HISTORICOLINGUISTIC STUDY OF CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE IN THE TIVOID LANGUAGES PHYLUM

HISTORICOLINGUISTIC STUDY OF CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE IN THE TIVOID LANGUAGES PHYLUM

ABSTRACT

This study examined convergence and divergence among the Tivoid languages phylum from the historicolinguistic perspective. The study was based on four selected Tivoid languages, namely: Tiv and Utank in Nigeria, Oliti and Ugare in Cameroun. The purpose was to ascertain the linguistic connection between the Tivoid in Nigeria and their counterparts in Cameroun and determine the degree of divergence or convergence among the languages. The specific objectives of the study are to examine: (i) convergence among the selected languages using lexical cognates, (ii) mutual intelligibility among the selected languages, (iii) divergence among the selected languages and (iv) the factors responsible for convergence and divergence among the selected languages. Applying the framework of lexicostatistics, a 200-item wordlist was elicited from each of the languages using the Swadesh wordlist. The Recorded Text Testing (RTT) was conducted across the selected languages to provide the data for mutual intelligibility test. In addition, oral interview was conducted to provide additional linguistic and sociolinguistic information needed to complement the data obtained from the wordlists and the RTT. Probable cognates were selected from the comparative wordlists using “inspection method”, while the analysis was done using percentages and standard deviation to determine similarities and dissimilarities. The result showed that there was low percentage of lexical cognates/similarity which is an indication of apparent divergence among the selected languages. This is affirmed by the listing of the selected Tivoid languages on the ethnologue as separate languages in spite of the perceived similarities at the morpho-phonological level. Divergence in the Tivoid languages is both internally and externally motivated resulting in shift or change in the languages. The internal triggers are from internal pressures independent of external interference. The externally motivated change results from non-linguristic pressures especially migration and contact. In both cases, the resultant effect was convergence with or divergence from the dominant language. The mutual intelligibility test indicated low intelligibility among the speakers of the selected Tivoid languages. There was also high level of bilingualism involving Tiv, Utank, Oliti and Ugare as a result of high social network within these speech communities.