Towards a Digital Reconstruction of African Linguistic Anthropology: The IGBO Language Example

Author: Charles Ogbulogo (Covenant University, Nigeria)
Speaker: Charles Ogbulogo
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Though digital humanities projects propose to establish patterns in linguistic data, very little appears to have been done within the remit of African linguistic anthropology. Thus, linguistic and anthropological analysis on the continent appears to have relied primarily on speculative data. The situation could explain the spate of internal controversies regarding numbers and boundaries of African languages. For example, there are speculations that Nigerian languages range between 250 and 505, the latter deriving from existing indigenous language bibles, published by the Bible Society of Nigeria. Apart from the apparent duplication of names, a situation that may have confused languages and dialects, there appears to have been a deliberate act to politicise the fragmentation and atomisation of the language phenomenon in many parts of Africa. This sentiment accords with an empirical report by Prah (2001) and elaborated upon in Ogbulogo (2001, 2013), that over 70% of Africans speak about twelve languages on primary, secondary and tertiary bases. There are also near intractable boundary disputes that tend to emphasise the centre-periphery disconnect. Some agitations within the fringes of some major Nigerian languages may manifest deeper matters of anthropolinguistics. This study therefore, attempts to explore the application of digital humanities in resolving some of the controversies. Data would be elicited via Google forms from speakers of the different “dialects” of Igbo within the peripheries of the dominant dialects of the language, for the purpose of lexico-statistical analysis. The main research instrument would be the modified version of the University of Ibadan World List. From the analysis, it would be possible to establish congruencies and divergences across these dialects. The study will also provide a template for similar studies in other related languages in Nigeria and Africa in line with the philosophy of anthropolinguistics.

Keywords: Digital reconstruction, African linguistic anthropology, language and dialect