Do you ‘speak’ grammar?: A question for Nigerian speakers of English Language.November 3, 2023
Speaking is a skill associated to language. It is an act of making auditory sounds that could be discerned by a particular speech community. Every speaking exercise is targeted at certain audience. These people make the speech community, as what is spoken is mutually understood by all of them. As market traders belong to a community so are the academics.
Do you ‘speak’ grammar? Obviously, from the above explanation, one can deduce that speaking is tied to a language and grammar is not a language, rather, it a system that guides the use of a language. Therefore, it cannot be spoken. Every language has its grammar. For instance, as we have morphology (study of how words are formed), word classes, phrases, clauses and sentences, all making up the grammatical units of English language, so also we have them in other standard languages, even our indigenous languages like Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa have their own grammar. It is this system that makes the Standard English language spoken in Nigeria the same as that of other anglophone nations. The past tense of ‘go’, for instance, is ‘went’ anywhere in the world.
What does it mean to ‘speak’ grammar in Nigerian context? Due to the prestige English language has gained in Nigeria as a result of its multiple statuses as official language, second language, medium of instruction, language of journalism etc, it has become the language used markedly to show speaking prowess. Therefore if someone says: While Tolu was basking in the euphoria of his birthday celebration, he was seen beaming a pulchritudinous smile at all the guests, such person may be regarded as ‘speaking’ grammar whilst the person could have been correctly said to be ‘verbose’ or possesses much vocabulary of English.
Though the essence of language is communication, speaking in an esoteric way is an intentional act of showing high dexterity in the use of a particular language. We sometimes speak esoterically to boycott certain people from our speech community. Prof. Wole Soyinka, for instance, writes in a special way that could only be understood by few people. In that regard, he may be said to be ‘speaking’ grammar in his texts.
In conclusion, English language has come to stay as we as a nation do not have a national language yet, hence, we must develop a reasonable proficiency in the use of the language so we do not get flummoxed when certain people speak.
Wasiu Oluwasegun, Alli
Department of Languages, Arts and Social sciences Education,
Lagos State University, Ojo.