The Effects Of Nigeria Pidgin English On Students Of Tertiary Institution.

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One of the most important differences between man and animal is man’s ability to speak and make others understand him. Language is only possible because within each society, people agree to understand a particular pattern of sound in a particular way. For instance, all English speaking countries understand the meaning of the word ‘water’. According to Akindele and Adegbije, language is:

A human phenomenon that has form which can be described in terms of units of sound (phonemes), word, morphemes, phrases, sentences and paragraphs or discourse (1).

This definition shows that language has often been identified as the most unique attribute of man. It is through language that human beings grasp and understand reality and transmit it from one generation to another. This view is buttressed by Blakar who asserts that “we actually live and behave in a world of language” (4). Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman quoted Noam Chomoky as saying that:

When we study human language, we are approaching what some might call the human essence. The distributive qualities of mind that are so far as we know unique to man. (1).

Language, which Oyewo Yinka describe as “the medium or vehicle for conveying ideas, a system of arbitrary vocal symbol based on social cooperation; the totality of meaningful utterance in any given society” (15) is by far the most important means of human communication.

The effects of Nigerian Pidgin English on students is the focus of this research work. Pidgin has their different histories about language contact and subsequent borrowing and code-mixing. The origin of Nigerian pidgin can be traced to the contact which was established between multilingual coastal communities and Portuguese merchants, who were joined later by the Dutch and the English. Nigerian Pidgin English is in fact becoming very popular in the country, especially in the secondary schools and in the universities; even at public function as well as in the offices. It is a lingua franca for social integration among diverse ethnic groups in the country.

Nigerian Pidgin English has developed to the extent that it is utilized for literary communication. Some of the works which Nigerian pidgin is employed as a medium of expression are “Dis Nigeria Sef” a poem written by Ken Saro-Wiwa, No Food No Country a play by Tunde Fatunde, and Grip Am a play by Ola Rotimi; though some people consider it to be a low social status. Nigerian Pidgin has come to stay as the major lingua franca adopted for communication among the many different speakers in Nigeria. According to Jowitt:

The situation today is that pidgin flourishes as a medium of inter-ethnic communication, especially in the south, and especially in the large cities with many non-indigenous residents (Bendel, Benin, Port Harcourt, etc) or throughout States with small many ethnic groups…(13)

Nigerian Pidgin in this case is a situation where normal language pattern is altered, but generally accepted to convey meaning. The language does not only evolve but also has its origin from a mixture of other languages. Experiences have shown that among the students for which this work was conceived, Nigerian Pidgin English has gained a wider audience in all sectors of the economy, especially the educational sector.


Background to The Study:

The term pidgin is used to refer to a language which develops in a situation where speakers of different languages have a need to communicate but do not share a common language. Once a pidgin has emerged, it is generally learned as a second language and used for communication among people who speak differently.

Language is the most creative and unlimited instrument for social communication and it helps us to understand the deep seated social relevance, culture involvement and the human relatedness of language. Having said this, we can therefore agree that pidgin is a language of its own and not just a supplementary tongue as some people see it, since it serves as an unlimited instrument of social communication especially in a multilingual community as Caritas University.

According to R. Linton he states that “the culture of a society is the way of life of its members, the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation” (12). These cultures, ideas and habits can only be transmitted from generation to generation through language. In linguistic, every language is considered adequate to represent the communicative needs of its people and as such should not be made to suffer any biases.

This cannot be said of Nigerian Pidgin – even though it is a language – because various attempts have been made by different faction to eradicate the use of Nigerian Pidgin English. These attempts have however been unsuccessful because of the significant value the language has to its users. It is a language that has brought people together in spite of their differences in ancestral culture and language by creating a local culture for itself which blends ideas from different cultures.


Statement of Research Problem:

Nigerian Pidgin is a language just as English and there is enough room for both language to co-exist and be mutually enriching. Despite this – and the fact that Nigerian Pidgin English appears to be the most popular means of communication among diverse groups and is easier to learn than any other language in the country today – it is generally asserted that it is not the suitable language for use in formal setting and its use in such setting is usually frowned at.

This research work will explore the potentials of Nigerian Pidgin English as a language. If Nigerian Pidgin English does have this potential, why is its usage and status denigrated? Also, does the speaking of Nigerian Pidgin affect the student’s academic performance? Answers to these questions will enable us make useful recommendations for future studies.




