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» BNW : Biafra Nigeria World Message Board: the Voice of a New Generation » Biafra Nigeria: Home & Diaspora » Parlez-vouz Biafranese? » Achebe and the Standard Igbo Grammar

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nobiorah
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Guardian, Saturday, December 15, 2001

Achebe and the Problematics of Writing in Indigenous Languages
BY Ernest N. Emenyonu

TWO things emerged from the annual Odenigbo Lecture given by Chinua Achebe on September 4, 1999 at Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. First, the lecture brought Achebe into a head-on collusion with Igbo Linguistics
scholars. Secondly, it forced scholars of Igbo Language and Literature
to start debates again on the problematics of creating literature in an
indigenous language in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual situation where
a foreign language as official language, has gained national currency even at the grassroots and marginalised the status of mother tongues, as is
the case in Nigeria today.

The controversy surrounding the Igbo Oral-Written interface is an
age-long conflict dating to 1841 when a concerted effort was made by
European missionaries to create a standard written Igbo from a wide
variety of spoken Igbo dialects. What gives the present controversy a
posture is that it is a clear cut battle between scholars of Igbo
linguistics led by 'Nolue Emenanjo, currently Rector of the Institute
of
Nigerian Languages, Aba, Abia State and creative artists led by
Africa's
leading novelist, Chinua Achebe. Furthermore, the present controversy
is
more clearly defined in linguistic terms, what Donatus Nwoga
appropriately labelled "the legislative dogmatism of grammarians versus
the creative experimentations of creative artists."

Sadly, however, the effect is the same now as in 1841. Writing in Igbo
language has for more than a century been stagnated as each phase of
the
controversy creates fresh impediments not only for development of Igbo
Literature but Igbo Language Studies in general.

The purpose of this paper is to come up with workable solutions that will move Igbo Studies forward in the 21st century. In four stages, the paper will discuss:
(a) the origins and substance of the controversy in which the Igbo Oral-Written interface is engulfed,
(b) Chinua Achebe's 1999
Odenigbo lecture and the dimensions of the controversy it has
engendered,
(c) analysis of the key issues and,
(d) proposals towards a lasting
resolution of the critical issues.

The Origins And Substance Of The Controversy

The Igbo language has a multiplicity of dialects some of which are
mutually unintelligible. The first dilemma of the European Christian
Missionaries who introduced writing in Igbo land in mid-19th century was to decide on an orthography acceptable to all the competing dialects. There was the urgent need to have in native tongue essential instruments
of proselytization namely the Bible, hymn books, prayer books etc. The ramifications of this dilemma have been widening over the centuries in complexity.

Since 1841 three proposed solutions have failed woefully. The first was
an experiment to forge a synthesis of some selected representative dialects. This Igbo Esperanto 'christened' Isuama Igbo lasted from 1841 to 1872 and was riddled with uncompromising controversies all through
its existence. A second experiment, Union Igbo, 1905-1939, succeeded through
the determined energies of the missionaries in having the English Bible,hymn books and prayer books translated into it for ffective
evangelism. But it too, fell to the unrelenting onslaughts of sectional conflicts.

The third experiment was the Central Igbo, a kind of standard arrived at by a combination of a core of dialects. It lasted from 1939 to 1972 and although it appeared to have reduced significantly the most thorny
issues in the controversy, its opposition and resistance among some Igbo groups
remained persistent and unrelenting.

After the Nigerian independence in 1960, and following the exit of European Christian missionaries, the endemic controversy was inherited by the Society for the Promotion of Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC)
founded by F.C. Ogbalu, a concerned pan-Igbo nationalist educator who also established a press devoted to the production and publication of educational materials in Igbo language.

Through his unflinching efforts a fourth experiment and seemingly the ultimate solution, Standard Igbo was evolved in 1973 and had since then largely sustained creativity and other forms of writing in the language until 1978 when Chinua Achebe hurled the first "salvo' challenging its
linguistic legitimacy and socio-cultural authenticity. At the launch of
a book, (The Rise of the Igbo Novel) published by the Oxford University
Press which had in part explored the influence of European Christian
missionaries on the development of Igbo Orthography and Written Igbo
literature, Chinua Achebe strongly criticized the way the early
missionaries designed an Igbo orthography, the Union Igbo, and imposed
it on the Igbo people.

