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PROJECT TOPIC – Foreign Languages & Literatures

A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF BORROWING AND INDIGENISATION OF FOREIGN WORDS INIGBO AND GERMAN

 

  1. Introduction: Parallels in Diversities “A little learning makes the whole world kin”‘ The above quotation demonstrates the awareness, the realisation
    and the satisfaction that could be derived in an attempt at a devotion of a little time to the study of foreign languages or languages other than
    mother-tongues. – German has been described by many, includingnative speakers, as a language very difficult to study and very difficult to g,ras6. One
    scholar, a German, would rather 20 in for the study of all the sciences in the world than go in for the study of Gernlanistics. The reason for the choice above is no other than the difficulty in studying the German Language. Mark Twain, in an attempt to describe how difficult it is to study and grasp the German  language summarized his write-up by maintaining, that “a gifted person ought to learn English in thirty hours, French in thirty days and German in thirty years”.

2 Thesis of course an  exaggeration. For scholars of Gennan, the difficulty lies mainly with the declensions. One scholar “would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.T”hi s declension of adjectives is a tricky affair even for  native speakers. There are also criticisms of the maintenance of three
genders in the l a n ~ u a g eT. h~e difficulty here lies in the fact that animals do not simply assume their biological genders, nor is the neuter reserved
for non-living things alone. The case of pronouns like the three-letter word “Sie” which assumes many meanings depending on the context also confuses a lot of beginners in the language. ThIs situation is also believed to denote poverty of vocabulary in the language.’ German is also criticised for its seperabie-prefix verbs which when they seperate from their prefixes send the said prefixes to the end of the sentences making the quick to understand  and making of the sentences difficult particular1 y long ones.

There are other characteristics of German, which are believed to make it elusive and too slippery to grasp. Some characteristics of Igbo language have also earned the language the reputation of being an elusive and slippery language. Igbo is a tonal language. A word can assume two or more tonal patterns giving it two or more meanings. In other words, certain words in Igbo do not just have one pronunciation and more than one meaning as in many European and other languages. Rather, many Igbo words assume different meanings according to their pronunciation. For the above reason, Igbo has been criticised as a languagelaclang in vocabulary. The tonal characteristic of Igbo language is a difficult task for foreigners and even for native speakers when reading Igbo texts. It is this charadenstic that often results in a foreigner saying the word “buttocks” in Igbo when he means “strength”, “power” and “energy”. I ~ bhoa s been criticized by non-experts for “igbonising” foreign words. f i s “igbolization” of words has been blamed on poverty of  vocabulary in the language.

Without delving into all the peculiarities of Igbo and German, we have chosen to study the indigenisation patterns in Igbo and German with a view to gaining some useful insights into the differences and similarities of languages which are so far away from each other. This in turn will be of some didactic use in language teaching. We have maintained from the start that no characteristic of any language per se is peculiar. There are language universals as  ascertained by linguists (Bach & Harms, 1968).

  1. Indigenisation as a characteristic of living languages Borrowing in language means taking a word or concept from one language to use it in another language. The word so taken is referred to as a loan-word. homogenization is a step further in the process, whereby the loan-word is naturalized to fit into the morphological and phonological make-up of the borrowing language. But indiginization may also mean taking a word as it is, and articulating it either, as it is
    articulated in the original language, or, it is articulated with the phonetics of the borrowing language. (Sturtevant, 1967: 142ff). An example of the above view of indigenization is the English word ‘job’ which has been taken into the German language, but articulated by many German as [d3cp] as opposed to Ijcp]. Indigenisation is therefore not a new phenomenon but is seen as something old and universal.

In her paper Ikekeonwu maintains that Igbo has borrowed from other languages just like any other living language (Ikekeonwu, 1982). Similar ideas are expressed by Jeffreys in h s work (Jeffreys, 1932: 503-506). In his discussion on the German lnyage, Harold von Hofe has this to say: “Auch das Deutsch hat sich im Lauf seiner k3wicklung stark veraendert. Es hat Woerter aus dem Lateinkchen und Griechischen aufgenommen, aus dem Franzoesischen, Italienischen and Spanischen und in den letzten Jahrzehnten ksonders aus dem Enghschen …” (Hofe, 1976:5). (“The German language has also changed very much in the process of its development. It has borrowed from Lstin, G~eek, French, Italian, Spanish and in the last decades especially from English …”).
In his own essay, Kenneth Oliver illustrates in detail how the English language s extensively used both Greek and Latin elements to create their own words. He also shows that Englisg has borrowed extensively from all over the world by different means. English speakers have sometimes simply taken over the foreign word as it was, or with minor chances in the endings or in some one or two letters [Oliver, 1962: 87). Jean-Paul and Rebecca Valette (1976: 28) maintain that French contains many French-English cognates and that about 60% of all English words are of French orign. hi his own essay, J.A. Sheard says. “The adoption of native names for new objects, products and ideas is not characteristic of English: the objects have made their way into most countries and in majority of cases the native word has been adopted with the object or idea” (Sheard, 1954: 267). It is therefore clear from the discussions that borrowing of foreign words in any language is a welcome phenomenon. It is a characteristic of a living language. But in this paper, we have taken indigenisation to near something more than just borrowing.

 

A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF BORROWING AND INDIGENIZATION OF FOREIGN WORDS IN IGBO AND GERMAN

 

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