Friday, June 4, 2021

2015 Journal Excerpt: Beyond Barriers: The Changing Status of Nigerian Pidgin

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents an excerpt of a 2015 PDF entitled "Beyond Barriers: The Changing Status of Nigerian Pidgin" by Jane Nkechi Ifechelobi and Chiagozie Uzoma Ifechelobi. This pdf was published on June 2015 in the International Journal of Language and Literature. This excerpt is given without its accompanying notes/citations. 

The content of this post is presented for linguistic and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Jane Nkechi Ifechelobi and Chiagozie Uzoma Ifechelobi for their research and their writing. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.



International Journal of Language and Literature

June 2015, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 208-216

ISSN: 2334-234X (Print), 2334-2358 (Online)

Copyright © The Author(s). 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Published by American Research Institute for Policy Development

DOI: 10.15640/ijll.v3n1a26


Beyond Barriers: The Changing Status of Nigerian Pidgin

Jane Nkechi Ifechelobi

 & Chiagozie Uzoma Ifechelobi

"[Page 208]


It is a sociolinguistic reality that any living language has the tendency to adapt to the environment in which it operates whether the language is spoken as a first or second language. The English language has served the nation Nigeria in much capacity – as the language of education, commerce, politics, administration etc.

Nigeria as a multilingual nation with about four hundred or so ethno-linguistic groups each with an indigenous language has the English language superimposed on them as the official language. So English in Nigeria is continuously undergoing various processes of domestication, naturalization and acculturation within each ethno-linguistic context. In a situation where two speech communities without a common language come together for a certain purpose, a means of communication emerges. The emergent language is usually referred to as a contact language. This paper takes a cursory look at the evolution of Nigeria Pidgin over the years.



“Pidginisation is a complex process of sociolinguistics” (Hymes 1974). It involves a superstrate language and substrate languages. The superstrate is usually the language of power while the substrates are usually the local languages. A Pidgin language takes its lexifiers/vocabulary from the superstrate language and the grammar and phonology from the substrate languages. The emergent language is called a Pidgin; it is massively simplified and
spelled as it is pronounced. In the case of Nigerian Pidgin, the English language is the superstrate while the indigenous languages are the substrate languages.

[page 209]

According to Elugbe, Nigerian Pidgin is English-based or English-related because most of its vocabulary is derived from English. Since it has Nigerian languages as its substrate or underlying influence, it can be said, and it is often said, that the vocabulary of Nigerian Pidgin is English while its grammar is English. (qtd in Bamgbose et al, 995)

Pidgin languages share certain common features like specific word order and morphological simplification. A Pidgin language is generally reduced “in the direction of whatever features are common to the languages of all those using the Pidgin, for mutual ease in use and comprehensibility, thus arriving at a kind of greatest common denominator” (Hall, 1996). Hudson asserts that “each Pidgin is of course specially constructed to suit the need of its users which means that it has to have the terminology and constructions needed in whatever kind of context” (2000). These definitions affirm that Pidgin languages are languages in the true sense of it. No language is inferior to another instead languages are meant to rub off on another where two or more speech communities are in contact. A Pidgin is either restricted or extended/expanded. A restricted Pidgin is a means to an end and dies out after the contact situation that gave rise to it has ended while an extended/expanded Pidgin lives on and could be creolized, decreolised or become an international language.


[page 210]

2.1 Morphology of Nigerian Pidgin

Generally, Pidgins are simplified languages. Nigerian Pidgin is an English-based Pidgin, that is, its lexicon is massively based on the English language. Nigerian Pidgin employs many devices in enriching its rich vocabulary.


Reduplication is a “mechanism for forming new words. It involves the repetition of a word (or part of a word) resulting in a distinct lexical item slightly different in meaning” (Holms, 2000). It is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word (or part of it) or even the whole word is repeated exactly or with a slight change.

It is used to create new words in lexical derivation.


Wuru wuruJ aga jaga

Kia kia Kata kata

Yama yama Waka waka

Corner corner blo blo

Hori hori

2.2 Affixation

Affixation is the linguistic process used to form different words by adding morphemes (affixes) at the beginning, middle or the end of words. The suffix –y may often be attached to adjectives to derive nouns that bring out contrastive meanings that are emphatic.


short = shortly – A short person

black = blacky – A very dark skinned individual

left = lefty – A left handed fellow

sweet = sweety– A dear one

2.3 Compounding

It is a process of word formation that creates compound lexemes. Compounding takes place when two or more words are joined together to make one word. The meaning of the compound word might be different from the meanings of the various words in isolation.



