Identity and Borrowing among Sierra Leonean Refugees in Oru Camp, Nigeria

Osita Nwagbo


The concern of this study is to examine the manifestations of identity through borrowings among Liberian refugees in Oru camp, in the course of interaction. This is with a view to delineating the identities they projected in relation to their indigenous languages, Yoruba (the host community language), Pidgin, and English. The Ethno linguistic Identity Theory was used as guide while participant observation was adopted to elicit data from 30 adult respondents. The result revealed several socio-cultural borrowings mainly from Yoruba, as well as from the indigenous languages of the respondents (Menda, Temne, Limba). These borrowings involved lexical items related to food, medicine, drinks, socio-cultural relationships, etc. The study also revealed that code borrowing among the respondents was motivated by lack of vocabulary, the need to use a more fitting word, and the quest for comparison among cultural elements between two cultures. The trajectory of the borrowings was mainly from pidgin and English to indigenous languages. Despite the momentary nature of these borrowings, the result revealed that the respondents identified with Yoruba to a little degree. Additionally, the use of cultural words from their indigenous languages showed that they were still emotionally connected to their culture, despite the number of years they had spent in the camp. Generally, the result indicates that Liberian refugees in Oru camp were bilinguals and manifest multiple linguistic identities and in this way underlined their psychological belonging to multiple spheres and groups in the camp. However, the pattern or trajectory of their borrowing revealed that they identified more with English and Pidgin, and less with their indigenous languages, and least with Yoruba, the language of the host community. It is recommended that refugees should identify more with their indigenous languages and the host community language for reasons of language vitality, inclusion and the benefits of diversity. Keywords: refugees, linguistic identity, code switching, Face, ethno linguistics.

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