English and Modern Languages
Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Chinua Achebe, Language Attitudes, Nigerian Literature, Postcolonial, Sociolinguistics, Things Fall Apart
Other English Language and Literature | Other Race, Ethnicity and post-Colonial Studies
Guthrie, Abigail, "Language and Identity in Postcolonial African Literature: A Case Study of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart" (2011). Masters Theses. Paper 175.
Sociolinguists often research the development of language attitudes and the state of language within speech communities. Individual speakers reflect the status of their L1 language in both speaking and writing (Wa Thiong'o 1986, Showalter 2001), and the idea that writing can be used as a set of data that reflects an author's language attitude is the motivation for this research. Salikoko Mufwene (2001), one of the leading experts on creolization and the ecology of language, has argued that individual speakers of a language make daily choices that affect the future of their native tongue. Using the novel Things Fall Apart by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, this paper explores language attitudes of Post-colonial Nigerians toward English, and this author's literary and linguistic devices that reveal his own language stereotype. Post-colonial Nigeria was essentially forced into the development of Nigerian English, an English-based Creole, when Achebe's native language of Igbo was threatened by the appearance of Standard English; and in the convergence of two languages Nigerian English was formed. Achebe has been criticized for writing his novel in English, the language that many Africans see as a murderer of native African tongues. Mufwene argues that the individual is a part of every language change, and that the process of creolization begins when that speaker consciously or subconsciously retains the function words of their L1 and initiates replacement content words from the invading L2 lexicon. Contrary to Mufwene (2001), an analysis of Things Fall Apart reveals a paradoxical creolization. Achebe's process of creolization reveals a preference for his L1 content words while adopting the syntax and function words of the invading L2. The results of this paradoxical creolization reveal that although Achebe wrote his novel in the English language, he subconsciously valued Igbo content words as the preservers of his African identity, and that the future readers of African literature can benefit from the understanding of an author's language attitude.