[page 211]



busybody-prying person

sharp mouth-a talkative person



badmarket-hard luck

long rope-period of grace

bigman-a wealthy man





babyoku-nubile girl

basketmouth-a garrulous person

coconuthead-a dunce







tearface-wild person

sufferhead-unlucky person




carrygo-suit one’s self

These compound words are either hyphenated, written separately or together.

2.4 Metaphorical Extension

Metaphorical extension is a natural process in any language undergone by every word. It is the extension of meaning in a new direction through popular adoption of an original metaphorical comparison.


Water don pass garri-A disturbing situation

Tokunbo-fairly used goods


Yellow fever-a traffic warden

Grammar-a fine sounding English word

2.5 Clipping

Clipping is a word formation process that involves the reduction of a word to one of its parts. In Nigerian Pidgin, some of the words got from the superstrate language (English) are shortened but they retain their full lexical meaning.






[Page 212]




2.6 Acronyms

An acronym is formed from the initial components of a word or phrase.



TDB-Till Day Break

K-A thousand naira

24/7-24 hours a day, 7 days a week

OYO-On your own

JJC-Johnny just come

Assignment of meaning to Referents based on Social, Economic and Political Circumstances

Ghana must go-Luggage

Face me I face you-A ghetto compound

Park one side-steer clear

I pass my neighbor-a small generator set

2.7 Borrowing

A word borrowed from one language for use in another.










214 International Journal of Language and Literature, Vol. 3(1), June 2015

Nigerian Pidgin is one of the languages with vitality despite its unofficial position; the negative connotation associated with it is gradually wearing off as linguists are beginning to explore the creativity associated with the language. The government has realized the effectiveness of Nigerian Pidgin and is using it to disseminate information, especially on health issues, to the public. It has recognized the vital role Nigerian Pidgin plays in getting closer to the masses. Jingles, posters, stickers, etc are now prepare in Nigerian Pidgin because it is the language of wider communication. A lot of TV commercials have been done in Nigerian Pidgin. According to Elugbe, “government agencies are now getting round to the position that, if the object is to reach as many Nigerians as possible, Nigerian Pidgin, is at least, one of the languages to employ” (qtd in Bamgbose et al, 1995).


MTN Portability advert

I don port oh!

Indomie noodles

Mama do good o!

Hypo bleach

Hypo go wipe o!


Carry hold belle


Oga for strong strong headache

If e no bi panadol

E no fit be panadol

Raid Insecticide

E no get photocopy

Az Oil

E no get part 2

Bagco Super Bag

E strong kakaraka

Gold Circle

Aids no de show for face, abeg use condom

Jowitt (2000) posits that, “the situation today is that Pidgin flourishes as the language of inter-ethnic communication”.

All the telecommunication companies in Nigeria make use of Nigerian Pidgin in their call centres. Whenever a customer calls in, the customer is asked to choose between English, Nigerian Pidgin and the indigenous languages.

Nigerian Pidgin is currently trending in the entertainment industry and the music industry has contributed immensely to the lexicon of Nigerian Pidgin with the advent of words like

Yahooze-A fraud



Kolomental-A psychopath




Eminado-lucky charm

In Lagos State, a radio station called Wazobia FM broadcasts fully in Nigerian Pidgin and it was established in 2007. People from all walks of life call in during their live broadcasts and it is believed that the radio station has the largest number of listeners, thanks to Nigerian Pidgin. Nigerian Pidgin has found its way into the literary sphere in Nigeria. Many years ago, it was used to depict the stupidity and illiteracy of some characters. But recently, authors have been exploring the beauty of the language in poems, prose and fiction. Some of these works include: 

Tori for geti bow leg-Mamman Vatsa

If to say I bi soja-Ezenwa Ohaeto

I wan bi President-Ezenwa Ohaeto

Dis Nigeria sef-Ken Saro-Wiwa

[page 215]

No food no country-Tunde Fatunde

Grip am-Ola Rotimi

Abuja na kpangba an Oda puem dem-Eriatu Oribhabor

A man of the People-Chinua Achebe

The Voice-Gabriel Okara

“Today, the functions of Nigerian Pidgin have become more extensive. Apart from expanding its territorial spreads as a lingua franca on ethnically heterogenous areas… it is now used in radio and television broadcasts and in poetry and drama” (qtd in Bamgbose et al, 1995). Nigerian Pidgin is undeniably Nigeria’s lingua franca. Elugbe observes that “it is certain that no other language, be it indigenous or foreign, has the number of speakers that Nigerian Pidgin has (it is clearly the most widely spoken language in Nigeria today” (Bamgbose et al, 1995). Nigerian Pidgin is currently experiencing an ambivalent shift in status because of its diachronic development over the years.”…

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