alexander opicho

(when dictatorship began / kenya)

African writers have cultural rights to create english words

African Writers Have Cultural Rights to Formulate and Create English Words

Alexander K Opicho
(Eldoret, Kenya;

William Shakespeare appreciated in the literary community of knowers as an English bard remains an intellectual and a literary enigma until today, even if he died three centuries ago. He crafted more than a hundred tragedies and comedies for the English royal theatre of the Victorian times. He had a prowess for literary creativity that went beyond theatre and drama, to enjoy an equivalent domain in sonnets and other genre of poetry.One, unigue lesson about Shakespeare is that he was a mature writer and artist in the environment of young and immature linguistic civilization.
The Elizabethan English of Shakespeare's time did not have each and every word to express and communicate Shakespeare’s imaginative and creative ideas. In this artistic quackmire Shakespeare chose to formulate his own words to achieve a language capable to express his ideas. Among the words Shakespeare created are; leapfrog in Julius ceaser, mercurial in Romeo and Juliet, clown in measure for measure, tapster in merry wives of Windsor, falstaffity in king Lear, bestow in both the tempest and much ado about nothing. The list of words created by Shakespeare cannot be exhausted.All of these Shakespeare‘s words are now adopted and used as standard middle English vocabularies.
This prowess is not lacking among African writters.The are some African literary personalities that enjoy a similar human potential of an artist with shakesprean literary knack. However, contradictions stand on the way of African artists towards Shakespearean big picture. At most, there is lack of cultural freedom, rights and powers to execute literary creativity, especially creativity that has an effect of adjusting current English grammar and diction. Africans; whether, laymen, writers, artists, theater masters and poets have only to use English language in communicating their creativity for their universal recognition. More distressing is that a good African writer must command good knowledge of English words and grammatical rules as recognized in the United Kingdom or North America.
Currently, a Ugandan Musical artiste, Betty Nafuna, in Mbale has formulated the word Brosters, meaning brothers and sisters. The word is flexibly used in a singing parlance. The only short fall is that the word broster may remain in the domain of Ugandan slang English forever and ever but not amen.
The late Chinua Achebe in his Anti hills of the Savanna and Things fall apart, formulated the words; Mad-medico and Ogbanje respectively. Mad -medico means a corrupt civil servant or corruptible public leader, while Ogbanje is a child who is born then dies several times before it is finally born as a human being which can survive to old age. The need for communication in such situations of Achebe beats the current Maturity of English language as a popular sound media for communicating African ideas in art and literature.So, to absolve; a writer has to use a flexible word, which has to be appreciated by English speakers as a blessing, given that there was no previous English word for the purpose. However, this is not readily possible because the originator of the word is not an English man but an African. This type of cultural discrimination is a very wrong intellectual disposition.
Among the legacies of colonialism, adoption of English language as a universal sub-culture stands high above all other legacies. English as a language therefore is no longer a cultural protégé or reserve for the British, but instead a universal culture to be supported by the speakers in the common wealth. This gives any African, Asian or Arab in the commonwealth all cultural rights to form English words, as a quest for creativity and innovation in smoothening universal Anglophonic culture.
Empirically, there is a case in point as exposed by the east African standard on Thursday 4th 2011. In which was a feature story on Women entrepreneurs in Kenya. This media questioned and cautioned the future state of Kenyan men- folk in the corporate world given the threatening state of upsurge of women entrepreneurs. However, to a keen reader and any person interested in English language as a sub cultural factor of African linguistic civilization, one has to be thrilled by the writer’s effort to have the engendered English language in this juncture through an observable formulation of the word Mamapreneurs in reference to women entrepreneurs.
Firstly, the English word entrepreneur is a combination of three French verbs; entro pro noir having an English equivalence in the verbs; to move towards darkness or to move in to unknown, or to reconnoitre.It has a logical connotation of taking a risk which is an exact description of a venture into a new business. The French verbs therefore had to be corrupted into an English term entrepreneur. This word entrepreneur does not have gender value.However, due to masculine nature of capitalist world, where men are at most the ones venturing to establish new business, the word entrepreneur therefore is conventionally related to a male risk taker in business.
Whereas the word Mama is a Kiswahili noun for mother or female who has once given birth whether married or not. Thus, the implied linguistic and cultural consciousness of the east African standard writer to use the word mama and preneur to formulate a single word Mamapreneurs is that women entrepreneurs have to be described differently, given special perception as well as corporate leadership expectation.
Cultural sensitivity to gender is an attribute of both Kiswahili and French language. This is why both of these languages have strict rules of grammar that at times require long time to be mastered. This cultural sensitivity also influences psychology of language formation and hence the complete culture of a given people. Similarly if the same method of reasoning is taken to Middle English; Clarity can be achieved by describing female entrepreneurs as femipreneurs, effemipreneurs, geneopreneurs, she-preneurs, sispreneurs or girlpreneurs just but to try a few.
Similar efforts have been shown by different persons and artists in different points of time in the history of English language. Most interesting, is John Ruskin the father of Ruskinian moralism and the author of Unto This Last. By logic Ruskin deduced that the word wealth is deduced from the words; well being, or economic well being.Hence well beingness, which when corrected to grammatical standard becomes ‘wealth’ but not economic ‘wellness’. On a reverse logic of word and opposites or word and antinonyms; Ruskin thought of ill being. Like economic ill being, social ill being or say political ill being. On this, Ruskin finds the ill beingness not fit for the purpose but instead, he extended the logic of forming the word wealth from well being to form the word illeth as a descriptive verb for ill state of economy, the opposite of wealth. Other good efforts have been shown by a Ugandan scholar at Makerere University; Who uses the word orature to mean entertainment heritage of any given people or community existing verbally but not necessarily written down. Dr Rourke an American political scientist uses the word Intermestic to mean both international and domestic. Example is an intermerstic policy, which is a policy affecting both international and domestic affairs of the policy maker. Similarly, Dr Namwamba of Kenyatta University encourages usage of the word propportunity but not problem, given a mystery that all problems come along with opportunities.
However, the question is that to which extend are English words formed outside Britain can be accepted as standard words of the English language in Oxford English dictionary? Is it possible for such words to have a cultural extend as that of those words formulated in European countries and North America? Will the word ‘Mamapreneurs’ soon join the mainstream English linguistic subculture?

John Ruskin; Unto This last
Namwamba Destiny; critical thinking and logic
Rourke D; International Politics

Alexander K Opicho is a social researcher with Sanctuary Researchers ltd in Eldoret, Kenya he is also a lecturer in Research Methods in governance and Leadership.

Submitted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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this essay explores avenues for universalisation of English linguistic subculture

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