Code Mixing And Code Switching In Nigerian Movies

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Code Mixing And Code Switching In Nigerian Movies


Some scholars observe that code-switching is a rule-governed variety used by members in accordance with certain norms, and often functions as a powerful in-group identity marker (Jacobson, 1977, 1998; Myers-Scotton, 1993). But Code-switching as seen in conversation is quite different from that in song lyrics. Code-switching in movie is by no means a recent phenomenon, motivated by the expansion of mass media that provides unprecedented opportunities for people all over the world to be exposed to movies originating in cultures other than their own (Davies and Bentahila, 2006: 368). Code-switching is a more deliberate style used by the actors and actresses who would have packaged, edited and reflected upon their choices and selection of the linguistic features of the language to be used in the conversation of the movie before its release. Over the years, Nigerian artistes made use of a combination of English and one or more indigenous languages in their movie making. Many of these actors import linguistic features of other language(s) into the movie and uses English as the base of their conversation since English is the official language in Nigeria. This process can be described as code-switching in movie. Considering Nigerian setting, code-switching involves English and one (or more) of the three major languages in Nigeria, which are Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo but Yoruba appears to be the most frequently used among the Nigerian languages and indeed, the titles of some movies attest to this fact. In this study, Pidgin is also seen as a local language in this context. In Nigeria, pidgin cuts across tribes, background and culture. It bridges the gap between the literate and the illiterate in the country, and its use allows easy communication. Therefore , actors who seek commercial success and popularity use code-switching as a stylistic innovation in their movie roles.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.0 Background of the Study

Code mixing /code switching is a sociolinguistic phenomenon which occurs as an outcome of linguistic contacts especially among bilinguals and multilingual. Code switching is a communicative strategy utilized by bilingual speakers to achieve certain communicative intent.

Code switching refers to the movement by a speaker to and forth from one linguistic code to another. According to Hoffmann (1991: 110), the term “code switching” refers to the “the alternate use of two or more languages within the same utterance or during the same conversation”.

Code switching is an alternation between two or more languages in a speaker’s speech. It involves the fusing of two or more varieties of language in a single conversational utterance. The word code is a neutral sociolinguistic referral of a linguistic variety which may either be a language or varieties of a language/dialects, style or register. Various scholars have come up with different definitions of the term Code switching and code mixing. Ayeomoni, (2006) notes that code-switching as “a common term for alternative use of two or more language, varieties of a language or even speech styles”, while Maschler (2008:125) sees code mixing or a mixed code as “using two languages such that a third, new code emerges, in which elements from the two languages are incorporated into a structurally definable pattern” .

Code-mixing and code-switching are widespread phenomena in bilingual communities where speakers use their native tongue (L1) and their second language (L2) in different domains. However, it is not always the case where each distinct language is exclusively used in one particular domain. In order to help bilingual kids not to be confused with two languages and not to be alienated in monolingual society, it is very critical to make both bilinguals and monolinguals familiar with codes witching and code-mixing (Hua, 2008). It would be much better for other people to know about certain bilingual phenomena and try to accept the bilingual phenomena naturally, so that they could see how much social and cultural aspects affect bilinguals’ language and learn how bilinguals and their monolingual interlocutors should lead to smooth conversation (Kim, 2006).

However, Jenifa’s Diary is a Nigerian television comedy series, created by Funke Akindele. The series is part of the Jenifa franchise, based on a naive and funny character of the same name. Jenifa’s Dairy has over 11 (possibly going to 13) seasons and is currently active and ongoing (Ikeke, Nkem, 2017). This series tells a story of a native village girl who desperately wants to get out of her ratchet way of life. In her desperation she leaves her village and goes to the city of Lagos in order to process her visa to travel to the United States. Although unsuccessful with her visa application she decides to stay in Lagos and live a better life. She then finds herself in University of Lagos, with the help of a lady she met, Toyo baby (Olayode Juliana) and Kiki (Lota Chukwu) who help and accommodate her (Izuzu Chidumga, 2017).

This study deals with “Code switching and Code-mixing” in selected Jenifa’s diary episodes. This study tries to discuss more about “how Code switching and Code Mixing occurs in selected Jenifa’s diary episodes? This study will examine the differences between code switching and code mixing, the instances of code switching and code mixing in the text, then the underlying reasons for such code chances.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

A few studies have been carried out on bilingual speakers of English. Some of the studies focus on the way speakers of English code switch and mix between different language codes in their daily dialogues or conversations. All these studies drew their data from real life contexts. None of them investigated the use of code switch and mix in dramatized utterances. Investigating code switch and code mixing in Jenifa’s Diary Episodes will assist us in identifying how these phenomena are used among Nigerians. This is the gap this study intends to fill.

