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Some Peculiarities of Nigerian English

Updated on August 11, 2008

It would be helpful to point out right off the bat that 'Nigerian English' hasn't the features or uniqueness such as the two main varieties(i.e. US and UK English) of the language have. Its lexis is basically the same as these other varieties, but there's some uniqueness about its grammar especially its syntax.. Many Nigerian lecturers such as Dr. Mrs Joy Uguru of the Faculty of General Studies at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka have tried to equate 'Nigerian English' with pidgin English, but I shall like the liberty to make a distinction between these two in this article. Pidgin English arose as a result of a neccesity to communicate somehow with Portugese traders about a century ago. Pidgin is never educated English. It is more properly a corruption of educated english. Pidgin has a limited vocabulary, for its aim was to foster communication between speakers of a certain language and others alien to it, rather than being the language of instruction(as Joy campaigns for in her book, "A Common Nigerian Language"). Nigerian pidgin thus cannot be equated with Nigerian English. The latter is English language which has undergone some touch-ups now here and now there.

I shall begin with an instance I heard from a child. I'd promised to buy her some sweets, but failed to (You must not think I usually fail in my promises, but in this case I never really got enough time to get the thing promised). So, when she saw me, she said: "Sirwar"--that's my name--"You eh..." and she hissed softly. It's not a way of speech for children alone. Matter of fact you are as certain to hear that structure from a child as from a doctor doing his rounds: "Nurse eh..." and a soft hiss follows. In the case of the child she said a whole lot than she said. She said: "You are terrible! You don't keep your promises! It's difficult to trust you; in fact, no one should! You should be lynched! etc." In the second case the doctor did say more, too and the nurse at blame would understand the reproach in context. The doctor may have said: "Nurse, you are just fat and lazy; cannot you get me the scalpel speedily! O nurse, it's terrible, the patient is going to die! etc. etc." But in context the sentences are not usually that short as I've written such as You eh!, That boy eh! etc. But you could in fact have an instance like this: "It indeed was a harrowing experience and if ever I met someone about to make the same mistake, I'd eh!" The meaning in this case would be: "I'll risk my life to prevent him! I'd be eternally sorry for him! etc".

Another example is of affixes. This may have overflown into Nigerian English from Nigerian local languages such as Igbo in which a single word can have any number of affixes( In Igbo: "Mgbakwunye") between one and three and the next word having as much too without robbing the sentence of its intended meaning, but rather, exaggerating the meaning for effect. "Gaba!" is "Go!" in Igbo. "Gabazie!", "Gabanu!" "Gabazienu!" all convey as much meaning as the first but with varying degrees of the determination the subject has in ordering the object to "go". In Nigerian English, this same manner of speech is closely applied. For a word like "Go!", it may fail to convey as much as is intended when you mean you'll thank the object to leave your presence without further delay. "Go away!" would be okay for US or UK English, but in Nigerian English, "Go now!" will serve. It is to be noted that the latter word of the sentence does not have in this case its traditional meaning of 'happening at the instant' but rather takes on the meaning of 'I plead with you(to go!)' . Thus, Nigerian English gives in certain contexts, new meanings to old words.


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      Oluwamitosinmile 7 years ago

      can u provide something more comprehensive? i'm presently working on this, and i think this article is good for a start! don't u think so?

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      Ezeh Izuchukwu 'Sirwar' Williams 7 years ago from Enugu, Nigeria

      Hi Oluwamitosinmile, thanks for the comment. I would really love to help you as much as I can. These instances are taken from my personal experiences. Are u writing a book or something?

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      onakunle 6 years ago

      Pls I need something on the pragmatic features of Nigerian English, I'm writing my undergraduate thesis on it, your assistance will be highly appreciated. Anything to help can be sent to

    • Sirwilly profile image

      Ezeh Izuchukwu 'Sirwar' Williams 6 years ago from Enugu, Nigeria

      Hi onakunle, you really will have to further expatiate the topic so that I know exactly what to suggest. I'd love to help. My email addy is

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      ikenna 6 years ago

      pls i need more examples of written nigerian english for my e-mail is

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      Gbugu Perpetual 6 years ago

      I love the introduction you wrote on the Nigerian English,please how can i read more of your write-ups,i'm a 300level English Student of the University of Ilorin,kwara state,my e-mail address is,thank you

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      chidimma 6 years ago

      please i need a comprehensive discussion on "the possibility of using pidgin english as a language of instruction in Nigeria

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      Onyinye Orji 6 years ago

      please discuss "the possibility of using pidgin english as a language of instruction in Nigeria

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      rhoda 6 years ago

      please discuss the possibility of using pidgin english as a language of instruction in Nigeria

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      claire 6 years ago

      Hi I'm actually translating a novel about Nigeria, and there are some words that ought to be typically Nigerian English. Can you tell me if "end in a bad bush" is typically Nigerian, or did the author make it up to look like Nigerian English?

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      brume 5 years ago

      please i really need to know about the features of nigerian pidgin grammer

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      Tonia 5 years ago

      Pls. I desperately need to know more about features of Nigerian pidgin for my assignment and i have just today, tomorrow to submit on monday. Email,

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      Lizzy 5 years ago

      Please i need to knw the reasons why the nigeria pidgin is called the nigeria pidgin and the roles it perform in nigeria. My email. Thank u

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