Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria

Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria
Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria

ABSTRACT: The main purpose of this study was investigate the Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria. The use of Pidgin English in the Nigerian context has gone beyond verbal communication to become more of a mode of behaviour as its expression has moved from informal conversation to formal situations. This above scenario necessitated this study which investigates the effects of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu in Isi-Uzo L. G. A. Using the descriptive research design and the questionnaire as the research instruments, data were collected from a sample of 200 students and 35 teachers from four selected secondary schools in EhaAmufu. Also, copies of the written essays of the selected students were analysed to complement results from the questionnaire.

Findings reveal that the use of Pidgin English is traceable to the students’ homes. However, the finding that students do not use Pidgin English in their written essays were largely contradicted by the avalanche of Pidgin English usage found in the written essays of the students which also reveal an adverse effect of Pidgin on Standard English both in spelling and contextual usage. The researcher, therefore, concludes that the use of Pidgin English creates a form of identity among students and hence recommends that constant monitoring and evaluation of language use in teaching and learning in Nigeria will help check the trend of usage of Pidgin English which will guide policy making aimed at addressing this ugly trend.

Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria



1.1 Background to the Study   

Existing studies on the domestication of the English Language in Nigeria have concentrated on the Nigerian variety of English and the Nigerian pidgin, with emphasis on the features of Nigerian English usage and Nigerian pidgin (Jowit 1991, Banjo 1996, 2004, Bamgbose 1995, Osoba 2004, Adegbija 2004, Egbokhare 2001, Osisanwo 2005 among others). These studies delved into the phonological, grammatical, lexical, morphological, semantics and pragmatic peculiarities of the language(s). The Nigerian pidgin is fast becoming a lingua franca in Nigeria. It has been well employed in social and informal discourses including music, advertising, radio programmes (Esizimetor 2004:202).

A critical observation of the status and functions of Nigerian pidgin (henceforth, NP) shows that it has the tendency to perform the domestic/cultural functions which neither the Standard English nor Nigerian English can perform. In the light of this, it is obvious that advertisers do not only aim at introducing a product/service to a people, rather they intend to inform and sensitise them to patronize the product/service, since the whole essence of advertising is to reach the audience in the language they understand best by making them aware of the existence of a product. Therefore, in a bid to ensure a formidable delivery of the intended message (as regards the product), advertisers have now resolved to indigenize, domesticate, acculturate and, of course, pidginize their messages, with the hope of reaching both the educated and the non-educated. A number of works have been carried out on both the morphology and the syntax of NP, and probably the best known out of them is Elugbe and Omamor (1991) while Osoba’s (2004) centres on morphology only.

However, there has not been any of such works known to us that was carried out in relation to advertisement. In fact, most of the earlier analyses have been conducted on disjointed sentences, that is, sentences that do not form a discourse.  The English  in the same vein is a medium of instruction in all Nigerian educational institutions at all levels. This is the reason why   Olaore (2016) comments, “… in the countries language policy, the fact that for a long time to come, English will continue to play a prominent role in the socio-economic and political development in Nigeria as the language of administration, politics, industry, education, science and technology is of paramount importance,’ (21). The English language, to a large extent, functions as a second language in Nigeria.

Although, Nigeria is believed to have more than four hundred (400) languages with over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups, (Emenanjo,2010: 73), the English language is the only language used for all forms of official transaction. Despite the central role the English language has been playing in communication process nationwide, the language excludes the majority of uneducated Nigerians who live in rural communities. Some Nigerian communities have more than six distinct but mutually unintelligible languages. This makes communication among neighbours difficult. Emenanjo(2010) cited in Otagburuagu and Okorji (2003) that, Nigerian linguistic geography is so complex that language communities can fall into small language groups called “chontonolects”. The convolutions in the Nigerian linguistics ecology as Otagburuagu (2003:99) noted, has made the use of Nigerian Pidgin a more universal and inconclusive language, inevitable in both formal and informal domains.

 Tracing the history of Pidgin English, Quirk et al (1985:28) pointed out that “Pidgin historically began as simply a language marked by traditional interference used chiefly by the prosperous and privileged section of a community represents by the unskilled and illiterate class of the society”. This situation, however, is not so with the Nigeria Pidgin. Studies have shown that the Nigeria Pidgin began as an English-based Pidgin and later metamorphosed into various forms and patterns in its usage, (Obiechina, 1984:85; Elugbe, 1991: 285 and Egbokhare, 2001:21-40).

