Vowels: i, e, e, a, , o, u (plus nasals)
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Consonsants: p, f, m, b, v, t, s, n, d, z, l, r, tú, dú, j, k, ×, g, kp, gb, w, h
Yoruba: oyibo – white man, wahala – trouble
Portugese: pikin – child, palava – discussion, sabi – to know
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Hausa: wayo – tricks
new coinage: pele – disappear/escape quickly
- reduplications: katakata (scatter) – confusion, chaos, wakawaka (walk) – wander perpetually, toktok (talk) – gossip
- compounds: kresman – crazy man, switmaut (sweet mouth) – flattery, greed, wochnait – night watchman
- Sg. a 1. Pl. wi
- Sg. yu 2. Pl. una
- Sg. i/in 3. Pl. dem
- Sg. mi 1. Pl. wi/os
- Sg. yu 2. Pl. una
- Sg. am/in 3. Pl. dem
- Sg. mai 1. Pl. ia/awa
- Sg. yo 2. Pl. una
- Sg. in 3. Pl. dem/den
- Sg. mi
- Sg. yu
- Sg. in
- Pl. wi
- Pl. una
- Pl. dem
Singular: di + noun
Plural: di + noun + dem
Singular: won + noun
Plural: plenti, meni etc. + noun
- dis + noun
- dat + noun
- dis + noun + dem
- dat + noun + dem
won – one, tu – two, tri – three, etc.
di tu – both, di tri – all three, di faif – all five, etc.
won won – one each, tu tu – two each, tri tri – three each, etc.
fes – first, sekon – second, nomba tri – third, nomba faif – fifth, etc.
little usage of prepositions, all-purpose „fo(r)“, occasional fixed verb-prepositions, as in „I vex wit di man.“
Na (it is) / No bi (it is not) + emphasized part of clause + rest of clause
Singular: kom kwik!, folo am go!
Plural: mek una getop!, una sidon!, mek wi go nau
se – that, we – who, di tin we – what, wetin – what, til – until, if – if, wen – when, wie – where, bifo – before, mek – so that, etc.
Yes/No Question: Shebi + clause (no inversion)? – Isn’t it the case that …?
Clause-initial question item: (Na) wetin i de du?
nko = what about?: Una mama nko? (how is your mother?)
nko = what if?: If a si di man nko? (what if I see the man?)
Non-verbal clauses: Hau nau? (how are things?), Hau bodi? (how are you?), No be so? (is it not so?)
Tense and Aspect
|1. neutral||i kom||i go kom|
|he came||he will come|
|2. imperfective||i de kom||i de kom||i go de kom|
|he comes/is coming||he is coming/usually comes||he will be coming/continue coming|
|a) inchoative||i don de kom||i don de kom||i go don de kom|
|he has started coming||he had started coming||he will have started coming|
|b) terminative||i don kom||i don kom||i go don kom|
|he has come/arrived||he has come arrived||he will have come/arrived|
Aspect and Tense: Examples
- Past or Present? Watch out for indications of past tense and/or context.
- Wen yo mama rich hie yestade, a de chop. When your mother arrived here yesterday, I was eating.
- A si am las mont, i stil de krai. I saw him/her last month, he/she was still crying.
- Dem don chop di chop finish, wen a rich haus las nait. They had eaten the food completely, when I arrived home last night.
- Present Perfective
- A don de tek bat. I have started taking my bath (and am still bathing).
- A don tek bat. I have taken my bath (and am clean now).
- A tel mai papa se a go de kom si am evri de. I told my father that I would (will) be coming/will continue coming to see him every day.
- If wi go go fo Lagos fo ivnin, NEPA go don tek lait. If we go to Lagos this evening, NEPA will have taken the light/will have switched off electricity.
- A go don de kuk di sup wen yu de rich haus fo ivnin. I will have started cooking when you arrive home tonight.
- Past marker bin
- A bin chop. I ate.
- A bin de chop. I was eating.
- A bin don chop. I had eaten.
Translation of the English to be
- as zero, with an adjective:
- A veks. I was angry.
- Di tin fain tru tru. The thing is really/truly beautiful.
- as de, with a location:
- I still de fo haus. He is/was still at home.
- Wi de fo Lagos. We are/were in Lagos.
- as na, when linking to noun phrases (esp. in 1st person singular also bi):
- Mercedes na dash. Mercedes (cars) are a bribe.
- A bi jos wuman. I am only a woman.
Source: Ben Obi Elugbe and Augusta Phil Omamor. Nigerian Pidgin: Background and Prospects. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books, 1991.
Forms of Popular Nigerian English: Examples
1.1.1. Category Shift: reclassification of noun/adjective/adverb as verb: Horn before overtaking! Off the light! It tantamounts to fraud. I was not chanced/opportuned to come.
1.1.2. Countable/Uncountable Nouns:
22.214.171.124. Singular of a SE mass noun: a staff, a cutlery
126.96.36.199. Abstraction in SE, instances of abstract idea in PNE: behaviour, issue
188.8.131.52. Reclassification of countable nouns as uncountable: give chance, take bribe, make mistake
1.1.3. Progressive in State Verbs: I am seeing/hearing/smelling. I am not having much money. Let me be going.
1.1.4. Object Patterns: He allowed them go. She made him to work hard. The child refused going to bed. She avoided to meet him. She didn’t arrive on time – she always likes to disappoint. It was a wonderful party – we enjoyed!
