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Accepted Paper:

Cultural Rigidity, Gatekeepers and the Need to Include "Nonspeakers" in African Language Futures  
Bolatito Kolawole (University of Lagos)

Paper short abstract:

More and more Nigerians are growing up unable to speak their indigenous languages and experience shaming from older generations as a result. This paper explores how cultural rigidity may hinder indigenous language regeneration and emphasises the importance of considering “Nonspeaker” perspectives.

Paper long abstract:

Debates concerning the future of African languages often fall prey to over-simplified dichotomies which portray African languages as authentic and European languages as unnatural. Nevertheless, the situation on ground is much more complex especially as an increasing number of Africans are growing up without ever attaining native proficiency in an indigenous language. For the purpose of this study, “Nonspeakers” refers to people who never attained full, native competency in the indigenous language of the ethnic group that they belong to. While this reality is often ignored or dismissed as the experience of a small, privileged elite, the growing demographic of Nonspeakers in urban centers like Lagos, Nigeria due to intergenerational language shift, along with the mass exodus of Nigerians to Western countries in what is colloquially termed as “Japa,” has made the place of Nonspeakers more and more relevant.

Through interviews with millennial-aged Nigerian Nonspeakers, both in Nigeria and in the diaspora, this paper explores how Nonspeakers relate to their indigenous cultures amidst linguistic barriers and seeks to answer the question of whether there is life after language loss. It further explores the role of parents and older generations as cultural gatekeepers and the resultant power that this position confers, particularly in light of exclusionary practices such as linguistic shaming. Finally, the paper critiques the insistence on authenticity and purity within the indigenous language debate as a colonial byproduct and argues that environments of cultural rigidity may ultimately hinder rather than encourage indigenous language regeneration.

Panel Lang04
Indigenous languages and disentanglement with African futures
  Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -