The Misuse Of The English Articles In Selected Nigerian Newspapers

The Misuse Of The English Articles In Selected Nigerian Newspapers


The English article system is a complex system that is nevertheless indispensable for users of English. The articles perform several important functions and aid greatly in the art of communication. Despite this indisputable importance of the English articles, Nigerian newspapers misuse them to a great degree. It is a fact that newspapers are extremely useful learning tools to students and the general public. However, Nigerian newspapers fail to live up to the high standard expected of them. In spite of this aberration, studies on the misuse of the English articles by Nigerian newspapers have been particularly rare. The aim of this is to assess the misuse of the English articles by Nigerian newspapers. The study attempts to answer research questions such as: In what manner do the print media deviate from established grammatical uses of articles?To what extent are the articles misused?To what extent does the misuse of the English articles inhibit effective communication in Nigerian newspapers?To what degree does the misuse of the English articles disconnect the relationship between nouns and articles? What are the reasons for the wrong use of the English articles by newspapers in Nigeria?In order to answer these questions, the researcher carried out an in-depth library research. The population for the study is all Nigerian newspapers, and the researcher selected a total of six editions from three national newspapers: two of each. The data analysis showed that errors in the misuse of the English articles are prevalent in Nigerian newspapers, and these errors hamper effective communication. These findings suggest the necessity of employing better writers and editors on the part of the newspaper houses. The study concludes with suggestions for further research.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

Background to the Study

Statement of the Problem

Purpose of the Study

Scope and Limitations of the Study

Significance of the Study

Research Questions

CHAPTER TWO: Review of Relevant Literature

Conceptual Framework

2.1.1 The English Articles Uses of the Definite Article Uses of the Indefinite Articles The Zero Article - The Stylistic Functions of the English Articles The Role of Semantic Features in the Acquisition of the English Articles

2.1.2 A Brief History of English in Nigeria

2.1.3 Writing and Newspapers in Nigeria

2.2 Theoretical Framework

2.3 Empirical Studies -

CHAPTER THREE: Methodology

3.1 Research Design

3.2 Area of study

3.3 Population

3.4 Sample

3.5 Data Collection

3.6 Method of Data Analysis

CHAPTER FOUR: Data Presentation and Analysis

4.1 Data Presentation

4.2 Data Analysis

CHAPTER FIVE: Discussion of Results and Conclusion

5.1 Discussion of Results

5.2 Summary

5.3 Recommendations

5.4 Conclusion

5.5 Suggestions for Further Studies

Works Cited

Appendix -


1.1 Background to the Study

English is accepted as the official language, a second language (L2) as well as a restricted lingua franca in Nigeria. English in Nigeria is not acquired in a native speaker environment so learners undergo more difficulties than native speakers do in acquiring the language. Mother tongue interference alongside a learner’s socio-cultural background contributes immensely to the difficulties encountered in learning the language.

The English language is not a native Nigerian language. It is a legacy of British colonisation. The language was introduced by British administrators and missionaries. English was adopted as the official language of Nigeria during the period of colonisation. However, it must be noted that English existed in Nigeria in one form or the other even before Nigeria officially became a British colony. Activities like slave trade, coastal trade, and the abolition of slave trade led to the implantation of the English language in Nigeria. Freed slaves that had learnt the language to an extent served as interpreters, messengers and clerks and even introduced the language to members of their family. According to

Dadzie and Awonusi, “some of these Nigerians, particularly the Yorubas locally known as Akus in SierraLeone, returned to their villages where they were known as saros and Krios, and freely used the English language in their new settlements”(53). The English language is the only language that has been generally accepted officially in Nigeria today. It has really broken language barriers between interactants from various ethnic and linguistic groups. As the official language in Nigeria, the English language is the language of the media, education, politics, et cetera. It is the commonest used language in the Nigerian media i.e. both the print and electronic media and it has been nativized, naturalized and domesticated to suit our socio-cultural context.

Over the years, English has garnered a silent hostility by Nigerians because it was never freely adopted as the official language. The circumstances surrounding its imposition are well known. The long-term deleterious effects of this national attitude are only beginning to show on the linguistic horizon.

