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Nigeria: Ethno-linguistic Competition in the Giant of Africa

Simpson, Andrew and Oyètádé, B. Akíntúndé (2008) 'Nigeria: Ethno-linguistic Competition in the Giant of Africa.' In: Simpson, Andrew, (ed.), Language and National Identity in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 172-198.

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Abstract

Nigeria is a country with an immense population of over 140 million, the largest in Africa, and several hundred languages and ethnic groups (over 400 in some estimates, 510 according to Ethnologue 2005), though with no single group being a majority, and the three largest ethnic groups together constituting only approximately half of the country's total population. Having been formed as a united territory by British colonial forces in 1914, with artificially created borders arbitrarily including certain ethnic groups while dividing others with neighbouring states, Nigeria and its complex ethno-linguistic situation in many ways is a prime representation of the classic set of problems faced by many newly developing states in Africa when decisions of national language policy and planning have to be made, and the potential role of language in nation-building has to be determined. When independence came to Nigeria in 1960, it was agreed that English would be the country's single official language, and there was little serious support support for the possible attempted promotion of any of Nigeria's indigenous languages into the role of national official language. This chapter considers the socio-political and historical background to the establishment of English as Nigeria's official language, and the development of the country over the subsequent post-independence era, and asks the following question. After five decades of experience of life with English as the nation's sole official language, if people in Nigeria were to be given the opportunity to reformulate national language policy as they wished, might one expect a different official language structure to be requested, perhaps with one or a combination of indigenous languages as a replacement for English, or is the current English-centred structuring of officialdom felt to be satisfactory and appropriate given the ethnic configuration of the country?

Item Type: Book Chapters
Additional Information: The publisher, OUP, have agree that the the chapter be posted as E-prints in the SOAS library
Keywords: Nigeria, Ethno-linguistic competition
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa
Depositing User: Akin Oyetade
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2007
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/182

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