Achebe blamed the near stagnation of creativity in the Igbo language
ever since on that dictatorial missionary manipulation. Since then, whenever
and wherever Achebe had a chance, he continued unsparingly his attacks
on the Union Igbo. Matters came to a head when His Grace, Dr. A.J.V. Obinna,
Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri invited Chinua Achebe from the United States to deliver the fourth in the series of a pan-Igbo annual lecture, Odenigbo in 1999. Odenigbo, a creation of Archbishop
Obinna, began in 1996 as a deliberate interventionist initiative of the
intellectually vibrant and philosophically astute scholar/prelate to foster and maintain an intra-ethnic discourse on matters of significance in Igbo socio-cultural development.

By having the lectures delivered in Igbo before a pan-Igbo audience and
simultaneously published in Igbo language, Obinna sought to emphasize
the homogeneity of Igbo people despite dialectal differences in speech.
Furthermore, the exclusive use of Igbo language in the highly celebrated
lectures ensured grassroots participation in the discourse unlike any other lecture series in existence with similar goals and objectives.

The choice of Achebe as the 1999 lecturer seemed also as an ingenious move to arrest an incipient suspicion in some quarters that Odenigbo was a religious more than a socio-cultural event, which drew its resources
and inspiration from Igbo scholars who were first and foremost Roman
Catholics. Chinua Achebe is a professing Anglican. Thus this choice was
significant in that it bestowed credibility on Odenigbo as a pan-Igbo non-denominational cultural event open to all who have the survival,
growth and stability of Igbo language and culture at heart. And nothing
could have been more appropriate than Achebe's chosen topic Echi di
ime:
Taa bu Gboo (literally, Tomorrow is Pregnant, Today is too Early to
Predict...)

Chinua Achebe's Lecture

In his lecture, Achebe traced the history of missionary influence on
the
evolution of orthography for the Igbo language, and the process of the
creation of Union Igbo as the standard for written Igbo at the turn of
the 20th century. He adversely condemned the way and manner the
standard
was devised and blamed the chequered nature of the development of Igbo
Language Studies since then on Archdeacon T.J.Dennis, the missionary
whom
he identified as the brain behind the creation of Union Igbo and its
imposition on the Igbo.

To Achebe, Union Igbo was a mechanical standardization, and its use in
the translation of the Bible into Igbo in 1913 was a legacy detrimental
to the growth and development of Igbo language and culture. He charged
Dennis furthermore of "tinkering" with the roots of Igbo language out
of
sheer ignorance of the natural process of language development in human
societies. In that process, Achebe alleged that Dennis had in his
missionary over zealousness and colonial mentality done irreparable
harm
to Igbo language in particular and Igbo life and culture in general.

And then by extension, Achebe condemned and derided present Igbo
Linguistics scholars who, it seemed to him, had followed Archdeacon
Dennis's subversive linguistic approach by making and imposing dogmatic
rules on Standard Igbo evolved in 1973. He called such scholars "disciples of Dennis" and alleged that they too had unwittingly done more harm than good to the development of contemporary Igbo Language Studies.

He charged that their various dogmatic impositions on the Igbo language,when compared to the strides made in Yoruba and Hausa studies, was responsible for the slow pace of Igbo Language Studies. Achebe pointed to the stability in the Yoruba language development and studies as a credit
to another missionary, Adjai Crowther, who had a totally different approach in the process of selecting a standard for written Yoruba language. Achebe was convinced that Crowther owed his success to his
sensitivity to Yoruba language of which he was a native speaker. In the
Yoruba model one dialect, the Oyo dialect, was selected early and
nurtured into the standard for writing in Yoruba language.

Perhaps what was most revolutionary in Achebe's Odenigbo Lecture was
not what he said but rather what he did. Two decades after his initial
condemnation of Union as well as Standard Igbo, Achebe had not shifted
from his position that Igbo writers should be free to write in their
various community dialects unencumbered by any standardization theories
or practices. Then as now, he resented attempts to force writers into
any strait jackets maintaining unequivocally that literature has the mission
"to give full and unfettered play to the creative genius of Igbo speech in all its splendid variety, not to damn it up into the sluggish pond of sterile pedantry." In keeping with this principle, therefore, Achebe wrote and delivered his Odenigbo lecture in a brand of dialect peculiar
only to Onitsha speakers of the language and almost unintelligible to more than half the audience.

