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  • Background to the Study

Languages of the world undergo changes, even though most speakers of the languages are usually oblivious of the inherent changes as they occur. In so far as a linguistic community makes contact with another for one reason or the other, there is the likelihood that people of such linguistic environment share or exchange certain aspects of their being like culture, tradition and language. Nnoje (2003:81) notes that “Language is a spontaneous social activity for expressing thoughts and ideas, emotions, moods, and humour”. Language is a medium by which thoughts are conveyed from person to person and from place to place. Hence, there is hardly a contact between one linguistic environment and another without the transference of some lexical items from one language community to another. However, some linguists noted that one of the most ambiguous terms in the field of morphology is the word, “worditself. Plag (2003: 4-9) identifies five different ways of defining word. According to him, a word can be seen as a separate written entity (the orthographic); as a distinct sound structure (the phonological); as a meaningful unit (the semantic); as a unit within sentence structure (the syntactic); and as a unit with internal integrity (morphemic). Words tend to mobilize themselves so much so that they are easily moved from one environment to another. From all indications, English is traditionally quite well disposed to accommodate foreign words, and as it has become an international language spoken by people of many cultures and a number of mother tongues, it has absorbed vocabulary from a large number of other sources. English does not acquire words from the western languages alone but also incorporates a good number of words that are of African origin into its lexicon. It is often suggested that the lexicon of the English language is the largest in the world. However, it is practically impossible to either approve or disapprove this statement because we encounter so many obstacles when trying to count the total number of English words. It is hard to decide what counts as a word, as well as decide on what counts as an English word. Regardless of all these difficulties, it seems probable that English has more words than any other comparable world languages and the reason for this is historical.

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