In his 2015 essay titled “The fate of a global language”, Prof Edgar Schneider, Chair Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Regensburg in Germany asked whether English is ‘going down the drain’, losing its elegance and expressive power and ‘correctness’ in the mouths – and on the smart phone displays – of the young or of foreign learners … or breaking apart into a range of daughter languages and dialects”. He had his own answer to the question in the essay.
Veritas University, Abuja, one of Nigeria’s newer universities is enlisting itself enlists itself into the time honoured tradition of Inaugural Lecture today with great expectations of a Nigerian answer to this question or the question of the status of the English used in Nigeria.
The Inaugural Lecture is to be delivered by Prof Gabriel Egbe of the university’s College of Humanities as its first academic to hit the professorship cadre in 2016. It provides him a major opportunity to tell the story of his intellectual exploits in the domain of language, with particular reference to the enchanting research domain of ‘World Englishes’
It is interesting that the university’s first professor is a language expert and the first Inaugural Lecture is in a domain that is today at the centre of the controversy in the Philosophy of Science. But, aside from its shattering of all truth claims in the entire Philosophy of Science today, language and, by implication, English has circumscribed the study of identity, power, domination and inequality. It is the collapse of English or of its universal appeal that Professor Samuel Huntington traces the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ he claims in his famous essay which later became the book by that title although he also listed such factors as volume of communication, vast dispersal of wealth and high volume of circulation of people. In fact, Huntington says he could only see babelization over universalisation, leading him to assert the claim that peaceful co-existence between and among the eight dominant civilisations he listed is imperiled.
Whichever direction Prof Egbe’s intervention goes, his position is bound to attract attention globally, the sort of thing Veritas University appears to love. Intervention’s roving correspondent reports that the university could be said to be in the mood for the Inaugural Lecture.