This research looks into the factors affecting language choice in a multilingual society, from a sociolinguistic point of view. Most cultures have stories which seek to explain the origin of life and to explain why things are as they are in the world today. This study brings to light a number of what affect individual’s language choice. Most communities in the world are multilingual. In these communities, there is more than one language that plays an important role, and many or all of the individuals in such communities are at least bilingual. When you talk of language choice in any country, one bears in mind the multilingual societies. In monolingual countries, there is no worry about choice of language to use, they only have to use the language available to them. This work comprises of four chapters. The first chapter talks about the introduction, the second chapter is the literature review, the third one deals with data presentation and analysis, lastly, the fourth chapter dis
1.1 Background of the Study
have stories which seek to explain the origin of life and to explain why things
are as they are in the world today. The
story from Genesis would have us believe that linguistic diversity is the curse
of Babel (Genesis 11:1-11).
And the whole earth was of one
language, and of one speech… And they
said to one another… Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach
unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the
face of the whole earth. And the Lord
came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men
builded. And the Lord said, behold, the
people is one, and they have all one language… Let us go down, and there
confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s
speech. So, the Lord scattered them
abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build
the city. Therefore, is the name of it
called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the
In primordial time, people spoke the same
language. God, however, decided to
punish them for their presumptuousness in erecting the tower by making them
speak different languages. Thus, multilingualism became an obstacle to further
co-operation and placed limits on human worldly achievements.
Most communities in the world are multilingual. In these communities, there is more than one
language that plays an important role, and many or all of the individuals in
such communities are at least bilingual.
Here, the context you find yourself determines the kind of language you
When you talk of language choice in any country, one
bears in mind the multilingual societies.
In monolingual countries, there is no worry about choice of language to
use, they only have to use the language available to them.
One of the most obvious problems associated with newly
formed multilingual communities, for example, in countries such as Australia
and Canada which have seen considerable immigration from different parts of the
world, is that of cross-cultural communication.
Sociolinguistic research has made it clear that to communicate
successfully in a language other than your own, it is not enough to learn the
phonology, grammar and vocabulary of that language. You also have to learn how to use it
appropriately in particular social situations according to the norms employed
and accepted by its native speakers.
Potential multilingual speakers are people with a
strong interest in a foreign language, people who find it necessary to acquire
second or third language for practical purposes, such as business, information
gathering or entertainment.
Multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers
in the world’s population. In a
multilingual society, not all speakers need to be multilingual. When all speakers are multilingual, linguists
classify the community according to the functional distribution of the
The researcher observed that before an individual
thinks of language choice, there must be some motivational factors. Motivation and investment in this process, by
the individual, will depend on the value attached to prospective gains
accompanying proficiency in the relevant language. He also observed that language choice is
affected by utilitarian considerations.
A speaker may feel that the use of a particular language will place him
in an advantageous position either within a group or within a wider social
context. If his antagonists in a
discussion or argument are less fluent than he is, this will clearly serve to
give him a valuable edge. The perceived
advantage does not have to be in relation to other individuals. It may be for purely personal considerations
that a person chooses to speak a particular language. A student of a foreign language may prefer
to use that language whenever possible, with the sole intention of improving
Acquiring an additional language, second, third or
fourth, will be greatly affected by the social, political and economic
environment within which the acquisition process takes place. Learners of additional languages are either
born into or transferred to (as a result of migration) a multilingual
context. Those born into such a
situation usually accept the need for multilingualism as a natural phenomenon
and hence can easily see the importance and the gains of achieving a high level
of proficiency in the various relevant languages. Those transferred to a multilingual context
as a result of immigration, have some difficult choices to make:
of the heritage language in order to preserve the culture and ethnic identity.
of the new national language in order to gain equitable access to the new
of a language of wider communication, such as English for academic and
acquisition of another local language, which is needed for interaction with neighbors
or fellow workers at the workplace. In
this kind of situation, language choices may require certain “prices” to be
paid by the learner.
Communication is only possible if both speakers share
the same language, and there is little to gain from addressing someone in a
language which they do not understand.
There is an almost universal taboo upon the use of a language which
might exclude one or more members of a group from a discussion, even if the
subject of that discussion has no direct relevance to that person or
persons. For example, a group of Igbo
speakers may be discussing plans for a farewell party for one of their
work-mates who is about to retire.
Another person, one who does not work at the same company, who does not
know the gentleman in question, and who will not be invited to the party, joins
the group. This new comer, moreover,
does not speak Igbo. It is now incumbent
upon the group to continue their discussion in a language which that person can
understand. Having to change the
language of the discussion to one which may be a second or third language for a
majority of the members can, of course, have a stultifying effect upon the
course of the discussion, making it more difficult to express thoughts and
ideas. In this case, however, the
exclusion constraint takes precedence over the language preference of the group
majority. In extreme cases, the requirement
for a common language might force all of the speakers to adopt second or third
languages. The search for a common
language may sometimes prove unsuccessful, and a group will have to choose the
language which allows participation of the greatest number of people.