A SOCIOLINGUISTICS STUDY OF THE KEGITES (PALM WINE DRINKERS CLUB) LANGUAGE.
Afolabi, Olakunle Ayodeji
Department of English
Joseph Ayo Babalola University
This paper examined the sociolinguistic aspect of the language and communication patterns of the Kegites, a.k.a. The Palm wine Drinkers’ Club. The social aspect of the humans in language integration and the language evolved by the Club as an applied linguistic feature were also studied. Data were collected by means of close observation and oral interviews of members of the club. Other aspects of morphology, semantics, lexis and syntax of the club’s language were also examined. The evolution of the language as an interethnic social club was seen as a typical example of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics paradigm. The study also established the notion that language functions as a crass human phenomenon and the need to communicate meaningfully in any given human society. The codes and collocation forms of the language, the interest to communicate amongst members and the fact of the interface between language and situation are so adventurous in the sociolinguistic study of the Kegites Club language. The situation of the club amongst young Nigerian undergraduates in a social setting and the creative niche of members to derive a socially coded language that would be understood by members and non-members alike were also critically looked into.
It is always interesting studying the relationships between language and the society. This is interesting because it is always researchable to look at the obvious relations between language and the situations within which we use it (Oyeleye 2007: iii). Sociolinguistics is the hallmark of the interface(s) between uses of language and the society in which such languages are used (Radford, A. et al; 1999). The human society is clearly distinguished by the languages we use to communicate and as such, sociolinguistics helps focus on the effects of the society on language. The language(s) we speak clearly marks the extent of developmental phenomenon in human race and this calls for the need to question the need for any reason of ill-feelings or bitterness amongst the humans, which often raises the question between two feuding persons: don’t you two speak the same language?
An internet search engine, Dictionary. reference.com, defined language is,
“a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition: the two languages of Belgium; a Bantu language; the French language; the Yiddish language.”
Taking another look at the above definition of language amongst several definitions, we could skim out the clause-common to a people who are of the same community or nation. To put it succinctly, when we say English language, we simply refer to the language spoken by the English people; or in essence the most common language amongst the English people, would obviously be English which inadvertently would also detail the cultures of the English people.By extension, the people evolved and devised language to communicate, transact, express feelings either favourably or otherwise; with regards to the cultures of their society. It is also felt that since we could express our feelings to one another through language or gesture, there should not have been any reason for humans to engage in any verbal or physical assault. Psychologists believed that perhaps the animals could not have been fighting one another if they could speak, but however the psychologists could not unravel why humans that could speak still misunderstand each other and at times even degenerate to physical combat or wars.
Language should not only be seen in terms of voice and communication, but also as a form of identity, that is why the Yoruba people could be identified with their languages and also we could psychologically place a Yoruba person even when he speaks English or French. Accent, an article of language, which is often marked by difference in sound of pronunciation, particularly often associated with regional dialect always marks out the identity of a speaker, this is in tandem with Radford et al( 1997) that sociolinguistics is the study of relationship between language use and the structure of the society. Part of the structure is accent, dialects, idiolects, code etc. However, language functions amongst mankind can never be underestimated. Even those who can not speak because of some physiological defects have been so developed that they can “speak” amongst themselves meaningfully by the use of signs, which is linguistically described as semiotic and in communication study as instructional communication, the language of expression amongst the mutes (deaf and dumb) is also called, sign language. Also looking at Wikipedia’s definition of language, it is described as a particular kind of system for encoding and decoding information; and this sounds very apt in the course of this study. Encoding and Decoding are variables of sending and receiving information and these exchanges are rooted within the social context of the people involved in the language system.(http://onlymase.8k.com)
The Kegites Club
The Kegites Club or the Palm wine Drinkers Club is the most popular socio-cultural group in the Nigerian tertiary institutions. Reportedly, the club’s membership is the largest and boasts of about 110,000 members both within Nigeria and other parts f Africa, Europe and the United States of America.. The Club started in the 1960s, exactly in 1962 at the Ibadan Campus of the then University of Ife. The campus where the club began is the present location of The Ibadan Polytechnic.
