Language Choice and Family Language Policy in Inter-Ethnic Marriages in South-Eastern Nigeria

Offiong Ani Offiong, Eyo Offiong Mensah


Ensuring continuity in the intergenerational transmission of language is a crucial element in the process of its maintenance (Fishman,1991). The family has been identified as the bedrock of such social transmission thus raising questions about language choice which usually ignites emotional reactions especially in inter-ethnic marriages. This paper investigates the issue of language socialization and language choice in inter-ethnic marriages from a macro-sociolinguistic perspective involving the intersection of Efik-Ibibio, Igbo and Lokaa couples and children who are products of these unions, given that parents make decisions with regard to the family linguistic choices and children are the agents of socialization and change in language ecology and family dynamics. The study is rooted in Hyme's (1962) theory of ethnography of speaking which is concerned with the linguistic resources people use in context and the socially situated uses and meaning of language; what language to use in what place, to whom and upon what occasion etc and Giles' (1979) socio-psychological theory of accommodation which seeks to explain cognitive adjustments in the choice of language adopted by children. The study discovers that the motivation for indigenous language transmission is weaned as the family does not provide the bond to foster sufficient indigenous languages activities, therefore, children raised in inter-ethnic marriages are not balanced bilinguals. The study has implications for language shift and maintenance in Nigeria.

Key words: Language choice; Inter-ethnic marriages; Code-mixing/switching; Linguistic ecology; Multilingualism; Family language policy


Language choice; Inter-ethnic marriages; Code-mixing/switching; Linguistic ecology; Multilingualism; Family language policy

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