According to Ikkideh:

English is not taken half as seriously as it was twenty years ago-in vain, we blame poor teachers of English, lazy students, inadequate, textbooks and educated, the grammatical use of the language is today the exception rather than the rule. (qtd. in Unoh 16)

Because English is in most cases learnt rather than acquired in Nigeria, there are instances of L1 interference in the English of the majority of Nigerians. For example, in written communication, even though certain wordscan be omitted from a sentence i.e. ellipsis, words that are necessary for the effective communication of clear meanings are never omitted in Standard English. One such class of words that should never be omitted in Standard English is the article. The word “article” is derived from the Latin word “articulus” which means “joint”. Articles are classified as grammatical words and they refer to determiners which play the primary role of differentiating the uses of nouns. Articles belong to a small group of important little elements but they exert a great deal of influence in the contexts where they are used. As a matter of fact, the classification and syntactic function of a word or expression can change with the misuse of an article. Articles are placed before nouns, and they determine whether the nouns referred to are specific in nature or general, among other things.

Where an article is wrongly used, the resultant construction is inevitably erroneous. Second language learners of English in Nigeria demonstrate language transfer errors within the English language article system. This is especially evident where the native languages of these learners lack articles. According to Eyisi:

The major error in the use of determiners is mainly with the omission of the definite or indefinite article where it is obligatorily needed. This omission is, no doubt, a result of interference of our mother tongues since most Nigerian Languages do not possess any separate morpheme for the article. (2)

This misuse of the English article is manifest even in the pages of national newspapers in Nigeria. There are several instances of erroneous constructions in Nigerian newspapers that can be traced back to the misuse of articles.

Newspapers are extremely useful learning tools to students and the general public. People that read newspapers have a better awareness of the world around them because they are better informed of the current issues happening around the world. Newspapers are continuous sources of information and education for those who read them, and so, their sentence structures have to be as lucid as possible.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria. The pages of many Nigerian newspapers are replete with various types of errors, prominent among which is the misuse of articles in sentence structures. Every newspaper needs to uphold a very high standard before their varied reading public, as newspapers and journalists are taken to be models of linguistic excellence. Newspapers in Nigeria use the English language in ways that suit them, not minding whether their language use contain structures that contravene grammaticality. If articles are wrongly used, the connection between the noun and the article which defines the meaning of the noun is lost. Generally, these deviations (omissions of English articles) affect comprehension of the whole text. This causes a considerable degree of confusion for speakers and second language learners of the English language.

There have been some studies that attempt to depict the poor standard of English in Nigerian newspapers. However, relatively few studies, if any, have fully focused on the misuse of the English articles in Nigerian newspapers. Also, little has been said about how these errors affect comprehension. These lacunae in knowledge inspired the researcher to carry out this research in order to supplement the knowledge currently available in this field.

Considering the huge importance of the English language both locally and internationally, an urgent need for attention to be paid to the misuse of

the English articles in Nigerian newspaper arises. English is an asset in most facets of life and therefore, a functionally correct knowledge of the language is needed.

The aim of this research is to highlight the alarmingly increasing occurrence and frequency of the misuse of the English articles in our newspaper today.

This study is delimited to the various forms in which the English articles are misused in Nigerian newspapers. Other forms of errors found in Nigerian newspapers are not investigated here. The scope of this study involves exploring the misuse of the English articles in selected Nigerian newspapers. For the purpose of this study, the research will focus on only three widely read newspapers-The Sun, The Vanguard and The Independent.

This research sets out to help users of the English language in various capacities to improve their performances in their use of articles, promote efficiency in the grammar of English, encourage a mastery of the use of English articles, and spring up a general improvement in the proper use of articles. This research makes explicit, those areas where newspaper practitioners deviate from acceptable usage of articles, gives reasons for the aberrations, and also suggests ways of avoiding the errors. This research work will benefit both newspaper readers and journalists by clearly laying out the problems of the wrong use of articles.

The following questions were addressed in the study.

1. In what manner do the print media deviate from established grammatical uses of articles?

2. To what extent are the articles misused?

3. To what extent does the misuse of the English articles inhibit effective communication in Nigerian newspapers?

4. To what degree does the misuse of the English articles disconnect the relationship between nouns and articles?

5. What are the reasons for the wrong use of the English articles by newspapers in Nigeria?

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