According to the website of a campus branch club of the Kegites, the history of the club was traced to then University of Ife, Ile Ife, and now Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU): It was their pastime to always converge and imbibe (drink) palmwine every evening after a hard day work when the ideal of forming a socio-cultural club dawned on them, all these happened while they were still at Ibadan campus, specifically at mother shine (poly site) then after, the ideal blossomed and officer were appointed and the president was agreed to be called a chief as in tradition African setting, Professor Olusegun Adeshina was the first to be coronated. The need to for recreation necessitated the establishment of the society and with the setting on a tertiary institution campus, it is expected that it would look like a typical aristocratic elitist club, but that was not to be as the club later on involved students, workers and anybody wanting to belong. The Kegites Klub is typically a gown to town phenomenon, as would-be members are easily drawn from all corners of the society. Members of the public are welcomed into the society and honoured as Senior Life Fellows and Life Fellows.
The club was also founded to promote the African culture and to foster friendship among youths of institutions of higher learning and from 1962 to date the club had grown and extended beyond Nigerian shores and members are now found in the United Kingdom and the USA, Canada and other African nations. This information was gathered from the oral interviews conducted with members of the club during the field work of this study; also certain information on the internet on the club’s influence in overseas countries like the UK and the USA were traceable to some websites of the overseas club.
The evolution of the Kegites Language
We would look at some language formation components that helped make up the Kegites language as presented in this segment.
Borrowing is one of the properties of language. With language being a system of conventionalised symbols, borrowing is imminent in the Kegites language. Borrowing as the term implies, means, taking or lending from a certain language to another language structure. There is virtually no language that does not borrow or lend from another. This form of acquisition cuts across various languages, as there is virtually no language that does not borrow from one another (Radford et al, 1997). The Kegites borrowed from any available language just to suit the purpose of the borrowing and communication purpose. The word, Kegites for example, is coined from keg and the suffix- ite, is conjugated to derive a meaning that members of the group are described as such. Keg is an English word for a container and this was transferred to keg or gourd of palmwine.
The club also borrowed from French, the French word- ilya, indicating place is used to describe each setting of the club in various campus. The Kegite language borrows from any culture it finds suitable to any situation that could communicate its intentions. Another example is the names given to gender analysis in the club, for instance, ladies are referred to as okpeke, apparently borrowed from Nigeria’s South-South Region of either Edo or Delta States, men are okpaka-, also ladies could randomly be referred to as gboyen, chikito, omo, omoge, yanriyan, mata, but generally okpeke is the main register for ladies in the club.
Like every other languages, the Kegites have employed borrowing to beef up their language structure and from Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, French and self coined words, the Kegites continued to acquire new words from other languages and cultures to communicate. However, there is a setback in communication because of varying cultures; an example is an expression in the Kegites to express financial corruption. This expression was sourced from the Nigerian culture in the late 19070s when a huge amount of money was allegedly stolen by some officials in Oil and Gas Industry, precisely from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The amount was 2.8 million naira and you often find Kegites say, someone was accused of ‘N2.8m’, someone not in Nigeria at about the time of the offence would not know the exact import of the expression or often times when the national anthem of the club is about to be rendered, the songito (song leader) would shout either “2.8m or EFCC” a very wise-crack pun just to elicit fun and the club’s disdain for wrong doing. EFCC is the acronym for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, a government agency that investigates all charges of financial crime in Nigeria, the communication faux pas here is that, someone not familiar with Nigeria’s politics may not really understand, but to Nigerians and those familiar with the culture, it presents a very comical expression to such people.
Another central language property, known as arbitrariness, also featured in Kegites language. Arbitrariness in language means the conventionality ascribed to word formations. The word, word for instance was arbitrarily agreed upon and could be traced to either borrowing from another language or outright arbitrariness. For example, pluralities are arbitrarily added as another suffix, like suffix, –is. The English word, ‘day’ in Kegite Club is pluralized as ‘daysis’, instead of- days- in English Language. The Kegites language also targets the use of comedy or fun while forming the language. Another attribute in Kegites Club is the use of Pun, as a figure of speech. Pun is a clever way or humorous use of a word that has more than one meaning. The Kegites make use of puns a lot to drive home meanings of their language. The head of the Club in each centre (Ilya) is called –Chiefe, coined or borrowed from the English word-, chief. The secretary is called –feather, apparently derived from the feathers attached to pens used in the colonial days, the song leader is called songito or the cricket, and the drummers are ‘drummitos’, while chorus is referred to as ECOWAS. ECOWAS in actual sense is an acronym for Economic Community of West African States, however, the first three letters of ECO is expressed to mean ECHO, which the choristers should sing along by echoing along the lead singer-the songito.
The Communication Aspect of the Kegites language.
