Language and self-identity: making a case for indigenous Igbo names in Nigeria’s ESL situation

  • Nneka Umera-Okeke
Keywords: culture, naming and self-identity, mother tongue, nominative determinism


In Linguistics, Semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or 'significant meaning', derived from sema 'sign') is traditionally defined as the study of meaning. Words are expected to have meanings, names inclusive. Apart from names picked from Bibles or other religious books which Igbo natives choose for what they stand for, many of the foreign names they bear have no connotations/meaning in the Igbo language; so why use them? Why not resort to the language we have that has a lot of meaningful names that cut across everything we want to represent -praise to God, communal effort, mockery and what have you. This paper sets to describe language and in particular naming as a feature of human identity. It also tried a comparison of the meanings of the English names we bear and advocate the use of names from our mother tongue. It is suggested that this is a step towards sustaining the Igbo language as language and culture are entwined. The paper also attempts to address the threats faced by the Igbo language, which is also virtually faced by many Nigerian languages borne out of Government’s ineptitude in implementing language policies and the attitudes of Nigerians towards their mother tongues. The undisputed place of mother-tongue/indigenous languages in the rearing of the child and in enculturation processes and in the education of the child is explored.

Key Words: culture, naming and self-identity, mother tongue, nominative determinism


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2227-5460
print ISSN: 2225-8604