He was making an unmistakable millennium statement which would be hard
to miss by those Igbo Linguistics scholars whom he had once referred to as "egoistic schoolmen who have been concerned not to study the language but to steer it into the narrow tracks of their particular pet illusion."

The organizers of the lecture were forced to do the unprecedented: printing in the same booklets two versions of the 23-page lecture, one, Achebe's original version, and the other in the conventional Standard
Igbo. The climax of Achebe's position on the Igbo Oral-Written interface was his call for the total abolition and the scrapping of Standard Igbo in which the Igbo language has been written and accepted by scholars
since its evolution in 1973.

Nothing could be more divisive at a forum assembled to celebrate Igbo Studies who had looked forward to the early decades of the 21st century as the era for Igbo Renaissance after over a century of fratricidal acrimonious controversies first over the choice of a pan-Igbo orthography and then over the standardization of written Igbo.
Reactions to Achebe's views in the lecture were predictably fast especially from Linguistics scholars devoted to the theory and cause of Standard Igbo.

Reactions to Achebe's Views:

Innocent Nwadike
Achebe's lecture drew many reactions both positive and negative but more the latter. The most detailed and indeed the most negatively extreme came from Innocent Nwadike an Igbo language lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who is apparently totally dedicated to the cause of
Standard Igbo as evident in his tone and language. What strikes the reader about Nwadike's article, Achebe Missed It, published in a Nigerian weekly magazine (The News, March 27, 2000), was not the substance of Nwadike's disagreement with the views of Achebe, or his right to do so, but rather his compunction to deride and insult, as can be seem in the following excerpts: "Achebe had nothing to offer his audience except
throwing of sand... Achebe's lecture turned out to be real throwing of
sand which ended in pronunciation of the heresy of the last century of the second millennium... ' 'Achebe's tragedy and ailure started when he descended from his Olympian to copy without verification...'

Achebe was led astray and he marshalled out many historical fallacies...

'Though Achebe has persistently stressed his unalloyed love for Igbo
language, he has done nothing towards its promotion and growth, except
continued destructive criticism since the 1970s...'

In the course of his lecture, Achebe levelled many false accusations
against Dennis and very heart breaking are the lies against the
dead...'a

Anyone who reads Achebe's lecture will notice an air of superiority and
worldly triumphalism exhibited by the author almost arrogating to himself transcendental power which belongs to God alone...'

'Let him (Achebe) as from today, learn to respect his people and all
constituted authority...

'Let not Achebe constitute himself a cog in the wheel of progress like
one Chief Nwakpuda of the Old Umuahia who tried to stop a locomotive
engine from passing through his village...'

'Achebe should stop embarrassing himself, for a beautiful face does not
deserve a slap as the Igbo say...'

The danger about resorting to name calling in the course of an important discourse is that it distracts from the main focus of the essential argument. The issue of deciding on a standard for writing Igbo so that
Igbo Language Studies can move on is too paramount to be sacrificed at
the altar of rhetoric and polemics. Although in the Igbo republican
culture, freedom of expression is encouraged and cultivated, and a
child
who washes his hands could eat with kings, this is not an invitation to
anarchy and the denigration of hierarchy.

The critical method in literary criticism is as important and
significant
as the substance of the criticism. How one says something in an Igbo
gathering is as crucial as what one has to say and perhaps more so.
Nwadike's ungracious choice of words, his personal attacks on Achebe
and
his apparent glowing in subjecting Chinua Achebe to public ridicule is,
to say the least, most unfortunate and quite antithetical to the Igbo
cultural norm which restrains a child from jesting at, ridiculing, or
speaking in utter derision of an elder, no matter the facts of the
case.

The Igbo have a saying that the public ridicule or disgrace of a titled
elder is more painful than his execution.

Chinua Achebe is not a reckless man, and not the least a careless
writer.
If anything he is a man who thinks carefully about issues, a conscious
artist who is quite cautious in his choice of words for public
utterance.
He would as the Igbo say, look to his left and to his right before
crossing the road. And, Igbo wisdom admonishes the onlooker to
carefully
search the direction to which a weeping child is pointing, for the
child's mother or father may well be there.

