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This study was aimed at investigating the communicative implications of Nigerian
English usage. It explored, extensively, the peculiarities of this variety. The
study employed normative research approach where in addition to the
researchers’ participant discussions with various categories of Nigerian users of
English, made an extensive impressionistic study of copious literature. Four
research questions guided the study with a view to discovering the degree to
which Nigerian English is a variant or a deviation. The inherent peculiarities
discovered were sorted and classified according to the lexical, syntactic,
phonological, semantic and slang variations. The result, therefore, revealed that
with the degree of the deviations in all the linguistic levels, the majority of
Nigerian English expressions constitute serious problems such that it requires
further intensive analytical, linguistic investigation with a view to distinguishing
standard from non standard forms. Based on this, the researcher went on to
suggest that an in depth study be carried out on the features of the English of
these categories of users and the result juxtaposed with those of competent
users so as to establish a standard variety for the purposes of teaching and
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Table of Contents
Title Page – – – – – – – – – ii
Approval Page – – — – – — – – iii
Dedication – – — – – – – – – iv
Acknowledgement – – – – – – – v
Abstract – – – – – – – – – vii
Table of Content – – – – – – – – viii
Introduction – – – – – – – – 1
Background to the Study – – – – – – 1
Statement of the problem – – – – – – 8
Objectives of the Study – – – – – – – 9
Relevance of the Study – – – – — — 10
Scope of the Study – – – – – – – 11
Research Questions – – – – – – – 11
Methodology – – – – – – – – 12
Analysis of Findings- – – – – – – 13
Review of Related Literature – – – – – – 14
Nigerian English: Argument on Its Existence- – – – 14
Nigerian English and Issue of Intelligibility – – – 22
Empirical Studies – – – – – – – 26
Nigerian English: A variation or a Deviation – – – 28
Summary of the Review of Related Literature – – – 31
Nigerian English Variants/Features – – – – 35
Nigerian English Syntax – – – – – – 35
Nigerian English Lexis – – – – – – – 39
Nigerian English Semantics – – – – – – 43
Nigerian English Phonology – – – – – 46
Nigerian English Slang – – – – – – 49
Analysis of Nigerian English Variants/Features – – – 52
Implications of Nigerian English Syntax – – – – 52
Implications of Nigerian English lexis – – – – 55
Implications of Nigerian English Phonology – – – 59
Implications of Nigerian English Slang – – – – 62
Implications of Nigerian English Semantics – – – 64
Summary, Conclusion And Recommendation – – – 66
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Summary of the Study – – – – – – – 66
Conclusion – – – – – – – – – 67
Suggestions/Recommendations – – – – – 70
WORKS CITED – – – – – – – – 73
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1.1 Background to the Study
Current thinking on the global role or status of the English Language
reveals that English is no longer the exclusive property of Britain, America,
Canada etc.(Oluikpe 15), Barber 235). The profuse diffusion of the
language to the various corners or regions of the world today raises the
status of the English language as a world language or an international
language. Akwanya affirms that “English is probably the language with the
greatest rate of spread worldwide” (25).
Nigeria is one of the countries affected by this diffusion of the
English language being one of the British colonies. Historically, therefore,
the English language in Sub-Sahara Africa in general and in Nigeria in
Particular was implanted following colonial activities. Ker (114) writes that
“European commercial interests began in Nigeria in the 15th century and
there also began the use of English in Nigeria.” Consequently, British
scramble for and acquisition of territories and subsequent institution of
colonial rule led to the imposition of the English language on those
territories particularly in Nigeria. (Baldeh 1 – 2),(Uzoezie 163), Oluwole 89)
Ever since then English has come to stay in Nigeria notwithstanding her
ethno-linguistic diversities. Today the language has attained the status of
an official language. As an official language, its relevance in education,
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politics, legislative process and law, commerce and industry, science and
technology cannot be over stated. Seweje cited in Adedeji sums up the
crucial role of the English language in the education of the Nigerian child.
He states that “The Nigeria child’s access to the cultural and scientific
knowledge of the world is largely through English” Adedeji further states
that “English is the main language of literacy as it is the major medium of
instruction in Nigerian educational system” (74).
Despite government official declaration or policy statements on the
status and role of the English language in Nigeria such as the one cited
above, the language is still a second language in the country. This implies
that every Nigerian user of English already possesses a first language
whose linguistic codes are already entrenched in the brain of the individual
speaker. Akindele and Adegbite affirm that “Before the incursion of the
Europeans into various African States, a kaleidoscopic linguistic diversity
was already in existence” (58). In other words multiple vernacular
languages numbering over four hundred are spoken nationwide in Nigeria.
