Is Nigerian Pidgin English English?

Akinmade T. Akande 1
  • 1 Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.


The major aim of this paper is to demonstrate through the grammar of the verb phrase in Standard English (StdE) and Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) that NPE is a distinct language. The paper draws on data collected from 30 Nigerian University Graduates from three ethnolinguistic regions. Although many scholars have pointed out that NPE is a language (Agheyisi, West African Pidgin: Simplification and Simplicity, University of Stanford, 1971; Elugbe and Omamor, Nigerian Pidgins: Background and Prospects, Heinemann, 1991), not many of them have examined the verb phrase in NPE with a view to showing that its grammar is distinctive. It has been shown in this paper that the NPE verb phrase is sharply different from StdE verb phrase, and because the verb is at the centre of the clause and can determine its argument, it can be argued that NPE whose verbal grammar is radically different from that of English is a separate language. The pattern of clustering of NPE verb phrases with other NPE verb phrases or other crieterial features of NPE is also a demonstration that NPE is a distinct language. Finally, the subjects made sharp switches from StdE to NPE, speaking in blocks of first one code and then the other: this is like the behaviour of bilinguals moving from one language to another.

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