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 sector.
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.
The total number of hundred (100) questionnaires were distributed and the percentage system is the method used in calculating the different responses.