The Lexico-Semantic Features Of Nigerian English In Newspapers

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

The Lexico-Semantic Features Of Nigerian English In Newspapers


The study focuses on the Lexico-Semantic features of Nigerian English in Daily Times, Punch and Vanguard Newspapers. This is an attempt to investigate the extent to which Nigerian columnists and editorials use the Lexico-semantic features of Nigerian English for their reportings. Anchored on the theoretical premise of the contextual theory of meaning, the data for the study was arrived at through a random sampling technique which enabled the researcher to select at random Newspapers from the months of January to December in the year 2012 to 2016.

The identified Lexico-Semantic features of Nigerian English which were found in these dailies were analyzed using the Lexico-Semantic variation of Nigerian English as identified by Adegbija (2004). It is evident from the findings that the socio-cultural background of the Nigerian people is captured by Nigerian English. Nigerian speakers find it preferable to use NigerianEnglish, with all its local flavours because most of them are incompetent in the use of English language and also because of the socio-cultural context of the Nigerian society.

Chapter One


1.0 Background of the Study

English language in Nigeria is not the same corpora in native settings. The exact date that English language usage started in Nigeria is not certain. However it is believed that the first contact between British and some ethnic groups in Nigeria was in southern Nigeria. This must have been some period before the Atlantic slave trade. English language in Nigeria is a second language. It is a second language because Nigerians already had their first language or Mother tongue (L1) before the incursion of this foreign language called ‘English’ into the country. In this instance a foreign language (English) left its native environment and met with other languages (Nigerian indigenous languages). It is true that the culture and values of the people are embedded in the language we speak. As such, it is said that ‘language is culture’ and none can be separated from another.

This situation is informed by multiple socio-cultural variables that determine what the Nigerian variety parades at different areas of linguistic analysis: phonology, morpho-syntax lexico-semantics, and pragmatics, among others. Every country in the world has people who make use of languages which help to perform several functions. Nigeria is not an exception.

Nigeria is a country, which has people with diverse languages and cultures. English language is one of the languages spoken in Nigeria and it serves several functions for instance, business transaction, education, administration, the language of the press, the language of entertainment and also the official language.Jowitt sees Nigerian English as the variety that is spoken and written in Nigeria, other than a replica of a native speaker’s variety. This is to assert that the variety which is spoken and written in Nigeria has certain identifiable and distinct indexical markers that distinguish it from the English language varieties elsewhere. In addition, Adetugbo buttresses these views when he asserts that “Nigerian English, as a dialect of the English language has developed its own distinct and probably unique characteristics resulting from the mood of the acquisition of the language by Nigerians and the Nigerian socio-cultural setting in which it is now ”(159).

Nigerian English is a dialect of English spoken in Nigeria. It is based on British English but in recent years, because of increasing contact with the United States of America, some American English words have made their ways into Nigerian English. Additionally, some new words and collocations have emerged from the language, which come from the need to express concepts specific to the culture of the nation (e,g bride price, senior wife).

According to Ogu and Walsh “The varieties of English spoken by educated Nigerians, no matter what their language, have enough features in common to mark off a general type, which may be called Nigerian English”(88).

This study documents and analyses contain lexico-semantic features in the English used for news report in Nigerian newspapers, different from words or usage found in native varieties of English such as British English or American English. The specific features have been documented as being beyond errors, and have being markers of a variety “Nigerian English”. Thus, the research identifies and explains the non-native and non-standard features against the background of the literature on Nigerian English as a variety by indicating that these ungrammaticalities already exist in the literature on Nigerian English. The research posits that this presentation gives further evidence of the elaboration, formalization and standardization of Nigerian English.

The central proposition is that the free employment of Recognizedlexico-semantic feature is a boost to efforts at codifying Nigerian English and elaborating its functions in formal discourse.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

It is believed that any research concerning human behavior which language is one, should have assumption of what constitutes the problems to that behavior or reaction toward that behavior.

English as a second language (ESL) in Nigeria is used in such a way that the meanings of some lexical items often get changed, thereby bringing about several misconceptions and misunderstandings, especially with regards to acceptability of the usage to other English users outside the Nigerian environment. This is a problem that is caused by the adaptation of English to the Nigerian socio-cultural environment. For instance, the words ‘sorry’ has been adopted so much to the Nigerian environment that its meaning has changed and extended to cover a wide spectrum of areas such as sympathy over certain losses of certain valuables, bereavement, etc. This type of change and extension of meaning of certain lexical items is capable of causing misconception and misinterpretation by other users of English outside the Nigerian environment. This, therefore, generates the problem of acceptability and intelligibility of such change and extension or reduction of meaning of some lexical items as used by Nigerians.

This distinctive usage of certain lexical items by Nigerians constitutes Nigerian English lexis. This problem has many dimensions to it. It may be caused by mother tongue transfer, coinage of a new items, extension and restriction of meaning, complete change in meaning of item according to the world view of Nigerians, borrowing of items from indigenous language and, most importantly, the absence of standard Nigerian English dictionary.

It can be understood here that the predominant language in Nigeria is Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba which in this work can serve as L1 while the target linguistic phenomenon here is one of the English varieties in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, this is where the problem lies because must of lexical words are change and shift, neologisms, loanwords, malapropism, tautology and semantic extension from their normal position to suit Nigerian norms, that is why Nigerian Newspapers report them as they were said by people.

The study will then focus on the lexico-semantic Nigerianism as mention above shall be noted.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The study aims at highlighting the nature of lexico-semantic Nigerinism and some possible modifications or changes that have taken place in the lexico-semantic forms in Nigerian English and how they are used in Newspapers.

This research will also focus and investigate semantic change in Nigerian English lexis. This is necessitated by the possible misconceptions these semantic changes in Nigerian English lexical items are capable of causing especially to other speakers of English outside the Nigerian environment. This study will also look at the following objectives.

  1. To identify whether or not such phenomenal changes in Nigerian English lexis are deviations or variations.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This project is significant in the sense that it investigates the use of lexical items, and the nature of lexical words in Nigerian English. The study is also significant in the sense that it contributes to the knowledge of users of the language. The study will access most lexical items adopted in Newspapers with the view of substantiating the mutual intelligibility and acceptability by other language speakers using the language. Finally it will study the use of lexico-semantic as a bridge that will strengthens the social relationship of its users in the context of usage.

1.5 Scope / Limitation of the Study

The theoretical assumption that underpins this work is the concept of lexico-Semantic Nigerianism. The study stretches its findings with a view to unveiling the lexical items inherent in Nigerian Newspapers, the essence of its usage where necessary, the extent of its formality and informality in various occasions but this Study will limit the confines of its research to lexical items in Nigerian Newspapers within some Newspapers in the three regions, which would be Guardian and Vanguard from the west, The Leadership and Daily trust from the north, and the Sun from the South.

However, these limitations notwithstanding, effort has been made to obtain reliable information for the successful completion of the research. Nevertheless, it is admitted that the dividing line between errors and Nigerianism is thin and may sometimes be subjective.

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