Monday, March 20, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - “An advice, ” “a good news”: Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English

I don’t have time now to reflect on and respond to moses’s thoughtful comments. (class prep calling)

But it is SUCH A PLEASURE to read his postings that invite dialogue and reflection. THANKS moses. Please everyone, let’s try to keep at moses’s level

Secondly, the issue of English is duplicated radically in the francophone world where they are trying now to reshape French literature as something no longer centered in the metropole, where Litterature-Monde means francophone that isn’t euro-centered.

Please reflect on the importance of that. It is a highly contested notion, but really relates to this discussion when it asks how a language can cease to be centered in a single dominant culture, how it can be deterritorialized and then reterritorialized. No one asked the Indians, say, to do that; or the Nigerians, but it is happening every time someone in india or Nigeria opens their mouth and speaks in their voice—they reshape the language in the most natural way this inevitably happens.

And I believe it happens in Sweden, too, as they too reappropriate the other’s tongue and make it theirs.

Who then are the owners of the language??

Try reading Chaucer some time and you’ll see how what we are using now, to communicate, is really foreign from what was common in the 14th c

Languages are as alive as we are when we use it



Kenneth Harrow

Dept of English and Film Studies

Michigan State University

619 Red Cedar Rd

East Lansing, MI 48824



From: usaafricadialogue <> on behalf of "" <>
Reply-To: usaafricadialogue <>
Date: Monday 20 March 2017 at 12:37
To: usaafricadialogue <>
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - “An advice, ” “a good news”: Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English


It is sad to see this edifying discussion degenerate into this, but a few quick points preceded by a declaration:


I have been following the thread and the contributions of Farooq and Ken have captured by own position so excellently that I saw no need to contribute. After reading Oga Falola's penultimate post, however, I feel that a few submissions would be in order.


1. Despite the effort of the mild-mannered and polite scholar, Ken Harrow, to explain that the notion of English being the property of the British or of Euro-America is wrong, some responses have continued to proceed from that erroneous, ironically neocolonial idea. Falola challenged us to name countries that have developed by operationalizing the languages of other people, implying that English is not Nigerians' property, that it belongs to others. It is only if you believe this foundational fallacy that you'd believe that when Nigerians master English, they are embracing someone else's linguistic heritage and abandoning their own--the largely outmoded argument about about linguistic imperialism. It should be self-evident that the notion of linguistic imperialism dissolves considerably when the language in question is now democratized and domesticated in several locales and when the original possessors of that language have lost control of it while those who adopted it have shaped and reshaped it in line with their own communicative and cultural predilections. Even the canonization of standard English was not--is not--an exclusively Euro-American affair as stakeholders in the language's multiple varieties have contributed to the institution and convention we now know as standard English.


2. There is also, in Falola's and others' contributions, the erroneous assumption that Euro-American modernity--or modernity as a generic category--inheres in English. This is a claim made by generations of Eurocentric scholars and hegemons. It has been challenged successfully by postcolonial theorists, literary scholars, historians, and others, who have rightly sought to decenter modernity, locate it in multiple locales, practices, discourses, and linguistic communities, and to puncture the claim of haughty imperialists that they bestowed modernity on benighted subalterns through the instrumentality of the English language and English language education. Mainstream concepts such as parallel modernities, vernacular modernities, alternative modernities, etc--which we now take for granted as commonsensical givens--signal how successful the project of provincializing Europe and its modernity and of recognizing modernity's polyvalent manifestation and provenance has been. Yet some contributors here seem to be reifying this debunked claim and inadvertently rehabilitating it through their claim that modernity is coextensive with the English language. Even the British colonial variety of modernity, encoded in post-Enlightenment claims to universality, is not as Euro-American in provenance as was previously thought. You only need to read Simon Gikandi's Maps of Englishness to know that colonial subalterns in non-Western locales helped constitute and reconstitute the iconic edifices of Englishness and its associated modernity.


3. Therefore, it is problematic to equate the mastery of English with a capitulation to a "foreign" English modernity or culture. That culture, to begin with, is hardly English in the strict Manichean way some are arguing here. Colonial culture and colonial modernity are as Nigerian as they are English. There were as many subaltern actors in making colonial modernity as there were English people. Secondly, it is condescending and even a tad insulting to Nigerians to imply as some have done here that they are incapable of separating the linguistic utilitarian benefits of English from its cultural components--that in fact when they choose to master English in order to participate in global professional and intellectual currents or to be conversant in the dominant epistemic vocabulary of our world, they are assimilating to a foreign culture. Nigerians are capable of smartly adopting the utilitarian ethos of English without uncritically embracing whatever cultural resources may be conveyed by the language. We as scholars should not arrogantly infantilize our African subjects, who are in most cases smarter and more pragmatic than we give them credit for. Nigerians do not need to be protected or shielded from what we assume to be the culturally corrosive effects of English mastery. They are capable of making a distinction between the ways of the English and the globally utilitarian language called English.


