The Misuse Of The English Articles In Selected Nigerian Newspapers

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

The Misuse Of The English Articles In Selected Nigerian Newspapers


Abstract


The English article system is a complex system that is nevertheless indispensable for users of English. The articles perform several important functions and aid greatly in the art of communication. Despite this indisputable importance of the English articles, Nigerian newspapers misuse them to a great degree. It is a fact that newspapers are extremely useful learning tools to students and the general public. However, Nigerian newspapers fail to live up to the high standard expected of them. In spite of this aberration, studies on the misuse of the English articles by Nigerian newspapers have been particularly rare. The aim of this is to assess the misuse of the English articles by Nigerian newspapers. The data were collected from Newspapers, Umuahia, which represents other media houses all over the country. Each of the above English articles was selected and surveyed on a daily basis for a period of three weeks and was finally used for the study. The data used were analysed using a simple percentage calculations, while a simple randomisation method was adopted in collecting the data. From the findings, it was believed that those grammatical errors were as a result of the low level of education of the media workers, especially the journalists and the incomplete mastery of the English language among the broadcasting corporation bodies like the news casters or reporters which has a negative impact on the readers because readers rely on word meanings of these news as absolutely correct. However, to remedy these ugly situations that have befallen the media houses here in Nigeria, the researcher recommended that broadcasting authorities should employ only well-qualified language experts that are highly proficient in the English language to serve as editors who will competently proofread the news lines before they are broadcast.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

English is accepted as the official language, a second language (L2) as well as a restricted lingua franca in Nigeria. English in Nigeria is not acquired in a native speaker environment so learners undergo more difficulties than native speakers do in acquiring the language. Mother tongue interference alongside a learner’s socio-cultural background contributes immensely to the difficulties encountered in learning the language.

The English language is not a native Nigerian language. It is a legacy of British colonisation. The language was introduced by British administrators and missionaries. English was adopted as the official language of Nigeria during the period of colonisation. However, it must be noted that English existed in Nigeria in one form or the other even before Nigeria officially became a British colony. Activities like slave trade, coastal trade, and the abolition of slave trade led to the implantation of the English language in Nigeria. Freed slaves that had learnt the language to an extent served as interpreters, messengers and clerks and even introduced the language to members of their family. According to Dadzie and Awonusi, “some of these Nigerians, particularly the Yorubas locally known as Akus in SierraLeone, returned to their villages where they were known as saros and Krios, and freely used the English language in their new settlements”(53).The English language is the only language that has been generally accepted officially in Nigeria today.It has really broken language barriers between interactants from various ethnic and linguistic groups. As the official language in Nigeria, the English language is the language of the media, education, politics, et cetera.It is the commonest used language in the Nigerian media i.e. both the print and electronic media and it has been naturalized and domesticated to suit our socio-cultural context.

Over the years, English has garnered a silent hostility by Nigerians because it was never freely adopted as the official language. The circumstances surrounding its imposition are well known. The long-term deleterious effects of this national attitude are only beginning to show on the linguistic horizon.

According to Ikkideh:

English is not taken half as seriously as it was twenty years ago…in vain, we blame poor teachers of English, lazy students, inadequate, textbooks and educated, the grammatical use of the language is today the exception rather than the rule. (qtd. in Unoh 16)

Because English is in most cases learnt rather than acquiredin Nigeria, there are instances of L1 interference in the English of the majority of Nigerians. For example, in written communication, even though certain wordscan be omitted from a sentence i.e. ellipsis, words that are necessary for the effective communication of clear meaningsare never omitted in Standard English. One such class of words that should never be omitted in Standard English is the article. The word “article” is derived from the Latin word “articulus” which means “joint”. Articles are classified as grammatical words and they refer to determiners which play the primary role of differentiating the uses of nouns. Articles belong to a small group of important little elements but they exert a great deal of influence in the contexts where they are used.As a matter of fact, the classification and syntactic function of a word or expression can change with the misuse of an article.Articlesare placed before nouns, and they determine whether the nouns referred toare specific in nature or general, among other things.

