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LINGUISTIC VARIATION AND CHANGE IN EDEM (A QUANTITATIVE APPROACH)
Variety, they say, is the spice of life. This holds true of every aspect of human life and language is no exception. Again, the only thing that is constant is change. Change is a common experience in man’s activities. Language as a process of communication inherently changes from place to place, time to time and person to person.
In this work, attention will be focused on the concept of linguistic variation and change in Edem speech community with special attention to quantitative approach. Linguistics is the scientific study of language which comprises very many fields of investigation. This research is based on sociolinguistics, which is the study of the relationship between language use and the structure of the society. It also takes into account such factors as the social background of both the speaker and the respondent, that is their age, social class and region that have been observed to influence the choice of variants of the variables as would be seen later in this study
Everyone knows that language is variable. In other words, every language exhibits considerable internal variations and speakers, who are aware of their social significance make use of the many possibilities offered to them. Variability is everywhere in language from the unique details in each production of a sound or sign to the auditory or visual processing of the linguistic signal, (Agbedo, 2008:1). In fact, one of the amazing facts about human communication is the demonstrated ability to normalize the inherent variation within every spoken or signal message in processing the linguistic signal.
The current study is aimed at investigating the existence of language variation in Edem speech pattern of Igbo and social factors such as age, region and social class, which influence the observed variables.
1.1 Background to the Study
Language change is a central aspect of language. Language itself is so central to human behaviour that the study of language in anyway, shape or form puts us into a complex web of relationship with many other disciplines (Kess, 1993: 2) and hence, any analysis of language change incorporates many related areas. The study of language change is the study of how languages change and evolve over time. In this way, language is essentially like everything else in the world around us that is constantly changing.
The sociolinguist, Coates (1992: 169) following Labov, describes linguistic change as occurring in the context of linguistic heterogeneity. She explains that linguistic change can be said to have taken place when a new linguistic form, used by the same sub group, within a speech community, is adopted by other members of that community and accepted as the norm.
In fact, it was not until the advent of sociolinguistics a half century ago that the admission of language variation became more than a footnote to linguistic description. The study of language change is now one of the most rapidly expanding subfields of linguistics with a well established worth of researchers, regular conferences, and scholarly journals, but its status is still somewhat marginal within theoretical linguistics, notwithstanding the resistance of Labov (1966; 2001) that the study of language variation is central to the solution of fundamental problems in linguistic theory.
Labov’s (1966) classic study draws attention to the basic facts of linguistic variation and change. Labov notes that language is inherently variable and that a great amount of variability, previously dismissed as “free variation” in fact adheres to definite patterns determined by both linguistic and social environments. This pioneering study (which differed strictly in many aspects from the dialectologists approach to language variation studies), provided the spark that stimulated interest in variation studies.
Studying language variation proceeds mainly by “observing language use in natural social settings and categorizing the linguistic variations according to their social distribution”, (Chambers, 2003: 3). There can be language variation, which does not result in language change whereas there cannot be language change without language variation preceding it.” Not all variability and heterogeneity in language structure involves change but all change involves variability and heterogeneity (Labov, 1988).
An essential constraint in the study of linguistic variation is the linguistic variable; a structural unit that includes a set of fluctuating variants showing meaningful co-variation with an independent set of variables. Linguistic variation was explicitly set forth in early variation studies by Labov (1966), the acknowledged founder of the field of language variation studies, though this construct was certainly explicit in works previous to that point.
The present research represents one of such attempts at examining observed language variation occasioned by social factors and their possible connection to linguistic change in an Igbo speech community of Edem.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The fact that most if not all speech communities are more or less socially and linguistically heterogeneous is a complexity which makes things much more difficult to any linguist wishing to describe a particular variety (Trudgill, 1983a: 37). Therefore, for many years, the reaction of linguists to this complexity was generally to ignore it by means of concentrating their studies either on an ideal speaker-listener in a homogeneous- speech community who knows its language perfectly, Chomsky (1965: 3); or on the idiolect or on the speech of rural informants, particularly that of elderly people of little education and little traveling experience, in small isolated villages, with the obsession of looking for the “real” or “pure” dialects.
Edem dialect of Igbo has overtime shown variation in several aspects of speech such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. This may have been influenced by some social variables like age, region and social class. Despite the variations inherent in Edem dialect, it has received little or no attention by scholars in the field of linguistics.
Therefore, the problem of this study was to unravel the social factors that inform the linguistic variations within the Edem dialect.
1.3 Scope of the Study
This study focused essentially on some topical issues within linguistic variation which include the concept of dialect, language, linguistic variable, language variation and speech community.
In addition, the researcher has restricted the study to the language variation in Edem speech community, using only age, region and education as the sociolinguistic variables. It is also within the scope of the study to observe and analyze language in its social context. As Sapir (1921: 147) puts it, “if structure is at the heart of language, then variation defines its soul. So, the importance of this study is underscored by the fact that language variation is a universal phenomenon”.
Furthermore, the study is being hinged on the Edem speech community which is made up of three different clans of Akpa, Edem Ani and Edem Enu in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The researcher limits her findings to cover only two communities of Edem, viz Edem Enu and Edem Ani speech communities. The entire Edem could not be covered owing to this work, the information obtained here can equally be applied to the entire Edem speech community.
1.4 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to observe language variation in the speech pattern of Edem speech community of the Igbo language and factors influencing their existence.
The specific objectives include;
(a) to determine the pattern of linguistic variation and change in the rural speech community of Edem.
(b) to determine the social factors that influence linguistic variation in a rural speech community of Edem.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions were formulated to guide this study;
(a) What are the patterns of linguistic variation in the Edem speech community?
(b) What are the social factors that influence linguistic variation in the area?
(c) What are some identified linguistic variations between the educated and uneducated groups in Edem speech community?
1.6 Research Hypothesis
(a) There is a significant difference in the use of some linguistic variables of speech patterns of Edem Enu and Edem Ani for the four linguistic variables.
(b) There is a significant difference between the older and younger speakers in the use of some identified linguistic variables in Edem speech community.
(c) There is a significant difference in some identified linguistic variation between the educated and uneducated groups in Edem speech community.
1.7 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will serve as a useful source of information to our knowledge about linguistic variation since research on variation in Edem has not been examined by scholars.
Also, the research will immensely be of benefit to the present and future generations of language scholars, particularly those interested in synchronic and diachronic linguistics as to formulate theories about the nature of language variation.
Finally, it will add to the existing literature of variation studies to prove the fact that language is heterogeneous and not homogeneous and monolithic and invariable as Chomsky and his group would want us to believe.