We applauded when on behalf of the African continent, Chinua Achebe
single-handedly took on the obnoxious institution of European
colonialism
and flawed it. We fully concurred when Achebe, on behalf of African
culture and dignity, reduced to size the egocentric, egoistic, and
presumptuous early Christian missionary and colonial administrator. We
applauded Achebe's heroic and altruistic vocabulary in his novel Things
Fall Apart when he lashed at the irreverence and high handedness of the
early Europeans who came to Africa:

'Does the white man understand our custom about land? How can he when
he
does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad;
and
our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever.
He
came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his
foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers and
our
clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that
held us together and we have fallen apart. (124-5)

In his Lecture, Achebe seems to be charging not at the misshapen
European
bull but the lamb at the sublime shrine of his people's spiritual
existence. He once declared that a language is more than mere sounds
and
words; indeed a language is a 'people's world view.' A language is a
sacred symbol of a people's humanity. A committed Afrian writer carries
the burden of the conscience of his community. Chinua Achebe has
positioned himself at the forefront of the committed African writers
who
use art to better the lives of their fellow men and women; who use art
to
restore the lost dignity of the African past, writers who use art as a
celebration of life in the present. So rather than dismiss Achebe's
views
arbitrarily or hastily, we should examine them thoroughly and inform
ourselves whether the spokesman of African cultural realism and
renaissance had in fact missed the point about what is best for his own
people's language and culture, whether in the full glare of bright
light!
s, Chinua Achebe had misread the colours of the garments in his
innermost
closet. Only then can we look him fully in the eye and say the novelist
lied!

Analysis of the Key Issues

Two supreme facts have to be established unequivocally at the onset.
First, there is a Standard Igbo in existence; it is a reality; it
cannot
be set aside. It is not perfect but it is the best framework we have in
existence for further development and improvement. It is a major legacy
left for Igbo Language Studies by the Society for the Promotion of Igbo
Language and Culture, (SPILC) and its inimitable founding president,
the
late F.C. Ogbalu.

In an August 1974 seminar of the SPILC a Standardization Committee was
set up. It was all embracing in composition. "Lecturers of Igbo Studies
at institutions of higher learning, authors, publishers, broadcasters,
teachers of Igbo language in secondary schools and teacher training
institutions, representatives of the Ministries of Education and
Information, State Schools Management Boards and the Mass Media." Since
1974, substantial improvements have continued to be made on the final
product of the Standardization Committee. There is now in existence a
very useful supplement, Igbo Metalanguage produced under the auspices
of
the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) which
also sponsored the production of the Yoruba Metalanguage and Hausa
Metalanguage. Igbo Metalagnauge serves as a common reference for
writers,
teachers and examiners. It is a useful glossary which is an invaluable
guide for anyone who wishes to learn the application of Standard Igbo
in!
creative or other writings.

The second incontestable fact is that Igbo Language Studies and
Development currently, as has been the case for almost half a century,
lag behind the other two Nigerian major languages -Hausa and Yoruba. As
Donatus Nwoga pointed out in his exceptionally brilliant study, From
Dialectal Dichotomy to Igbo Standard Development, the National Language
Policy in Nigeria has been a major catalyst in the development of
educational materials in the three languages designated as major.
Nigeria
which speaks 394 indigenous languages has given up choosing an official
language from among them, but instead settled for English, a colonial
inheritance as its language of business, education and government. The
National Language Policy has identified three languages Hausa, Igbo and
Yoruba as major and requires them to be studied in schools as a means
of
advancing the theory that "first language education is the best
tradition
in the early years of the educational process".

This policy has greatly enhanced the production and publication of
educational materials, texts and literature in the three major
languages.
The population of the Igbo speaking people is at least the third
highest
in Nigeria's estimated 120 million population. It is a fact, however,
that Hausa and Yoruba scholars and writers have made greater and far
more
impressive strides in the development of teaching and reading materials
in Hausa and Yoruba languages than their Igbo counterparts have done
for
Igbo language. It is most likely also that outside Nigeria, Igbo is the
least studied of the three languages. The reason is not far to find.
The
endless squabbles over orthography, standardization and the like, can
hardly inspire interest and excitement in prospective learners in and
outside Nigeria. Igbo people have not put their house in order and
people
do not waste time on something or a situation in chaos. It is,
therefore,
in the best interest of the Igbo people and Igbo Stu! dies that the
present crisis be resolved quickly and in the best possible manner so
that Igbo Studies can take its rightful place in the academy.

