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Academic Paper

Title: Potential words in English: examples from morphological processes in Nigerian English
Author: Dare Owolabi
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Pidgin, Nigerian
Abstract: It is now common knowledge that the English language has become part of Nigeria's linguistic family, albeit as a second language that has been ‘home-grown…adapted and tamed to suit the Nigerian environment’ (Adegbija, 2004: 19). Summarizing Alamin A. Mazrui (2004), Akere (2006: 9) describes this domestication as ‘the transformation of English as an alien medium, to make it respond to local imagery, figures of speech, sound patterns and the general cultural milieu of the region’. This has been the practice of many writers where English is the colonial masters' language and is now adopted as a second language, but with ‘local colour’, as noted by Emenyonu (2006: xi). This dynamic and creative variety has helped Nigerians express their world view in a more international medium. In addition, there are more ‘pragmatic’ sub-varieties, including what Omolewa (1979: 14–15) calls ‘working English’. This is, however, different from the widespread Pidgin English, which continues to serve as the linguistic bridge across the linguistic Babel of Nigeria. While Pidgin is greatly influenced by the immediate local languages, thus making uniformity difficult to achieve, the emerging Nigerian English (henceforth NE) is not as heavily dependent on indigenous local languages. According to Igboanusi (2002: 4), ‘NE has its origin in British English, and the lexicon of NE has therefore shown a strong British influence.’ In other words, while Pidgin is common among the uneducated and spoken by the educated when necessary, NE is spoken by the educated and the level of education determines the variety of NE used by individuals. NE should be seen as an autonomous variety, showing acceptable departures from the rules of standard diction, pronunciation and grammar. The contact of English with indigenous languages in Nigeria is bound to lead to greater deviation from the standard in the future. Since Nigeria has one of the largest populations of speakers of English as a second language in the world (Akere, 2009; Jowitt, 2009), this is bound to have implications for English as a global language.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 28, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

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