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Morphological features of Nigerian English and it’s implications for 21st Century English Pedagogy

Morphological features of Nigerian English and it’s implications for 21st Century English Pedagogy

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The domestication and nativization of spoken English in a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic environment like Nigeria has given rise to varieties of Nigerian English as affected by mother tongue interference. This paper examines Morphological features of Nigerian English and it’s implications for 21st Century English Pedagogy.

This paper concludes that Nigerian English has come to stay and is now part and parcel of the Nigerian people and so should be integrated into the education and other sectors of society. Nigerians can also lay claim on these varieties of Nigerian English as the owner.

It is recommended that examination bodies like West African Examination Council  should modify the form and content of texts to conform to these nativized varieties of Nigerian English, English Language Scholars in Nigeria should intensify efforts in the codification of aspects of these varieties of Nigerian English and produce standard textbooks for use in schools.

1.1       Background to the Study

Language is the vehicle for communication in any human field of endeavour. It is multifaceted in nature and functions; its use, more often than not, is aimed at communicating ideology or belief. Irrespective of discourse participants, every communicative activity is influenced by an ideology which informs language choice and usage (Medubi, 2003; Goodwyn & Stables, 2004).

Language therefore functions as an indicator of ideological stances which manifest in social situations here speech activities occur. So, speech events, either in whole or part, reflect the beliefs of the interactants; that is, the language of a group reflects their social and physical environment (Akinmameji, 2016; Ijomah, 1973).

The peculiarity of where ideologically-motivated discourse activities range from individuals, groups to societies. The beliefs tend to ‘reframe’ the lexical choices that social groups ‘create’ for use, especially in interactions that involve members.

The level of grammar for consideration in this study is morphology. Ndimele (2003) and (Udofot, 2010) define morphology as the branch of linguistics which studies the internal structure of words and the rules governing how words are formed. The rules also explain the various processes which new words are formed.

The focus is on English, which is the official language in Nigeria, which is used also by operatives of the paramilitary in their official engagements. It implies that, in the ‘English language’ of the paramilitary formations, there are peculiar constructions that exclude members from other social groups. Such peculiarity could be determined by the group’s register.

Register is a “particular set of lexical items associated with a form of language linked to one’s area of human experience and endeavour” (Nwafor, p. 41). The peculiarity in terms of register, in Nwofor’s opinion, reflects in all levels of grammar. Therefore, the processes of word formation should generate new words that are mutually intelligible among the Nigerian paramilitary formations generally.

The use of English as a global lingual Franca requires intelligibility and the setting and maintenance of standards. On the other hand, the increasing option of English as a second language (ESL), where it takes on local forms, is leading to fragmentation and diversity.

No longer is it the case, if it ever was, that English unifies all who speak it (Graddol, 2000). The competing trends will give rise to a less predictable context within which the English language will be learned and used. There is, therefore, no way of precisely predicting the future of English since its spread and continued validity is driven by such contradictory forces.

As Crystal (1997:139) comments: “There has never been a language so widely spread or spoken by so many people as English. There are therefore no precedents to help us see what happens to a language when it achieves genuine world status.” The likelihood is that the future will be a complex and plural one. The purpose of this paper is to discuss methodological issues in the teaching of English in the context of globalization.

As the world becomes more complex, increasingly flattened (Friedman, 2005), and, one might argue, ever more interesting and challenging, our students must be prepared to enter it as competent, thoughtful and autonomous learners. In order to prepare them effectively, we must reposition our pedagogical approach in the teaching of English as a second language in Nigeria.

Morphological features of Nigerian English and it’s implications for 21st Century English Pedagogy

It is now common knowledge that the English language has become part of Nigeria’s linguistic family, albeit as a second language that has been ‘home-grown…adapted and tamed to suit the Nigerian environment’ (Adegbija, 2004: 19). Summarizing Alamin A.

Mazrui (2004), Akere (2006: 9) describes this domestication as ‘the transformation of English as an alien medium, to make it respond to local imagery, figures of speech, sound patterns and the general cultural milieu of the region’.

This has been the practice of many writers where English is the colonial masters’ language and is now adopted as a second language, but with ‘local colour’, as noted by Emenyonu (2006: xi). This dynamic and creative variety has helped Nigerians express their world view in a more international medium. In addition, there are more ‘pragmatic’ sub-varieties, including what Omolewa (1979: 14–15) calls ‘working English’.

Language has no independent existence, living in some sort of mystical space apart from the people who speak it. Language exists only in the brains and mouths and ears and hands and eyes of its users (Crystal, 1997). Everyone who learns English owns it, ‘has a share in it’, and has the right to use it in the way he wants.

This is why Burns (2005: 2) notes that “English is no longer an exclusive commodity of the owners of the language”. Its ownership is now shared by native and non-native English-speaking communities because English belongs to all people who speak it.

This is, however, different from the widespread Pidgin English, which continues to serve as the linguistic bridge across the linguistic Babel of Nigeria. While Pidgin is greatly influenced by the immediate local languages, thus making uniformity difficult to achieve, the emerging Nigerian English (henceforth NE) is not as heavily dependent on indigenous local languages.

According to Igboanusi (2002: 4), ‘NE has its origin in British English, and the lexicon of NE has therefore shown a strong British influence.’ In other words, while Pidgin is common among the uneducated and spoken by the educated when necessary, NE is spoken by the educated and the level of education determines the variety of NE used by individuals. NE should be seen as an autonomous variety, showing acceptable departures from the rules of standard diction, pronunciation and grammar.

