Language Contact and Language Conflict: the Case of Yoruba-English Bilinguals

Abstract:

The complex dynamics of a language contact situation can really not be explored in just one paper. Thus, the present paper examines only an aspect of the Yoruba- English contact situation with regards to the individual personalities involved. Generally, competitions and conflict, both in the individual and in the society as a whole, can be regarded as a natural concomitant of situations of languages in contact. The paper describes the linguistic situation in Nigeria with particular reference to level of use and level of prestige of two languages, English and Yoruba. Using questionnaire data from 300 individuals, the investigation reveals that speakers of all ages use English almost exclusively for official matters. For unofficial matters, the use of English appears to correlate negatively with age: the older participants use Yoruba more while the younger participants use either both languages or English more. The result also shows that the younger generation may not be proficient enough in Yoruba to pass it onto the next generation. The paper concludes that the Nigerian government should take this situation seriously and modify its language policies with respect to languages other than English. Languages such as Yoruba and Hausa should be mandatory in schools.