Two other issues deserve close critical attention because of their
centrality in any possible solutions for the issues under review.
First,
to what extent should we blame Archdeacon Dennis for the stagnation and
tardiness in Igbo Language Studies because of his invention of Union
Igbo
as the medium of translating the Bible into Igbo language in 1913?
Secondly, can we set aside the work of the Standardization Committee of
1974 as a compromise for moving forward Igbo Language Studies in the
21st
century?

It will be quite absurd to blame Archdeacon Dennis for the instability
in
the Igbo Language Studies for an alleged error in linguistic judgment
made almost a century ago. It will be like blaming the British for the
misrule and instability in the Nigerian government since the attainment
of independence in 1960. Nigerians have had half a century to right the
wrongs, correct the anomalies, refocus the directions of the country
and
stamp out unprogressive legacies planted by the British at their exit.
To
continue to blame Archdeacon Dennis for our woes will be tantamount to
saying that the issues of orthography and standardization have been
stagnant and unre-visited since 1913. Yet we know that some Igbo
Language
scholars have invested considerable amounts of time and energy in the
last three decades at least, into researches in Igbo Language and
Culture.

Can we easily forget or afford to ignore the tremendous works of late
F.C. Ogbalu and Donatus Nwoga; or the continuing endeavours of Ebo
Ubahakwe, Nolue Emenanjo, M.J.C. Echeruo, Chukwuma Azuonye, B:I.N.
Osuagwu, G.E. Igwe among others? These scholars have in their studies
made tremendous strides to move Igbo Language Studies forward. We must,
therefore, reject any approach that negates gained grounds. Any new
studies must build in the noble achievements of previous endeavours. So
instead of taking 1913 as our point of reference, we must turn to
achievements since 1982 and build on them. Nor can we close our eyes to
Archbishop A.J.V. Obinna's 1996 landmark action towards a renaissance
of
Igbo Language Studies. It is regrettable to discuss the Odenigbo
Lecture
series as simply a "closed-door" religious and Roman Catholic event. Or
to see the prelate as seeking to upstage the paraplegic Ahiajoku
Lecture
initiated by the Imo State Government in 1979. Obinna is nationally and
i! nternationally recognized for his ardent interest and commitment to
the preservation of Igbo Language and culture in particular, and the
arts
and humanities in general. It was not a surprise to keen observers that
he initiated the Odenigbo Lecture series. He would have done no less if
he were an Anglican, Baptist or Methodist Archbishop or for that matter
if he held the sacred ofo of the traditional religion in his Emekuku
village near Owerri. Many Igbo scholars had greeted with overwhelming
enthusiasm a similar vision by the late Gaius Anoka when his brain
child,
the Ahiajoku Lecture series, was initiated under the auspices of the
Imo
State Government and designated to be delivered yearly in November. By
the early 1990s Igbo scholars had begun to witness with dismay the
derailment of the noble objectives of the Ahiajoku Lectures owing
largely
to self defeating manipulations and in-fightings by government
bureaucrats. Ahiajoku simply became one more government event and like
m!
any things in government and civil service, it became the community
goat
that always died of hunger. Archbishop Obinna's initiative came just in
time to arrest total public disenchantment in what had started off as a
dynamic and progressive renaissance in modern Igbo culture. Since the
end
of the Nigerian civil war in 1970, the Igbo people seem to have
developed
a bewildering self destructive tendency, with a sharp instinct for
killing their best. Progressive ideas are treated with levity and
cynicism. Novel initiatives for development are scoffed at and opposed
to
the bitter end and when they are crushed, we realize too late that the
perpetrators had nothing much to offer and in most cases, nothing at
all.
In the fifth year of Odenigbo, the Imo State Government suddenly woke
up
from almost a decade of amnesia and slumber to remember Ahiajoku and
immediately picked one more lecturer who spoke to a pan-Igbo audience,
about sacred ancestral Igbo culture and customs, in the Engli! sh
language! If history is anything to go by, Ahiajoku will sooner or
later
make another jay-walk into coma. It is on record that Archbishop A. J.
V.
Obinna and the retired Anglican Archbishop B. C. Nwankiti in 1998 stood
unflinchingly firm against all odds, in their opposition to the
desecration of Igbo artefacts, historic sculptures and other
spectacular
works of art by an Islamic-minded Military Governor-turned-born-again
christian, in the name of presumed reverence for the sanctity of a new
found Christianity. It is one thing to denigrate Archdeacon Dennis who
may deserve it; it is another to try to undermine the heroic efforts of
Archbishop Obinna who does not deserve it at all.

