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The Dialecticality of NE


Nigeria possesses a distinctive linguistic topography attributable to its over 500 indigenous languages. However, English is a widely spoken language in the country, due to its colonial history and the fact that it serves as the lingua franca for communication between the different ethnic groups. But this language contact has created a nativized variety of English with its distinct lexicon, phonology, syntax, and pragmatic norms, suitably placing Nigerian English (NE) in the category of New Englishes (a term used to denote English varieties that have evolved in postcolonial settings).


One of the key characteristics of NE is its dialecticality. This refers to how NE incorporates features of the different indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria. Thus, NE is a hybrid language that reflects the cultural and linguistic diversity of Nigeria. For instance, loanwords from indigenous languages are often used to express concepts that are unique to the Nigerian context and may not have a direct translation in standard English. For example, the word ‘okada’ is used to refer to motorcycles, which are a popular mode of transportation in many rural areas in Nigeria. Similarly, the word “buka” is used to refer to a small, locally-owned restaurant that serves traditional Nigerian cuisine. The verb “add” in NE can have a semantic use that differs from standard English. For instance, the phrase “Wow! You've added” may be used to imply that the person being referred to has put on some weight.


NE also exhibits remarkable dialectical complexity, characterized by its skilful manipulation of intonation and tone. Drawing from the rich tradition of indigenous Nigerian languages, the subtle nuances of meaning conveyed by tone are fully integrated into the fabric of NE. This intricate interplay of tone and language allows for a remarkable range of expression and depth of communication, as exemplified by the multifaceted meanings of a word like “palm,” which can convey either the inner part of one’s hand or the valuable oil derived from palm trees, depending on the tone employed.


The dialecticality of NE is an important aspect of its identity. It reflects how different linguistic and cultural influences have come together to create a unique language that is both distinct and inclusive. Nevertheless, certain individuals who serve as language authorities in the OED regard these innovative language practices as a form of pidginization or pidginification of English. Well, the moment the English language left its shores and invade other colonies, it subjected itself to cross-linguistics interference. So just as a man and woman coming together can produce offspring, the meeting of English with other languages has resulted in new and distinct forms of linguistic babies.



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