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The Mixing and Mingling of English Language and Literature

The Mixing and Mingling of English Language and Literature

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The mixing and mingling of English language and literature in English has come to stay in African soil and Nigeria in particular because of the multilingual nature of Nigeria and the inability of Nigerian government to be able to answer the national language question even with various fruitless attempt made to solve the language issue in Nigeria.

Even when we know that a nation without her national language is not independent in true sense but for literary works of African writers (Nigerian) to reach wider readers, English language will continue to mingle with literature because it is the only language that can cut across various ethnic groups.

Though literary writers have in various ways tried to nativised English to take the language of the writer but the point remains sacrosanct that English Language will continue to intertwine with Literature because literature is the communication of the happenings in the societies through verbal (oral) and written forms. Without English language being used, the communication will lost it purpose when it traveled out from it milieu.  


Language and literature are two intertwined concepts that are essential to human expression and communication. Literature is essentially an art form that utilizes language to express thoughts, emotions, and ideas in a beautiful and meaningful way. Without language, literature would not exist, as it is the foundation upon which all literary works are built.

Literature is not just about conveying information or ideas, but also about capturing the essence of human experiences, exploring the depths of our emotions, and reflecting the social and cultural contexts of the time in which it was created. Literature, in turn, enriches language by continually pushing the boundaries of what can be expressed through written or spoken words, and by introducing new words and expressions to our vocabulary.

In essence, language and literature are two sides of the same coin, working together to enrich our understanding of the world around us and our ability to express ourselves. Whether we are reading a novel, listening to a poem, or engaging in a conversation, we are constantly utilizing language and drawing on the rich history and evolution of literature to make meaning of our experiences.

Language and literature have a close relationship. Literature is a form of creative expression that uses language to communicate ideas, emotions, and experiences. It is a reflection of the values, culture, and history of a society. Literature also has the power to shape and influence the way people think and communicate. In turn, literature is shaped and influenced by the language it is written in, as well as the historical and cultural context in which it is produced. Language and literature are mutually dependent and constantly influence each other in a dynamic relationship.

The Mixing and Mingling of English Language and Literature

Background to the Study

There is no doubt that language and literature have both been considered as significant attitude of national identity and distinctiveness (Menang, 2001). A literature of every nationality serves to definethe language of that particular society. It can never be argued that today African literature has widely been written among the colonial languages of Europe and Arab, particularly English, French, Arabic and Portuguese, although with some African oral traditions, thereby disregarding many indigenous African languages.

And many African writers have chosen to write and/or express their opinions by adopting most of the colonial languages, whereas other creative writers argue that African experience, belief and identity should only be better expressed by indigenous African languages, irrespective of the language barrier found in Africa. For instance, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan prolific writer, and many others such as Obiajunwa Wali as well as Abiola Irele, to mention a few, have all continued to argue that a literature created and documented in languages other than African languages is not qualified to be regarded as an African literature.

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If language is defined as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which the members of a society interact in terms of their total cultures (Eme & Mbagwu, 2011, p. 115), there is need to believe that the people’s language is the best and authentic means through which the intended message is passed across. Eme and Mbagwu have considered two main factors through which the literature of the people could be expressed: first, the literature of the people should try as much as possible to address their language; and second, it should address the human society that speaks the language in particular.

According the source, a language is the medium of expression of the people and the human society is the provider of beliefs and manners in the society which are expressed by writers. If that is true, their observation shows that it is the people’s language in particular that would determine or define their literature such as English literature, Portuguese literature, French literature, Arabic literature, German literature, Igbo literature, Yoruba literature and Erei literature, among many other world literatures

However, there is no gain saying the fact that English has become an African Language. The language has become an invaluable legacy of the British which has provided African with yet another means of expressing their culture. Thus, English became the language of administration, law and legislative functions especially in Nigeria (Ker, 2002).

In English language studies, literature is also featured as an important aspect for example; figures of speech in literature are also taught in English language. This goes to show that the English language is not devoid of literature. Today in Nigeria, the English language has become so central in every sphere of life, that most people equate literacy and indeed education with the ability to read and write in English language (Otagburuagu, 2002). Faloye and Babatunde, (1991) similarly contained that:

….Since the advent of formal education, instructions in all subject areas have been in English students are taught and tested in English. They are made to read in English and even think in English.

Emphatically speaking, literature in English is an integral part of the English language. It cannot be separated because of the intricate nature of the two fields of the study. The African continent is home to 54 countries, amongst the 54 countries are over 1000 ethnic languages spoken across the continent with more than a dozen with English as their official language.

The West African country of Nigeria is among the dozens with English as its official language. Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic languages, but the use of the English language brings the citizens together. Nigeria has a rich culture. From its music down to its food. The authors of literatures set in Nigeria have not compromised in expressing the richness of the culture. However, there is speculations that the English language has not done justice in telling the Nigerian story in literary texts.

The two words are inter related but are not synonyms. Therefore to differentiate one from the other does not make much sense. Language is a vocal expression to convey ones thoughts. There are thousands of languages used by societies and communities the world over. Each language in turn may have many dialects. The same language spoken in different geographical spaces may vary so much as to make it unintelligible to others. Then there are different types like the Spoken language, the colloquial, written language, language used by the State administration, the legal language, language used by the corporates, the economists etc. The same language may have different forms of expression.

