University of Lagos
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LAAS History

Faculty of Arts, UNILAG

Prof. Oladiipo Ajiboye

                 Head of Department

History of Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies

The Department started in 1965 with initial programmes for the teaching of major Nigerian languages to non-native speakers under the proposed Division of African Languages. The motivation was provided by a lecturer in Yorùbá, Dr. Adeboye Babalola (The Late Emeritus Professor of African Languages and Literatures).

In 1967, the School of African and Asian Studies commenced with the part I B.A. Degree in Yorubá with three lecturers and just two students. The lecturers were: Dr. Adeboye Babalola, Mr. Olusoji Ogunbowale (also deceased) and Mr. Wande Abimbola (now retired Professor and former Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife). Between 1969 and 1970, the Department registered the first Part III class of the Yorùbá programme. The year 1970 also witnessed the incorporation of Edo studies and the approval for the commencement of proficiency certificate courses in other Nigerian languages, including Hausa and Igbo. In realization of the sharper focus, and after the integration of the School of Humanities and the School of African and Asian Studies to form the Faculty of Arts, the name of the School was changed to the Department of African Languages and Literatures.

In 1976, part I of the B.A. Degree programme commenced progressing to parts II and III in 1979/80. There was also a fresh start for Edo studies with the appointment of a new lecturer (note, the former lecturers left in the 1974/75 session).

Meanwhile, postgraduate work had run simultaneously with undergraduate programme since the 1960’s. The emphasis all along had been in the area of Igbo and Yorùbá literatures because of the staff disposition and initial vision of the department. The few core linguists that were employed by the department did not stay long in the establishment. Some of those that left were P.A. Nwachukwu (The Late Professor of Linguistics formerly at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka), Dr. Hambali, Dr. R.N. Agheyisi, Mr. J. Nevadomsky, Professor O. Awobuluyi, Dr. A. Ojajune, and Dr. (Mrs) F. Akinkugbe.

The absence of a strong foundation in Linguistics was pointed at as a major shortcoming in the programme of the department. Therefore in 1980, the Senate of this University approved the 100-200 level teaching of Linguistics courses counting towards the B.A./B.A. (Ed.) Igbo or Yorùbá . Since 1998, the department has been offering ten units of courses in Linguistics as minor and elective at 100-400 levels, as approved by Senate. The study of Linguistics is intended to offer the students the tools for the scientific study of language. This is to be achieved by a detailed study of the theoretical and applied domains of the field.  Meanwhile, in 1997, the Senate of the University, as part of the re-organisation of the programmes, approved the change of the name of the department to Department of African and Asian Studies. The aim has been to incorporate areas of study relevant to African and Asian peoples and cultures.  

To reflect the status of our degree and to position the department for the development of African and Asian languages, the name of the Department was again changed to the Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies in 2004/2005 session. With the new name, we have been able to expand the number of courses in Linguistics, and thus enhanced job prospects of our graduates. Indeed, the Nigerian labour market favours graduates who are proficient in language analysis.

Following NUC’s approval for the establishment of full-time mode of B.A. Chinese Studies, the programme took off in 2013/2014 session with 25 pioneering students. Two of the four-year programme is to run in the University of Lagos (i.e. 100 and 400 levels), and the other two (i.e. 200 and 300 levels) in Soochow University China. At present, the degrees awarded to our students are:

B.A. Linguistics/Igbo,

B.A. Linguistics/Yorùbá and

B.A. Chinese Studies.

In the recent past, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been listing names of candidates on its print-out to study B.A. Languages and Linguistics in this University. Such candidates who could not be recommended for admission have been left frustrated or have started late to look for admission in Linguistics in other universities. In this way, the department turns many bright students away. Therefore, to upgrade Linguistics to a full degree discipline will indeed make the department more competitive and thus enable us to attract bright students. With the present staff strength, we now have what it takes to start Linguistics as a full degree discipline and the proposal for the programme has been submitted to the University authorities for consideration.

Collectively as a department and individually as members of staff, we have made remarkable achievements over the years. The Department in 2004 translated the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria into Igbo and Yorùbá Languages. The Microsoft Language Interface Pack – Igbo Glossary and Yorùbá Glossary – were also translated by the Department in 2007. Earlier in 1998, Mrs. Beatrice Oreoluwa (then Mrs. Ayankogbe) had translated from English to Edo language a document, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, from the United Nations Information Centre Lagos. The translated document can currently be found in the archives of the United Nations Information Centre Library, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Some of our pioneer lecturers in their services distinguished themselves in a way that earned them national recognition. The late Professor Emeritus, Adeboye Babalola, for instance, was a recipient of Nigeria National Merit Award (NNMA). It is on record that the first Ph.D. graduate, 1970, in University of Lagos – Professor Wande Abimbola – was a product of the Department supervised by Adeboye Babalola. Professor Wande Abimbola himself was a former Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife, a former Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Professor Iwu Ikwubuzo is a CODESRIA Laureate, having been a recipient in 1996 of CODESRIA Small Grant Programme for Ph.D. Thesis, Dakar, Senegal. Under the leadership of Mrs. Beatrice Oreoluwa as the National President of the National Association of Women Academics (NAWACS), University of Lagos won the first position of Chapter of Excellence Award in 2004, a feat which the then Vice-Chancellor in appreciation celebrated by holding a reception ceremony for all the NAWACS members.

In the area of research, the department has not lagged behind. The Igbo and Yorùbá Units of the Department today produce Ph.D. graduates regularly in the fields of Language and Literature. Sponsored researches approved by the Central Research Committee have also been undertaken by lecturers in the department. Dr. Ayo Yusuff in collaboration with a colleague from English Department had recently concluded a research on “Cross-Cultural Discourse Study of Urban Inter-Group Relations in Lagos” (September, 2015 – August, 2016).

There is a vast array of job opportunities for our graduates. Over the years, products of our Department have been gainfully employed in the areas of language teaching, translation and interpreting, media and advertising, film and cinema productions, publishing, language consultancy, language moderation unit of Examination Bodies (like WAEC, JAMB, and NECO), telecommunication, cultural services, editorial services, etc.


The Programmes offered by the Department are :

B.A. Linguistics/Igbo                                           

B.A. Linguistics/Yorùbá       

B.A. Chinese Studies

M.A. Igbo (Language option)

M.A. Igbo (Literature option)

M.A.Yorùbá  (Language option)

M.A. Yorùbá  (Literature option)

Ph.D. Igbo (Language option)

Ph.D. Igbo (Literature option)

Ph.D. Yorùbá  (Language option)

Ph.D. Igbo (Literature option)                           


Programmes for further Development

M.A. Linguistics

PGD Linguistics    

PGD Linguistics/Igbo

PGD Linguistics/Yorùbá