Where an article is wrongly used, the resultant construction is inevitably erroneous. Second language learners of English in Nigeria demonstrate language transfer errors within the English language article system. This is especially evident where the native languages of these learners lack articles. According to Eyisi:

The major error in the use of determiners is mainly with the omission of the definite or indefinite article where it is obligatorily needed. This omission is, no doubt, a result of interference of our mother tongues since most Nigerian Languages do not possess any separate morpheme for the article. (2)

This misuse of the English article is manifest even in the pages of national newspapers in Nigeria. There are several instances of erroneous constructions in Nigerian newspapers that can be traced back to the misuse of articles.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Newspapers are extremely useful learning tools to students and the general public. People that read newspapers have a better awareness of the world around them because they are better informed of the current issues happening around the world.Newspapers are continuous sources of information and education for those who read them, and so, their sentence structures have to be as lucid as possible. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria.Thepages of many Nigerian newspapers are replete with various types of errors, prominent among which is the misuse of articles in sentence structures. Every newspaper needs to uphold avery high standard before their varied reading public, as newspapers and journalists are taken to be models of linguistic excellence. Newspapersin Nigeria use the English language in ways that suit them, not minding whether their language usecontain structures that contravene grammaticality. If articles are wrongly used, the connection between the noun and the article which defines the meaning of the noun is lost. Generally, these deviations (omissions of English articles) affect comprehension of the whole text. This causes a considerable degree of confusion for speakers and second language learners of the English language.

There have been some studies that attempt to depict the poor standard of English in Nigerian newspapers. However, relatively few studies, if any, have fully focused on the misuse of the English articles in Nigerian newspapers. Also, little has been said about how these errors affect comprehension. These lacunae in knowledge inspired the researcher to carry out this research in order to supplement the knowledge currently available in this field.


1.3 Purpose of the Study

Considering the huge importanceof the English language both locally and internationally, an urgent need for attention to be paid to the misuse of the English articles in Nigerian newspaper arises. English is an asset in most facets of life and therefore, a functionally correct knowledge of the language is needed.

The aim of this research is to highlight the alarminglyincreasing occurrence and frequency of the misuseof the English articles in our newspaper today.


1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions are put in place to guide the study:

  1. To what extent do the kinds of errors committed by journalists who write the English articles reflet the mastery of the English language?
  2. In which ways does the level of education of the reporters contribute to the occurrence of errors in the English articles?
  3. To what extent do readers rely on word meanings of news as absolutely correct?

1.5 The Scope and Limitations of the Study

This study is delimited to the various forms in which the English articles are misused in Nigerian newspapers. Other forms of errors found in Nigerian newspapers are not investigated here. The scope of this study involves exploring the misuse of the English articles in selected Nigerian newspapers. For the purpose of this study, the research will focus on only three widely read newspapers – The Sun, The VanguardandThe Independent.


1.6 Significance of the Study

This research sets out to help users of the English language in various capacities to improve their performances in their use of articles, promote efficiency in the grammar of English, encourage a mastery of the use ofEnglish articles, and spring up a general improvement in the proper use of articles. This research makes explicit, those areas where newspaper practitioners deviate from acceptable usage of articles, gives reasons for the aberrations, and also suggests ways of avoiding the errors. This research work will benefit both newspaper readers and journalists by clearly laying out the problems of the wrong use of articles.


1.7 Organization of the study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Suggestions for Further Study

5.1 Summary of the Major Findings

The importance of the English grammar cannot be over emphasised. The grammar plays a very vital role in writing. Unfortunately, it has been discovered that there are a lot of errors in the use of the English grammar in Nigerian English articles. This errors come about for different reasons but they all result in hampering effective communication.

The English grammar is constantly misused in Nigerian English articles. This means that, the misuse of grammar could mislead or falsely inform a user of English. The grammatical error in English articles creates confusion and hampers effective communication. According to Hoffman, “what is worse is that the writer can never know if the reader is confused or has misunderstood something so cannot add more in case of a confused reader, nor can the reader ask a question” (253). A reporter must maintain clarity so that hearers can discover what the broadcaster thinks or wants them to know. The effectiveness of communication is measured by the clarity of a message hence; dissemination of a lucid idea is believed to be the ultimate goal of communication. In a global language such as English, intelligibility and comprehensibility are worth any price. The correct use of language is of utmost importance to both the broadcaster and the audience because that is only when effective communication takes place and the reader effortlessly decodes the intended meaning of the news lines.

It is also important to note that the print media, as influential users of the language, are (or should be) beacons of linguistic excellence. The fact that their products are widely spread should make them adopt a better principle of communication because communication becomes successful only when the audience or readers correctly decode what the journalist intends. The English article is generally known to be a medium of communication to the listening public which comprises both the elite and the layman. Since many consider English articles to be infallible in the area of English grammar and usage, many fail to recognise deviant structures in news as the errors which they are, and assume all what they hear to be of the desired standard. The linguistic position of English article writers is so sensitive that they ought to keep abreast of the correct and current use of the language with which they communicate information to the public. The world is now a global village, the internet and social networks give English articles wider coverage. Suffice it to say that this all-important language should be carefully written and should not involve anything less than the standard use of the target language.