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The term “literature” is used basically in two different senses. First, it is used to refer to any written material on a subject. Second, it is a term used to refer to one of the school subjects studied by students or a university discipline; and it is this second sense that applies to us in this context. As a subject or discipline, Literature has been variously defined by different scholars.

According to Onuekwusi (2013, p. 5), “Literature is any imaginative and beautiful creation in words whether oral or written, which explores man as he struggles to survive in his existential position and which provides entertainment, information, education and excitement to its audience”. Although the definition of Literature by Onuekwusi succinctly attempts to capture the essence of literature, it is pertinent to point out that not all literature is imaginative. As a matter of fact, some literary works are factual, and it is based on this understanding that the prose genre is classified into two, namely fiction and non-fiction.

Literature is the creative writing to express ones intellectual thoughts and convey an idea and is generally considered a refinement of written works. Here the language is just a tool. Using words to write some technical manual or some administrative policies or framing legislative laws does not constitute literature. Literature reflects the culture and the social behavioural Patten of the society. It mirrors the value system of the community and the people. Literature could include prose, poetry, essays, novels epics, and is generally an index of the level of advancement of a society.

Language is a key element of a culture.  According to Ifeyinwa (2016), it grants individuals an opportunity to identify as a member of their culture and aids with self-expression. Language also makes inter-personal communication easy: it takes a step ahead and fuels a society’s verbal expression. A culture that manifest in its language has a high chance of survival, especially if it is transmitted orally and in written form. Language conveys culture (Ngugi, 1986).

Asante (1984) went ahead to describe it as “fundamental element of liberation.” (p. 12) But be that as it may, the basic element in Literature that is indispensable that can be deduced from the definition under reference is the fact that Literature, no matter the type or genre, is written in words. This is to say that English language is the basic raw material with which literature is manufactured. It is based on this view that it is usually said that “Literature is language in practice”. That is to say that language theories, concepts and styles are put into function in the creation of literary texts.

Therefore, if one must interpret and analysis a literary text, one must be competent in the language of the text and conversely if one must be competent in language, one should be sufficiently exposed to the literature of the language in question. It is on this backdrop that this paper seeks to examine the mixing and mingling of English language and literature in English because English language is regarded as a universal language and any literary text that cannot be read by another tribe is not considered as literature text but history books.

The Mixing and Mingling of English Language and Literature

Theoretical framework

The theoretical model that was adopted as the theoretical framework for this paper was Ferdinand de Saussure (1960) language Functionalism. The establishment of functional linguistics follows from a shift from structural to functional explanation in 1920s sociology. Prague, at the crossroads of western European structuralism and Russian formalism, became an important centre for functional linguistics.

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The shift was related to the organic analogy exploited by Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure had argued in his Course in General Linguistics that the ‘organism’ of language should be studied anatomically, and not in respect with its environment, to avoid the false conclusions made by August Schleicher and other social Darwinists.

The post-Saussurean functionalist movement sought ways to account for the ‘adaptation’ of language to its environment while still remaining strictly anti-Darwinian Functionalism sees functionality of language and its elements to be the key to understanding linguistic processes and structures. Functional theories of language propose that since language is fundamentally a tool, it is reasonable to assume that its structures are best analyzed and understood with reference to the functions they carry out. These include the tasks of conveying meaning and contextual information.

Functional theories of grammar belong to structural and, broadly, humanistic linguistics, considering language as being created by the community, and linguistics as relating to systems theory. Functional theories take into account the context where linguistic elements are used and study the way they are instrumentally useful or functional in the given environment. This means that pragmatics is given an explanatory role, along with semantics.

The formal relations between linguistic elements are assumed to be functionally-motivated. Functionalism is sometimes contrasted with formalism, but this does not exclude functional theories from creating grammatical descriptions that are generative in the sense of formulating rules that distinguish grammatical or well-formed elements from ungrammatical elements. Simon Dik (1999) characterizes the functional approach as follows:

In the functional paradigm a language is in the first place conceptualized as an instrument of social interaction among human beings, used with the intention of establishing communicative relationships. Within this paradigm one attempts to reveal the instrumentality of language with respect to what people do and achieve with it in social interaction. A natural language, in other words, is seen as an integrated part of the communicative competence of the natural language user. (2, p. 3)

However, Jackendoff, Ray (2010), opine that as a paradigm, language functionalism theory focuses on how language serves social and communicative purposes, such as how it helps people communicate and express meaning in various social circumstances. A wide spectrum of linguistics study, including sociolinguistics, cognitive linguistics, and discourse analysis, has been influenced by functionalism, a broad and multifaceted theoretical paradigm. With this strategy, language is meant to be grounded in usage- and communication-based pragmatic rules and categories.

It emphasizes surface shapes over abstract structure. Functionalists really reject the majority of generative theory ideas and aren’t interested in deep or abstract grammatical structure; instead, they simply pay attention to surface forms and the communication purposes of those forms. It is advantageous for use in pragmatics research and language pedagogy.

He however added that, the study of language as a tool for communication and how its structure and use reflect the objectives and needs of speakers and listeners are the main topics of functional linguistics. Another fundamental idea is that language is formed by its social context and that how it is employed by speakers reflects their social identities, interpersonal relationships, and power dynamics.

The theory was consider appropriate based on the tenet that language functionalism theory focuses on how language serves social and communicative purposes and the only language that cut across many tribes and cultures is English language and 90 percent of literature texts especially in Nigeria are written in English language which is why English language cannot be separated from each other in Nigeria due to the multi lingual nature of Nigeria.

Mr. Harrison

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