A Linguistic Study Of Nigerian Pidgin

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Linguistic Study Of Nigerian Pidgin


This research was propelled by the intention to investigate the creative ability of Nigerian Pidgin as an effective communication in a multi-ethnic society such as Ipodo Community Market in Ikeja. It explored the functions of language and that of Pidgin which is the language in discourse. The study was restricted to the type of Pidgin spoken among traders in Ipodo Market. It identified the morphology, syntactual process of this language and how useful it has been in terms of communication.

Chapter One


Pidgin to some scholars is a language that has no function. To others, Pidgin is jargon, corrupt and a language that is not systematic. According to Fromkin and Rodma (1974). Pidgin is an unruly bastard jargon, filled with nursery embellishment, vulgarism and corruption. But many Nigerians who speak Pidgin sometimes feel ashamed to associate with the language in public. This is because Pidgin is considered to be a form of English and not a language in its own right.

The main focus of this work is restricted to the variety of English spoken in the vicinity of Ipodo Market in Lagos, known as Pidgin. Ipodo Market is situated in Ikeja area of Lagos which is known to be a densely populated area with people of different ethnic groups and Pidgin serves as a convenient means of communication. Nowadays, Pidgin enjoys a rather ambivalent status in community market among traders who are from various indigenous groups. This variety of English is recognized as a meaningful language of inter-tribal communications and as such makes people to realize its communication role.

In West Africa, Nigeria is distinguished in profuseness as far as Pidgin is concerned. Nigerians have continued to add flavor to the language which could be seen in the development of Nigeria Music and Film Industry, which the government is promoting through the presentation of programmes on radio and television stations, which are now broadcast in Pidgin.

Munzdi (1995) observes that Nigerian Pidgin which until recently has been restricted to oral communication and to the humour columns of some newspapers, is now being used for news broadcast in government owned radio/television stations and for serious poetry and drama by several well-educated poets and playwrights. Pidgin spoken in Nigeria features a unique pronunciation which in Standard English could turn out to mean something else in Pidgin. For example:

“Don delete” could mean death

Most people from the Delta State of Nigeria have the ability to communicate fluently in Pidgin. Many educated and non-educated people, political leaders, clergy men and women understand and communicate in Pidgin. Pidgin variety of Nigerian English is however, not acceptable in formal activities such as learning and teaching, seminars, conferences and examinations. The use of Pidgin is restricted to informal settings which include; market place, radio and television programmes, as noted by Ayoola (2006).

Programmes Television / Radio Nature of Programmes

Face 2 Face STV DRAMA

News in Pidgin Radio Nigeria, LTV NEWS, NEWS

I dey trowey salute Wazobia FM Public enlighten.

Pidgin is also used by government officials for the purpose of mobilizing ordinary people during the electioneering campaigns. For example, Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo switched to Pidgin occasionally during his monthly radio and television Nigerian broadcasts. This was meant to enable him reach a greater number of the audience.

The Nigerian dominant languages (Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba) constitute the substrate of Pidgin used in community market. They are important sources of lexical borrowing. It is believed that some of the words like ‘pikin’ (a child), ‘dash’ (gift), in Nigerian Pidgin have been borrowed from other European languages, mainly Portuguese.

Pidgin is often spoken in market places, filling stations, homes, parties, motor parks etc. The common speakers of this language are drivers, bus conductors, traders with little or no formal educational background. The difficulty in the writing of Pidgin is a result of lack of a uniform orthography and standardization resulting from the varieties of Pidgin to be employed by many speakers. That is, an individual’s background influences his or her pronunciation and grammar, but the educated ones speak Pidgin for wider communication. Pidgin is however, not encouraged in schools in the country because of its harmful effect on the learning of the Standard English which serves as the official language in Nigeria.

It could also be said that Pidgin has become a Mother Tongue for a number of families in certain areas and communities and as such could be seen as Creole.

The definition of Pidgin as a jargon and corrupt language is no longer as it was, since in recent times, there is greater recognition of the fact that Pidgin reflects human creative ability.

1.1 Background Of The Study

English language came as a result of colonization which has imposed English language on Nigerians. The language later got adopted as official language, though not everybody in the country can speak or write English. Lagos state is highly metropolitan, almost all the ethnic groups in Nigeria have representation in Lagos and as a result, most people do not understand the native language of one another.

It has been observed that a large number of people are semi-illiterate, hence, the need to develop a language that will encourage easy communication with one another. Pidgin has not been accorded a high status in Nigeria. People are not encouraged to speak it, and children are punished in school for speaking it. Bamgbose et al (1995) observe that the attitude of Nigerians to Pidgin range from adoration to disdain, some people are so contemptuous of Pidgin that they feel it should not be used in public. Although has been described as corrupt and a language that has no function, the importance of Pidgin in our society is quite clear because of its social values.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

In the Nigerian society, Pidgin is seen as a language that has many varieties which affect he student’s competence and performance in terms of communication and performance at examinations. Also pidgin is made up of varieties of substances from the vernaculars of different native languages in Nigerian ethnic groups. For this reason, Pidgin spoken in one area differs from that spoken in another area and this has contributed to the difference in phonological, lexical and syntactical resources.

1.3 Purpose Of Study

The study was conducted with the aim of:

  1. Finding out the prospect of Pidgin as a language of communication.
  2. Showing people’s attitude towards Pidgin used in Ipodo community market in Lagos.
  3. Analyzing how Mother Tongue interferes with Nigerian Pidgin.

1.4 Significance Of Study

The study will go a long way in exposing the use of language outside its formal context. It will also serve as an eye-opener to many people who regard Pidgin as a corrupt form of language which makes some of its user feel ashamed and discouraged to use it in public.

1.5 Scope Of Study

This research was not designed to determine the role of Pidgin and the level of people speaking it, but to analyze the stylistic ability of the type of Pidgin spoken in community market, and to show that, like other languages, Pidgin is a language on its own.

1.6 Method Of Research

Ipodo community market in Ikeja was visited and traders were interacted with in their day to day transactions, which were analyzed in the project.

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