Communication is a process of sending information across to the receiver with intent that the receiver comprehends the message sent across. Inspite of arbitrariness of the Kegites language, the universality of comprehension amongst the teeming members of the club is amazing. This supports Sapir, cited by Babatunde and Sobomehin (2007:149) that culture and language are inseparable and that “members of the society express their thoughts and ideas to one another supports the anthropological view that basic differences existing in the thought process of individuals give rise to a diversity of patterns of a body of knowledge for each society”.
Non members who are smart and current with ongoing affairs in the society could easily understand the Kegites language whenever members are ‘vibrating’. Vibrating, in Kegites language means, speaking or talking. This also clarifies the notion of sociolinguistics as the study of relationships between the society and language. The society can not be detached from the society.
Languages in Contact
It is very difficult to classify the Kegites language as indigenous. This is because the languages are clipped and borrowed from English, French, Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo, there are some words that you can not really classify to any language. The word like chief, for example is- ‘chefe’, / /. The Kegite language also permit and parades a great deal of code-mixing and code switching and yet, communication is achieved because the language users make use of non-verbal communication cues while ‘vibrating’.
Bilingualism and multilingualism are major players in Kegite language, bilingualism, the act of speaking or making use of two languages proficiently is very chacteristic of the Kegites, thus elements of mixing codes or switching of these codes come to play during use. Words like, ‘bembestic’ ‘’çarried’’ ‘carriability’’, ‘’ jumbocious’ to mention a few are typical examples of code-mixing and code-switching stemming from bilingualism. From the make-up of the Kegites Language, it is a derivative of Pidgin and pidgin-like in its structure, formation and use. Pidgin is a form of language used for internal communication purpose, and looking at the formation of the Kegites language, we could see an amalgam of words from various cultures that could elicit meaning within the members of the club or the society.
Creative Niche to Speech Community
It was also discovered that in connection with language arbitrariness, pun, borrowing and other language properties, creative niche is another make-up of the Kegites language. Members are somehow inspired to contribute some use of words into the Kegites lexicon and as time goes on such personal contributions become language agendas that are added to the language. An example of such contribution is the creative funny use of AB, to describe something present, current or on-going. This was derived from the normal use of prefix,–ex, to depict former or something out of use or not currently in state. Meanwhile, the English prefix, ex, is creatively used in Kegites language as XYZ, so instead of saying. ‘former chief’, the Kegites would say, ‘XYZ chiefe’ and instead of saying the current chief, the palmwine drinkers club members would say, ‘AB Chiefe”. During one of the FGDs, members countered that such uses emanated from brilliant creative uses of words and eventually with frequent usage, such coinages become conventional normal uses and they spread though all the shrines and territories of the Kegites Club. These arbitrary uses of words have helped metamorphosed the Kegites language into a speech community, wherein we have a group of people using a language in a unique and mutually accepted way amongst themselves. (Wikipedia.com)
This study is theoretically hinged on Language Contact theory of Craig, C.C., which states that languages evolve through either language drift, language shift and/or language replacement. This study with the help of this theory was able to look at the evolution of language and the extent of achieving communication through language properties like, borrowing, drift, shift, code-mixing, code-switching etc in order to bring about language usage and achieving purposes of language either to inform, direct or to express certain feelings.
Interviews and Focus Group Discussions in the natural habitat of the members of the ‘Supremost Comradions’’ (the Kegites) were held to derive data of this study. This setting, also called –The Shrine was preferred because the subjects who are also the real informants of this study could only be made to elicit the information and facts needed in this study, thus enabling the purposive sampling of achieving the main objectives of this study.
Codification and Language
The form of language that the Kegites speak is not a typical variety of Nigerian English, however, it has its roots in English; and this is evidently traceable to the fact that English is Nigeria’s lingua franca. With English as a major form of communication on Nigerian campuses and in the Nigerian life, there is tendency for English playing a role in the entire make-up of the Kegites language. Other Nigerian languages and even other languages like French and Pidgin as contact languages play prominently in the make-up of the Kegites language. This language foray achieved by the Kegites by evolving their own language and with codes and symbols in place to make room for a codified language structure, should be parts of the influences that would help in the codification process of the Nigerian English.
The codification of the Nigerian English should take a cue from the Kegites Language in the due process that would elicit the goal of achieving the codification process.
Presentation of Data
Some of the data collected for this study are highlighted in this section to drive at the main thrusts of this study on language evolution and determination of the communicability of the Kegite language.