The peculiarities of these indigenous languages tend to have direct
influence on the quality of the English language spoken in the country.
The branding of this variety as “Nigerian English” is however highly
Banjo (209) confirms that
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It [English] has been localized and
nationalized by adopting some language
features of its own, such as sounds,
intonation patterns, sentence structures,
words, expressions. Usually it has also
developed some different rules for using
language in communication.
The same idea is further highlighted by Kachru (1983) cited by Akindele
and Adegbite (52) when he describes ESL as “an institutionalized variety”
Akindele and Adegbite go on to state that:
The indigenous variety has some
ontological status. Its features are: it has
extended range of uses in the sociolinguistic context of a nation where it is
used; extended register and style range; it
undergoes a process of nativization of the
register, and styles have taken place in
both formal and in contextual terms; and a
body of nativized English literature (52)
Still in support of Nigerian variety of English, a renowned phonetician
argues that “the development of regional or local varieties of any language
resulting from its domestication in non-native environments has been
found to be a socio-linguistic reality”. (Uzoezie 162). Uzoezie further
explains that “English in Nigeria is continuously undergoing process of
naturalization, domestication and acculturation, both at the national level
and within the ethno-linguistic context.”
David Jowitt and Charles Barber are among the native speakers of
English who did an extensive study of the variety of English spoken in
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Nigeria. Jowitt particularly notes that “we might regard Nigerian English as
English that has England as its first mother and Nigeria as its second, and
has defied nature by undergoing a gynaecological reprocessing”. (x). In
his preface to the book: Nigerian English Usage: An Introduction, Jowitt
declares: “I have a thesis, it is that Nigerian English is something real and
identifiable ….” (ix).
The linguists mentioned above and indeed many others tend to base
their scholastic views on Nigerian English on three cardinal theories
namely variability, adaptability and ecological theories. First, the group
argues that language varies both at individual and geographical levels. At
individual level, we have idiolect whereas at geographical or regional level,
we have dialectal variety. From the adaptability perspective, they argue
that language is organic and thus is subject to change. That once a
language is put in an environment, it is bound to change and adapt itself to
the prevailing socio-linguistic peculiarities of the environment. They also
contend that adaptability is the hallmark of living organisms. Closely
related to this is the ecological theory, which according to them, implies
that language is living and mutable and so changes with time and use.
Uzoezie appears to advocate this ecological or mutuation view point.
He contends that “a living language has tendency to adapt itself to the
socio-cultural milieu within which it operates whether such a language is
spoken as L1, L2 and L3” (173). Furthermore, Barber (203) reiterates that”
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no language which is being used can be prevented from changing”. He
recapitulates a great classical scholar, Richard Bentley’s views that “every
language is in perpetual motion and alteration”.
However, we should not lose sight of the fact that these envisaged
changes should not be lobe sided and, as a matter of fact, should be
changes towards correct usages and not flagrant deviations or esoteric
usage-evident in some Nigerian English expressions. Moreover, the
foregoing standpoints notwithstanding, a crucial question regarding the
state of the English language in Nigeria still persists. That is: is the variety
truly “Nigerian English” or simply anglicized Nigerian expressions? The
question no doubt has been informed by the flagrant infiltration of Nigerian
slang and deviant expressions into English usage of some Nigerian
speakers even at formal situations. The result is that what is today
branded “Nigerian English” has gained more Nigerian flavour from the
peculiar socio linguistic environment. Consider Banjo in Jowitt’s (vii)
succinct conclusion that “the usage of every Nigerian user is a mixture of
standard forms and popular Nigerian English forms, which are in turn
composed of errors and variants”. Fries (1945) cited in (Baldeh 40) warns
against this variants or errors. He cautions that:
The only correctness there can be in
any language is the actual usage of
the native speakers of that language.
In learning English one must attempt
to imitate exactly the forms the
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structure, and the mode of utterance
of the native speakers
Many users of English in Nigeria are very aversive of the imitation of the
native speakers’ forms, structures and mode of utterances. Out of
prejudice and linguistic laziness the majority of users speak and write the
language too badly. The result is that comprehensibility is oftentimes
affected or distorted. Fries has to sound the above warning because the
variants and errors distort the message and thus impedes communication
leaving the listener in total confusion. Consequently, Eyisi (19) re-echoes
Baldeh and Umeh’s unequivocal statement that “in a world language such
as English comprehensibility and intelligibility are worth any price.” One is
therefore left in doubt of the comprehensibility and intelligibility of some
Nigerian English expressions particularly the esoteric slangy expressions
today branded “Nigerian English”.
