Speaker Diligence and Persistence in Minority Language Description: Esan and its Orthography Development

By Emmanuel Aito.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Almost eighty years after the first colonial attempts by the Catholic Mission to write Esan, a Nigerian minority language, there are renewed efforts by its speakers to simplify its orthography. This rekindled attention seeks to attenuate the tedium of the differing written forms often associated with its dialects. Noteworthy is the work of the Esan Orthography Committee which comprised Esan speakers, most of whom did not receive formal training in linguistics. The thrust of its work has been to devise and promote new alphabets by eliminating some difficult diagraphs which do not represent actual phonemes, but their confusing contextual variants. It has also redoubled its efforts to make accessible to speakers, learners, teachers and writers of Esan a clear description of its vowel harmony, long vowels, consonant phonemes, syllabic nasals, tones and spelling. Thus, these grassroots efforts address the major problems that dot the undulating history of Esan orthography. Regrettably, these constraints coupled with a glaring lack of institutional support have impeded the systematic learning and development of the language. Although much work remains, such as achieving acceptable levels of literacy in Esan, none can gainsay the constructive results of these efforts to enhance efficiency in its phonemic and morpho-phonemic orthography, while simultaneously decreasing defectiveness. This paper therefore takes the unusual step of giving credit to the committee for its gallantry and highlighting the gains of the new orthography, while contextualizing some of the remaining difficulties of harmonizing its various dialects as reflected in Ejele (1982; 1986) and Okojie (2005). We conclude by affirming these efforts as a plausible route to ensuring for the Esan people the preservation of their culture and practices in their own idiom.

Keywords: Esan, Description, Orthography, Literacy

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.263-278. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.295MB).

Dr. Emmanuel Aito

Chair, Department of French Studies, University of Regina, Regina, SK, Canada

Dr. Aito is Associate Professor and Head of French Studies at the University of Regina, Canada. He teaches and conducts research in French linguistics, terminology, socioterminology and glottopolitics. He is currently working on developing a politolect in Esan in response to the democratization processes in Nigeria.

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