Purpose of the Study:

This work intends to look into the effectiveness and status of Nigerian Pidgin English. It is inherent that for a long period of time that Nigerian Pidgin English has been the means of communication among students in the higher institutions. This research will bring into light if the use of Nigeria Pidgin English has any effect on the students and their academic performance in Caritas University. The finding will be regarded to be generic, affecting also students in other institutions who equally exalt Nigerian Pidgin English above standard English.


Significance of the Study:

This study is important because its results can go a long way to finding out the causes of students’ negative or positive academic performance. If Nigerian Pidgin English has contributed negatively or positively to the students.

This work will in no doubt contribute to one’s knowledge especially in the department of English, Caritas University, Enugu as it will highlight some issues in educational planning. It will be a guide for the federal government in planning for effective educational system.

Scope and Limitations:

The scope of this project is on the effects of Nigerian Pidgin English in university community. An assessment of its use in various forms will be carried out. This research is limited to Caritas University, Enugu even though the findings might be generic.


Research Methodology:

Questionnaires were distributed to hundred (100) students in Caritas University, Enugu State which is my case study and these questionnaires were filled and collected and the hundred questionnaires were returned.

The result/total of responses from the respondents is tabled in the yes/no format. The collection of data was done in two parts. The secondary and primary source. The primary source is the questionnaire; the secondary source includes textbooks, journals and so on. The materials were researched upon in libraries: Benue State University and Caritas University libraries.

The total number of hundred (100) questionnaires were distributed and the percentage system is the method used in calculating the different responses.



Origin of Pidgin:

Language has a very complex structure. In this chapter, we will be looking at various related works in this study of pidgin as regards its various definitions by different scholars, its origin, the evolution of Nigerian Pidgin, status of Nigerian pidgin, attitudes towards Nigerian Pidgin, the language composition of Nigerian Pidgin.

Pidgin is said to exist among people who do not share a common language but want to communicate with each other for trading or other purposes. It is believed that Pidgin, all over the world, arises from contact situation. Usually, the absence of a common means of communication engenders such a contact.

Hudson considers Pidgin to be “varieties created for very practical and immediate purpose of communication between people who otherwise would have no common language whatsoever…” (61) This view is in consonance with Leroto’s definition of Pidgin as:

A marginal language which arises to fulfill certain communication needs among people who have no common language (1).

It is also not native to any of its speakers. Despite its fairly long existence and its communicative value, researchers have not reached a consensus on the most acceptable definition of Pidgin. Although the definition given by researchers reveal the essence of pidgin, they have so far defined the term in the light of their individual perception of its origin, subsequent development, social status and the potential communicative value.

The origin of pidgin has remained a highly controversial issue for a long time in spite of its universality as an aspect of popular speech.


The Evolution of Nigerian Pidgin:

The history of Nigerian Pidgin can be traced back to the contacts between Europeans and Nigerians. According to Elugbe and Omamor (quoted Elugbe) “Nigerian Pidgin arose from the contact between multilingual coastal communities of Nigeria and visiting European explorers/traders – first, the Portuguese, then briefly the Dutch and finally the English” (285). Owing to this contact, there was an immediate need to communicate in a common language. A Portuguese pidgin was developed initially but it was replaced by a pidgin which was English based and spoken till today. Jowitt has this to say about the origin of Nigerian pidgin:

Nigerian Pidgin undoubtedly originated and developed its standard forms during the period 3000 years that elapsed between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its vocabulary is drawn from English, with Portuguese probably the source of such common words as dash, palvrer and sabby (or sabe). (13)

The visiting Europeans were not interested in learning the language of the local populace possibly because they felt that they were superior to their hosts hence, unwilling to learn a local language. Another possible reason was that Nigerians speak many different mutual unintelligible languages. Therefore, the Europeans started communicating with Nigerians in their language. According to Elugbe and Omamor (quoted in Elugbe) “Nigerians had to accommodate the visiting Englishmen by resorting to some makeshift form of English” (225).

