THE ROLE OF PIDGIN AS A MEANS OF COMMUNICATION IN UNIFYING STUDENTS
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
This Chapter will be presented in six sections: background information, statement of the problem, aim and objective, the significance of the study and the scope of the study.
1.1 Background Information
The background to this study is examined from two viewpoints, which include: The History of Pidgin which also reiterates the form in which pidgin occurs, and Pidgin in the 21st Century.
1.1.1 The History of Pidgin
Fundamentally, a pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication, as it is constructed impromptu, or by convention, between individuals or groups of people. The origin of pidgin could be traced to 1850, when it first appeared in print. Shaibu (2013) describes Nigerian Pidgin English as a combination of indigenous languages and English. It basically uses English words mixed into Yoruba, Benin or Igbo grammar. Nigerian Pidgin English used to be seen mainly as the code of the non-literate as well as a bastardization of English, therefore, was considered as indicative of academic proficiency in English. In the case of Nigeria however, Akande (2008:37) notes that, the social linguistic reality in Nigeria today is such that Nigerian Pidgin English is spoken by university graduates, professors, lawyers and journalists.
Holm (1988) considers language contact to be nearly as old as language itself. To support this idea he points out that in the ancient Egypt there was a trade language developed among several Hamito-Semitic languages in contact in the Nile Valley, which can be considered a pidgin. A pidgin, or pidgin language is a simplified version of a language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. It is most
commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the country in which they reside. Major language changes usually occur over centuries, but the language contact that forms pidgins results in ‘rapid language change and evolution’ (Patrick. 2006). A pidgin language is a variety created by combining two or more existing languages through the process of ‘pidginization’. When people need to communicate but speak different native languages, they may combine their own languages to create a new ‘pidgin language’. This language is then transferred by word of mouth to others and becomes the acknowledged way for the different speaking communities to communicate.
Pidgin is a wide term covering a range of regional hybrids, which evolved through historical events such as the spread of Empires, settlement, migration and international trade. Found in Africa (West African Pidgins include Nigerian Pidgin, Cameroonian Pidgin, Sierra Leone Krio), Indonesia (Tok Pisin, spoken in Papua New Guinea), parts of Asia and the Caribbean, English derived Pidgins are inventive, innovative, and often quite literal. For example in Tok Pisin, ‘gras bilong het’ (or grass belong head) simply means ‘hair’. Because of their spontaneous adaptability, Pidgins are unlike other languages in that they can be as structured or as unstructured as needed – there are no strict rules as such. Pidgins are also not used as mother tongues, though over time and generations, the language evolves, is adopted and changes to gradually become a first language for new generations.
Historically, Pidgin occurs in situations where native language is seen as subordinate, or banned in the case of slavery, and is the point where Pidgin arguably moves to become a Creole, or a stable, ‘nativised’ language. Scholarly debate remains however, as to what point a Pidgin language can evolve to become a Creole and replace a native language over the generations.
As an idea of how language evolves, from ‘no common language’ between English and native groups, to ‘Pidgin’ languages to ‘Creole’, the tongue follows four main stages of development –
Restricted – The beginnings of Pidgin, used as a fundamental necessity when contact between language groups (English and native) is limited.
Extended – If contact is more prolonged, Pidgin develops, and may be situationally encouraged to be used between natives themselves (i.e. natives of differing native tongues), as well as between other language groups.
Creole – If Pidgin survives, and if inter-native use evolves enough, it can develop into a Creole language to become a next generation mother tongue in place of the native language.
Standardization/decreolization – Increasingly standardized and structured, over time, the Creole becomes more rigid, developing into a standard, stabilized language (And very different from the original loose Pidgin structures)
Nowadays, Pidgin English is in extensive use and is well-recognised around the globe, especially in parts of West Africa and Oceania. In 2012 for example, for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Prince Charles visited Papua New Guinea, introducing himself as the “Numbawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin”, (or ‘number one child belonging to Mrs Queen’) proving the resilience and longevity which Pidgin (despite its modest roots) can have – if royalty can speak it, Pidgin has really gone a long way.