If we may return to Archdeacon Dennis, one final word is in order.
Saint
or sinner, let us allow Archdeacon T. J. Dennis, his Union Igbo, and
his
tinkering with the Igbo language, to go down in history as among those
sad and costly prices which Nigeria had to pay for being subject to an
imperial overlord who rode roughshod over our God-given languages,
sacred
customs and traditional cultures. And let's move on!

Let us now turn attention to the second issue namely, "Can we set aside
the present Standard Igbo as a necessary compromise for Igbo social
unity
and cultural homogeneity, and attempt a fresh start?" What has been
discussed so far is substantial enough to indicate that setting aside
the
present Standard Igbo will not only be retrogressive but indeed
suicidal.
What is happening to Igbo language today with its multiplicity of
dialects, and strivings to find a standard, is not a peculiar
phenomenon.
Germany had its language problems. England had its own. Finland evolved
Standard Finis as the solution to her dialectal problems at the end of
the 19th century. Can we learn anything from each model and each
approach? The best model of Igbo written language will be the one that
is
accessible to or has potentials of being accessible to Igbo people
across
the board.

Often it is simplistically assumed that the Yoruba next door, achieved
their Standard Yoruba without rancour and schism, and that the
selection
of the Oyo dialect by the missionary, Adjai Crowther in 1842 had never
been challenged to date. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The
Yoruba had something which was lacking in the Igbo traditional society
namely, the institution of royal paramouncy as a central authority
which
exercised political power of a controlling nature. The Igbo instead,
had
a decentralized political system which put a centural controlling
authority out of the question. Establishing a Standard in any language
is
a political action and is often accomplished where there is political
control along with economic initiatives. It becomes easier to establish
and enforce a language policy relative to the language of the group
with
dominant political power. Often the dialect of the dominant political
group became the Standard, and political and economic instrum! ents
were
used to sustain and legitimize it. The decentralized nature and
political
of the Igbo as a group have not made the standardization process easy.
The fragmented Igbo set up which was a source of strength in the past
has
become a liability in the present. What has worked for the Yoruba has
not
worked for the Igbo but it was not only because the Yoruba had
traditional rulers who exercised central authority. The Yoruba had
their
full share of controversies over orthographies and dialects. The Oyo.
Ijebu, Ondo, Ekiti, Ijesha, Igbomina, Kabba all staked their claims.
But
there was political intervention when following the Nigerian
Independence, Chief Obafemi Awolowo then Premier of the Western Region
introduced Free Primiary Education in this Region of Nigeria and
decreed
that the Yoruba language to be taught in the schools would be the Oyo
dialect. That was a major factor in the stabilization of Standard
Yoruba.

