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Egbunu, Fidelis Eleojo. Language Problem in African Philosophy: The Igala Case
2014, Journal of Educational and Social Research. 4 (3): 363-371.
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Added by: Sara Peppe and Björn Freter
Abstract: The Language Question is a very central subject of discourse in African Philosophy. This is consequent upon the fact that the essence of language in philosophy cannot be gainsaid. Language, as it were, is culture bound. As such, to deny a people of their language is to deny them their cultural heritage. While applying the descriptive and analytic method in this work, it is contended that language plays not only a catalyzing role in the art of philosophizing but that it occupies an inalienable place in philosophy. Again, that since philosophy is more or less about resolving “conceptual cramps” or “bottle-necks”, indigenous languages should be given a pride of place over and against their foreign counterparts because of the obvious epistemological advantages embedded therein (especially in mother-tongues). It is submitted here that a lot of homework need to be done in terms of advocacy and development on the low status of such languages so as to meet up with the international standard and nature of the discipline. Meanwhile, the need for using a language that engenders understanding across ethnic barriers alongside the language of the environment is being advocated as a short-term measure. This is not without sounding a caveat that such a transfer of knowledge which is often fraught with some degree of adulteration via the instrument of translation, though practicable, is far from being the ideal. It is on this token the opinions of experts such as Barry Hallen, Quine and a host of others on Methods of Ordinary Language Philosophy and Indeterminacy, respectively are being advanced as plausible means of meeting the challenges before us. In this manner, while using the Igala language of Central Nigeria as a case study, it is finally submitted that it is possible to have what we might term authentic African Philosophy emerging from a systematic analysis of our traditional worldviews.

Comment (from this Blueprint): This paper examines the issue of language in African Philosophy and highlights that language and culture are closely linked. Indeed, in paragraph 2, Egbonu studies the term “language”, underlining that language has to do with people’s identity and culture. Also, the author explains that language has a crucial role in philosophising, with African indigenous languages that should have a major role in African philosophy since it expresses the cultural heritage of African people. Egbunu focuses on the case of Igala people, where the meaning of the words they use is not the same when we translate them. But, Egbunu also underlines that language is not the only way to determine what should be considered authentic African philosophy. Indeed, it is argued that language does not determine whether African philosophy is authentic or not. Instead, authentic African philosophy is the philosophy applied to the conceptual issues of the African experience.

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