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Aspects of the Syntax of Modern Nigerian Pidgin
Rose Oro Aziza
11-16 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The Nigerian Pidgin (henceforth NP) is an English-based West African Pidgin whose vocabulary derives mainly from its superstrate language, English, but whose syntactic structure is that of its substrate languages, Nigerian languages. NP has a national spread and is central to the lives of many Nigerians, especially those who live in the Niger-Delta region and in cities, university campuses, and military and police barracks across the country. Although NP has many varieties based on the geographical location of the speech community as well as the age and level of education of the speaker, the generally accepted standard variety is that spoken in the cities of Effurun, Sapele, and Warri in Delta State and in Port Harcourt in Rivers State (all in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria) where NP is said to have creolized (Elugbe and Omamor 1991, Elugbe 1995, Faraclas 1996, Egbokhare 2001). This paper examines some of the syntactic features (number marking in nouns, number and gender in pronouns, and question formation) of the variety spoken today in Warri by young educated people aged between 18 and 30 years, and identifies differences with what had earlier been reported in the literature on Warri Pidgin (cf. Mafeni 1971, Marchese and Schnukal 1982 and Elugbe and Omamor 1991). Fresh evidence from our data reveals that although NP developed as a contact language which is usually expected to disappear as more people acquire better education, NP in Warri has all the features of a vibrant living language. Moreover, although NP is not accorded any official status by the Nigerian government, it is in fact a threat to the survival of both the indigenous languages and English (Nigeria's main official language). Ironically, although these young people feel most comfortable communicating in NP rather than in their mother tongue languages or in English, they prefer education in English. However, there is also evidence that the poor quality of English by many of these young people in this area is not unconnected with the extensive use of NP. We make some recommendations based on our findings.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference on African Linguistics
edited by Ruth Kramer, Elizabeth C. Zsiga, and One Tlale Boyer
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00