4. Much of the attack on English by people whose intellectual and professional trajectories have been defined by a mastery of standard English seems driven by a simplistic and self-destructive Afrocentric impulse. Self-writing is a noble endeavor, but it becomes counterproductive when it devolves into epistemic self-isolation. If indeed Africa possesses a rich intellectual and scholarly heritage that we complain is yet to be shared with or recognized by the broader global world of scholarship how can the solution be to further isolate this heritage from the global intellectual pool by enunciating it in Africa's languages, which are unintelligible to outsiders? I don't get this type of logic. It seems to me that the urgent task facing Africanists is to seek pathways into consequential global scholarly and intellectual conversations, pathways through which the insights and contributions of African vernacular and other epistemologies can enter into dialogue with epistemologies of other places and eventually take its place in the arenas where paradigms and consensuses are consecrated. If we publish and write in our languages, we are writing for for ourselves, essentially. How is such an incestuous intellectual enterprise going to enable African epistemology to enter into the global scholarly marketplace and be appreciated and engaged with? There is already a model for subaltern epistemologies entering the global English-language epistemological canon. Indian social scientific and humanistic scholars are today some of the most influential in the world, but they did not enter into global scholarly reckoning by complaining about linguistic imperialism or advocating for a return to Indic languages, modes of self-representation, and esoteric discourse, but by translating the unique insights and properties of Indic vernacular epistemologies into English and specifically into the high theoretical academic lingo of the Euro-Americn academy. Western theorists and academics took notice. They had to. They began to engage Indian scholarship on its own terms but they did so only because the language in which this scholarship came to them was relatable, familiar. There was a shared linguistic space where productive engagement was possible. Pius Adesanmi has a brilliant article that documents and analyzes this process. By all means let us create platforms for indigenous African knowledge to thrive, but let us also prioritize translation, not just in the mechanical or literal sense but also in the epistemic sense of transporting entire intellectual repertoires from our localized and limited languages into a language and lexicon that is intelligible to global scholarly audiences. For good or ill, that linguistic medium is English, along with its associated disciplinary jargons.


5. Malami's narrative is a great example of providing recognition and visibility to vernacular African scholars and intellectuals, but it is ultimately an incestuous enterprise. To really bring the caliphate's intellectual heritage as espoused by Talata Mafara and Waziri Junaid to the world and gain recognition for its unique contributions to scholarship, you need to translate the ideas and productions into English and not allow it to be accessible only to Hausa- and Ajami-literate people. In the same Sokoto example, how could a non-Hausa speaking person in the audience have accessed the insightful points the Waziri made? By the way, we have Hausa and Arabic departments in most universities in the far north of Nigeria. These are a self-enclosed intellectual communities with a shared medium of intelligibility where scholarship and scholarly conversations are conducted in Hausa and Arabic. It seems to me that rather than railing against English and raising the straw man of an Anglophilic educational curriculum, we should be asking the departments of Hausa and the departments of Arabic and Islamic studies to collaborate and promote the study of this caliphate corpus and their producers while also promoting the work of translation to bring this vast scholarship into the global scholarly mainstream, which is at present English-denominated.


On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 7:36 AM, Farooq A. Kperogi <> wrote:


On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 3:52 AM, 'Ayotunde Bewaji' via USA Africa Dialogue Series <> wrote:

lgnorance breeds arrogance. A tale told by any idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Komolafe is right, "May God save us from ourselves". We should give the last word to Oga Farooq, and done. That way there shall be linguistic peace in the land, and Boko Haram will vanish. Shikena. Ire o.



You should know about ignorance because you embody it. The thoughtless, dimwitted excerpt above shows the depth of the ignorance that holds your fatuous mind hostage. When people are denuded of substance and have no capacity for deep intellectual engagement, they get into an unwarranted vituperative frenzy and throw cheap, pedestrian insults at their intellectual superiors. Do you have anything intelligent to contribute to the debate? Of course not. It's above your intellectual pay grade. Your sterile, vacuous mind has no capacity to grasp complex, nuanced thoughts, so all you do here is post inane, insult-ridden gibberish. Since the discussion has degenerated to this low ebb, I am out. I am disappointed that Professor Falola would allow this malicious illiteracy to escape moderation.



Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Journalism & Emerging Media
School of Communication & Media

Social Science Building 

Room 5092 MD 2207

402 Bartow Avenue
Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia, USA 30144
Cell: (+1) 404-573-9697
Personal website:

Twitter: @farooqkperog

Author of Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English in a Global World

"The nice thing about pessimism is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." G. F. Will

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