The african writer and the english language essay

Mukoma Wa Ngugi: What Decolonizing the Mind Means Today

“I wanted to meet Chinua Achebe, the young Nigerian novelist whose two novels, Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, seem to herald the birth of a new society in which writers, freed from the burden of political protests and jibes at a disintegrating colonialism, can cast an unsentimental eye at human relationship in all its delicate and sometimes harsh intricacies” my father, then going by the name James Ngugi, wrote after the African Writes of English Expression conference in 1962.[1]

But when he revisited that same conference in his book Decolonizing the Mind 26 years later, his tone was markedly different. Noting the exclusionary nature of the conference boldly stated in its title, he wrote, “Now looking back from the self-questioning heights of 1986, I can see this contained absurd anomalies. I, a student, could qualify for the meeting on the basis of only two published short stories . . . But neither Shaban Robert, then the greatest living East African poet with several works of poetry and prose to his credit inn Kiswahili, nor Chief Fagunwa, the great writer with several published titles in Yoruba, could possibly qualify.”[2] The 1962 Conference had come to represent a major contradiction: European languages had become the default vehicles for African literature. The term “African literature” meant African literature in English, French or Portuguese. Those writing in African languages had to justify their use of their mother tongues.

To be clear, the language question did not begin with my father. Immediately following the conference, literary critic Obi Wali had raised the questions that Ngugi would later revisit. In his essay “The Dead End of African Literature,”[3] Wali argued that African literature in Western languages would become “a minor appendage in the main stream of European Literature. He noted that in Nigeria, only “one percent” of the population could be able to read Wole Soyinka’s Dance of the Forest. To address the diversity and multiplicity of African languages, he called for translation. He mused, “one wonders what would have happened to English literature for instance, if writers like Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, and Milton, had neglected English, and written in French or Latin simply because these classical languages were the cosmopolitan languages of their times.”

On the other side of the question were writers like Chinua Achebe (who went on to help the young Ngugi publish his first novel, Weep Not Child through the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1964). Achebe, writing in reply to Obi Wali, argued that English allowed for communicating across the different African languages while also reaching wider audiences in the West; that it was the language of power; that English could be Africanized so that it carried the African experience.

“The term ‘African literature’ meant African literature in English, French or Portuguese. Those writing in African languages had to justify their use of their mother tongues.”

South African writers and intellectuals writing in African languages were getting translated into English as early as the late 1800s and early 1900s. Thomas Mofolo’s Moeti oa Bochabela was published in 1907 and later translated into English as Traveler to the East in 1934; Chaka was written in 1909 but published in 1925. And if we take into account writing in Amharic, Arabic or Hausa, African literature in African languages, or in non-European languages stretches back to the 1200’s.[4]

In other words, the language debate and writing in African languages had been going on for a long time. What, then, did Decolonizing the Mind, bring to the table? For one it tied language and culture to the material work of both colonization and decolonization. “The bullet was the means of the physical subjugation. Language was the means of the spiritual subjugation” Ngugi wrote. It also examined the close relationship between language and culture. For him “language carries, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in our world.”

Written in the 1980s at the height of the cold war and during Moi dictatorship, the book also captured the contradictions of neocolonialism throughout Africa and the global south. Inherited colonial inequalities were becoming more entrenched, the security apparatus more brutal, and economies were pried open by Western countries, leaving the most vulnerable without access to health care or education. Decolonizing the Mind also demonstrated the way western cultural and linguistic superiority were emphasized while African cultures and languages were debased.

The concept of decolonizing the mind also applies to other areas of our lives away from immediately recognizable power relationship between the colonizer and colonized, or oppression and avenues of resistance. Writing for the African Journal of Reproductive Health, Nombuso Dlamini et al. ask the question: “What Does a Decolonizing/Decentralizing Methodology in Examining Sexual Lives Entail?” [5] In the essay, the authors examine their experiences researching “the state of, and teach about, sexual health and HIV/AIDS in Edo State.” Decolonizing the Mind became useful as a conceptual tool through which to understand the ways in which power imbalances were practiced as culturally encoded automated reflexes. According to Health, Nombuso Dlamini et al, “to decolonize one’s mind is a life-long process, as well, systems of domination and subordination are not necessarily easy to identify when situated within unofficial cultures, that is, in interpersonal politics (within the negotiation of relation of power by individuals in interaction.”

Today, we have decolonial/decolonization movements in campuses around the world (but most vocally in South Africa). Cornell University’s Carole Boyce Davies put it well when she said that Decolonizing the Mind

has always been a staple required or “go to” text for the discussion of the nexus between language and coloniality. It was for years one of the only texts, in the face of postcolonial theory, before this new wave of decolonial discourse to address the need for continuing to address what Biodun Jeyifo called “arrested decolonization.”[6]

In short it remains a book of our times. History moves on, theories of liberation march alongside it, but without our languages we will remain trapped within what literary critic Adam Beach calls the English metaphysical empire.

As a scholar and writer of African literature, it has been useful to me to compare my father’s colonial education and my own neocolonial education. He could write that in his community, “we spoke Gikuyu as we worked in the fields” and “in and outside the home” before the “harmony of language, culture and education was broken by colonial education.” My generation cannot make the same claim. Some of us, especially those who grew up in urban areas, cannot speak their mother tongues. When they visit their grandparents in the rural areas, they need someone to serve as translator. Many of our parents, having grown up under colonial rule, did not find any value in speaking in their mother tongues. They too, like the schools ran English only households, and speaking of mother tongues frowned upon.

“History moves on, theories of liberation march alongside it, but without our languages we will remain trapped within what literary critic Adam Beach calls the English metaphysical empire.”

There was another similarity: like my father before me, I was caned if found speaking my mother tongue and forced to wear a sign with the words “I am an Ass” written on it. For my generation, how well you spoke English was not just a marker of intelligence but also class. If your English was “broken,” fellow students took to shaming you. To be called a “shrubber,” meaning that you confused L and R sounds, was social death, and it even affected your dating life. English was not just a language of communication, or a language that helped one climb out of poverty and into power and wealth, it was the language of the cultured.

In 2017 my wife, daughter and I visited my former primary school. By each classroom door I saw a list of 19 rules, with the second rule being “Vernacular Speaking is PROHIBITED.”

For my father’s generation and mine, what was supposed to enlighten only tightened our bond to the English metaphysical empire. In 2017, my father was conferred an honorary doctorate by Yale University alongside with the singer Stevie Wonder, Congressman John Lewis, and the native American language warrior Jessie Little Doe Baird. His conversations around language, identity and culture Baird remain the most memorable for me, meeting Stevie Wonder and the Congressman notwithstanding. They had so much in common that it was a wonder they had not met before. Or it wasn’t a wonder: They had been formed by the English metaphysical empire and found their way out through their respective languages. Now, they were engaged in a battle to decolonize minds and institutions.

