Rosecolette N. Ewurum (PhD)


This study examines women’s language use as custodians of culture as exemplified in Igbo birth songs which are repositories of culture as well. Marriage among the Igbo is seen as a sacred union. The birth of children accords fulfilment to marriage. Fecundity also gives women root in a patriarchal society. Women celebrate their fulfilment, potentials and cultural values in birth songs to establish their relevance and worth. This paper assesses birth songs with socio-cultural values and implications. It highlights the birth songs as directive speech acts. It also examines birth songs as expressive speech act. This study is hinged on Austin’s (1962) Speech Act theory. Ten samples of birth songs constitute data for analysis. Many features of speech acts are adopted to indicate the mother’s role in inculcating the right and proper values. The interpersonal metafunction of language is employed as the mood and feelings of women are demonstrated. The directive and expressive speech acts are predominant in birth songs. Some are entreaties that money should not be placed above the child. The child must be appreciated irrespective of the sex. It is discovered that generosity, good-will, benevolence, patriotism and appreciation are some of the virtues stressed by the birth songs. Most of the songs are also entreaties for the parents to invest on their children irrespective of sex. This study concludes that birth songs teach morals, educate the young and old to refrain from evil and also do good. The songs can bring positive attitudinal change. This study suggests that teachers of English as Second Language and Igbo as Second Language can use birth songs to prevent the indigenous languages from being pulverized. This can also be adopted to inculcate the values and virtues approved by the communities in our youths for attitudinal change.

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