Oris Tom-Lawyer, Michael Thomas


Globalisation has taken its toll on different aspects of human life, having both positive and negative effects on the languages spoken around the world in particular. As a consequence, the concept of the native speaker is becoming increasingly blurred and is in danger of becoming lost. Researchers in different disciplines have highlighted the inimical import of the term (Cheng, Burgess, Vernooij, Solis-Barroso, McDermott & Naboodiripad, 2021). However, it is necessary to preserve the term in order to maintain the native speaker’s identity (Kim, 2022) and authenticity. Every Nigerian has an ethnic language by virtue of the fact that their parents are Nigerians which makes him/her the possessor of an L1 or first language. But, does the possession of a mother tongue qualify a person to be a native speaker in Nigeria in the traditional sense of the term? Some other children have acquired Nigerian English as their first language and cannot communicate in any other language except Nigerian English. As a consequence, could they also be termed ‘native speakers of English?’ Similarly, would children who have acquired Nigerian Pidgin (Niger Delta region) as their first language also be referred to as native speakers of Pidgin? There are also deaf people in Nigeria and similar questions emerge about how best to describe their native language. It is against this background that this paper undertakes a critical literature review to examine the changing status of the Nigerian ‘native speaker’ and the nuances associated with it, many of which are often ignored or concealed in the attempt to understand it as a homogenous term. Arising from the literature review, the paper argues that in future, Nigerian indigenous languages may become extinct and that to guard against this outcome, there is a need to preserve native languages in the country, hence the status of its speakers. The study concludes that the use of the term ‘native speaker’ is losing its currency and recommends the preservation of the concept as it symbolises the language rights of the minority and a model source of data for the language (Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson, 1989; cited in De Gruyter, 2012).


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deaf, globalisation, native speaker, Nigeria, changing status

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