Edulingualism: Language Choice as Multilingual Identity Performance among Nigerian University Students

Authors: God’sgift Ogban Uwen (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
Ene Edem Ekpo (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
Speaker: God’sgift Ogban Uwen
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


This paper adopts the qualitative research approach in the investigation of the use of different linguistic codes in the performance of multilingual identity among undergraduates at the University of Calabar in Southern Nigeria. Data were generated by means of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with the aid of audiotape recordings and field notes during a two-year fieldwork involving 100 students as representative sample of the focus population. The findings show that the University of Calabar is a micro representation of the Nigerian multilingual environment where students’ language choice is informed by the subject of discourse, purpose, goal(s), situational setting and multilingual participants involved. These variables generate the selective but purposive use of Nigerian Pidgin, students’ slang, English for academic purposes, English for specific purposes, Nigerian indigenous languages, Nigerian English and gendered forms depending on the circumstances. This presents the students as bi/multilinguals who consciously code mixed and/or code switched to attend to the communication exigencies in the social context of the academic environment. As observed, they choose language for social inclusion/exclusion, social bonding and solidarity, connection with ethnolinguistic and professional affiliations, and the rehearsal of students’ linguistic creativity, that are all combined to index the construction and performance of their multilingual identities. This define the language practice as aspects of Nigerian multilingualism which should be harnessed in academic institutions to achieve the desired goal of building the human capital for individual, collective and national development.

Keywords: Edulingualism, language choice, multilingual identities, multilingual performance, Nigerian university students.