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SAMPLE I: “Last winner of Big Brother Amplified, Karen Igho would any time from now resume for a full-time job at a Lagos-based, Naija FM 102.7 as an On-Air Personality (OAP)... Karen will not have problem blending on air as she speaks Hausa, Urhobo and English fluently. She is expected to resume July 1, 2012 on ‘Wetin Dey’ show every night...” (Naija FM Hooks Karen, Sunday Sun, July 1, 2012).
The verb resume occurs twice in this excerpt, and each in the context in which it is to be construed as people signing in at a duty post for the first time. The contexts in which they occur are as follows: “Karen Igho would any time from now resume for a full-time job” and “She is expected to resume July 1, 2012”. The problem of insufficient grasp of the nuances of a word resulting in confusing its identity with that of another with varying degrees of seriousness is endemic in the Nigerian usage terrain. The problem arises because writers don’t care enough to make the words their “own” by thoroughly and consciously internalizing their essential and distinguishing properties.
The word resume under review here is a typical example. As we have noted, the impression the writer gives when he uses the word resume, as in many instances of the use of that verb in the Nigerian context, is that a person is about to start or has just started a new job or assignment.
Some Nigerians would say, “The newly appointed Minister will resume duty on July 1” when they mean, “The newly appointed Minister will assume duty on July 1”. They would say, “The new Inspector-General of Police will resume duty next week” when they mean, “The new Inspector-General of Police will assume duty next week”.
We need to make a distinction between assumption of duty (which is about commencing work for the first time) and resumption of duty (which is about coming back to work after a break). To resume work is to begin to work again after one has stopped working, and to assume duty is to report for an assignment for the first time.
To return to the excerpt, in the place of the verb assume in the first context, we could have, take up: “Karen Igho would any time from now take up a full-time job at Lagos-based...”. In the second context, we would have assume duty: “She is expected to assume duty on July 1, 2012...”.
Sample II: “My husband told the man we gave a ride to put his bag in the booth of the car but he refused... Not long ago also, a one-year old toddler, Delight among others, were kidnapped at Rumuokoro area of Port-Harcourt...” (How My Husband Was Killed, Sunday Sun, July 1, 2012).
I draw readers’ attention to the word booth which occurs in the context, “to put his bag in the booth of the car”.
Let us note immediately that a car does not have a booth. Every car has a boot, a compartment at the back where items such as bags can be kept. There are booths, of course, but they are not part of cars. Booths are enclosures that can take only one person transacting some business. There are telephone booths and polling booths.
The susperficial difference between booth and boot is found in the fact that the one ends in –th and the other in –t. The confusion of the two frequently encountered in the use by Nigerians is traceable less to the orthography than to the pronunciation difference. Finding no sound equivalent to the one represented as –th in their languages, Nigerians facilely substitute the sound –t. Given the fact that the problem is rooted in pronunciation, until many Nigerians have been able to distinguish practically between the sounds –t and –th, their use of English is likely to continue to be plagued by the identity crisis involving, among other pairs, booth and boot.
At any rate, let the word boot replace booth in the context under review.
Next, we note the form were which occurs in the structure “a one-year old toddler, Delight, among others, were kidnapped”. Of course the verb were is in its plural form. It is always the case that verbs such as is, are, were, was etc derive their singular or plural form from the relevant nouns within the context in which they occur. Examples: “The boy is a student” but “The boys are students” “The country is making progress” but “The countries are making progress”.
We can see that there is agreement between the singular noun boy and the singular verb form is, and between the plural noun boys and the plural verb form are. Similarly, there is agreement between the singular noun country and the singular verb form is and between the plural noun countries and the plural verb form are. The principle we have sketched and illustrated is known as concord.
Where does the plural form were in the structure under consideration derive from? The most attractive word in this regard is the noun others, obviously a plural noun. Would grammatical logic support the view that the verb form should be consistent with the form of the noun others? Without any doubt, the writer has allowed his decision as to the form the verb should take to be influenced by the plural nature of the noun others. This is clearly erroneous.
Readers are to note that the noun others is only a part of a larger string: “among others”. It should be noted, furthermore, that the stretch (among others) is parenthetical. By virtue of its being parenthetical, it cannot be central or crucial to the phenomenon of concord. The crucial element that should affect concord is “a one-year old toddler, Delight”. In view of the fact that this element is indisputably singular, the verb should be singular as well. In consequence we change were to its singular form was.
Sample III: “According to him, what they had as a semblance of accommodation was substandard and an aberration to what the officer represent... on arrival in the school he met a factionalized university, with all sorts of crisis ranging from ethnic, financial and lack of cooperation between the academic and non-academic staff... He estimated the cost of the capital project since 2007 when he came on board to N8 billion... Furthermore, he said the breakthrough success recorded in infrastructure development was also made possible through the policy of the institution to invest 40 per cent of their IGR to capital project development.” (VC: Varsity Got N8b Projects in Five Years, The Nation, Tuesday, May 1, 2012).
We identify and remedy weaknesses having to do with particles. We note the segment: “a semblance of accommodation was substandard and an aberration to what the officers represent”. If the structure had stopped at “aberration” we would have had no problem with it. But then it goes on beginning with the particle to immediately after the word aberration. It is in fact that particle (to) that initiates the flaw we associate with that structure. The expression “substandard and an aberration to what the officers represent” is almost vacuous.
I advise that the structure be re-written, and the stretch beginning with the particle to should be eliminated: “According to him, what they had as a semblance of accommodation was substandard and an aberration, not befitting the officers in question”.
Next, I draw your attention to the stretch, “with all sorts of crisis ranging from ethnic, financial and lack of cooperation between the academic and non-academic staff”. Let’s focus attention especially on the present participle ranging. Let’s note, in addition, that this word is followed by the particle from. This is appropriate. Entities are said to range from one point to the other. In other words, two prepositions are mandatory: from and to: “The problems range from carelessness to outright laziness”.
Readers would find out that the structure under examination does not have the particle to, even though it has the particle from. To correct the anomaly, the structure should be re-written in such a way that the particle to is brought in.
As an alternative, the verb range could be allowed to collocate with the preposition between. But once that preposition is brought in, it will automatically attract the conjunction and. Entities are said to range either from X to Y or between X and Y.
Now this: “He estimated the cost of the capital project since 2007 when he came on board to N8 billion”. The word that interests us is the particle to which immediately precedes N8billion. That particle is meant to collocate with the verb estimated. We are told that the cost is estimated to. Please note that this isn’t the appropriate particle. A thing is estimated at a particular value or cost. In other words, the particle at goes with the verb estimate.
Finally note this: “invest 40 per cent of their IGR to capital project”. Two words are noteworthy: invest and to. Do you invest money to a project? No. You invest money in a project. However, you may allocate money to a project. At any rate, let the particlereplace to in the context.Share