Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Lexicological Development of Kalabari Language in the Age of Technology: A Comparative Study of French and Kalabari

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Lexicological Development of Kalabari Language in the Age of Technology: A Comparative Study of French and Kalabari

Article excerpt


In today's technological age, languages needed are those that can express technical and scientific matter found in the environment around us. In our opinion, every language has an interest in reflecting these technological phenomena in its renditions, using precise lexicological procedures. Kalabari, a Niger-Congo language, is no exception, especially if it intends to survive linguistically in the modern technological age. In this article, the aim is to achieve a technical language structure for Kalabari speakers through a comparative study with French, an Indo- European language where such technical terms have already been evolved. Terms like 'solar energy', 'wind energy', 'electromagnetic field', etc., can equally be expressed in Kalabari, which could, in turn, serve as a technical language model for other Niger-Congo languages in need of technical development to cope with the exigencies of a technological age.

Key words: Technology, scientific matter, lexicological procedures, linguistic survival, technical development


It can be easily observed that, the Kalabari language, like many evolving languages, tends to express technical matter through description or circumlocution, rather than concision which, according to Martins and Vigner (1976) is necessary for technical speech.In this article, the aim is to evolve parameters for technical discourse capable of reflecting the many technological feats and innovations that are employed by Kalabari speakers in the course of their daily lives. Besides, as pointed out by Afolayan(1980), every language possesses the necessary linguistic tools, i.e. syntactically, morphologically and otherwise, to say whatever it wishes to say, and this includes the Kalabari language.

Natural scientific phenomena which pave the way for technological inventions abound in the environment of the Kalabari speaker: the sun which can be used power engines in the form of solar energy; the wind which can be converted to wind energy; natural gas which can be made to produce electricity...., so many technological manifestations which need names. In keeping with the Sapir-Whorf theory, it is often easier to visualise objects for which there are names. Therefore, naming objects in the natural environment of the Kalabari speaker will supposedly heighten his awareness of them, and thereafter give him the necessary impulsion to participate in creating and inventing technological things for his own comfort and well-being.

Why a comparative study with French? The reason could be that the French language, like a few other languages of the Indo-European family, have benefited from an early industrial revolution which has supposedly favoured its corresponding lexical growth. Terms such as "énergie éolienne" (wind energy), "énergie thermale", (thermal energy), "champ magnétique", etc., portray a technological awareness that have resulted in the creation of concrete technological manifestations. However, in our opinion, the application of certain lexicological criteria could give rise to similar terms of technological import in other language families, particularly the Niger-Congo family to which Kalabari belongs.

Lexicology and Technology

Technological progress is a fact of modern life, and all inventions and innovations are there to make life easier for all. No matter where one finds himself on the planet, the effects of scientific realities which translate into technological inventions can be felt by all. Realities such as the rays of the sun which, when harnessed, converts to solar energy and is used to turn turbines, drive machines, provide light, etc. This energy that is supplied by the sun has been given the term "energie solaire" by the French, but how do the Kalabari call it?

In this article, we adopt the perspective of Benjamin Lee Whorf quoted by Steiner (1998:92) when he said: "we dissect nature along the lines laid down by our native language. …

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