1.3 Aims and Objectives

This research work intends to investigate code switching and code mixing in selected Jenifa’s Diary Episodes. This study sets to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To examine the languages used in the production of movies in Nigeria with particular emphasis on Jenifa
  2. To assess the evidence of multilingual practice in Nollywood movies with specifics on Jenifa’s diary.
  3. To examine the level of indigenous language sutilization in the production of Nigerian movies

1.4 Scope of the Study

This study focuses in Investigating code switch and code mixing in Nigerian Movie focusing mainly on Jenifa’s Diary Episodes.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The research will x-ray the possible social relevance of code switching and code mixing in TV soap opera in a multilingual Nigeria. The results of the study will assist in creating a better understanding of the code switching and mixing phenomenon amongst Nigerian bilinguals. Finally, it is hoped that this study will serves as a reference material for further research in this area.

1.6 Theoretical Framework

Code-mixing in any variety of language must take into consideration the ‗context‘ of its use for it to yield intended meaning. Myers-Scotton addressed three different models that emphasize the choices bilinguals‘ makes in conversation. These models include the Conversational analysis, the Communication accommodation theory and the Markedness model. This study will employ Myers-Scotton‘s Markedness model because it best emphasizes the reasons for code-switching.Myers-Scotton introduced this model into the discussion of language in 1993 with its initial focus on the social motivations for code-switching. She further explained the term ―Markedness‖ as the model that tries to establish a principled procedure that both speakers and listeners use to judge any linguistic choice that they might make or hear as more or less marked, given the interactions in which it occurs. Myers-Scotton posits that not all speakers in the same community engage in exactly the same CS practices and those speakers do not make identical choices in their own code-switching practices because they have different views on the costs and rewards of one choice over another. According to Myers-Scotton (1993:75), the Markedness Model proposes that speakers have a sense of markedness regarding available linguistic codes for any interaction, but choose their codes based on the persona and or relation with others they wish to have in place. Markedness relates to making of one linguistic choice over other possible and available varieties. The speakers have the option of choosing marked or unmarked choices and are aware of the consequences of making either choice for any type of interaction. Therefore, this model proposes that speakers have a sense of markedness regarding the linguistic codes available to them for any interaction. They then choose their codes based on the other participant(s) and/or their relationship with others which they wish to have in place.

Chapter Five

Summary and Conclusion

5.1 Conclusion

This study has examined the languages used in the production of movies in Nigeria with particular emphasis on Jenifa. A combined application of Mares’(2003) classificatory strategies for the analysis of multilingual discourse in fictional texts and Irvin and Gal’s(2000) ideological representations of linguistic differences provide the framework for the analysis. The study reveals that the evidence of multilingual practice in Nollywood movies are of two types. The first relates to the number of languages that are used in Nigerian movie industry while the second deals with the number of languages that are used in a particular movie. As regards the first, the study found that there are only six languages that are used in Nollywood, English and five Nigerian languages – Yoruba, Hausa, Bini, Ibibio and Efik. It is also discovered that of the three major Nigerian languages – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba – only Yoruba was heavily used in movie production while Hausa was sparsely used. Igbo was not used for production at all. Of the numerous minority languages in Nigeria, only three – Bini, Ibibio and Efik – were represented in movie producti on. The conclusion one can draw from this is that there is an under-utilizati on of indigenous languages in the production of movies in Nigeria and this has negative consequences on the survival and growth of these languages. I shall return to this shortly.

The official statistics of the Nigerian Film and Video Censor’s Board revealed that Yoruba was the only indigenous language that was heavily subscribed to in the production of movies in Nigeria. This led to the selection of Jenifa, a Yoruba movie, as my case study to understand the multilingual practice in specific movies. The study reveals that though Jenifa is tagged a Yoruba movie, it is diffi cult for a monolingual Yoruba speaker to comprehend because of the degree of English switching that is found there. Nearly all the characters found it expedient to use English in their speeches and this happened in nearly all the scenes regardless of the topic being discussed. From the fore-going, it is convenient to conclude that the multi lingual practi ce in Jenifa is manifested in the types of switching between English and Yoruba. It should be stated that switching in this study is not considered as a stylisti c strategy; rather, it is seen from an ideological perspective – the perspective of linguicism, ideologies and practices of unequal division of power and resources which are ti ed to language.

Linguicism is evident in the distribution of languages involved in movie production.

Majority of the linguistic groups in Nigeria prefer to produce their movies in English. Films that are produced in indigenous languages also have a lot of English switching (or intrusions?). English is not just a language in Nigeria; it is a super language that is associated with education, prestige, class and opportuniti es. It is a language that everyone strives to use and this is refl ected in the movies. This situation has led to what Bamiro describes as ‘’substractive polyglossia’’.35 According to him, “substractive polyglossia is my term for the dominance and ascendancy of the English language at the expense of the regression and decline of the local languages’’. This is a reaffirmation of an earlier point made by Ng and Bradac that “competence in the foreign language is acquired, but only at the expense of the nati ve language’’.36 As a result of the powerful infl uence of English in Nigeria, which is also reflected in Nigerian movies, Adedun (forthcoming) has found that parents consciously encourage their children to gain mastery of English while discouraging them from learning their first language. The resultant effect is that most children are now monolingual Nigerian speakers of English or at best ‘’defective bilinguals’’. Defective bilingualism is my own term for describing Nigerians who claim they understand but cannot speak their mother tongue and the only language they claim mastery of is English. The unfortunate thing is that this attitude is popular especially among the elite and most people are even proud of the situation. The implication is that if no appropriate response is given, it portends a great danger to the sustenance and growth of indigenous languages. A Nigerian national newspaper, The Punch, in a screaming headline proclaims that hundreds of Nigerian languages face extinction.37 The paper cites Vital Signs 2006-200, a publication of the United States based research group, Worldwatch Institute, that includes Nigerian languages among over 3,500 languages of the world that are likely to disappear by the turn of the century.