For my father, the work of liberating Africans out of the English metaphysical empire and neocolonialism had to be done in African languages. Pro-people and revolutionary literature could not contribute to decolonization if written in a formerly colonial language the people could not understand. And nowhere was the practice of this more evident than in his 1977 play, Ngahiika Ndenda (I will Marry When I Want). Co-authored in Gikuyu with Ngugi Wa Mirii, the play was staged at the Kamiriithu Cultural Center, right in the heard of Kamiriithu village. This was the village from which the nearby Bata shoe Company and tea plantations drew their labor. It was a village of exploited and peasant workers. And it was they who helped in fleshing out the play, who acted in it and comprised the majority of the audience. The play itself was a dramatization of their exploitation and resistance.

But practicing the politics of language came with a personal price. The play was promptly banned by the Kenyatta government and led to my father being detained without trial for one year. I was six, and today I can never be sure whether I really witnessed his arrest, or if the subsequent conversations amongst my family members and his recollection of the arrest in Detained made an imagined memory feel real. In a 2001 poem titled, “Recipe: How to Become an Immigrant and an Exile” I captured his arrest this way:

Silent duels. And so when the police with guns and big black coats
came for my father, it must have been a dream I dreamt. That
night–pills with no water but morning tea still found a newspaper
damp with dew[7]

In 1982, my father attempted to resurrect the Kamirithu Theater. The then Moi government banned the play, burned the compound to the ground, and forced him into political exile. The government would not give passports to my older siblings or allow them to find meaningful jobs. Once in the 1980s, we held a Christmas party that got raided by the police. Everyone in attendance lost their jobs shortly afterwards. The work of decolonization is as personal as it is political.

Today, more and more younger African writers are taking up Ngugi’s call while taking advantage of the internet age. Jalada Africa, an online journal, best exemplifies the meeting between African literature, languages, the internet age, and the practical work of decolonizing. The Jalada Collective that produces the journal is composed of young writers such as Managing Editor Moses Kilolo, Treasurer Ndinda Kioko, the 2013 Caine Prize winner Okwiri Odour, Mehul Gohil, who was featured in the anthology Africa 39, and the poet Clifton Gachugua, whose first collection of poetry, The Madman at Kilifi, won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2014.

“Pro-people and revolutionary literature could not contribute to decolonization if written in a formerly colonial language the people could not understand.”

Whereas my generation inherited the language anxieties of the Makerere generation, the work of the Jalada Collective points to a generation that is more confident, unencumbered by colonial and neocolonial aesthetics. The Makerere generation was composed of writers in their twenties and thirties who understood themselves as having a mission to contribute to decolonization; this generation sees itself as having the mission to create democratic spaces for African literature, languages, and through internet use, a Pan-African readership. They want African languages to speak to each other, and to non-African languages, through translation.

The 2015 Jalada language issue, which also included podcast interviews with some of the contributing authors, aimed to create a meeting ground where languages would meet as material entities through the literature—side by side—and also engage each other through translation. In their call for papers the collective announced that:

The anthology will be a celebration of language, featuring fiction, poetry, visual art and various essays on the very subject of language. Writers are asked to submit original works written in their own languages and provide an accompanying English translation. We also ask writers to feel free to treat language as a theme, where language can be a character, a topic in a story or even incorporate languages other than English as the theme in the story. Writers may also write in English or various Englishes.[8]

While in the end most of the writing featured was originally in English, there were conversations across various language borders—Lusophone, Francophone, English and African languages.

In the spring of 2016, Jalada published and facilitated the translation of a short story originally written in Gikuyu by Ngugi into over 60 languages—47 of them being African. This came with practical challenges. Moses Kilolo noted they had very few professional translators and had to work with a team of “younger writers who are not very experienced in translation [but who] are taking up the challenge as well, and consulting widely in order to learn and do it well.” And in terms of setting up publishing structures, they “[encouraged] other continent based magazines to join [them] in providing such platforms to these writers.”

To call for translation as an active agent in the growth of literary traditions also sends out a challenge to writers, scholars, and publishers who see African languages as being in the service of the more-useful English. Or conversely, those who understand translation as most desirable when coming from European languages into anemic African languages desperately in need of European linguistic and aesthetic transfusion. The Jalada collective then is challenging the idea of servicing English, and proving the feasibility of a democratization of linguistic and literary spaces. Translation amongst African languages, as opposed to English into African languages, has yet to be practiced and theorized into critical and popular acceptance. For Jalada, to make Ngugi’s Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ (The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright) the most translated African language story is to claim a piece of literary history yet to be written.

Jalada’s translation initiative is also part of a larger language awakening. Capturing the shift from an English-only consensus to a multiple-languages debate, the 2015 Kwani literary festival titled, “Beyond the Map of English: Writers in conversation on Language” centered and celebrated the language debate. At that festival, the inaugural Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prizes for African Literature were awarded. I co-founded the Kiswahili prize with Lizzy Attree, the director of the Caine prize, in 2014, with the express goal of “recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages.” The $15,000 prize, divided amongst four winners, is awarded annually to the best unpublished manuscript or book published within two years of the award year across the categories of Fiction/Nonfiction/Graphic Novels. The winning prose entries are then published in Kiswahili by Mkuki na Nyota or East African Educational Publishers (EAEP), and the best poetry book will be translated and published in English by the African Poetry Book Fund.

“Translation amongst African languages, as opposed to English into African languages, has yet to be practiced and theorized into critical and popular acceptance.”

Scholar and writer Boubacar Boris Diop has started Ceytu, an imprint in Senegal dedicated to the translation of seminal works by Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, and others into Wolof. In 2013, Chike Jeffers edited an anthology of philosophical texts originally written in seven African languages and then translated into English. And Wangui Wa Goro, who translated Ngugi’s Matigari from Gikuyu into English in 1982, has also done a lot of work to make African literary translation viable and visible.

But the African language awakening of the post-post-Makerere writers still has a long way to go before it can claim a space of co-existence with African writing in European languages. When setting up the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, Dr. Lizzy Attree and I were immediately confronted by the absence of structures that are simply taken for granted when it comes to English writing, not just in Africa but worldwide. Most if not all colleges in the US, for example, have a literary journal for undergraduate and graduate students. English and other literary departments have well respected literary journals (not to speak of academic university presses). States and cities have their own regional prizes and often have state-sponsored cultural organizations that support writers. Writers residencies compete for prestige.