Examples of expressions in Kegites language are stated in this section as recorded during interviews, discussions and observations, the English equivalent or actual meaning are also provided to ascertain the communicability of the expressions.
Expression 1: Supremost Comradion
English Meaning: Most Supreme Comrades
The expression above is a salutation of members usually made by an initiator of conversation to call members to attention. Supremost-is taken from the English word-Supreme, while most is also the same as expressed in English, while comradion is a corruption of the word-comrade. The actual English meaning is a salutation that could be expressed as most distinguished comrades or Uppermost Comrades, there is nothing in English lexicon like either supremost or comradion.
Expression 2: Lanlaturukus, or whaeveringa magogos up
Response : Ile lo mbos, or must surely gbosmentua down
English Meaning: Whatever goes up?
Response: Must come down.
The second expression is rooted from the proverbs available in both African and European contexts and cultures. The popular proverb, ‘whatever goes up, must come down” is being expressed in a corrupted Yoruba proverb: lala to roke, ile lo mbo, the same translation of the English proverb, but here the Yoruba corruption of lala to roke is expressed as lanlaturukus, while the response or the completion of the proverb, corrupted as –ile lombos, is the corrupted version of the Yoruba phrase, ile lo mbo, in English-must come down, we could note the suffix-s, in lombo-s, just to make it sound English and to really complement the essential Kegite language flavour. Whateveringa in English is –what ever; the suffix-ringa, is typical Kegite’s creation or arbitrary use of suffix, just created to add fun and colour to the language. Gbosmentua is also a kind of pidgin, it is neither English or any typical traceable language to any culture, but just a word to express anything that comes or fall down with a force; the word,” gbo” in the African culture is an exclamation to express something hitting the ground in fall.
Expression 3: Okpekerization is brutally carried.
English Meaning: Fraternising with ladies is allowed.
Okpekerization is a clipping of two words, Okpeke, probably from South-South Nigeria or just a coincidental coinage to represent females, while the suffix-rization, is derived from English. Okpekerization could also mean a man having an intimate affair with a woman, while the phrase ‘’brutally carried’ is an exaggerative expression to say, the practice is allowed or normal. In actual sense, the word- carried is often written-karid, with the first ‘ka’’ expressed /kei/.
Expression 4: Songitos, drummitos, e gbe kankan
Response to expression 4: awareee
English Meaning: Singers and Drummers, be smart
Songitos means the singers in the Kegites band, coined from song, and the-itos, could also be traced to Italian connection, same for dummitos, meaning drummers, coined from drum and the ‘itos’’, also a kind of Spanish/Italian affliation. Meanwhile, ‘e gbe kankan’ is an old use for -be smart or hurry up- in Yoruba, ‘awaree’ as a response is a corruption of the English, -aware, that is they( drummitos and songitos) are aware and up to the task of making the music smart and not drab. However, an interesting feature of the English word-aware, is very close to the way it is pronounced in Kegitical fashion as – awa ree, meaning, we are here, which is related to the English word-aware.
Analysis and Discussion
Besides, speech making and speaking the Kegites language, music is also another paradigm of study in the Palmwine Drinkers Club. From the national anthem of the club to other songs either sourced from folklores, hymns and other religious songs to conventional forms of music like hip-hop afro, jazz etc, the use of language in these songs composed to reflect all levels of language formation like borrowing, drift, shift and other forms are typical examples of language in contact particularly when used beyond the shores of the origin of language, Nigeria. It was discovered that non-Nigerian members quite understood various indigenous words clipped into the Kegite language. The Kegite anthem inspired from a church hymnal has its opening with ‘imbibe, imbibe in majesty’ an adaptation of the popular Easter song, ‘ride on, ride on in majesty’. Imbibe, an English word means drink in Kegites; Kegites do not use the verb- drink- for palmwine or other beverage, but rather, imbibe. Some of the ‘vibrations’ have its roots in English though, an apparent feature in achieving comprehension in a multi-linguistic setting like Nigeria with over 450 indigenous languages and still counting. Words like ‘pour’ or phrases like ‘marry the ground’ are freely used and amongst the ethnic varieties of Nigeria these two expressions are quite understood by Nigerians who could speak English, yet the expressions could mean something else within the Kegites lexicon. For example, pour, could simply mean to pour palmwine; one of the executives in the club is called, ‘pourer’, who pours the wine for the High Chief or –Chefe, and when the pourer is asked to ‘’pour brutally’, the use of –brutally- indicates that he should pour the wine either quickly or as matter of extra urgency. We could see the indication of the word, brutally in actual English meaning. The other expression, ‘marry the ground’, means one should lie prostrate.
