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THE EFFECT OF PIDGIN ENGLISH IN NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY: A CASE STUDY OF UNIVERSITY OF UYO

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CHAPTER 1

1.1 Introduction

Nigeria is certainly one of the linguistically diverse nations with a projected 516 languages (Gordon, 2005), each one has an important function and a significant role in the society wherever it is in use. It is exciting to know that Pidgin separately exists from several local languages which constitute the mother tongue or second language of Nigerians, foreign languages such as English, French, and Arabic, similarly exist. English has become an official language, and for most people a second language in Nigeria. On the other hand, Nigerian Pidgin English, with possibly the largest number of speakers, has also developed as an outcome of contact of English alongside the native languages (Dada 2007:87).

Language conduct implicates social meanings relative to social customs in an identified speech community. Language attitude study is not only a way of understanding how language is used, for example, as a symbol of identity or in-group membership, but also helps to inform the social importance of a given code or language (see Adegbija, 1994; Ihemere 2006; Salami 1991). Therefore, attitudinal studies of language are important to linguistics because they could help to explain language maintenance and shift, which is distinctly influenced by the change or maintenance, which is favoured or disfavoured by members of the speech community (Mann 1993; 1998).

One of the most important differences between man and animal is man’s ability to speak and make others understand him. Language is only possible because within each society, people agree to understand a particular pattern of sound in a particular way. For instance, all English speaking countries understand the meaning of the word ‘water’. According to Akindele and Adegbije, language is:

“A human phenomenon that has form which can be described in terms of units of sound (phonemes), word, morphemes, phrases, sentences and paragraphs or discourse”

This definition shows that language has often been identified as the most unique attribute of man. It is through language that human beings grasp and understand reality and transmit it from one generation to another. This view is buttressed by Blakar who asserts that “we actually live and behave in a world of language”. Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman quoted Noam Chomoky as saying that:

“When we study human language, we are approaching what some might call the human essence. The distributive qualities of the mind that are so far as we know unique to man”

Language, which Oyewo Yinka describe as “the medium or vehicle for conveying ideas, a system of arbitrary vocal symbol based on social cooperation; the totality of meaningful utterance in any given society” is by far the most important means of human communication.

The effect of Nigerian Pidgin English on students is the focus of this research work. Pidgin has their different histories about language contact and subsequent borrowing and code-mixing. The origin of Nigerian pidgin can be traced to the contact which was established between multilingual coastal communities and Portuguese merchants, who were joined later by the Dutch and the English. Nigerian Pidgin English is in fact becoming very popular in the country, especially in the secondary schools and in the universities; even at public function as well as in the offices. It is a lingua franca for social integration among diverse ethnic groups in the country.

In Nigeria, Pidgin English (NPE, henceforth) is seen commonly like the language of the uneducated as well as a bastardisation of English and its usage. Consequently, it measured as a sign of the level of one’s competence in English. For example, Agheyisi (1971) claims that the normal speakers of pidgin are persons who have minor or no proper schooling. However, as Akande (2008:37) has distinguished, the sociolinguistic experience in Nigeria currently is such that university graduates, instructors, solicitors and newscasters use Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE). The situation has also been proven that NPE is not used only in unofficial settings but also in workplaces and further official situations (Akande 2008). In other words, this claim that NPE is the language of the uneducated does not appear to earn rationality, because there are so many knowledgeable users in Nigeria who can practice both Standard English and NPE competently (Akande 2008).

Moreover, NPE has assumed an important function in communication in Nigeria, particularly among cultural groups that do not have the same language. The situation has also attained some prestige that originates since the functions that it performs in Nigerian. In addition, it can be claimed that NPE has enriched the increase of nationwide ideas, sociocultural, linguistic and administrative improvements as good as harmony plus unity in the nation since it is the one language that all the knowledgeable and the unschooled, regardless of their cultural background, can recognize with (Akande, 2008:38). Thus, this study examined positions and attitudes of Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) among Nigerian students in the University of Uyo. Nigerian Pidgin English has developed to the extent that it is utilized for literary communication. Some of the works which Nigerian pidgin is employed as a medium of expression are “Dis Nigeria Sef” a poem written by Ken Saro-Wiwa, “No Food No Country” a play by Tunde Fatunde, and “Grip Am” a play by Ola Rotimi; though some people consider it to be a low social status. Nigerian Pidgin has come to stay as the major lingua franca adopted for communication among the many different speakers in Nigeria. According to Jowitt:

“The situation today is that pidgin flourishes as a medium of inter-ethnic communication, especially in the south, and especially in the large cities with many non-indigenous residents (Bendel, Benin, Port Harcourt, etc) or throughout States with small many ethnic groups…”

Nigerian Pidgin in this case is a situation where normal language pattern is altered, but generally accepted to convey meaning. The language does not only evolve but also has its origin from a mixture of other languages. Experiences have shown that among the students for which this work was conceived, Nigerian Pidgin English has gained a wider audience in all sectors of the economy, especially the educational sector.

1.2 Background to the Study

The term pidgin is used to refer to a language which develops in a situation where speakers of different languages have a need to communicate but do not share a common language. Once a pidgin has emerged, it is generally learned as a second language and used for communication among people who speak differently.

Language is the most creative and unlimited instrument for social communication and it helps us to understand the deep seated social relevance, culture involvement and the human relatedness of language. Having said this, we can therefore agree that pidgin is a language of its own and not just a supplementary tongue as some people see it, since it serves as an unlimited instrument of social communication especially in a multilingual community as Caritas University.

According to R. Linton he states that “the culture of a society is the way of life of its members, the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation”. These cultures, ideas and habits can only be transmitted from generation to generation through language. In linguistic, every language is considered adequate to represent the communicative needs of its people and as such should not be made to suffer any biases. This cannot be said of Nigerian Pidgin – even though it is a language – because various attempts have been made by different faction to eradicate the use of Nigerian Pidgin English. These attempts have however been unsuccessful because of the significant value the language has to its users. It is a language that has brought people together in spite of their differences in ancestral culture and language by creating a local culture for itself which blends ideas from different cultures.

 

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