In Kiswahili, which has an estimated 100 million speakers, there are only a handful of literary journals. And prizes for Kiswahili literature are not more than five. For Gikuyu, my mother tongue spoken by close to 7 million people, I can name only one journal: Mutiiri, launched by my father in 2000 as a print journal, and now found online.[9] There are no literary prizes associated with the language. Publishers of literary texts in African languages outside of South Africa are few and far between. I do not know of a single journal that produces literary criticism in an African language. Or any residencies that encourage writing in African languages. The point is, for a population that will soon reach 1 billion people, spread over 55 countries, even 100 journals and literary prizes would still be pitifully inadequate.

The work of linguistic decolonization cannot be done by writers alone. Governments must change their policy towards the teaching of African languages and create economic opportunities in those languages—whether it’s agricultural extension officers trained in the languages of the communities they serve, or teachers trained in teaching African languages, or interpreters for national and international organizations, and so on. African languages have to move from being primarily social languages to vehicles of political, cultural, and economic growth.

We need literary criticism in African languages. And equally importantly, we have to decolonize African literary theory. Why should literary criticism continue to draw its primary conceptual oxygen from European literary theories? Why not use African literary theory to unlock the aesthetics of African literature? After all, our imaginations draw from our creolized cultures, and our cultures have and have had their own approaches to aesthetics. Literary analytical tools can be found in the cultures that produce African literature, but only if we first dig deep into African languages.

[1] Ngugi, J.T. “A Kenyan at the Conference.” Transition, No. 5 (Jul. 30 – Aug. 29, 1962), p. 7

[2] Thiong’o, Ngugi Wa. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London: J. Currey, 1986.

[3] Wali, Obiajunwa. “A Reply to Critics from Obi Wali.” Transition, No. 50 (Oct., 1975 – Mar., 1976), pp. 46-47.

[4] See Albert Gerard’s African Language Literature who writes “What can be called the Golden age of Ge’ez literature began in 1270, when Yekuno Alma (1270 – 1285) mounted the throne and founded a new dynasty which over the next 250 years, managed to overcome the Muslim emirates and to strengthen Amhara supremacy…The reign of Amada Tyseyon (1314 – 1344) saw the emergence of original writing, both religious and secular (8).

[5] Dlamini, S. Nombuso, et al. “What does a decolonizing/decentralizing methodology in examining sexual lives entail?” African Journal of Reproductive Health 16.2 (2012): 55-70.

[6] Davies, Carole Boyce. “What Does Ngugi’s Decolonisng the Mind Mean to You as a Writer and/or Scholar?” Facebook, Facebook, 6 Aug. 2017, 12:23,

[7] Ngugi, Mukoma Wa. “Recipe: How to Become an Immigrant and an Exile.” Tin House, Tin House, 31 Jan. 2017,

[8] Jalada. “Submissions.” Jalada. N.p., 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.

English Language & Literature IB SL

In his essay, “English and the African Writer” Chinua Achebe reflects on the role of language and power, focusing on the reason and purpose of why he, a Nigerian author, wrote his critically acclaimed book “Things Fall Apart” in the English language. Through this explanation, Achebe manages to transmit that the African literature was affected by the English language in a positive way. Achebe gives insight on the fact that the english language, brought by the British colonizers to Africa is now an essential part the African culture. The African continent is separated into a large variety of ethnic societies, which use different languages to communicate and write literature. Achebe says that these cultures do not want to accept the english language as their official communication and literature language even though it is an international language that gives a more steady and efficient type of communication. To further prove this point, Achebe uses the following quotation, “If it didn’t give them a song, it gave them a tongue”. Through this quote Achebe is referring to the efficiency of the english language and how it expanded internationality and cultural diversity in communication throughout a great part of Africa and if used more, will in the future create a further steadier communication system for all the countries containing different cultures throughout the diverse continent of Africa.

Achebe’s main purpose was to communicate the idea that the introduction of the English language by British missionaries in some parts of Africa was culturally more positive than negative. The introduction of the English Language into the African Cultures enabled them to embrace a language used worldwide, which creates stronger global connections and as mentioned before, enhances the communication system. In fact, in “Things Fall Apart” by Achebe it is clear that the introduction of the english language brought by British missionaries had more negative than positive effects on the Igbo culture, allowing them to unify further and allow clear expression and freedom of speech. In his essay, Achebe mentions that he once had a visit from a fellow author and poet from Kenya named Joseph Kariuki. He read his poem, Come Away in Love, which talked about the trials and tensions of an African man in love of a British girl. The poem was in english, and allowed Achebe to connect with the messages and semantic figures rich in the poem and be impacted by its connotation. In contrast, Achebe in 1960 met with Shabaan Robert, a Swahili poet. Achebe recognized that he was conversing with a very influential and important writer, but because of the fact that the literature was written in a language belonging to a specific area of Africa, he did not feel a strong impact and certainly did not feel the connection he felt with the poem written in the english language by the Kenyan poet. By these examples, Achebe’s intention is to further enhance the fact that the introduction of the english language was positive. Literature written in an international and steady language such as English, allows other people around the world to comprehend the writing and feel connections that are impossible to feel with Swahili, as it is a language enclosed in a specific area and not spoken and any other continent around the globe. Achebe also says that he would love to learn all the languages spread around the continent, but it is impossible. He clarifies that the English language is one of the most common ways of speech, and ties a strong communication knot between countries. One of the quotes of his essay proves this point when he says “Where am I to find the time to learn the half dozen or so Nigerian languages, each of which can sustain a literature?”. Furthermore, this quote refers to the fact that mainly literature in too many different languages impedes understanding and insight from other cultures that efficiently use the english language to interact and gain knowledge about other cultures.

Achebe’s view of the British/English language is that although it is hard to process for some African people, it brought more positive than negative aspects to the African culture. He comprehends that the African have a negative perspective of the British colonizers as they also brought diseases and oppression, but, regarding language, they brought a powerful way of communicating that has proven to be efficient for several cultures spread around Africa that have been able to create strong links with other nations that permits prosperity and development. He asserts, “Let us not in rejecting the evil throw out the good within”. With this assertion Achebe refers to the idea that African society must let go of the past and leave behind all the harm brought by the British missionaries and embrace this powerful language that enhances the communication system throughout the African continent. Also, he referred to the usage of the English language as the main national language of Nigeria as it represents the current reality, which created the emotion/reaction of indignation and resentment within the reader, which did not accept a language originated from a considered hostile and different culture.

Achebe believes that the justification for using English as means of communication in his novel is that British colonialism gave the opportunity for different ethnic groups around Africa and overall to efficiently be able to communicate with each other. He then states that African writers that chose to write their pieces of literature in the English language are not unpatriotic, they are positively influenced by the immersion of the English language in the African culture, and use it to establish and enable a good global communication system. The English language unified groups that were separating, as a result, permitting a better communication and understanding between them. Achebe explains that before the imperialistic period, Africa was completely separated by tribes and different cultures that had different communication systems. The English language established an official way of communication, allowing the cultures to help each other develop and further create positive links with the aim of national and international progress. It also expanded and eased education, since most African areas learned a common way to communicate and express.

