Coinages In Nigeria English: A Sociolinguistic Perspective

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Coinages In Nigeria English: A Sociolinguistic Perspective

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the study

When a word or an idiom is employed to express a meaning which it does not hitherto convey, the meaning and referent are said to have been expanded. In other words, a change in the sense of a word causes a modification in the mental content that constitutes the meaning of such lexical item. A word can be given a new meaning by an individual or by the general public At times, a coinage receives public acceptance if it is considered the most appropriate word to capture a concept among a speech community. This is because the meaning ascribed to a word by its use in particular context will take precedence over its etymological derivation. In a nutshell, what this implies is that it is the use of the words that determines the meanings of words in a sentence (Allan 1986:77-78).

This study will analyze how word derivations and coinages in Nigeria generate meaning. The words will be discussed from the perspective of factors leading to their emergence and use. First, to be discussed in this essay is the “Nigerians” in English. Nigerian English is a term used to describe the kind of English that reflects second language incompetence of the target standard forms of English. It is a phenomenon that has been described widely along the lines of differing fields of linguistic studies. Popular, among these studies have investigated English language usage in Nigeria, from the variational, phonological, grammatical or syntactico-semantic purviews. Among all these studies, lexical nativization, acculturation, Idiagbon and Olaniyi, Coinages in English domestication, etc. have been used to describe the kind of English being spoken as a second language in Nigeria. Lexical and semantic collocations in the Nigerian contexts are primary, in this paper. The contextual usages of lexical items in Nigeria have come through several processes. The most productive of these, in the words of Adegbija (2004:23) include:

  • Coinages
  • Hybridization
  • Analogization
  • Direct translation and transliteration
  • Transfer
  • Affixation
  • Acronymization, etc.

Coinages, our focus in this paper, have been situated variously by researchers within the sociolinguistics of Nigerian English (cf. Odumuh 1987:69-126, Adegbija 2004:23) among several other references. Coinages or neologism are identified as new terms created for new experiences, especially where the speaker of the language either experiences dearth of correct standard lexical item to express himself or uses a word or an expression to satisfy the communicative purpose of his immediate environment. Such coinages are sometimes metaphorically explainable and could be a result of interference or transfer of traits from a speaker’s first language to the target language.

Adegbija (2004:24) refers to the sub-standard forms of English as results of „transfer from culture, sense or meaning from the native language into English, or reinterpretation or extension of an existing meaning in English to cover new areas of experience in Nigerian English. Our purpose in this study is to provide explanations to some common Nigerian English coinages observed around us in different speech contexts. The effort here is an attempt to break off from the formalist approaches to linguistics which is common among researchers. For quite a while linguists oriented toward formal analysis, showed very little interest in transfer phenomenon and the entailments of linguistic behaviour and social communication. Theoretical Background Words are sounds. They are graphics when written. They are also the essentials of a language through which speakers and writers express themselves. When we speak, we put our thoughts into words. Knowing a language entails having knowledge of the words or morphemes and sound sequence in that language. It entails a lexico-semantic knowledge of what they mean. This knowledge affords one to use the words appropriately in sentences and understand them when one hears them. The totality however of words in language constitutes its lexicon. Any additional information of lexical items in a language comes about as a result of one or more of the following processes mentioned earlier above: coinage, acronym, blend, abbreviations, borrowings and compounding, among others.

The introduction of a new word into a language strikingly draws the attention of the speakers. It must however be noted that just as new lexical items are added into a language, the language also losses words due to lack of use. Word coinage, which is our focus in this paper refers to the process of creating words to fit particular purposes while acronyms are words derived from the initials of several words. Compounding on the other end is the process whereby two or more words are brought together to form a single lexical item, hyphenated or not. Borrowing on its part, refers to the process by which some linguistic items of one language or dialect are incorporated into another language. These are referred to as loan or foreign words. These features among others are very prominent in the varieties of English being spoken in Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of the problem

In the attempt to study Nigerian English, one realizes the extent of its deviation from Standard British English. It is the realization of the wide gap that separates Standard English from Nigerian English especially in the area of semantics that leads to the study involving some lexical items in Nigerian English. It has been noted that some English language items have different meanings attached to them by Nigerian speakers of English as influenced by several Nigerian contexts and culture. These semantic deviations contribute largely to the poor development of standard grammatical competence and communicative performance among the Nigeria speakers of English as the meanings attached to these lexical items are more of those obtained in the Nigerian environment than those of core English features. This makes it difficult for a non- native of the Nigerian society to understand the utterances. In fact when a native speaker of English listens to these items, he gets an impression of series of familiar words associated with unfamiliar meanings.

1.3 Objective of the study

The general objective of this study was to examine coinages in Nigeria English: a sociolinguistic perspective.

Specific objectives were:

  1. To analyze coinages in Nigerian English
  2. To examine sociolinguistic approaches to language change
  3. To determine the cultural interference and social meaning
  4. To determine the factors responsible for the deviations in the English language usage in Nigeria

1.4 Research question

  1. How can we identify coinages in Nigerian English?
  2. What are the sociolinguistic approaches to language change?
  3. What is cultural interference and social meaning?
  4. What are the factors responsible for the deviations in the English language usage in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the study

This study is to examine coinages in Nigeria English: a sociolinguistic perspective and if in the use of language one fails to communicate his intended thought, communication is not yet achieved. The meaning attached to these English lexical items is such that unless one is familiar with the Nigerian culture and indigenous languages, it would be difficult for one to understand the concepts. Therefore, the meanings of the coinages in Nigerian English will be disclosed. By so doing, it is hoped that teachers, learners and speakers of English in different fields, will be able to distinguish between Nigerian and Standard British English forms which will enhance a wider communication within and outside the Nigerian context.

1.6 Scope of the study

This study focuses on coinages in Nigeria English looking at sociolinguistic standpoint with the view of determining cultural interference and social meaning as its relate coinages.

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