The English grammar is very useful in writing, individualizing and giving definiteness or indefiniteness to nouns they precede. Any inappropriate use of grammar automatically disrupts meaning and makes effective communication fail. This is the reason the knowledge of the grammar of every written language is a prerequisite to writers of such a language.Poor knowledge of grammar of the English language among writers is the reason for a massive misuse of the English grammars in many of the Nigerian media houses.


5.2 Conclusion

Having carried out this study, the researcher concludes by stating a result which proved that grammatical errors in English articles have negative effects on the mass communication such that it occurs in all the parts of the country and so could be considered as a national problem which also sends wrong signals, creating a bad and poor image for the country and making the development Nigeria envisages from education illusive since English articles ought to be a medium of enforcing literacy, education and enlightenment.Meanwhile, it is quite understandable that these errors are fast becoming imperceptible in the English language in the whole country.The importance of the English grammar cannot be over emphasised. The English grammar plays a very important role in writing and reading of news lines. Unfortunately, it has been found that there are a lot of errors in the use of the English grammar in NewspapersEnglish articles which ought to be corrected.


5.3 Recommendations

Consequent upon the research findings is that, the researcher is of the view that those who work in the media houses should be more committed to their jobs and carefullydischarge their duties. One person should not be left to do the jobs of three persons.

The media houses should become more sensitive to the public opinion about their use of theEnglish language and improve their standard.

Secondly, during employment, preference should be given to those who have knowledge of journalism and are competent in their use of English. In turn, such workers should develop the attitude of taking their work seriously so as to curb the errors which occur from impatience, carelessness and lack of supervision.

Furthermore, seminars, refresher courses and workshops, particularly on language use and errors have to be arranged regularly for journalists and news casters by their employers. Also, monitoring bodies like the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should be more proactive and functional to ensure that journalists are abreast of the rules and new development in their field.

Again, it is expedient that Nigerian academic system be improved and persons going into the field of journalism should be exposed to material written in Standard English for the proper mastery of the language. Questions about the level or standard of our educational system, especially, when they occur in English articles which circulate beyond the boundaries of Nigeria should stipulate the correct and acceptable use of the grammar.

Nevertheless, it is believed that no study is perfect and at the same time conclusive on its own; improvements on this study are still possible in any of the following approaches:

  1. The current study focused on the grammatical error analysis of selected English articles of the broadcasting corporation of Abia state, (BCA) Radio, Umuahia. Repeating the study with another level of linguistics or aspect of the English language will be quite helpful.
  2. Repeating the study using any other television or radio station within the country as a case study should also be carried out.
  3. A comparative study of the similar topic with thesame methodology but with a different sample size could be analysed using Nigeria English articles and British English articles.

However, based on the findings and implications of this study, the researcher is of the view that the following recommendations could be implemented.

  1. The Nigerian government should ensure a prompt improvement of language learning facilities in schools in order to improve the mastery and effectiveness of the
    English language of her citizens.
  2. Readers should be enlightened to the grammatical shortcomings of the news lines which they hear. Many readers take all they hear in news as absolutely correct, and do not believe that errors can be tracedfrom the news items they listen to on daily bases.
  3. English articles should not exploit journalese inadequacy at the expense of good grammatical constructions because this affects the meaning of what is meant to be conveyed. Therefore, news items should be properly edited before being published or read out to the entire public; because this will go a long way in helping the general public to become acquainted with the correct and acceptable forms of the English language.
  4. There should be a stipulated level of education to be attained by all intended broadcasting workers before going into “the business” proper. A minimum of first degree or at least, O’ level of education in the appropriate discipline is strongly recommended.
  5. – Language teachers on their own part should work harder and be more creative in teaching the English grammar in the early formal education. They should encourage the use of the dictionary early enough in school life. They should use whatever method that has been found by experts to be most appropriate to teach English grammar. Since the research has shown sample evidence of the negative effects on concord and grammar, there is need for all teachers of English at all levels to be familiar with error and contrastive analysis and the application of their findings in the classroom so as to reduce the incidence of grammatical errors by the products of our educational system.
  6. To round it off, broadcasting authorities should adhere to employing only well-qualified language experts that are highly proficient in the English language to serve as editors that will competently proofread grammatical aspects of the news lines before they are broadcast. If these recommendations are carried out by the media houses, they will become pacesetters in the effective use of the English language which they ought to be. English articles, through this, will enhance maximum comprehensibility of conveyed messages and at the same time promote the standard use of the English language.

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