Digital Communication in Indigenous Languages

Digital Communication in Indigenous Languages

Fúnmi O. Olúbòdé-Sàwè
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch036
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This chapter looks at how the demands of modern day discourse behavior may impact upon and/or transform the use of indigenous African languages, as their speakers try to cope with and/or utilize computer-based communication gadgets and access/publish information on the information superhighway. It also presents a critique of one such effort at translating information on one brand of cell phone into major Nigerian languages. Drawing from the Yorùbá option, the authors show that new terminology has been created using the strategies of Terminologization, composition and translingual borrowing, but there are problems of inaccurate translation, use of non-standard orthography and non-indigenization of loan words. The chapter therefore proposes further refinement in subsequent terminology projects, especially the possibility of producing one-key symbols to represent the distinctive graphological symbols of indigenous African languages.
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Globalization And The Politics Of Language Planning

Globalization is the new euphemistic shorthand for the encroachment of the Industrialized Economies into aspects of the cultural space occupied by the non-industrialized countries especially traditional knowledge systems, spiritual and material culture and language, in much the same fashion that the slave trade and colonization robbed Africa of vital human and natural resources. It has been defined in various ways since the appearance of the term in the 1960s, and these definitions have been grouped into five overlapping classifications, with the different emphases betraying ideological biases. Scholte (2000) names the five classifications or “interpretations” of globalization as internationalization, liberalization, universalization, deterritorialization and westernization.

Mazrui (2005, p.1) provides a synthesis of these definitions:

In its broadest meaning globalization consists of all the forces that are leading the world toward becoming a global village. Globalization is thus the villagization of the world. In its narrower meaning globalization is the maturation of global capitalism and its interdependencies, alongside a new network of the information superhighway.

This information superhighway, popularly known as the internet, offers entertainment and information to people around the world, but the materials are ‘available only in the most common languages. Therefore, globalization has had the negative effect of reducing the worth of African languages if considered in purely economic utilitarian terms.

However, language is not only an instrument for getting what one wants but also a definition of who one is. People have a right to have their language maintained and made technologically sophisticated enough to provide their users with access to the modern world. There is a need for increased and sustained institutional support for indigenous language products and services, increased L1 literacy, recording and preservation of traditional knowledge in the original tongues, and development of ICT products and services in Nigerian languages. One means of making African languages technology-ready is terminology development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Yorùbá: A Niger-Congo language spoken in South-Western Nigeria by a people group of the same name.

Digital Communication: The process of sharing ideas, information, and messages with others in a particular time and place with the aid of digital devices like cell phones, computers and similar electronic devices.

Indigenous language: A language native to a country and spoken as a mother tongue by some of its indigenes.

Terminology: Specialist or technical terms used in a special purpose language (SPL) to facilitate unambiguous communication in a particular area of knowledge.

Translingual borrowing: The creation of target terms by adopting or adapting words from a foreign language.

Terminologization: The creation of specialist terms by taking GPL words already in existence in the language and matching them to source terms expressing/denoting foreign concepts, thereby giving them specialized meanings which they do not express in the GPL.

Cell phone: A small handheld telephone operated through a cellular radio network. Also known as cellular phone, mobile phone, and in Nigerian usage, ‘handset’.

Composition: The creation of new terms in a language by combining smaller units (morphemes, words or phrases) to create new expressions denoting foreign objects or concepts.

Globalization: The emergence of a global society in which economic, political, environmental, and cultural events in one part of the world affect people in other parts of the world due to advances in communication, transportation, and information technologies.

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