The influence of the British led to a high sociopolitical change, including, new political systems and further social unification between cultural groups. These changes allowed clans and tribes located in the same area to unify into powerful nations that shared a same political system and could express themselves using the english language as a common communication form, establishing efficient political and social norms that led to the creation of a unified and working nation. Achebe points to the irony of work when presented with work by authors such as Shabaan Robert, the Swahili poet of Tanganyika, as he could not understand his work, and would not, until he manages to learn the swahili language and could understand the meaning of his poetry, and then proceeded to mock the authors that utilized these languages enclosed to one single area by saying ” Where am I to find the time to learn the half dozen or so Nigerian languages, each of which can sustain a literature?”

Writes who choose to publish in the colonial languages of English and French, are not, Achebe believes, “unpatriotic smart-alecs,” they are in fact, “alecks with an eye on the main chance – outside their own countries. they rare by-products of the same process that made the new nation-states of Africa.”

Achebe draws to a conclusion by referring to the work of James Baldwin. He draws a parallel between this work and his own ideas by stating that he recognizes that Baldwin’s problem is not his, but he feels that the english language will be able to carry the weight of his African experience. He also says that it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new African surroundings

The African Writer and the English Language | Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

In June 1962, there was a writers’ gathering at Makerere, impressively styled: “A Conference of African Writers of English Expression.” Despite this sonorous and rather solemn title, it turned out to be a very lively affair and a very exciting and useful experience for many of us. But there was something which we tried to do and failed—that was to define “African literature” satisfactorily.

Was it literature produced in Africa or about Africa? Could Af­rican literature be on any subject, or must it have an African theme? Should it embrace the whole continent or south of the Sahara, or just black Africa? And then the question of language. Should it be in indigenous African languages or should it include Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and so on?

In the end we gave up trying to find an answer, partly—I should admit—on my own instigation. Perhaps we should not have given up so easily. It seems to me from some of the things have since heard and read that we may have given the impression of not knowing what we were doing, or worse, not daring to look too closely at it.

A Nigerian critic, Obi Wali, writing in Transition 10 said: “Perhaps the most important achievement of the conference … is that Af­rican literature as now defined and understood leads nowhere.”

I am sure that Obi Wali must have felt triumphantly vindicated when he saw the report of a different kind of conference held later at Fourah Bay to discuss African literature and the university curriculum. This conference produced a tentative definition of African literature as follows: “Creative writing in which an Afri­can setting is authentically handled or to which experiences orig­inating in Africa are integral.” We are told specifically that Con­rad’s Heart of Darkness qualifies as African literature while Graham Greene’s Heart of the Matter fails because it could have been set anywhere outside Africa.

A number of interesting speculations issue from this definition, which admittedly is only an interim formulation designed to pro­duce an indisputably desirable end, namely, to introduce African students to literature set in their environment. But I could not help being amused by the curious circumstance in which Conrad, a Pole, writing in English could produce African literature while Peter Abrahams would be ineligible should he write a novel based on his experiences in the West Indies.

What all this suggests to me is that you cannot cram African literature into a small, neat definition. I do not see African lit­erature as one unit but as a group of associated units—in fact the sum total of all the national and ethnic literatures of Africa.

A national literature is one that takes the whole nation for its province and has a realized or potential audience throughout its territory. In other words, a literature that is written in the national language. An ethnic literature is one which is available only to one ethnic group within the nation. If you take Nigeria as an example, the national literature, as I see it, is the literature written in English; and the ethnic literatures are in Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, Efik, Edo, Ijaw, etc., etc.

Any attempt to define African literature in terms which over­look the complexities of the African scene at the material time is doomed to failure. After the elimination of white rule shall have been completed, the single most important fact in Africa in the second half of the twentieth century will appear to be the rise of individual nation-states. I believe that African literature will follow the same pattern.

What we tend to do today is to think of African literature as a newborn infant. But in fact what we have is a whole generation of newborn infants. Of course, if you only look cursorily, one infant is pretty much like another; but in reality each is already set on its own separate journey. Of course, you may group them together on the basis of anything you choose—the color of their hair, for instance. Or you may group them together on the basis of the language they will speak or the religion of their fathers. Those would all be valid distinctions, but they could not begin to account fully for each individual person carrying, as it were, his own little, unique lodestar of genes.

Those who in talking about African literature want to exclude North Africa because it belongs to a different tradition surely do not suggest that black Africa is anything like homogeneous. What does Shabaan Robert have in common with Christopher Okigbo or Awoonor-Williams? Or Mongo Beti of Cameroun and Paris with Nzekwu of Nigeria? What does the champagne-drinking upper-class Creole society described by Easmon of Sierra Leone have in common with the rural folk and fishermen of J. P. Clark’s plays? Of course, some of these differences could be accounted for on individual rather than national grounds, but a good deal of it is also environmental.

I have indicated somewhat offhandedly that the national lit­erature of Nigeria and of many other countries of Africa is, or will be, written in English. This may sound like a controversial statement, but it isn’t. All I have done has been to look at the reality of present-day Africa. This “reality” may change as a result of deliberate, e.g., political, action. If it does, an entirely new situation will arise, and there will be plenty of time to examine it. At present it may be more profitable to look at the scene as it is.

What are the factors which have conspired to place English in the position of national language in many parts of Africa? Quite simply the reason is that these nations were created in the first place by the intervention of the British, which, I hasten to add, is not saying that the peoples comprising these nations were in­vented by the British.

The country which we know as Nigeria today began not so very long ago as the arbitrary creation of the British. It is true, as William Fagg says in his excellent new book, Nigerian Images, that this arbitrary action has proved as lucky in terms of African art history as any enterprise of the fortunate Princess of Serendip. And I believe that in political and economic terms too this ar­bitrary creation called Nigeria holds out great prospects. Yet the fact remains that Nigeria was created by the British—for their own ends. Let us give the devil his due: colonialism in Africa disrupted many things, but it did create big political units where there were small, scattered ones before. Nigeria had hundreds of autonomous communities ranging in size from the vast Fulani Empire founded by Usman dan Fodio in the north to tiny village entities in the east. Today it is one country.

Of course there are areas of Africa where colonialism divided up a single ethnic group among two or even three powers. But on the whole it did bring together many peoples that had hith­erto gone their several ways. And it gave them a language with which to talk to one another. If it failed to give them a song, it at least gave them a tongue, for sighing. There are not many countries in Africa today where you could abolish the language of the erstwhile colonial powers and still retain the facility for mutual communication. Therefore those African writers who have chosen to write in English or French are not unpatriotic smart alecks with an eye on the main chance—outside their own countries. They are by-products of the same process that made the new nation-states of Africa.

