Breaking down the language structure The Interpreters

Mohamed Dellal, Mohamed I University, Oujda, Morocco

Note 17 to the author's "The Interpreters' Cultural Politics, Or Soyinka's Postcolonial Otherness"

(see text below and subsequent commentary)

To celebrate, for it was Mathias who made him wait for the interview at all, Sagoe sent him out for been on his first day in office.

"Lock the door, Mathias." He took the bottle from him and filled his mug. "Take the other bottle."

Mathias, embarrassed said, Thank you, sir," and turned to go. "Where do you think you are going? Sit over there, I'm afraid you will have to drink yours from the bottle, I've only one mug."

(a)"Oga, make a go drink my own for canteen."

"What for? I wanted you to drink with me. Or will my presence ruin your drink? I know you are rather sensitive."

Mathias protested his love for Sagoe's company.

"In that case, don't sit on the edge of the chair. Relax, man, what is the matter with you? I want to talk to you."

(b) "Oga, sometimes den go want me for other office. Messenger job for newspaper office no get siddon time."

"As a new man here someone has to show me the ropes. Right?" Mathias nodded. "Well, I intend to monopolize you this morning for that purpose. Drink, Mathias."

"Yes, sah." And Mathias dutifully obeyed.

"And please stop answering me Yessah."

(c) "Yessah. Oh, I sorry, oga."

"That's all right, but don't forget."

(d) "Yessah." (p. 68)

Upon reading the above text, our attention is attracted by the speech of Mathias which includes utterances like "Oga", "den", "iddon", a foreign lexical items by all means; but mostly by the sentence structures of Mathias such as the ones labeled from (a; b; c and d).

The above utterances have a syntactic structure that defies English grammar. It is possible, however, to interface their structures with potential grammatical structures in Nigerian dialects and which have tried to accommodate the English language given the long colonial history they shared. The strength of such a statement comes from the examples such as:

(a)"Oga, make a go drink my own for canteen." which can be transcribed as follows: "I may go and drink my own from a canteen" or this one:

(c) "Yessah. Oh, I sorry, oga." which can be transcribed as follows: "I am sorry" where "am" has disappeared.

Should we apply the Implicational scale mentioned above to the lexicon used by Mathias in the above excerpt, we may have the following broad categories marked by a(+) when utterances are closer to an "acrolect" and by a (-) when in case of a "basilect":

a/ + dis + dat + den + yessah basilect

b/ - Abi, - Oga (These two lexical items are not definitely taken from the lexifier language (English). - Sabba - Siddon- Wetin - go get - go take - I sabbe am - make a go

+ I sorry; + Abi you mean that business of latrines; + drink my own for canteen basilect

So far the levels of distortion sorted out can be categorised as follows: a) Phonetic as the case may be with /d/ for / / as in dis, dat, den; or as the case may be with the aspiration of the schwa in Yessah / jes sa/; b) Lexical as the case may be with the words: abi, oga, which are surely borrowed from some local variety; and: sabba, siddon, wetin which are either utter distortions of possible sources from the lexifier language (English). We can also hazard a guess that the term "iddon" which is given as a word is actually a phrase meaning "itting time" or "resting time". c) Grammatical categories as the case may be with: go get, go take, which I understand are lacking auxiliaries and show excessive use of the item "go" which is also unjustified in the English grammar. Another grammatical category marked with (+), however, is very peculiar in the sense that it shows little distortion as to the structure of the utterances.

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