LANGUAGE AND THE QUEST FOR IDENTITY: A STUDY OF CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART AND CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE’S AMERICANAH

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ABSTRACT

Language is an indispensible characteristic of every human society. The language one speaks tells much about one’s identity with regards to where the person comes from. In every society individuals and groups of persons would like to be differentiated from others, and in that effect, identity comes to play. In this study, the researcher has been able to explore the identity of Achebe in his Things Fall Apart and Adichie in her Americanah have been able to create for themselves through their texts. The study uses Contrastive Hypotheses Theory and the Identity and Difference Theory as guides. At the end of the research, it is discovered that Achebe and Adichie have been able to use language as a quest for identity in their texts Things Fall Apart and Americanah; the study also points out the kind of identity that the use of language in Things Fall Apart and Americanah have created about Achebe and Adichie, and as well shows therelevance of the use of language as a quest for identity in Things Fall Apart and Americanah to literature.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1   Background to the Study

Language is as old as man; it is the most important aspect of any living society. Of all the gifts God has given to human beings, none is as unique as language. The language we speak tells exactly where a particular person comes from.

It is in this realization that Ngonebu (1) states that, “language is one of the most significant features of human kind. There is nothing human beings can do without the function of one form of language or the other. The fact that human being exists and lives together depends purely on the existence of language.” Ngonebu had rightly observed that language is very crucial to human existence. It is very important to note here that if language is removed from any society, such society is no longer alive. If one has language, one has all things because it is the determiner of happiness or sadness of someone.

In a related development, Roland (1) sees language as “the fundamental ethnic characteristics of the individual and the ‘glue’ that binds individuals together into ethnic groups.” To still stress the uniqueness of language, Whorf, (443-464) posits that we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way – an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is c odified in the patterns of our language.

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This clarify that language enables us to talk with one another. It equally enhances us to make comment about something; it provides us with the mode of interaction as well as a capacity of representation. It must be noted that language can affect a society by influencing or even controlling the world view of its speakers.

Catford quoted in Yusuf (7) sees language as patterned human behaviour, it is a way; perhaps the most important way, in which human beings interact in social situations. Language behaviour is externalize or manifest in some kind of bodily activity on the part of the speaker when he produces vocal symbols or write when he writes.

In a similar way, Akindele Adegbite asserted that, “human language is unique in the sense that it has its own system of organising its component into meaningful patterns. In other words, there are rules governing the organisation of sentences such as rules of tense and concord. These are also the rules for organizing discourse.”