Insights from different aspects of language study reveal that languages do not just disappear, they follow some processes before they go into oblivion. The first sign is noticed when a language does not appeal to a young generation of people and when the older generation does not feel bothered about the apathy of the younger generation to the mother tongue. When in the name of style and modern practice, English is encouraged above an indigenous language, it is a matter of ti me, such an indigenous language is on its way to extinction. One of the tools for perpetuating a language is fiction, literature or creative writing. A language that has a rich repertoire of creative writing or filmic documentation will be preserved and subsequent generation can be relied upon for its continued propagation. But in the event of a scenario whereby the documentation of a people’s history and culture is done either wholly in English by way of projecting such culture in English or partly in English by way of according more relevance to English in the simultaneous use of English and a local language, to record a people’s worldview and experience, subsequent generation cannot be relied upon to propagate such a language and such a language is already endangered.

The issue of language choice is not new to African creative writers but there is no consensus on it. Indeed, there are three divergent positions about the choice of language for creative purposes38. The first is the unapologetic use of English for African creative writing. The second is the cautious use of English because of the power of its publicity while being conscious of its unfair advantage over indigenous languages.

The third is the unequivocal advocacy that indigenous languages be used as vehicle for African literary expression. Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, the two frontline creative writers in Nigeria can be said to belong to the first group, though with varying degrees. While Chinua Achebe is of the view that African writers should feel free to adapt English to suit African surroundings and sensibilities39, Soyinka has been accused of being deliberately complex and inaccessible in his literary works because of his penchant for the use of English to reflect both the style and sensibilities of its native speakers40.

Social, political and economic considerations are the reasons why producers of creative endeavours, including film producers, prefer the use of English in their creative enterprise. Every creative writer or film maker wants to break the barrier of being restricted to his linguistic group and wants to reach a larger audience in order to promote his message, become more popular and at the same ti me earn more money.

English becomes the only language that makes these possible in Nigeria. This explains why English dominates this sphere in Nigeria just like any other endeavour. However, these considerations are at the expense of local Nigerian languages. This makes Gikandi to declare that “what is important about language use in Africa is not what languages African writers prefer, but the ideological and cultural uses of such languages”41.

One recommendation that may address this problem is that fi lm producers and creative writers generally should display language patriotism by encouraging productions in local Nigerian languages. This can then be translated into English for wider circulation.

For films, this can be done through the use of sub-ti tles for movie dialogues. In spite of the criticism that subtitling typically results in a quantitative reduction of the original dialogue because of the limitation of the amount of writt en words that can appear on screen42, I submit that there is no better alternative to solving the problem. Also, there should be a positive projection of the local languages and the audience should be made to see the positive sides of the local languages either through what the characters are made to say directly or through an indirect interpretation of intentions or overall assessment of the movie. Again, while switching of codes is a multilingual reality, this practice should be extended to local Nigerian languages, that is, one Nigerian language can be made to switch with another Nigerian language. This will not only reflect the reality of cohabitati on of different linguistic groups in Nigeria, it will also promote peaceful co-existence, mutual cooperation between and among
different linguistic groups in Nigeria.

In addition, nobody can take away English from the place of honour the language occupies, not just in Nigeria, but in the world. It will amount to linguistic ignorance and intellectual arrogance for anyone to suggest that English does not have a place in Nigerian movie world. Of course, it does and that is why the movie industry has gained an early recognition and popularity. The issue here is that care should be taken so that one is not carried away by the assumed benefits of English and unwittingly play the scripts of the mindsets that historically conferred the assumed benefits on English. In other words, the issue being discussed goes beyond the assumed benefits derivable by producing Nigerian films in English. These assumed benefits are a tool that will eventually lead to the nuncdimitis of Nigerian languages if conscious efforts are not made to address the problem. The danger posed to Nigerian languages by English is hidden and can not be obvious to the undiscerning. It is historically ideological and ‘’dually indexical’’. Dual indexicality is an expression used by Jane Hill to describe the strategy used by dominant groups to indirectly ascribe certain stereotypes to subordinate groups which constitute the basis upon which the minority groups are excluded from certain rights and privileges43. According to Elinor Ochs as cited by Hill, it is through these covert indexes that the deepest structures of the self, those that are least accessible to inquiry and modification, are laid down.44 Hill emphasizes that covert semiosis is very powerful in the “construction of the world through linguistic practice”. Therefore, brandishing the more obvious benefits of English in Nigerian movies will automatically blind one to the covert dangers the use of the language
poses to the survival of Nigerian languages.

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