You can take this argument a stage further to include other countries of Africa. The only reason why we can even talk about African unity is that when we get together, we have a manageable number of languages to talk in—English, French, Arabic.

The other day I had a visit from Joseph Kariuki of Kenya. Although I had read some of his poems and he had read my novels, we had not met before. But it didn’t seem to matter. In fact I had met him through his poems, especially through his love poem Come Away My Love, in which he captures in so few words the trials and tensions of an African in love with a white girl in Britain:

Come away, my love, from streets

Where unkind eyes divide

And shop windows reflect our difference.

By contrast, when in 1960 I was traveling in East Africa and went to the home of the late Shabaan Robert, the Swahili poet of Tanganyika, things had been different. We spent some time talking about writing, but there was no real contact. I knew from all accounts that I was talking to an important writer, but of the nature of his work I had no idea. He gave me two books of his poems, which I treasure but cannot read—until I have learned Swahili.

And there are scores of languages I would want to learn if it were possible. Where am I to find the time to learn the half dozen or so Nigerian languages, each of which can sustain a literature? I am afraid it cannot be done. These languages will just have to develop as tributaries to feed the one central language enjoying nationwide currency. Today, for good or ill, that language is English. Tomorrow it may be something else, although I very much doubt it.

Those of us who have inherited the English language may not be in a position to appreciate the value of the inheritance. Or we may go on resenting it because it came as part of a package deal which included many other items of doubtful value and the pos­itive atrocity of racial arrogance and prejudice, which may yet set the world on fire. But let us not in rejecting the evil throw out the good with it.

Some time last year I was traveling in Brazil meeting Brazilian writers and artists. A number of the writers I spoke to were con­cerned about the restrictions imposed on them by their use of the Portuguese language. I remember a woman poet saying she had given serious thought to writing in French! And yet their problem is not half as difficult as ours. Portuguese may not have the universal currency of English or French but at least it is the national language of Brazil with her eighty million or so people, to say nothing of the people of Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, etc.

Of Brazilian authors, I have only read, in translation, one novel by Jorge Amado, who is not only Brazil’s leading novelist but one of the most important writers in the world. From that one novel, Cabriella, I was able to glimpse something of the exciting Afro-Latin culture which is the pride of Brazil and is quite unlike any other culture. Jorge Amado is only one of the many writers Brazil has produced. At their national writers’ festival there were liter­ally hundreds of them. But the work of the vast majority will be closed to the rest of the world forever, including no doubt the work of some excellent writers. There is certainly a great advan­tage to writing in a world language.

I think I have said enough to give an indication of my thinking on the importance of the world language which history has forced down our throats. Now let us look at some of the most serious handicaps. And let me say straightaway that one of the most serious handicaps is not the one people talk about most often, namely, that it is impossible for anyone ever to use a second language as effectively as his first. This assertion is compounded of half truth and half bogus mystique. Of course, it is true that the vast majority of people are happier with their first language than with any other. But then the majority of people are not writers. We do have enough examples of writers who have per­formed the feat of writing effectively in a second language. And I am not thinking of the obvious names like Conrad. It would be more germane to our subject to choose African examples.

The first name that comes to my mind is Olauda Equiano, better known as Gustavus Vassa, the African. Equiano was an Ibo, I believe from the village of Iseke in the Orlu division of Eastern Nigeria. He was sold as a slave at a very early age and transported to America. Later he bought his freedom and lived in England. In 1789 he published his life story, a beautifully written document which, among other things, set down for the Europe of his time something of the life and habit of his people in Africa, in an attempt to counteract the lies and slander invented by some Europeans ­to justify the slave trade.

Coming nearer to our times, we may recall the attempts in the first quarter of this century by West African nationalists to come together and press for a greater say in the management of their own affairs. One of the most eloquent of that band was the Honorable Casely Hayford of the Gold Coast. His presidential ad­dress to the National Congress of British West Africa in 1925 was memorable not only for its sound common sense but as a fine example of elegant prose. The governor of Nigeria at the time was compelled to take notice, and he did so in characteristic style: he called Hayford’s congress “a self-selected and self-appointed congregation of educated African gentlemen.” We may derive some amusement from the fact that British colonial administra­tors learned very little in the following quarter of a century. But at least they did learn in the end—which is more than one can say for some others.

It is when we come to what is commonly called creative lit­erature that most doubt seems to arise. Obi Wali, whose article “Dead End of African Literature” I referred to, has this to say:

until these writers and their Western midwives accept the fact that any true African literature must be written in African languages, they would be merely pursuing a dead end, which can only lead to sterility, uncreativity and frustration.

But far from leading to sterility, the work of many new African writers is full of the most exciting possibilities. Take this from Christopher Okigbo’s “Limits”:

Suddenly becoming talkative
like weaverbird
Summoned at offside of
dream remembered

Between sleep and waking
I hand up my egg-shells
To you of palm grove,
Upon whose bamboo towers hang
Dripping with yesterupwine
A tiger mask and nude spear….

Queen of the damp half light,
I have had my cleansing.
Emigrant with air-borne nose,
The he-goat-on-heat.

Or take the poem Night Rain, in which J. P. Clark captures so well the fear and wonder felt by a child as rain clamors on the thatch roof at night, and his mother, walking about in the dark, moves her simple belongings

Out of the run of water

That like ants filing out of the wood

Will scatter and gain possession

I think that the picture of water spreading on the floor “like ants filing out of the wood” is beautiful. Of course, if you have never made fire with faggots, you may miss it. But dark’s inspi­ration derives from the same source which gave birth to the saying that a man who brings home ant-ridden faggots must be ready for the visit of lizards.

I do not see any signs of sterility anywhere here. What I do see is a new voice coming out of Africa, speaking of African experience in a worldwide language. So my answer to the ques­tion Can an African ever learn English well enough to be able to use it effectively in creative writing? is certainly yes. If on the other hand you ask. Can he ever learn to use it like a native speaker? I should say, I hope not. It is neither necessary nor desirable for him to be able to do so. The price a world language must be prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of use. The African writer should aim to use English in a way that brings out his message best without altering the language to the extent that its value as a medium of international exchange will be lost. He should aim at fashioning an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience. I have in mind here the writer who has something new, something different to say. The nondescript writer has little to tell us, anyway, so he might as well tell it in conventional language and get it over with. If I may use an ex­travagant simile, he is like a man offering a small, nondescript routine sacrifice for which a chick, or less, will do. A serious writer must look for an animal whose blood can match the power of his offering.

