OKU PHONOLOGY AND ITS IMPACT ON ENGLISH LANGUAGE
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Background to The Study
Language is the only asset that people have which when well spoken through signs and symbols, a message is communicated and understood. Humphrey Mbuh Tatah says “language is a basic symbol in human life; and as the German existentialist philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889.1979) affirms, “the being of man is found in the language (…) by which mankind produces and contemplates itself.” So both symbols and the language of a people are codified and need to be understood and analyzed like a text within their proper locus; otherwise, the action and symbols of people may seem incomprehensible, or even contradictory to those who are external to a particular context. That is why even what appears to us, the most clumsy way of expressing reality, deserves careful attention in order to comprehend the experience that others have lived, not what we think they should experience.”
According to SIL ( 1987) statistics, Oku language is one of the languages or mother tongues are spoken in Cameroon beside English and French by approximately 35000-50000 people in Bui Division; North West Region- Cameroon. The language in its present state adapts and continues to adopt the speech realities and the environmental exigencies of Grassland Bantu languages like “Lamso” spoken by Nso people and “Kum” spoken by Kum people with similar settings and adaptations in the area of word formation and phonology.
The use of Oku is more often than not limited to non-formal contexts such as at home, on the farm, with friends in bars, markets, and on the streets. However, its formal usage is limited to places like the church, traditional or cultural gathering. Worthy of note is the fact that an Oku language translation centre is working on a daily basis with the aim of translating the bible to Oku, and a number of schools have also included the study of the Oku language in their school curriculum. Oku has a rural radio station and messages are sent across easily to the people through this media. In all these, one already finds a problem with the English that is spoken by the actors due to their familiarity with sounds in the Oku language.
In this work, an analysis of the Oku language; its phonological system will be described. Both the vowels and consonants are quite complex thus the reason why Oku English Language speakers seem to be influenced by it when they speak the English Language. The Oku people call their language 3bkwo -’ that is: language of the Oku. It is the language of the Oku people and one of the indigenous languages spoken in Bui Division. In English, they simply call it “Oku” probably the anglicized form of “blovo ” This research looks into one category of these new features in the Oku Language. Oku is one of a complex group of languages spoken in the Bui Division, North West Region – Cameroon known as the “Ring” Languages, a sub-group of Grass fields Bantu. (Greenberg 1963).
Although phonemes are very important in communication, it can be deduced from Oku that this part has been omitted and many new words have been found. It is therefore important to find out the level of mastery and usage of this aspect of Oku as in the English Language.
Statement of the Problem
Even though not much has been said and written on the Oku phonology, there has been neglect on the impact it has on learners of English Language in Cameron and Oku subdivision in particular. This raises a problem as to why learners of English are impacted by the Oku phonology. Therefore, this research study seeks to find out the impact of Oku phonology on second language learners (English) in some secondary schools, churches and public places in Elak Oku sub-division.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to identify the various areas where Oku speakers use language that is no longer in use when speaking English language and also to examine the impacts of Oku learning abilities in the English language. This study also sets out to find out the mastery and usage of the phonology of vowel and consonant sounds in Oku. It seeks to establish the importance of pronouncing well in Oku and it’s a complementary role in English Language and human Communication as a whole and indicates how words should be properly pronounced and sounds rendered to attain the agreeable linguistic standard.
Objectives of the Study
Specifically, the objective of this study is to;
- Help Oku speakers be aware that environment causes them to articulate English words poorly.
- Find out if the inadequate use of dictionaries by Oku speakers cause them to articulate English consonant and vowels sounds poorly.
- Identify other areas of study that can help Oku people speak better English.
- Does the Oku environment cause Oku speakers to pronounce English words poorly?
- Does the inadequate use of dictionaries by Oku speakers cause them to articulate English consonant and vowels sound poorly?
Are there other areas of study that can help Oku people speak better English?