1.0 INTRODUCTION

This unit focuses on the application of verbal mode of communication in information dissemination. Drawing from Nigeria, it will examine the concept of indigenous language and the implications of the multilingual nature of African countries in adopting the verbal mode for mass communiction.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit study, you should be able to:

  1. Define indigenous language
  2. Recount why the mass media adopted the use of indigenous language in information dissemination

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 Multilingualism, Indigenous Language and Mass Media

Most countries of the world and in Africa to be particular, are facing problem of multilingualism which has impeded and almost made it impossible to reach the unlettered in their local languages with the exception of Tanzania, Somalia and India, to mention but a few, where the indigenous language has been enthroned as the official language in lieu of the colonially-imposed language. According to Awoniyi (1973) quoted in Ikuru (1987:4) indigenous language, which is referred to as local language or mother tongue is:

…the language which a group of people, considered to be the inhabitants of an area, acquired in their early years and which normally becomes their natural instrument of thought, and commerce

In effect, each particular language in the world (French, German, English, Swahili, Hausa, Obolo, etc) is a mother tongue of a particular people, place and time. Ikuru (1987) placed the number of indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria at 400. The linguistic diversity of this country poses a very big problem. It is difficult to choose and impose one indigenous language on the entire population of this country as a national language for it will seem as linguistic imperialism and so unacceptable.

Williamson (1983) cited in Ikuru (1987) classified these languages into five broad groups:

  1. The ‘foreign’ or ‘exoglossic’ languages: English, French, Arabic;
  2. The ‘very large languages’: Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, and Nigerian pidgin.
  3. The ‘large’ languages: Efik, Fulfulde, Nupe, Edo, Tiv, Izon, and Kanuri;
  4. The ‘medium’ languages: Idoma Central, Idoma North, Abuan, Nembe, Igalla, Bokwai, Kalabari, Angas, Bekwerra, Ebira, Ekajuk, Ibibio, Kha, Enginni, Jukun, Takum, Wapan, Mabilla, Iju, and Ikwo;
  5. The ‘small’ languages: all other languages used in Nigeria but not listed in (i) – (iv) above.

In the face of this linguistic plurality, efforts have been made to get what can be regarded as a national language for Nigeria. A criterion is suggested to avoid such language or languages being regarded as tools by which it seeks to extend its domination. Nida and Wonderly (1971:65) quoted in Essien (1981:6) said, “For a language to become a national language, certain very important
features are needed. In the first place, it should be politically neutral”. From our knowledge of languages in Nigeria, it is obvious that not even one language has got the credentials to be a national language. In 1977 however, a National Policy on Language was promulgated and later revised in 1981. On page 9 of the National Policy on Education, there is this bit on language which
states that:

In addition to appreciating the importance of language in the educational progress, and as a means of preserving the peoples’ culture, the government considers it to be in the interest of national unity that every child should be encouraged to learn his own mothertongue. In this regard, the government considers the three major languages in Nigeria to be Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba
Nida and Wonderly (1971) quoted in Essien (1981:6) commenting on the choice of a national language said, “In fact, the division into three major regions reflects the three language poles; Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo”. The duo further stated that government, by choosing these three major languages in Nigeria as media of instruction has saved this nation from being plunged into a tumultuous cauldron. These three languages have become the languages of the mass media. News is cast in Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo and major languages in multilingual states. For instance in Rivers state news is translated into the four major languages, that is Ikwerre, Kalabari, Kolokoma, and Kana; and in Lagos, mainly Yoruba and Egun on NTA 2 Channel 10 and LTV, Ikeja. Having established that the broadcast mass media use the indigenous languages in their news cast, to what extent have the mass media used the languages to communicate development issues in Africa, particularly Nigeria? This will be dealt with in the next unit.

4.0 CONCLUSION

This unit examined the use of the indigenous languages in information dissemination via the mass media. It delved into the place of the media in a rural area, zeroing in on a predominantly non-literate society and then argued for the use of indigenous languages in information dissemination.

5.0 SUMMARY

This unit looked at the concept of indigenous language and its use for information dissemination through the mass media.

Self Assessment Exercise

  1. What is indigenous language?

6.0 TUTOR MARKED ASSIGNMENT

  1. Why use indigenous language for information dissemination? 

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VERBAL COMMUNICATION, MASS MEDIA AND INFORMATION DISSEMINATION IN AFRICA

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