However, to be considered pidgin it must be stable and have norms of meaning, grammar and pronunciation. Some of its characteristics are: limited vocabulary; elimination of many grammatical devices – such as number and gender; lack of inflectional and derivational morphemes; lack of verbal inflection; loss of prepositions and indicators of time, aspect and mood; lack of locative prepositions and plural indicator; movement rules among others.
1.1.2 Pidgin in the 21st Century
It has been discovered lately, that most people especially students in various Nigerian tertiary institutions, find it easier to communicate with pidgin whenever they are in an informal setting. It is also important to mention that Pidgin has been able to secure a place in the corporate world. People switch to Pidgin in the middle of a formal conversation either to explain themselves better or to cite an instance to juxtapose the message they are trying to pass across.
Obafemi Awolowo University, a typical example of a multilingual setting; people from different cultural backgrounds live together in a room, and communication has to take place. This set of people prefer to use pidgin as a means of communication whenever they engage in conversations in any informal environment because there are no standard rules guiding its usage unlike the Standard English where you have to abide by the rules of concord, syntax, phonology, and semantics among others. In other words, they feel more convenient when they express themselves in pidgin because they is always the tendency of being careful not to break the rules of concord, syntax, grammar, among others.
Akande and Salami (2010) assume that the urban characters of the university environments are strong factors influencing the students’ use and attitudes to Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE). They hold that apart from their education, living within the university communities, the students are likely to enact more urban networks that are usually made up of multilingual and multicultural contents. It is noteworthy to emphasize that the university communities have a large number of users of the Nigerian Pidgin English. Basically, it could be argued that Nigerian Pidgin English plays a unifying role among its users, as it is the language of the educated and the uneducated irrespective of their linguistic backgrounds. Akande (2008:38) argues “it could be regarded as a
marker of identity and solidarity. It is an inter-ethnic code available to Nigerians, who have no other common language.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
After various research procedures, it is evident that students of Obafemi Awolowo University feel more comfortable whenever they are expressing themselves in Pidgin, this study examines the degree Pidgin is used, the various types, the gender involved, and the cultural undertone. Previous studies on pidgin have focused on the origin and characteristics of Pidgin. Studies on how it performs its unifying role among its users in a multilingual setting such as Obafemi Awolowo University halls of residence has not received adequate scholarly attention. This type of study would also highlight the positive roles of pidgin in Nigeria.
1.3 Aim and Objectives
The aim of this study is to describe how pidgin unifies the residents of the selected halls of residence in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, who are from diverse linguistic backgrounds. The objectives of this study are to:
a. analyse the forms of conversations peculiar among the residents of Moremi and Fajuyi halls of residence.
b. highlight how pidgin fosters, unifies and brings about the ease of communication among selected respondents, and
c. analyse the recorded conversations in the context of time, mood and situation accompanying them, in order to show how pidgin unifies them.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Pidgin is an important code for communication in a multilingual society, where many cultural differences are in existence and have in one way or the other dominated the day-to-day conversations of the students of Obafemi Awolowo University, this study would examine the frequency at which pidgin is used, the syntactic groups, and the cultural undertone reflected in the kind of pidgin used among the students, and the purposes for which pidgin is used. The importance of this study is not just to describe how pidgin is used, but to provide a deep insight of how pidgin serves the unifying role among the students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
1.5 Assumptions Underlying the Study
a. Students adopt various forms of expressions ranging from the use of their local dialects, British English, and the use of Pidgin.
b. Students have diverse ways of using Pidgin.
c. Pidgin makes communication easier in a multilingual speech community.
1.6 Scope of the Study
There are various forms of languages in the world, and it is impossible for an individual to be proficient in all these languages. In Moremi and Awolowo halls of residence in Obafemi Awolowo University, which are typical examples of multilingual societies. Pidgin is commonly used during conversations among students because most of the conversations done in the academic environment are usually formal thereby creating some restrictions for the students as they tend to carefully select words in order not to bypass the rigorous processes of the Standard British English.