Nigerian Pidgin according to Jowitt “served as a language of trade for communication between Englishmen and Nigerians living along the Nigerian coast and pidgin was useful because it could be learned easily by both races” (13). Before the nineteenth century, trade was the primary concern of each side, and the Europeans did not penetrate the interior. However, in the 19th century, when the Europeans developed additional concerns, religious and political, the Europeans did penetrate the interior. It was therefore natural for pidgin to serve as an important means of communication between the indigenes and the intruder.

After independence, English has been retained as the official language of Nigeria. According to Mafeni, opines that “yet Pidgin plays a major role in inter-ethnic communication in linguistically heterogeneous urban centers particularly in the south” (19).

Nigerian Pidgin English is no longer restricted in its use. It could be rightly argued that Nigerian pidgin is a lingua franca in the country. This is so because it is the most effective means of communication and interaction among the illiterate and even the literate people of different ethnolinguistic backgrounds. According to Jibril he asserts that:

Today, the function of Nigerian pidgin have become more extensive. Apart from expanding its territorial spreads as a lingua franca on ethnically heterogeneous areas… It is now used in radio and television broadcasts and in poetry and drama. (233).

According to a Nigerian playwright, Tunde Fatunde (quoted in Obekpa), who has adopted the use of Nigerian Pidgin in his work:

Nigerian Pidgin is the only language possessed in common by all… people and their families (12)

At present, there are many “areas of Nigeria where Nigerian pidgin has acquired mother-tongue status” Elugbe (292). In some areas, it is adopted as a second language. The peculiar use of Nigerian Pidgin as a first or second language is common among the people of Rivers, Port Harcourt, Delta and Edo-Benin parts of Nigeria, where it is predominantly used among the speakers for communication needs. However, this does not imply that Nigerian Pidgin is not spoken in other parts of the country, but the greater number of users are predominant in the areas mentioned here above.


Status of Nigerian Pidgin:

It simply talks on the relative position of pidgin with particular reference to Nigeria. It is of interest to note that if there is any language to be suggested for adoption as a lingua franca or national language for Nigeria, the current popularity of Nigerian Pidgin has made it the only one.

According to an interview granted Nigerian journalists and published in Vanguard Newspapers (June 30th, 2005), one time Minister of Education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Babatunde Fafunwa, says that if another language was to be chosen as a second language as mother tongue, then English goes. This argument came on the heels of case made for French, which the former Minister described as too foreign: According to Elugbe, he observed that:

It is certain that no other language, be it indigenous or foreign, has the number of speakers that Nigerian pidgin has (it is clearly the most widely spoken language in Nigeria today) (288).

The level of popularity of Pidgin in Nigeria is not only overwhelming but convincing, such that, among many Nigerians most especially in rural areas where communication could have become a problem, it is spoken and understood. In such areas as Edo, for instance, where the Nigerians said to have actually started in Nigeria, and many other areas as Rivers, Delta, Enugu, etc use Nigerian Pidgin English as the indigenous language. It is, however a pity that inspite of the seeming importance of Pidgin in a heterogeneous and multi-lingual state like Nigeria, a lot of people still do not accept it. The situation is clearly expressed by Elugbe, thus:

Even those who helped to sustain it by speaking it refused to recognize it- a situation that exists even today. One meets highly placed government officials who speak Nigerian pidgin but do not believe it should be allocated the role in language policy in Nigeria… Nigerian pidgin is like a child nobody wants to claim but who is sent on errands by everybody (287-288).

Whatever the situation, Nigerian Pidgin English is generally becoming prominent in written discourse, despite its low social rating and lack of standard orthography. For instance, Tunde Fatunde has pioneered the writing of full length plays in Nigerian Pidgin, with only a sprinkling of Standard English to depict particular characters. Two of the well known of these plays are No Food No Country (1985) and Oga Na Tiefman. Ola Rotimi also has plays written in Nigerian Pidgin Grip Am.

The bare fact about Nigerian Pidgin is that no other language in Nigeria can compete with pidgin for having the largest followership or speakers. Pidgin is the most widely spoken and its understanding has no boundary among Nigerians at both urban and rural settlement.

According to Giwa S.M., “it is surprising that no language is widely and better used than pidgin, yet, on official ground, it does not exist” (17). At this point, it is better mentioned that Nigerian Pidgin is the best medium for all transactions in Nigeria, at all levels of the society.

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The Effects Of Nigeria Pidgin English On Students Of Tertiary Institution.