But standardization does not mean the death of sectional dia! lects.
The
spoken language need not be identified as synonymous with the written
standard. Political intervention was a great catalyst in the creation
of
the modern Standard Yoruba but Yoruba Linguistics scholars did not rest
on their oars. They devised some linguistic mechanism for solving the
problems created in the process of standardization. They fished out
words
from other dialects to satisfy new demands which could not be met by
the
Oyo dialect. They created the policy of mutual give and take among the
various dialectal groups for the purpose of enriching the Standard.
Yoruba Linguistics scholars disagree as will always be expected in
academic circles, but they never lose sight of their collective
responsibility to standardize the language in the interest of the unity
and identity of all Yoruba people. This commitment to a collective goal
has yielded immense dividends in Yoruba Language Studies. The Yoruba
alphabet was introduced in 1842 by the early christian missionari! es
as
was the Igbo alphabet about the same time. The first novel in the
Yoruba
language was published in 1928 not far from the first Igbo novel,
Omenuko, published in 1933. The father of the Yoruba novel, D.O.
Fagunwa,
began writing in 1938, the same decade as Pita Nwana, the father of the
Igbo novel. But today the Igbo cannot boast of half the literary ouput
that exists in Yoruba language: a corpus that includes 185 novels, 80
plays and large numbers of collections of poetry and translations of
other works into Yoruba. In addition, there are in existence volumes of
Yoruba Metalanguage; A Glossay of Yoruba technical Terms in Language,
Literature and Methodoloogy as well as several Yoruba grammar books and
reference works. There are translations of the Nigerian Highway Code in
Yoruba. Although Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is a classic novel
that incomparably depicts Igbo culture and worldview, the only
translation of it in a Nigerian langugage is the Yoruba edition
publish!
ed in 2000. The Yoruba Writers Association was established in 1982 and
is
still going strong and increasing its cultural and educational impacts
on
the growth and development of Yoruba Language and Literature. Igbo
linguists, scholars and writers can learn something from the Yoruba at
least their intellectual attitude of accommodation and their commitment
to the collectivist goal of advancing the development of Yoruba
Language
Studies from one generation to the other despite differences in the
Yoruba which they speak in their intra-ethnic forums.


Posts: 75 | From: Cambridge, MA | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Chudi Sokie
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nobiorah,

Welcome to Biafranigeria forum. I commend you for the work that you are doing on behalf of Ndigbo at Havard University.

This thread is far more meaningful than the "Past time of Puerile Igbos" where you dissipated far too much energy, trying to clarify the convolutions in thought processes created by excessive verbage by most people in your profession no pun intended.

I am inclined to agree with the analysis of the writer, that at this juncture in the Igbo re-awakening, that standardization will move the language and culture forward. The lack of a standardized letters in the Igbo language, is perhaps one of the root causes of disaffection especially in the Igbo towns and areas that are bodering non-Igbo speaking peoples.

Once again welcome, and I look foward to reading you opinions on issues as they develope.


Posts: 138 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
nobiorah
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Chudi,

Thanks for the kind words. Please keep in mind that lawyers earn their living from obfuscating even the clearest of issues!

The credit for the Igbo classes at Harvard is not mine in the least. It should go mostly to a young Igbo-American woman named Onyi Iweala.
It is my great pleasure to inform the members of this forum that through the initiative, courage and perseverance, in the face of bureaucracy and scepticism, of a young Igbo woman student here at Harvard, Onyi Iweala, a course in Igbo language and culture has been taught at Harvard University for the last three years. A pre-med undergraduate at Harvard College, Onyi Iweala came up with the idea of getting Igbo taught to her and other young Igbo-Americans who could not speak the language. She mobilized the Igbo-American undergraduates and they petitioned the university to institute a course in Igbo language and culture. Harvard was initially sceptical because African Studies is not one of Harvard's specialities. There are courses relating to Africa taught within the curriculum of various departments, units and programs at the university but there is no systematic teaching of African Studies. The only other African langauge that I know of which is taught at Harvard is Swahili.
But Onyi would not be deterred. She went to Boston University which does have an African Studies Program and got a professor there to agree to teach Igbo at Harvard on an extra-mural basis. She then got the Harvard university administration to agree to recognize the course for credit. They grudgingly agreed on condition that the course enrollment in each year be no less than 4 students. Thanks to Onyi's indefatigable efforts, the course enrollment has never been less than 7.For now, the Igbo course is recognizd by Harvard for credit at the undergraduate level but we hope to get it to the graduate level as time goes on. The class averages 10-12 students each year; besides the Igbo-Americans, the class includes students from Europe, the US and other parts of Africa.This year, there are one student each of Yoruba and Efik heritage.

