Language Endangerment: Issues of Igbo Proverbs

Maria I. Obadan


In the past two decades or so, much attention has been drawn to the issue of language endangerment, especially African languages. Most of these researches have tried to ascertain the endangerment status of various languages in whole by considering mostly the number of speakers. This paper however takes a different approach on this subject of language endangerment. Rather than looking at the language as a whole, this paper examines the gradual loss of an important aspect of the Igbo language; proverbs. The central claim of this paper is that language endangerment is gradual. It starts with the loss of some vital aspects of the language thereby losing its communicative relevance in certain domain. If this trend continues, and more domains lose their communicative relevance, if unchecked, might lead to an eventual total loss of the language. By observing the language use of two different age groups (Elder and Youth groups), this paper was able to highlight a generational gap in the use and interpretation of proverbs by the younger generation.The particular Igbo community that this study is based on is the Ogwashi-uku community in Delta state. Data were gathered from communal meetings of two separate groups; made up of the youths and the elders. Using the linguistic vitality and endangerment (LVE) framework, this paper examines the competence level in the use of proverbs between the older generation of Igbo speakers and the younger generation. Findings show that most youth speakers lack competence in the use and interpretation of proverbs.

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English Linguistics Research
ISSN 1927-6028 (Print)   ISSN 1927-6036 (Online)

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