A Glottopolitical Appraisal of Diversity in Nation Building in Nigeria
This paper twins language and democratic processes in Nigeria, while highlighting the oft-neglected intricate glottopolitical dimensions inherent in a complex polity. In this acutely diverse country, language use, culture and ethnicity play discernibly critical roles as they affect the attendant political discourses (Gonzalez and Melis 2000, Van Dijk 1997, Kaplan and Baldauf Jr. 1997, Ricento and Burnaby 1998, Ricento 2000, Coulombe 1994, Calvet 1998, Gaudin 1993, Guespin 1985). However, little sustained research has examined the multifarious complexities of language use or choice in its political discourse. As the country has evolved painfully through military interventions to its current fledgling civil government, attention should now turn to the linguistic issues hampering the full participation in democracy and nation building of large sections of the polity. In its geopolitical zones, low literacy levels persist among speakers of minority languages. Consequently, these languages fail to adequately mediate political discourse, thereby resulting in severely limited participatory opportunities at the grassroots. Our reflections therefore advance hybridized approaches, proposing, for instance, the use of a functionalist lexicological methodology in the study of the political lexicon in order to enhance the denominative capacities of disadvantaged languages. The resulting politolect would in turn encourage group or individual idiolects in these idioms in a variety of communicative contexts. The conception of language planning as resource planning should thus nudge stakeholders toward the strategic use of minor languages in public discourses. The major languages in Nigeria respond varyingly to these challenges, but after 48 years of independence, political communication in Nigeria now reveals specific discursive traits and lexical creativities that may very well be unique to each of its widely used languages; an observation that merits further inquiry through creative methodological prisms.
Keywords: Glottopolitics, Nation Building, Minor Languages and Democracy
Dr. Emmanuel Aito
Chair, Department of French Studies, University of Regina