The prediction by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that the Igbo Language will go into extinction by 2050 is not based on any empirical evidence, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Boniface Mbah, has said.
The don faulted the prediction, saying that those behind it did not have the knowledge of the reasons a language dies.
Prof Mbah spoke on the controversial prediction after he delivered the 129th inaugural lecture of the school, titled: Mental spaces, domain construction and the limitation of possibility.
The lecturer presented the inaugural lecture in Igbo language, emphasising that the language was too strong among its speakers to be allowed to go into extinction.
According to Prof Mbah, Ndigbo in the Diaspora do not relent in promoting their language and cultural heritage despite other cultural influences, colonialism and technology. He added that its speakers also exported Igbo culture and cuisine to the West to survive.
He said: “Anybody who is saying that any Nigerian language – Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba – will go into extinction doesn’t know what he is saying. Any language that is dying will not have a rural population of native speakers. As long as there are people speaking the language daily, it can never die.
“Those who claimed that the Igbo Language will die based on the analysis that Igbo children are being brought up with foreign languages are not aware of how many children are being born as native speakers of the language. There is no empirical evidence that Igbo Language is going into extinction; it will not die in the next one million years.”
On why he delivered the lecture in Igbo, Mbah said it would be hypocritical for him as a promoter of Igbo Language to deliver his lecture in a foreign language. He stressed that the only way languages could survive was to encourage people to communicate in their native tongues.
He said “If I had employed English Language to present my inaugural lecture, many people would have merely heard me but would not have understood what I said. I believe it is a wake-up call to the Igbo nation to preserve our language.”
He noted that Igbo linguists had been working to ensure the preservation of the language, pointing out that over 20 doctoral theses were researched and written in Igbo at the UNN.
Mbah urged the Igbo in the Diaspora to brace for the challenge of ensuring that their language was not overtaken by the language of their host countries. He said they must teach their children the language to maintain their identity.
Source: The Nation