For complete project materials and assignments call us with +2348127963962

Watch Word

Treat every human being with the fear of God believing that we are all from the same source and in that same source we will all return to give account of our earthly dealings with one another

Friday, September 18, 2020

Igbo Mother Tongue Interference in Tenses and English Language Usage among Secondary Schools Students


1.1 Background to the study

Igbo language has so many dialects that it even affects the teaching and learning of indigenous languages in our schools.  Indigenous languages are being advised to be taught but because we have so many dialects the teachers teaching might not know the indigenous language of where he or she is teaching.  Again there may be students from different areas in a particular place with different dialects.  The Igbo dialect situation has for long been seen as too vast and complex, as such defy serious systematic linguistic analysis.  There are people who believe that practically, every village has its own distinct dialect.  It is projected that more than 300 dialects exist in Igbo language.  Dialect is any variety of a language spoken by a group of people that is characterized by systematic differences from other varieties of the same language (Odo, 2006:1). 

          Some Igbo speakers or writers of English as a second language tend to apply the grammatical rules of Igbo to their use of English.  Instances of Cross-linguistic influences abound as some speakers, even combine L1 rules that is mother tongue rules with those of L2 (second language) (idea from Afangideh2004).

          In trying to solve these problems, there are some variables that should be in place like class exposure that is SS11 being more mature educationally than SS1 and SSI more mature than JS1.  Also gender (female and male) may influence students’ control of the grammatical rules of English language either positively or negatively. It is to find out if these variables gender and school exposure have any influence in the use of tense and aspect patterns of Igbo language on English usage.

          In discussing tense and aspect, every language has its tense and aspect systems.  The systems cannot be transferred from one language to another.  Though there is a distinction between them in languages yet they go together in a sentence.  The tense and aspect are deeply rooted in verbs.  The most outstanding characteristic of English verbs is that they indicate tense.

          Tense as posits by Oji (1988) is the “form that a verb takes to show the time of an action”.  ‘Tense deals with the relationship between the actions conveyed in the verb and time it happened. For these reasons only two tenses are distinguished in English.  These are Present and Past tense (in study).

          As gathered from the research, there are, however, ways verbs indicate future actions.  As a result some grammarians also include the future tense as part of the English tense system.

Quirk (1973) assertion of the future seems to support what have been said so far about the future.  He says:


There is no obvious future tense in English corresponding to the time/tense relation for present and past.  Instead there are several possibilities for denoting future time.  Futurity, modality, and aspect are closely related, and future time is rendered by means of modal auxiliaries or semi-auxiliaries, or by simple present forms or progressive forms (p. 57).


          Aspect, for Oji (1988) is the form or the category of the verb which shows inception, duration or continuity or completion.  Two aspects are found in English and they are ‘progressive aspect’ which is indicated by a verb form ‘be’ and ‘perfective aspect’ that consists of the verb form ‘have’.  Also, Quirk (1973) says “aspect concerns the manner in which the verbal action is experienced or regarded (for example as completed or in progress)”.

          Emenanjo (1978) posits that “Tense as a grammatical category is marginal in Igbo verbal system.  This is why there is no present future and consistent past markers in Igbo”.  Emenanjo in Essien (1991) says that:


The three ways tense distinction favoured by the ancients, formalized and rationalized by Comrie (1985) and relevant to Ibibio (Essien 1983) does not appear to hold in Igbo.  The one absolute tense that is clearly marked in (all dialects of) Igbo is past.  If ‘future’ is treated as tense rather than mood, then, future is the other well – marked tense in Igbo (p. 129).


In Igbo language as well as in English language tense brings about changes in the verb forms in relation to time of action.  Emenanjo (1987) categorized tenses into three.  He categorized the Present tense with the marker – na + verb as in –

Ọ na – esi nri n’ezi.

She is cooking outside.

‘- na’ is also the progressive verb form marker.  The Past tense with the marker ‘ – rV’ or ‘ – LV’ as in

          O jere/gara Aba.

          He went to Aba.

‘- CV’ is mainly the past perfective marker where V is any vowel E.g.

          Ngozi a sala akwa ahụ.

          Ngozi has washed the cloth.

The future tense with the marker ga + verb and this result in future affirmative or – ma + verb resulting in future negative (depending on the dialect or ‘ghi’ after ‘ga’) as in

          Obi ga-abia

          Obi will come. (Affirmative)

          Obi ama abia or

          Obi a gaghi abia

          Obi will not come. (Negative).

- ga is also unfulfilled verb form marker.  This study is trying to show how Igbo tense and aspect patterns or Igbo tense and aspect affect or interfere in English language usage.

          In discussing ‘Tense’, reference should be made to the traditional grammar where ‘Tense’ had three sub-divisions: ‘Past’, ‘Present’ and ‘Future’ (Obidike, 1992:18).

Past Tense: This locates the time of speaking to some other time which is prior to the moment of speaking.

Present Tense: The reference is simultaneous with the moment of speaking.  Langacker in Obidike (1992) however, suggests that the English Present tense describes usual or habitual activities rather than activities concurrent with the utterance of the sentence. In other words, to explain why action taking place at the time of any utterance, the English ‘Present Tense’ is used in line with the Aspect marker ‘be…ing’,

Example –

          We are singing now. ‘are being the marker ‘be’ plus ‘ing’ in the verb sing.

Future Tense: This explains the situation yet to occur. In English, the future marker ‘will’might as well as be regarded as a modal auxiliary rather than a tense marker and that English exhibits a distinction between past and non-past.

          In Igbo the essential characteristics of the category of ‘Tense’ is that it relates the time of the action, event or state of affair referred to in the sentence to the time of utterance.  So far, it would not be sufficient to accept the traditionalist belief of the three sub-divisions of tenses as a universal feature of all languages. This is to say that it is not all languages that have the three sub-divisions of tenses

1.2 Statement of the Problem

          There are problems which arise in reading or writing when tenses are misused or misplaced.  One of such problems is incongruity.  As soon as tenses and aspects are misplaced in any spoken or written expression, the expression becomes distorted and incongruous (Anawonah, 1999:4).  Wrong use of ‘tenses’ causes a lot of problems to both spoken and written English.  It makes the listener or reader of one’s work not to understand when the action in question is taking place or has taken place etc. Example-

I eatthe food and it isso nice.  Is she implying that she is presently eating the food or she has eaten it before that time?

          The wrong use of tense has been a thing of worry over the years as the WAEC Chief Examiner’s report (2002) both from the General comments and candidates performance noted that generally the performance of the candidates was disappointing especially in the area of Expression and Mechanical Accuracy. One aspect mentioned was – wrong use of tense.For example-

(i) The sickness was in her body for the past four months. – Instead of hasbeen

(ii) I write yesterday – Instead of wrote.


1.3 Purpose of the Study

          The main purpose of the study is to find out the interference of Igbo tense and aspect patterns in English language usage among secondary school students in Abuja Municipal Areas Council. Specifically this study is set out to:


i.                   Identify the patterns of Igbo tense and English tense that interfere.

ii.                 Identify the patterns of Igbo aspect and English aspect that interfere.

iii.              State the similarities of Igbo tense pattern and English.

iv.              State the differences of Igbo tense pattern and English.

v.                 Identify areas of difficulties arising from the differences.

vi.              Identify the rules of sequences of tense operating in Igbo and English languages.

vii.            Find out the influence of gender on the errors committed by the students.

viii.         Find out the influence of school exposure or school experience on the errors committed by the students.


No comments:

Post a Comment