In this respect Amos Tutola is a natural. A good instinct has turned his apparent limitation in language into a weapon of great strength—a half-strange dialect that serves him perfectly in the evocation of his bizarre world. His last book, and to my mind, his finest, is proof enough that one can make even an imperfectly learned second language do amazing things. In this book, The Feather Woman of the Jungle, Tutola’s superb storytelling is at last cast in the episodic form which he handles best instead of being pain­fully stretched on the rack of the novel.

From a natural to a conscious artist: myself, in fact. Allow me to quote a small example from Arrow of God, which may give some idea of how I approach the use of English. The Chief Priest in the story is telling one of his sons why it is necessary to send him to church:

I want one of my sons to join these people and be my eyes there. If there is nothing in it you will come back. But if there is something there you will bring home my share. The world is like a Mask, dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place. My spirit tells me that those who do not befriend the white man today will be saying had we known tomorrow.

Now supposing I had put it another way. Like this, for instance:

I am sending you as my representative among these peo­ple—just to be on the safe side in case the new religion de­velops. One has to move with the times or else one is left behind. I have a hunch that those who fail to come to terms with the white man may well regret their lack of foresight.

The material is the same. But the form of the one is in character and the other is not. It is largely a matter of instinct, but judg­ment comes into it too.

You read quite often nowadays of the problems of the African writer having first to think in his mother tongue and then to translate what he has thought into English. If it were such a simple, mechanical process, I would agree that it was pointless— the kind of eccentric pursuit you might expect to see in a modern Academy of Lagado—and such a process could not possibly pro­duce some of the exciting poetry and prose which is already ap­pearing.

One final point remains for me to make. The real question is not whether Africans could write in English but whether they ought to. Is it right that a man should abandon his mother tongue for someone else’s? It looks like a dreadful betrayal and produces a guilty feeling.

But, for me, there is no other choice. I have been given this language and I intend to use it. I hope, though, that there always will be men, like the late Chief Fagunwa, who will choose to write in their native tongue and ensure that our ethnic literature will flourish side by side with the national ones. For those of us who opt for English, there is much work ahead and much ex­citement.

Writing in the London Observer recently, James Baldwin said:

My quarrel with the English language has been that the lan­guage reflected none of my experience. But now I began to see the matter another way…. Perhaps the language was not my own because I had never attempted to use it, had only learned to imitate it. If this were so, then it might be made to bear the burden of my experience if I could find the stamina to challenge it, and me, to such a test.

I recognize, of course, that Baldwin’s problem is not exactly mine, but I feel that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but al­tered to suit its new African surroundings.

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Difference Between British And South African English Language Essay

I aim to establish dialectal features importance upon the English language. This will occur through identifying how dialectal features are introduced into speech, significant differences between British English and South African English, as well as the possible differences in application of dialect into language. I aim to identify distinctive dialectal features in ordinary, colloquial speech, which are different to English speakers.

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A comparison of British English and South African English will enable differences to be shown. Within the speech, variables will affect the language choice, not always dialectal variables. These variables include age (adults and Children in the conversation), location of the speakers (where they’re from and location which they currently reside) as well as the tier of class which the speakers are from. I will focus upon South Africans (English speaking not Afrikaans- the Lingua Franca), the test subjects are from the Cape Town area in South-west South Africa. Therefore, the South African test subjects should have many similarities to the British speaking English test subjects. As a consequence, I expect the main difference between the two sets of test subjects to be lexical due to them being English speaking.


Dialect differentiates language, distinguishing location, class and other social boundaries.

The South African language is similar to the English language, a cosmopolitan, hybrid language, with lexis being drawn from many other languages and cultures. Officially there are 11 languages feeding into South African [1] from Dutch Afrikaans to English, providing dialectal words such as the Afrikaaner word “Braai” for barbeque. It is often that these words interlink into different languages with the meaning mirrored in the adopted language such as Dutch to Afrikaans lexis. This is obvious through words like “Biltong” (Afrikaans) and “aardvark” (Afrikaans) transferring to the English language.

English is seen as a “Lingua Franca” in South Africa, not necessarily the dominant language spoken language, but instead a language which is a backup language which is always spoken in contexts where appropriate, for example, English is the international business language, therefore the majority of business is conducted in English.

As a consequence Afrikaans speakers use English; the lingua franca . language use in Afrikaans-medium high schools in Pretoria reported that they often used English words when speaking Afrikaans [2]. Therefore showing the English language’s dominance due to the ability to transfer into different languages. Therefore, it’ll be interesting to see if the South African language of 11 different languages and distinctive dialects transfers into the English language as seen with the transfer of French lexis such as Entrepreneur, quit or Cafe.

Dialects form through modification of standard of English, changing due to influences and situations. They are a form of expression, marking individualism or belonging to a group e.g. social grouping such as level of class (Gentry, middle or working). As Peter Trudgill interprets dialects allow for recognition of area of growing up or current residence “Other people will use this information to help them decide where we are from…” [3].

This investigation aims to distinguish the differences of lexical variations, grammatical differences, approaches to speech, length of utterances, and use of taboo and non-fluency features.

Data Analysis:

The speech is started off by statements (declarative) and questions (interrogative sentence mood), for example line one of the South African transcript “Kieron (.) dinner time”. The use of these sentence moods is the typical, standard of introduction for conversation. Furthermore both transcripts feature turn-yielding cues at the end of around half of sentences, leading to the formation of adjacency pairs. Therefore, there’s no difference between English and Southern African English conversations over on how they’re introduced or ended suggesting this method is the standard, not fulfilling any aims of establishing dialectal differences.

The main difference between the dialects of Southern Africa and an English Dialect is a high lexical variation. A clear example is the word “robots” used in Western South Africa to mean Traffic lights. This shows the use of different lexis to apply the same meaning as also seen through the adjective “Lekker” to mean good or nice. Whereas the transcript shows the English dialect to use +degree adverbs intensifying the adjective ” the food is very burnt” as opposed to the Southern African “these crunchies are lekker”. The South African lexis doesn’t rely upon intensifiers instead having stronger dialectal words to take the place of two words, whereas the word “Crunchies” is a piece of South African lexis for Flapjack.

Nouns have been used with inflections for both English speech and South African speech. Proper Nouns for both English and South African haven’t featured the inflection of ‘s’ with the exception of “General motors'” which said singularly on its own. However, common nouns are varied in both English and in Southern African. Concrete nouns such as “Takkies” or Pants” both feature the inflection of ‘s’, yet concrete nouns like “Lappie” haven’t featured an inflection. This feature of spoken language is mirrored in the English transcript with concrete nouns such as “apples” “crackers”. This shows no difference between the South African and British English dialect in the application of inflections, not helping to solve the language investigation.