The contact of English with indigenous languages in Nigeria is bound to lead to greater deviation from the standard in the future. Since Nigeria has one of the largest populations of speakers of English as a second language in the world (Akere, 2009; Jowitt, 2009), this is bound to have implications for English as a global language. It is however on this background that this study seeks to examine Morphological features of Nigerian English and it’s implications for 21st Century English Pedagogy.

1.2       Statement of the problem

There have been numerous scholarly works on Nigerian English. There have also been quite some works on lexical innovations in Nigerian English like that of Bamiro (1991; 1994), Adegbija (1989) among others. However, a detailed scholarly work on morphological evolution in Nigerian English using both qualitative and quantitative approaches is so far largely missing.

In this study, while the qualitative approach is used to examine and discuss the evolving lexical items in Nigerian English from the point of view of the Sapir-Whorf’s theory of linguistic relativity; tracing their roots and usages with illustrations in relation to the Standard British English equivalents, the statistical presentation using simple percentage and a pie chart, which is a quantitative approach enabled the researcher to establish the degree of occurrence and spread of the processes of lexical evolution. This is the gap this study intends to fill.

The inability of the English language to perfectly capture aspects of Nigerian culture is necessitated by the fact that the existing semantic and syntactic resources of the English language are incapable of serving the communicative needs of the people.

Lexical evolution in Nigerian English, which attempts to facilitate the communicative needs of the people, is characterized by neologism (that is, invention of new words or phrases) and semantic extension (that is, encoding existing English words and phrases with meanings that are absent in the original, but which encapsulate the unique socio-linguistic experiences). Nigerian English means different things to different people.

The argument of most analysts seems to be that Nigerian English does not yet have full acceptance among Nigerians. Some researchers are still inconclusive about the characterization of Nigerian English, but it is obvious that there is Nigerian English with its own peculiarities which are conditioned by the Nigerian socio-cultural environment (Ogunsiji, 2004, p. 87). S

ome educated Nigerians feel that the recognition of Nigerian English will spell doom for English speakers in Nigeria especially because of the negative attitude associated with the uneducated in the society. It is often assumed that Standard English is the same throughout the English speaking world. However, what happens when the English used by a particular national needs to be interpreted to someone who is not of the same background? Nigerians use some words in a particular way which differs from how native English language speakers use them.

Therefore, people are quick to say that certain words or statements are distinctive of Nigerian English (NE). Despite the massive interest already shown by scholars towards Nigerian English through both the references made to it, and the empirical descriptions it has attracted, many of its linguistic features remain to be studied and brought to the fore. Consequently, researchers are at present still unable to wholly provide comprehensive codification resources of the vocabularies and grammar to guide usage.

To be able to achieve this, further studies on the typical linguistic features of Nigerian English are worthwhile and must continue to seek scholarly attention. Issues of social acceptability and international intelligibility of the Nigerian English often take a central position in scholarly debates.

Thus, the attitude of the researcher is in line with Bamgbose (1997) who argued at length in favour of non-native Englishes and recommends that effort be intensified in their codification so that, like standard native English, they may become “encoded in grammars, dictionaries, and taught in educational institutions, used in print and generally found in the speeches of those regarded as educated speakers” (Greenbaum, 1990, p. 81).

The problem this study wishes to solve is to bring to the fore the knowledge that Nigerian English is not totally ungrammatical, unintelligible, and unacceptable as users perfectly understands themselves and communication is effective.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to examine the linguistic features of Nigerian English and their implications for 21st century English pedagogy. More specifically, the study sought to:

  1. examine the morphological processes adopted by the Nigerian in formations to create peculiar words in Nigerian English;
  2. Trace the origin of some Nigerian English words
  3. Discuss how Nigerian Englishes has contributed to the learning of English language in the 21st century.

1.4       Significance of the study

This study will provide an additional document on the socio-linguistic materials that prove that there are indeed distinctive lexical items that have evolved in Nigerian English. As such, educationists and users of English in Nigeria will be further sensitized on the existence of standard and non-standard instances of Nigerian English.

It is hoped that such sensitization will not only lead to a more meaningful use of the English language in Nigeria, but will also contribute to the proof of the existence of Nigerian English. This will bring to the knowledge of language users that Nigerian English is not totally ungrammatical, unacceptable or unintelligible.

Though, these words when used in expressions are totally understood by Nigerians, a native speaker may need some clarifications in some of the expressions for a better understanding. The study would also be of great relevance to those in the field of education, especially in their bid for further research on other aspects of the Nigerian English usages. This is crucial since proficiency in English is a compulsory requirement in educational system.

In this study, the interest of the researcher is to explore the patterns of lexical evolution in Nigerian English for more critical study which will in turn make this identified variety inevitable assets for codification. Interestingly, Ahulu (1994) observed that it is at the morphological, syntactic, phonological and lexical levels that the various non-native varieties can be identified.

This study will also contribute to the emerging literature on West African Englishes. After all, American English which originally had little prestige, has become, not only an international Standard but actually the fastest spreading model especially in cyber journalism.

1.5  Research Methodology

This research is a qualitative research, and the source of information for the study shall be from internet, journals, textbooks, and news publications will constitute the primary research method which will be used to carry out the research work.

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