The Igbo course at Harvard is taught on a voluntary basis by Professor Victor Manfredi, an American scholar of Igbo language and culture. The late Prof. K.O. Dike was Manfredi's teacher and mentor while at Harvard in the 1970s. Manfredi made extended visits lasting years at a time to Igboland in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Manfredi teaches Igbo and Yoruba at Boston University [Harvard has no African Studies Centre per se] and Harvard has thus far agreed to provide only classroom facilities but will not pay a salary for the professor. Manfredi is teaching Igbo on a voluntary basis because he teaches only Yoruba at Boston university and he is keen to maintain his Igbo language teaching skills. Teaching the course also helps him keep in touch with the Igbo community at Harvard, MIT, Tufts etc. I would like to humbly suggest that the Igbo community in the US officially recognize the efforts of this brave Igbo daughter, Onyi Iweala and our enyi'ndi'igbo na'harvard,Prof Victor Manfredi for pioneering this effort.

I understand that Igbo was taught recently at Yale but I am not sure if that is ongoing. I have also been informed of Igbo classes at a university in Arkansas and at the California State University in Los Angeles. I also know that Prof. Ifi Amadiume is trying to introduce Igbo at Dartmouth College.

Merry Xmas

quote:
Originally posted by Chudi Sokie:
nobiorah,

Welcome to Biafranigeria forum. I commend you for the work that you are doing on behalf of Ndigbo at Havard University.

This thread is far more meaningful than the "Past time of Puerile Igbos" where you dissipated far too much energy, trying to clarify the convolutions in thought processes created by excessive verbage by most people in your profession no pun intended.

I am inclined to agree with the analysis of the writer, that at this juncture in the Igbo re-awakening, that standardization will move the language and culture forward. The lack of a standardized letters in the Igbo language, is perhaps one of the root causes of disaffection especially in the Igbo towns and areas that are bodering non-Igbo speaking peoples.

Once again welcome, and I look foward to reading you opinions on issues as they develope.



Posts: 75 | From: Cambridge, MA | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Anu Nti
Senior Advocate
Advocate # 73

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Isn't it noteworthy that while Igbo inteligentsia are silently making strides at Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc. some affirmative action Professor is making noise at that other place that sounds deceptively very much like Harvard? More grease to whatever, folks.

Gwabanu fa. Odiro ofele!


Posts: 518 | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
AfricaWest
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Anu Nti

This may be the wrong place to say this. However,
please use your best endeavours to attend this year's BNW celebrations, if you can. [Smile]

I'm not one, to give in easily and I believe you have given it some thought, but perhaps, some more thinking on the matter can change things. [Smile]

Looking forward to your response.

___________________
In the Fullness of Time...

Posts: 176 | From: UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ohafia Udumeze
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Africa's 'best books' revealed

The judges' top 12

quote:
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)
Sosuís Call by Meshack Asare (1999)
Une si longue letter [So Long a Letter] by Mariama Ba (1979)
Terra Sonambula by Mia Couto (1992)
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988)
The African Origins of Civilization: Myth or Reality by Cheikh Anta Diop (1955)
L'amour, la fantasia by Assia Djebar (1985)
The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz(1945)
Chaka by Thomas Mofolo (1925)
The Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka (1981)
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiongo (1967)
Oeuvre Poetique by Leopold Sedar Senghor (1961



___________________
Awo's political idea was based on the assumption that any town beyond Owo was Igbo or Hausa. Awo was not socialised; he was not a good mixer because he did not have the opportunity, which the secondary school offered. ~TOS Benson, Baba Oba of Lagos

Posts: 2644 | From: United Kingdom | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Anu Nti
Senior Advocate
Advocate # 73

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Ohafia,

While I do agree with especially the first selection, I most respectfuly beg to disagree with most others. And not just because of
quote:
"We had to make sure that the list was somehow representative," he said. "We tried to get a gender balance, a decade and regional balance."
which sounds too omniously like federal character, the bane of excellence.

I haven't read much lately but what about Ngugi wa Thiongo's "Weep not Child"? Not politically correct (read maumau and the Brits) but in order to compensate him, they had to introduce this realively unknown piece. Ditto for Soyinka. What about "The Man Died" (read Biafra and the whole gamut of her oppressors)? This could be laughable, you know. I agree with them though that the politically correct thing to do is give some balance but is that all there is to academics? Political correctness?

The Nobel Prize in literature has degenerated to the point that the region it will come from each year is so very predicatable. We do not have to copy everything that is western, including democracy.

Posts: 518 | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
   

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