1.1.5. Prepositional and Non-Prepositional Verbs: You should dispose your car. Why did you not reply my letter? The library comprises of many sections. They are demanding for money. He emphasized on the importance of rest. I regret of not arriving earlier. Let us request for more lectures.
1.2.1. Indiscriminate Use of Infinitive/Basic Form: Yesterday they go to your office. She cook delicious peppersoup.
1.2.2. Double marking: He did not went. Did she wanted him?
1.2.3. Wrong Formation of Parts of Irregular Verbs: hitted, splitted, grinded
1.2.4. Inflexion of Relevant Words of Idioms: They ran for their dear lives.
1.2.5. Spelling Errors (faulty inflexions due to wrong analogy): dinning, strenght, maintainance
1.3.1. Shift of Sense or Reference: Rice is too cheap nowadays, unlike what it was last year. His hand pained him too much that he could hardly write.
1.3.2. Prepositions: in –> at: at my old age, of –> at: as at now, on –> at: at my arrival, at –> on: on the table, in –> on: to deal on, in –> with: with the belief, for –> to: I left Lagos to Ibadan, except –> unless: Nobody knows the answer, unless myself, unless –> except: You cannot receive the money except you show your I.D. card
184.108.40.206. Past Perfect Instead of Present Perfect: In 1986 the nation was selling her crude oil at 28 Naira per barrel. Today, the price of oil had tumbled to an all-time low of 10 Naira per barrel.
220.127.116.11. Might Have: After the referee might have arrived the match will begin.
18.104.22.168. Reported Speech: Yusuf said he is entering the house when his brother drove up.
1.4. Copying (syntactically redundant use of words):
1.4.1. Subject Copying: My father he works under NEPA.
1.4.2. Object Copying in Relative Clauses: The car which he bought it last year is already giving trouble.
1.4.3. Relative and Possessive Sequence: I know the man who his father died.
1.4.4. of Before which: It was a very horrible experience of which I hope it will not happen again.
1.4.5. Other Cases: in case –> should in case, better –> more better, can –> can be able, repeat –> repeat again
1.5.1. Demonstrative + Possessive + Noun: this town of ours –> this our town
1.5.2. No Reversal of Inversion after Wh-Words in Indirect Speech: He asked me what was the time.
- Loan Words
2.1. Food: akara (Yoruba: small deep-fried bean balls), buka (Haussa: cheap eating-place), ogbono (Igbo: soup based on the seed of the Williamson tree), ogogoro, kai-kai etc. (various languages: local gin)
2.2. Dress: agbada (Yoruba: large gown worn by men, often embroidered at the neck and cuffs and with flowing sleeves that can be hitched over the shoulders), danshiki (Hausa: gown with wide armpits reaching to the knees)
2.3. Forms of Address and Titles: alhaji (Haussa: Muslim who has been to Mecca), oba (Yoruba: primarily a specific title, often used loosely to refer to any traditional ruler), obi, eze (Igbo: specific titles), oga (Yoruba: big man, master, fairly general in the South), baba (Haussa, Yoruba: father, old man, fairly general in the West and North)
2.4. Traditional Religion: babalawo (Yoruba: diviner), Ifa (Yoruba: oracle), chi (Igbo: personal god), ogbanje (Igbo: changeling)
2.5. Interjections, Discourse Particles: a-a! (Yoruba: strong surprise, disbelief), … abi? (Yoruba: isn’t it?), kai, chei (Haussa, Igbo: strong surprise), ooo! (various languages: yes), … o(h)! (Yoruba: appendable to almost any word, indicates speakers’s personal involvment, implications according to context, e.g.: sorry-oh!)
- Avoidance of SE Syntactic Forms
1.1. Reflexive Tag and Echo Questions
1.1.1. All-Purpose Tag: isn’t it?
1.1.2. All-Purpose Verificational Question: Is that so?
1.2. Tenses: future perfect, perfect infinitive and continuous forms of perfect tenses are avoided particularly in V1 and V2.
1.3. Auxiliaries: must and should most frequent, ought less frequent, needn’t, dare and be to usually avoided
1.4. Passives: generally avoided particularly in V1 and V2, they + active form often used: There was a security light outside my house but they have stolen it.
- Style: prevalence of an abstract, impersonal, formal style
2.1. stilted or pedantic English: Everybody must bring his or her book. They all went to their respective homes.
2.2. ‘bookish English’, biblical echoes: harlot
2.3. Mixture of Styles:
2.3.1. formal style in informal context: How are you? I hope you are in good health. For your information, I arrived home on the 28th of March.
2.3.2. informal style in formal context: I was sorry to hear that your mother kicked the bucket.
2.4.1. Clichés of formal style: in the final analysis, in no small measure, to mention but a few, the order of the day
2.4.2. Clichés of informal style: men of the underworld, the national cake, spread like a bushfire in the harmattan, we have a long way to go
2.5.1. SE proverbs: (What is) sauce for the goose is (also) sauce for the gander. (There is) no smoke without fire.
2.5.2. NE proverbs: Nobody is above mistake. God never sleeps. What a man can do a woman can also do.
2.5.3. Direct translation from MT: When two elephants fight, the grass suffers.
2.5.4. Pidgin proverbs: Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.
Source: David Jowitt. Nigerian English Usage: An Introduction. Ikeja: Longman Nigeria, 1991.