For further analysis, the table below shows a collection of some Kegitical terms:
Table 1: An analysis of some selected Kegites use of club language
Source of Origin
Karid-corrupted from the English word-Carried, while Chefe, adapted from Chief.
English & Yoruba
Wo-Yoruba for break. Bed-English
Mo-suffix and originated from Latin
English and Yoruba
Bembe, a type of Yoruba Drum and stic-English suffix
Table 2: Below is a recorded chant in one of the sessions (Prayermus-gyrations) of the club.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
LAN LA TO RE KE — ILE LONBUS
SUNKRUMUS —- RERAMUS
Okpekes and Okpakas
If u fire me, i will water u.
Prayermus is a prayer meeting session in the Kegites Club where members gathered to wish themselves well particularly during national celebrations like the Independence Day or whenever examinations are about to commence or when the academic session is about to close. Gyration is a Kegite word for a party or a feast.
Table 3: Another ‘vibration’ culled from www.kegitesclub.co.uk
Supremost Comradium, may our das6 be long, dis is d voice n vision of Chief Ike Okere d A.B. Chief Kegites Club Ilya du Queen, that is 2 say Chief of Univeristy of East London.
Chiefesis n Fello6s remain u’rself, i came across dis odo via palm wine’s divine intervention, indeed d gods a really wise.
2 d comradosis that is 2 say non- members who fired that Kegites is a secret cult or drunkards, we are not secret cult neither a we drunkers, palm wine which is our symbol was adopted simply because it was d only African product that has not been adultrated. I hope dis answers u’r question.
On d issue of an Ilya in New York pls romance me bader bader 4 assistance.
May u all walk n never 2 jam katakata.
U’rs in h20
Chief Ike Okere
A.B. Chief Kegites Club Ilya Du Queen
The speech act above exemplifies the paradigm shift of using borrowed languages from French and use of chemistry symbols like H20 to describe palm wine and use of figures in between words to communicate. It also showcases the concept of sociolinguistics over dialectology. The Kegites use of language is not just a dialect, that is not limited to a stereotype geographical setting, the speech act above was made in the United Kingdom’s setting of the Kegites, reading through the speech act, one can see that it does not reflect any particular dialectal setting, but could easily be understood by anyone reading it; this is also a typical of example of the concept of globalization in language and linguistics. (Egbokhare and Kolawole, 2006)
The Supremos Comradion’s (another name of the Club) Language is also a typical study of Pragmatics in language. Mey (1995:8) states that “pragmatics studies the use of language in human communication as determined by the conditions of society”. The Kegites Club, Palmwine Drinkers Club or Supremos Comradion are various names of the club and in tandem with Mey, this club uses language to communicate and even makes use of gestures to express feelings as determined by the given conditions of the society. The Club has its own peculiar way of handshake. The index finger is stretched forward to the other fellow, the fingers are clasped together to make a sound; and this handshake is a universal way of greetings in all the club settings.
This study discusses the linguistic behaviour of mankind as a sociolinguistic performance in which man evolves a means of expression in order to achieve communication. We were able to locate the relationships of various language forms and social interaction in Language. No matter the evolution of any language and their different patterns, we were able to discover that the syntactic or grammartic analysis are featured, the place of subject, predicator, compliment and adjunct are also conspicuously presented as seen in some certain Kegites expressions.
Sociolinguistics, as the study of language in social contexts, highlights the various relationships that exist between language, the users and the contexts of usage (Bello, 2007). This study is thus relevant to the study of sociolinguistics with regards to the evolution of the Palmwine Drinkers Club and the beauty of the language and the user’s means of expression, known as vibration, which is being noted as an accepted means of expression, particularly amongst the students on campus and the eagerness of even non-members of the club to learn or make use of the language. During the FGD, we raised the issue of documentation and lexicography of the Kegite Language; the group considered this innovation in order to have a place for grammar and lexicon of the language and with the collection of some term and terminologies to form a glossary, the idea was considered good.
In all, this study emphasized the importance of language and communication in the society and the relationship between language forms and social interaction and that even without much literacy of a particular language, its use and efficiency still impacts on the society, going by the language’s communicability.
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