In highlighting the objectives of the book. Dictionary of Nigerian
English Slang, Oluikpe and Anasiudu (iv) assert “we intend to combat and,
therefore, hopefully minimize the common problem of inappropriate use of
words common among our students” These lexicographers in the course
of their ethnographic research discover and thus state that they glossed
“Nigerian slang expressions which are blends of English and vernacular”.
If “appropriateness” (Oluikpe 17) is the cardinal parameter to
determine, classify and accept a variety of a language, what then would be
the parameter for the acceptance of Nigerian English variant?
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1.2 The Statement of the Problem
The English language in Nigeria to some extent is very different from
that spoken in other places. Apparently, some Nigerian expression are
blends of English and the vernacular languages. This is noticed at all
levels of linguistics-lexis, syntax, phonology and semantics.
The above scenario clearly indicates the true state of the English of
most Nigerian users, some educated speaker inclusive. The situation no
doubt is worrisome. What then is the essence of language if in the course
of communication, either in speech or writing extra efforts is made to
explain certain peculiar expressions that are different from the standard
forms in area of lexis, syntax, semantics, phonology? Or where lies the
power to conquer the world, as English is language of power and
intellectualization, if the English of some Nigerians is such that could be
understood only within the Nigerian speech community? Such linguistic
existence in a country that claims to use English as its official language
should be studied.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of the study are to investigate the variety of the
English language used by Nigerian speakers. Specifically the study will
1. Whether the variety is truly “Nigerian English”
2. Whether the English of Nigerians is a deviation or a variant
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3. The study will equally ascertain and analyze the implication of the
features of Nigerian English with regards to communication.
1.4 Relevance of the Study
The significance of this study arises from the pivotal role of the
English language internationally and, of course, in the multilingual,
multicultural Nigerian society. Within the international community , it is “a
window on the world”, within the multilingual nations of Nigeria, the
language is a unifying factor. Based on the above status, the quality of the
English language in Nigeria should be of world standard as anything short
of that, as in the case of the nativized variety, may hinder effective
communication. Onochie (156) warns “It is better not to communicate at
all, for no action will be taken, than to communicate what is misunderstood,
for a wrong action may be taken by the listener”. The findings of the
investigation would reveal the grave implications of the local flavour the
language has developed in Nigeria and would help users to realize that
some “Nigerian English” expression appear to be a “misnomer”. In other
words Nigerian users of English would be predisposed to know the
conflicting variants in Nigerian English and consequently avoid them. They
should not think that Nigerian has fully evolved and developed their own
English. The knowledge of the result would also enable the ESL teachers
to know which model of the English language should be adopted for
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pedagogical purposes. Again the result of this investigation would be
useful as reference material for researchers working on related area(s)
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study will be restricted to investigating the characteristics of the
local variation of the English language in Nigeria. Slang expressions in
use in Nigeria, syntactic and lexical variations, semantic shift etc. will be
examined as the local flavour gained by the English usage in Nigeria.
Grave implications of these on the comprehensive development of
standard Nigerian variety shall be highlighted. Corpus of these variants
shall be drawn from students’ expressions and those of public users of the
English language in Nigeria.
1.6 Research Questions
The following research questions shall guide the researcher in the
1. To what extent is Nigerian English variant characterized?
2. To what degree is the typology of the English used in Nigeria truly
Nigerian English?
3. To what degree is the English spoken in Nigeria a variant or a
4. To what extent can other indices other than appropriateness help
to determine an acceptable language variety in a second
language situation like Nigeria?
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1.7 Methodology
Data for this research would be gathered through participant
discussions with various categories of Nigerian users of English. The
researcher, incidentally, is an ESL teacher with over ten years of cognate
experience. As a teacher of English the researcher would, within and
outside classroom interactions note some peculiar features of Nigerian
English usage from students’ writings and utterances of colleagues. In
addition, the researcher would elicit vital information/data from interaction
with various professional groups such as medical doctors, lawyers,
engineers, politicians, police, university undergraduates etc.
With keen interest he would note the non-standard Nigerian
expressions common among these categories of users. This, he would do
without revealing his intents and purposes to his subjects.
Much more data would also be gathered through critical examination
of numerous literature, well researched articles published in reputable
journals and books by expert linguists and ESL teachers would be studied.
By and large, the researcher would adopt a normative research
approach which, according to Nwabueze (6), “is based entirely on the
impressionistic observations of the investigator”.
1.8 Analysis of Findings
Data collected through the above method would be sorted and
categorized according to the inherent features of Nigerian English variant.
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The expressions would therefore be classified under lexical, syntactical,
phonological, slangy and semantic variants


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