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Adjectives don’t tend to have inflections such as suffixes added to them in either dialects. Both dialects lack suffixes such as ‘-en’ to give adjectives a regional placer, helping to determine the area or social class from which the test subjects are in or reside from. The South African transcript uses adjectives such as “slow” pre-modifying nouns like any normal application of adjectives. Whereas, the English transcript also applies adjectives use; e.g. “. well ridiculously cheap”. This shows there is little if no difference between uses of adjectives between these two different dialects, suggesting it again to be the standard. As a consequence neither disproving nor proving a noticeable difference between the dialects.

Whereas, adverbs are also similar with no real noticeable difference between the two different dialects. Neither dialects as discussed before seem to use suffixes onto the adverbs e.g. slowly. Adverbs have been used in both dialects as transcribed showing the adverbs to intensify or portray manner, place or time, as seen by “ridiculously cheap”. As seen before, this doesn’t identify dialectal differences, meaning the aims fulfilled.

However, there is a difference in pronoun structure between the two transcripts and dialects. The English dialect transcript focuses upon object personal pronouns e.g. “i didn’t know this”, whereas the South African transcript mainly uses subject personal pronouns (I) (we). However, this may not be a dialectal difference due to being in different circumstances with them both being on different topics due to not being scripted. Therefore it neither confirms nor disproves dialectal differences in speech.

The South African transcripts shows dynamic verbs used with past tense inflections of ‘-ed’ as well as present tense inflections of ‘-e’: “i lagged. ” Whereas the English transcript also shows the use of dynamic verbs, but only in the past tense. Like the South African Dynamic verbs, it portrays the action having already occurred. However, neither of these inflections are dialect specific, such as an Eastern English dialect of “he walk”. Therefore, this doesn’t help to identify dialectal features in spoken language.

The utterance length is higher in the English transcript on average as compared to the South African, suggesting dialect may affect length of utterance. However, there are more speakers (5) as compared to (4) within the South African discourse; therefore it is more likely that each speaker will have a shorter duration of speech due to some form of interruption by another speaker. As a consequence, this hints that utterance length may be a dialectal feature; however it is more likely to have been highly influenced by the amount of speakers. Therefore not really being a useful piece of data.

The transcripts have recorded different features of non-fluency signifiers, showing that dialect may cause different non-fluency features. The South African transcript notes the high use of fillers and other parts of unscripted speech such as facework like the facilitive tag question “you’re lovely (.) aren’t you”. voice filled pauses occur where the speaker responds, yet doesn’t provide a very clear answer. Whereas the British English transcript shows quite a high use of false-starts and recycling in speech unlike the South African transcript. This clearly shows both dialects have certain non-fluency features; however they vary and may just be partially dialect specific.

It is obvious the main difference between these transcripts and dialects is lexical variation. This is not really surprising due to the South African test subjects being English spoken. English South Africa is hugely influenced by western media i.e. American TV programs. The only real way to clarify these findings of dialect not being hugely different between British English and western South African is to undertake many more tests to see if there is reliability in the results or if it shows a broader theme as such.

CUT = This conclusion is repeated through the use of negatives, where neither dialects show abnormal use of negatives, therefore not providing a noticeable difference, meaning no clear conclusion can be drawn from these results.

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The History Of The English Language History Essay

The english language is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European Family of languages. These Indo-European languages originate from Old Norse and Saxon. English originated from a fusion of languages and dialects, now called Old English :

It all started when the Germanic tribes arrived in Britain and invaded the country during the 5th century AD. Before the Germanic invasions in Britain, Britain was populated by various Celtic tribes. These Celtic tribes were united by customs, religion and common speech. But the celtic tribes lacked political unity and that made them vulnerable. During the first century, Britain was conquered by Rome. When Britain finally gained independence from Rome in the year 410 AD, the Roman legions had withdrawn from Britain and this left the country vulnerable to invaders. Inhabitants from the north began attacking the inhabitants of Britain. A lot of different Germanic tribes started to migrate to Britain, but a few stood out amongst the rest, such as the Saxons, the Angles,the Jutes, the Franks and the Frisians. They came from different parts of what is nowadays northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The original inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the original inhabitants were driven to the west and north by the invaders. They mainly migrated to what is now Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. The Saxons called the native Britons, ‘wealas’ and wealas meant foreigner or slave, this is where the modern word Welsh came from.

The germanic tribes were constantly fighting over power. But as time passed the different germanic cultures gradually became similar to each other until they eventually stopped seeing themselves as their individual origin but collectively as either Anglo-Saxon or English. The germanic tribes already spoke similar languages that now developed into what we now call Old English. The words England and English are derived from Engla-land (“land of the Angles”) and englisc (the language the Angles spoke).

How did the english language evolve?

The history of the english language is split up into three periods that are normally called Old English (or Anglo-Saxon), Middle English and Modern English.

Old English was the first form of English.It did not look or sound like the English we know today. The native English speakers nowadays would find it very difficult to understand Old English. But still, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English originate from Old English. Some fun words that are derived from Old english are: axode(asked), habbað (have), rihtlice (rightly), engla (angels), heofonum (heaven), swilcum (such), hu (how) and beon (be). Old English was spoken from 450 AD until around 1100 AD.

Middle English (1100-1500)

In 1066 AD William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (Normandy is part of modern France), invaded and then conquered England. The Normans spoke a dialect of Old French that is known as Anglo-Norman. This became the language of the Royal Court, the ruling classes and business classes. There was a sort of linguistic class division in this period. French was the language the upper classes spoke, and English was the language the lower classes spoke. But later in 1204 AD, King John lost the province of Normandy to the King of France. Because of this, the Norman nobles of England started to take more distance from the French Normans. England became the main concern of the Norman nobles. From 1349-1350 The black death killed around one-third of the English population. Because of these deaths the labouring classes grew in social and economical importance. Along with the rise of the importance of the labouring classes English became more important compared to Anglo-Norman as well. The nobility soon used a modified English as their native tongue. By 1362, the linguistic division between the nobility and the commoners was pretty much over.

In Britain English was the dominant language again,but many French words were added to the vocabulary. This mixture of languages is called Middle English. Middle English opposed to Old English, can be read, but it would still be difficult for modern English-speaking people. The Middle English period ended around 1500 AD with the rise of Modern English.

Early Modern English (1500-1800)

There were a few major factors that influenced Middle English and helped separate Middle and Modern English.

– The first major factor was the Great Vowel Shift. This was as sudden and big change in pronunciation that began around 1400 towards the end of the Middle English period. Vowels were being pronounced shorter and shorter. Modern English shifted into something that was more understandable for modern English speaking people.

