SEMANTIC STUDY OF SOME LEXICAL ITEMSIN NIGERIAN ENGLISH
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The global spread of the English language led to the position that is now true: that there is no copyright in the use of English since the language no longer belongs numerically to speakers of English as a mother tongue. The effective ownership of any language in effect rests with the people who use it. However multilingual they are, the major advances in sociolinguistic research over the past half century indicate clearly that languages are shaped by their use. And for English, the users number up to seven hundred million, living in every continent of which less than half are native speakers. Statistically, native speakers are in a minority, and thus in practice for language change, for language maintenance, and for the ideologies and beliefs associated with the language in so far as non-native speakers use the language for a wide range of public and personal needs (Brumfit 2001:116).
This extract highlights the historically unique position of English in the world, the fact that non-native users of English now outnumber native speakers and the argument that the power to adapt and change the language rests with the people who use it. It reminds us that English is used by both plurilingual and monolingual people alike. We should no longer think that English is still ‘based on a single metropolitan culture, nor is it any longer felt to carry with it implications of political dominion. Evidence of this worldwide phenomenon of language contact, variation and change can be seen through such designations as World Englishes, Modern Englishes, New Englishes, to mention just a few (Jenkins 2003:117).
The concept of New Englishes came into existence many decades ago but when Gerry Abott made reference to this concept in 1981, he thought of varieties of language that develop in countries where English is a second language. By implication, India, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria have developed varieties that are part of the New Englishes. The need for territorial expansion and the demands of international politics, trade, science and technology have established English as a world language. Nigeria, like many other nations of the world is part of the global network of information and communication technology. What happens in other parts of the world is of great interest to Nigeria just as what happens in Nigeria is of great interest to the world. English remains the most popular language for this kind of intercommunication and interaction. For this reason, English is not just a second language in Nigeria but one that is crucial for the survival of Nigeria as a nation and also for the maintenance of the Nigerian balance in the world economic order, (Onuigbo and Eyisi 2008:72). No wonder much has been invested in the stabilization and standardization of English language education and usage in Nigeria. It is for this reason that Oluikpe (1997:18) and others are committed to the existence of a Standard of English usage that is characteristically Nigerian.