One of the most important differences between man and animal is man’s
ability to speak and make others understand him. Language is only
possible because within each society, people agree to understand a
particular pattern of sound in a particular way. For instance, all
English speaking countries understand the meaning of the word ‘water’.
According to Akindele and Adegbije, language is:
A human phenomenon that has form which can be described in terms
of units of sound (phonemes), word, morphemes, phrases, sentences and
paragraphs or discourse (1).
This definition shows that language has often been identified as the
most unique attribute of man. It is through language that human beings
grasp and understand reality and transmit it from one generation to
another. This view is buttressed by Blakar who asserts that “we actually
live and behave in a world of language” (4). Victoria Fromkin and
Robert Rodman quoted Noam Chomoky as saying that:
When we study human language, we are approaching what some might
call the human essence. The distributive qualities of mind that are so
far as we know unique to man. (1).
Language, which Oyewo Yinka describe as “the medium or vehicle for
conveying ideas, a system of arbitrary vocal symbol based on social
cooperation; the totality of meaningful utterance in any given society”
(15) is by far the most important means of human communication.
The effects of Nigerian Pidgin English on students is the focus of
this research work. Pidgin has their different histories about language
contact and subsequent borrowing and code-mixing. The origin of Nigerian
pidgin can be traced to the contact which was established between
multilingual coastal communities and Portuguese merchants, who were
joined later by the Dutch and the English. Nigerian Pidgin English is in
fact becoming very popular in the country, especially in the secondary
schools and in the universities; even at public function as well as in
the offices. It is a lingua franca for social integration among diverse
ethnic groups in the country.
Nigerian Pidgin English has developed to the extent that it is
utilized for literary communication. Some of the works which Nigerian
pidgin is employed as a medium of expression are “Dis Nigeria Sef” a
poem written by Ken Saro-Wiwa, No Food No Country a play by Tunde Fatunde, and Grip Am a
play by Ola Rotimi; though some people consider it to be a low social
status. Nigerian Pidgin has come to stay as the major lingua franca
adopted for communication among the many different speakers in Nigeria.
According to Jowitt:
The situation today is that pidgin flourishes as a medium of
inter-ethnic communication, especially in the south, and especially in
the large cities with many non-indigenous residents (Bendel, Benin, Port
Harcourt, etc) or throughout States with small many ethnic groups…(13)
Nigerian Pidgin in this case is a situation where normal language
pattern is altered, but generally accepted to convey meaning. The
language does not only evolve but also has its origin from a mixture of
other languages. Experiences have shown that among the students for
which this work was conceived, Nigerian Pidgin English has gained a
wider audience in all sectors of the economy, especially the educational
Background to The Study:
The term pidgin is used to refer to a language which develops in a
situation where speakers of different languages have a need to
communicate but do not share a common language. Once a pidgin has
emerged, it is generally learned as a second language and used for
communication among people who speak differently.
Language is the most creative and unlimited instrument for social
communication and it helps us to understand the deep seated social
relevance, culture involvement and the human relatedness of language.
Having said this, we can therefore agree that pidgin is a language of
its own and not just a supplementary tongue as some people see it, since
it serves as an unlimited instrument of social communication especially
in a multilingual community as Caritas University.
According to R. Linton he states that “the culture of a society is
the way of life of its members, the collection of ideas and habits which
they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation” (12).
These cultures, ideas and habits can only be transmitted from generation
to generation through language. In linguistic, every language is
considered adequate to represent the communicative needs of its people
and as such should not be made to suffer any biases.
This cannot be said of Nigerian Pidgin – even though it is a language
– because various attempts have been made by different faction to
eradicate the use of Nigerian Pidgin English. These attempts have
however been unsuccessful because of the significant value the language
has to its users. It is a language that has brought people together in
spite of their differences in ancestral culture and language by creating
a local culture for itself which blends ideas from different cultures.
Statement of Research Problem:
Nigerian Pidgin is a language just as English and there is enough
room for both language to co-exist and be mutually enriching. Despite
this – and the fact that Nigerian Pidgin English appears to be the most
popular means of communication among diverse groups and is easier to
learn than any other language in the country today – it is generally
asserted that it is not the suitable language for use in formal setting
and its use in such setting is usually frowned at.
This research work will explore the potentials of Nigerian Pidgin
English as a language. If Nigerian Pidgin English does have this
potential, why is its usage and status denigrated? Also, does the
speaking of Nigerian Pidgin affect the student’s academic performance?
Answers to these questions will enable us make useful recommendations
for future studies.
Purpose of the Study:
This work intends to look into the effectiveness and status of
Nigerian Pidgin English. It is inherent that for a long period of time
that Nigerian Pidgin English has been the means of communication among
students in the higher institutions. This research will bring into light
if the use of Nigeria Pidgin English has any effect on the students and
their academic performance in Caritas University. The finding will be
regarded to be generic, affecting also students in other institutions
who equally exalt Nigerian Pidgin English above standard English.
Significance of the Study:
This study is important because its results can go a long way to
finding out the causes of students’ negative or positive academic
performance. If Nigerian Pidgin English has contributed negatively or
positively to the students.
This work will in no doubt contribute to one’s knowledge especially
in the department of English, Caritas University, Enugu as it will
highlight some issues in educational planning. It will be a guide for
the federal government in planning for effective educational system.
Scope and Limitations:
The scope of this project is on the effects of Nigerian Pidgin
English in university community. An assessment of its use in various
forms will be carried out. This research is limited to Caritas
University, Enugu even though the findings might be generic.
Questionnaires were distributed to hundred (100) students in Caritas
University, Enugu State which is my case study and these questionnaires
were filled and collected and the hundred questionnaires were returned.
The result/total of responses from the respondents is tabled in the
yes/no format. The collection of data was done in two parts. The
secondary and primary source. The primary source is the questionnaire;
the secondary source includes textbooks, journals and so on. The
materials were researched upon in libraries: Benue State University and
Caritas University libraries.