On the other hand, Nigerian Pidgin English is seen as a version of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of “Lingua Franca” across the country especially among students. In an attempt to define Nigerian Pidgin English, Elugbe and Omamur (1991:48), see it as ‘some kind of a marginal language that arises to fulfill specific communication needs in a well-defined circumstance.’ In addition, Nigerian Pidgin is a somewhat pejorative label used by native speakers of English to describe the often hysterical violations of the basic rules of Standard English syntax by non-native speakers of the language.

Kperogi (2010:4) also describes Pidgin as a technical term in linguistics that refers to a “contact” or “trade” language that emerged from the fusion of foreign, usually European, language and indigenous, usually non-European languages. Here, the European language provided most of the vocabulary and the indigenous languages produce the structure of the language. In the same vein, the cultural language which language emanates from has farreaching influences on its predominant usage as is the case with Nigerian Pidgin. Its variation, no doubt is not unconnected with the culture of its users. It is in the light of this that Abdullah – Idiagbom in his study on “The Socio-linguistic of Nigerian Pidgin (English) on University Campus” quoting Brooks (1969:2) Posits: ‘It is through the magic of language that man comes eventually to understand to an impressive degree, and the environment to which he lives and still more surprising, gains an insight into his own nature and his own condition.In this context, ’the teachers and students are victim of these observations about Nigerian Pidgin. And perhaps, the cultural influence of the native language on the teacher is largely reflected on the students since no student is believed not to be greater than his/her teacher.

In view of this, Akujobi and Chukwu (57), quoting Ashby submitted that ‘the quality of English used in the classroom is such that all pupils are to a serious disadvantage. It cannot be doubted that thousands of the most gifted are unable to further their education because they were not taught well in their primary and secondary were the language in which they are examined.’ They further pointed out that ‘according to the canons of the discipline for language pedagogy, the more the difference between the system of the target language, the more difficult learning invariably becomes and the smaller the difference, the easier the learning.’ The above assertion gives credence to the difficulty faced by students who grew up in an environment where native language is widely used than Standard English in teaching and learning. This will make their learning of the Standard English a herculean task to Students’ daily use of their native language in communication within and outside the school has further enhanced the use of Nigerian Pidgin which is derived from a blend of the morphology of the native language and the syntax of the Standard English in its usage.

In real sense, no language is inferior or superior to the other. But what enhance its continuous usage are the specific communication needs that it serves and competence attained by its users over a long period of time which also makes it a norm among a well-defined group of users. It is also true that where two or more speech communities come in contact, a lingua franca or common language of communication tends to emerge (Stockwell, 2002:18). The distortion which Nigerian Pidgin has on the Standard English is in varying degree and magnitude. Looking at this Nigerian Pidgin sentence: “Wetin dey hapun nau?” one knows that it is a derivative of the Standard English equivalent – “What is happening now?” for instance,  the expression “Wetin dey’ is a distortion of “What is”; “hapun” is also another distortion of “happening” while “nau” is a corruption of “now”. Other examples are as follows:  Examples   Wetin I dey yan?,

  Long throat,   Bad belle, Busy-body, Shine your eye    Country people, Be smart or clever citizens What am I saying.

 From the foregoing, it is obvious that the vocabulary is mostly English but the structure is largely African or better still, Nigerian.Consequently,It is on this point the bedrock to this research intends to examine the effect of Pidgin English on the syntactic competence among students in selected universities in Nigeria.

Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria

1.2 Statement of the Problem

There is a general belief among students that Pidgin English serves as a variety of English that facilitates communication through a it is a deviation from the norm. The above assumption provided the basis for the use of Pidgin especially among students. The use of Pidgin goes beyond verbal communication and has become more of a verbal behaviour as its expression has moved from the boundaries of informal conversation to formal situations. Scholars like; Balogun,(2012), Amao, (2012), Uguru, (2003), Elugbe and Omamor, 1991)  have called for the urgent consideration and pronouncement of Nigeria Pidgin as “co-official language with English”. For instance, Uguru (2003) says, ‘Nigerian Pidgin plays a very important role in communication in Nigeria.

 If it will be recognized as a co-official language with English, it will enhance the participation of all citizens in the economic, social and political development of the country. ‘The  above  statement make Onuigbo and Eyisi(2008) to argues ‘in favour of Pidgin as a compromise language and that which could foster unity among the diverse ethnic groups has some surface attraction but many have not paused to consider the possible negative effects on the standard usage of English among pupils and students in Nigerian schools.

It is on this established fact that the problem of this research seeks to investigate the extent of the Effect of Pidgin English on Synthetic Competence of University Students in Nigeria.

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