Language Shift and Lexical Merger: a Case Study of Ìlàjẹ and Àpọ́ ì
Threat to indigenous languages largely occasioned by lexical borrowing and shift by small language groups has continued to compel investigations on the extent and implication of such phenomenon. This paper examines patterns of interaction between Àpọ́ ì, an isolated dialect of Ijaw, and Ìlàjẹ, an extant dialect of Yorùbá. Attention is drawn to the level of lexical borrowing, dialectal influence, and semantic narrowing. Data employed for the study were elicited from five native speakers of Àpọ́ ì and Ìlàjẹ who are also additive bilinguals of either Ìlàjẹ/Àpọ́ ì or Standard Yorùbá (SY)/Àpọ́ ì, using one hundred selected items from the Ibadan 400-Wordlist of basic items. Findings reveal that Àpọ́ ì borrowed 42 items directly from SY; 14 from Ìlàjẹ with traces found in SY, 15 from Ìlàjẹ without any linguistic trace to SY, 9 from central Yoruba dialects of Ìjẹṣa and Mọ̀bà, and 3 from SY with narrowed semantic interpretations. The paper concludes that Àpọ́ ì is fast evolving as a hybrid of Ijaw and Ìlàjẹ.