10 February 2009

Kehinde on Fatoba

Here is the abstract of the article "English and Postcolonial Writers' Burden: Linguistic Innovations in Femi Fatoba's My Older Father and Other Stories" by Ayo Kehinde that appeared in West African Review in 2004:

"In a situation where two or more languages and cultures are in contact, there is bound to be linguistic and cultural interference. This is the situation with African literature of English expression where important socio-cultural habits and traits are expressed in a foreign language. Based primarily on the examples from Femi Fatoba’s My 'Older' Father and Other Stories (1997), this essay attempts to examine how postcolonial writers have appropriated and reconstituted the English language in their texts through some linguistic processes which include loan words, loan coinages, loan blends, pidginization, code switching and the like. Fatoba strives to find a solution to the problem of bilingualism/biculturalism in his text by relying heavily on the domestication of the imported tongue. The essay observes that although Fatoba has deviated from the international literary norms (linguistically), in the text, he has not falsified the tradition he has transformed into the English language. Rather, he has been able to bridge the gap between the local color variety and the appropriate English language diction suitable to the characters and themes he depicts. The essay also contends that linguistic innovations in Fatoba’s stories offer an outlet for creativity in language and put a new life into the imported language. The paper is concluded by suggesting that in this age of globalization, African writers cannot afford to deny their works of wide readership; therefore, they should consider the appropriation and reconstitution of English as a medium of African literature."

Kehinde specifies that "important cultural habits and geo-political phenomena (greetings, abuses, curses, foods, dresses, fauna and florae) are expressed and typified in a non-native tongue (English)."

This kind of linguistic analysis of second-language literature is very welcome, but I wish we had more literary analysis, by which I mean that kind that will take into account not just linguistic areas (such as lexicography and syntax) but literary theoretical areas (ideology, literary devices, etc.).

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