– Another major factor was that since the 16th Century the British started to get in contact with many people from all around the world.These new contacts, and the Renaissance period of Classical learning, are the reasons that many new phrases and words were added to the language. English has been constantly adopting foreign words, especially from Latin and Greek.

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– The last major factor that helped with the development of Modern English was the invention of printing. In 1476, William Caxton has brought the printing press to England in. Since then books became less expensive and literature that is written in English opposed to Latin, became more common. Now everything was printed in a common language, and that brought standardization to English. Most publishing houses were located in London so the dialect of London became the printing standard. Rules were made for spelling and grammar, and the first English dictionary was published in 1604.

Late Modern English (1800-Present)

The difference between early modern English and late modern English is mainly vocabulary. Grammar, pronunciation and spelling are mostly the same as before, but late modern English has a lot more words than early modern English. There are a few explanations for the huge expansion in words. In the first place, technology and the Industrial Revolution created the need for new words so people could describe the new creations and discoveries that were made.

For this, people created many words with Latin and Greek roots. For example, words like protein,nuclear,oxygen and vaccine did not exist before, but they were made with Greek and Latin influences. Not all the new words were created from classical roots though, English words that already existed were also combined for terms like typewriter, airplane and horsepower. Secondly, at one point one-quarter of the countries on earth belonged to the British Empire, and that’s why the English lanuage took over foreign words from many different countries.The britain empire was a maritime empire so phrases that were created onboard ships were a big influence on the english language. Finally, during the last half of the 20th century the military influence on the english language was significant. Before the Great War, both Britain and the United States had small, volunteer militaries. English military slang existed, but this barely had an impact on standard English. However, during the mid-20th century, a big number of British and American men joined the military. Because the military started to play a bigger role in a lot of people’s lives, military slang had a big impact on standard English. Military terms like landing strip, camouflage, spearhead, blockbuster, roadblock and nose dive started massively entering the standard English language.

Why did the english language become so important?

When England started trading, exploring and conquering lands, it took the language with it. The rise of the British Empire is one of the main reasons why English spread across the world. The British Empire was expanding dramatically,during the 1700s. European settlers quickly outnumbered the original population and so English was established as the dominant language in most colonies. By the late 19th century the empire’s reach was truly global and the language was also becoming global. Great Britain held colonies on every continent of the world and the trade language in those areas was English,which meant that knowing English was important. (!nog beetje eigen woorden)

After the British colonization of North America, English became the dominant language in the United States and in Canada. The growing cultural and economical influence of the US and its status as a global superpower since World War II have significantly increased the language’s spread across the world. Today, American English is predominantly influential, because of the USA’s dominance in television, popular music,cinema, trade and technology (including the Internet). Most website’s on the internet are in English. Popular American movies and tv programmes which people watch all over the world are in English. People listen to American music and English is the language mostly used for business. So the world has been exposed to english in many ways and that’s why most people know the english language and would like to study it.

Right now it has been stated by experts that around one-third of the world’s population has english as their native language and even more study English as a second language. A working knowledge of English has become a necessity in a number of area’s. It is the international language of communications, science, technology, business, medicine, aviation, maritime activities and many more. Because of that over a Billion people speak English to at least a basic level.

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Postcolonialism in Africa refers in general to the era between 1960 and 1970, during which time many African nations gained political independence from their colonial rulers. Many authors writing during this time, and even during.

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Postcolonial African Literature

African literature written in the postcolonial era by authors of African descent.

Postcolonialism in Africa refers in general to the era between 1960 and 1970, during which time many African nations gained political independence from their colonial rulers. Many authors writing during this time, and even during colonial times, saw themselves as both artists and political activists, and their works reflected their concerns regarding the political and social conditions of their countries. As nation after nation gained independence from their colonial rulers, beginning in the mid-twentieth century, a sense of euphoria swept through Africa as each country celebrated its independence from years of political and cultural domination. Much of early postcolonial writing reflects this sense of freedom and hope. In the years that followed, as many African nations struggled to reinvigorate long-subservient societies and culture, writers of postcolonial Africa began reflecting the horrors their countries suffered following decolonization, and their writing is often imbued with a sense of despair and anger, at both the state of their nations and the leaders who replaced former colonial oppressors. Critics, including Neil Lazarus, have proposed that this sense of disillusionment, reflected in the works of such authors as Ayi Kwei Armah, marked the beginning of a major change in African intellectual and literary development. Beginning in the 1970s, writes Lazarus, the direction of African fiction began to change, with writers forging new forms of expression reflecting more clearly their own thoughts about culture and politics in their works. The writing of this period and later moves away from the subject matter of postcolonial Africa, and moves into the realm of new and realistic texts that reflect the concerns of their respective nations.

Postcolonial studies gained popularity in England during the 1960s with the establishment of Commonwealth literature—in the United States, this phenomenon did not reach its zenith until the 1990s. Because postcolonial writers are studied by and read most often by Western audiences, their works are often seen as being representative of the Third World and studied as much for the anthropological information they provide as they are as works of fiction. This, notes Bart Moore-Gilbert in his Postcolonial Theory, has led to the creation of a criticism that is unique in its set of reading practices, which are “preoccupied principally with analysis of cultural forms which mediate, challenge, or reflect upon … relations of domination and subordination.” In his study of postcolonial African fiction, Graham Huggan also comments on this phenomenon, theorizing that western critics need to make an increased effort to expand their interpretive universe in order to study African texts as fiction, rather than as windows into the cultures they represent. This difficulty is further compounded by the fact that many indigenous African authors in the postcolonial era and beyond remain un-translated, and are thus unavailable to western critics. In the meantime, the canon of translated or European-language works that are available, although but a minor part of African literature in general, have come to define postcolonial literature and its critical response.

African writers are themselves very conscious of this gap between texts that are accessible to the West and those that remain in Africa. In fact, the language issue became a central concern with many African writers in the years following decolonization, and some, including Ngugi wa Thiong’o, have chosen in the years following independence to reject English and other European languages in favor of native African writing. Ngugi and his supporters were opposed by several African writers, including Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and others, who challenged the usefulness of such a stance. In contrast, Ngugi theorized that by writing in English or French and other European languages, African authors are continuing to enrich those cultures at the expense of their own. Writers who support African-language literature are also concerned that European languages are unable to express the complexity of African experience and culture in those languages, along with the fact that they exclude a majority of Africans, who are unable to read in these languages, from access to their own literary success. In contrast, critics such as Jeannine DeLombard have pointed out that while African-language literature is popular with indigenous African populations, such writing tends to be formulaic and stereotypical. While the language debate continues, many authors, including playwright Penina Muhando Mlama, Ngugi, and several others, have expanded their literary horizons by collaborating with everyday African people to produce writing that is popular in both origin and destination.

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