articles reflet the mastery of the English language?
ii) In which ways does the level of education of the reporters contribute to the occurrence of errors in the English articles?
iii) To what extent do readers rely on word meanings of news as absolutely correct?
1.5 The Scope and Limitations of the Study
This study is delimited to the various forms in which the English articles are misused in Nigerian newspapers. Other forms of errors found in Nigerian newspapers are not investigated here. The scope of this study involves exploring the misuse of the English articles in selected Nigerian newspapers. For the purpose of this study, the research will focus on only three widely read newspapers – The Sun, The VanguardandThe Independent.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This research sets out to help users of the English language in various capacities to improve their performances in their use of articles, promote efficiency in the grammar of English, encourage a mastery of the use ofEnglish articles, and spring up a general improvement in the proper use of articles. This research makes explicit, those areas where newspaper practitioners deviate from acceptable usage of articles, gives reasons for the aberrations, and also suggests ways of avoiding the errors. This research work will benefit both newspaper readers and journalists by clearly laying out the problems of the wrong use of articles.
1.7 Organization of the study
The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.
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