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THE ROLE OF PIDGIN AS A MEANS OF COMMUNICATION IN UNIFYING STUDENTS
1.1 Background of the Study
Every human is identified with the particular form of language they speak. As a result of this, some geographical mappings are based on linguistic peculiarities which equally reflect the socio lives of the people who live there. However, due to the need for more expansive relationship among people of diverse linguistic backgrounds occasioned by trade, politics, education, and other sociological factors, the possibilities of language contact and blending became more imperative. Such possibilities are the primary objects of linguistic interference and interface between and among languages.
In the case of Nigeria, Awonusi in Dazie and Awonusi (2009) states that there are spectaculations in historical records placing the earliest Angio-Nigerian contact as far as the fifteenth century when portugues merchants arrived at the west coast. This contact marked the first linguistic contact of the geographical setting called Nigeria with a different language speakers were identified. He stressed that “the years of Portuguese contact made the evolution and development of a language of trade imperative… in which case “the west Africans had to learn Portuguese to enhance their access to the new European market”. He equally contends that other European nationals such as the dutch, Danes, English, etc also participated in both material and human trade from Africa across Atlanta. This made more European languages available to Nigerians, especially those who live within the coastal areas like the Benin, Calabar among others, although not without interferences from the indigenous languages.
As the initial trade motive turns political, with the English taking colonial charge of Nigeria, the English language became a colonial language which poses as necessity to all the English students in Nigeria. The English language therefore became not only the language of colonial administration, but also that of political and socio inclusiveness with the English people and with the processes of governance. However, a matter of competence and proficiency in the English language was then a prerogative of those who had long-term direct contact with the native speakers of English; those who had the opportunity to enroll in missionary schools where English natives or Nigerians who were already grounded in the language were teachers; The majority of others who now speak the English language with varying degrees of competence and proficiency relied on second or third generation teachers, self education, as well as linguistic socialization in order to reach their different levels of articulation. Although the English language has since the early days of European contact with Africa till present, been domiciled in Nigeria, and has now gained the status of a national language, the consciousness that follows its correct and incorrect usages among the Nigerian speakers restricts immediate recourse to using it by speakers who are not well knowledgeable in the language.
Egbe in Dazie and Awonusi (2009) notes what he calls “inhibition in communication” as part of the factors limiting the use of English among second language (L2) speakers. Therefore, the irresistible need to socialize with minimal proficiency in English language resulted in the hybridization of the English language, Portuguese and other foreign languages along with many Nigerian languages to give birth to the variety known as Nigerian Pidgin. This is especially as the correct usages of the English language are not within the immediate disposal of greater population of Nigerians who depend mainly on interpersonal communication to capture bits of the language.
On the other hand, most other speakers of the English language had their first contact with the language in primary or secondary schools only as part of curricula arrangement or as a transitional language through the spheres of their formal education, and not necessarily as a language for genuine and elaborate socialization. It is often seen as the language of the classroom. This is evident in the fact that most pupils and students only use the English language in such formal settings as schools, but resort to their native languages at homes. Conversely, greater percentage of knowledge of an individual about society and culture are imbued in the individual through the language by which he/she was nurtured, such that the language is captured in both thought and cognition. Consequently, the inability of a great number of speakers of English as L2 to adequately represent their thoughts and worldviews in English language, even among students of higher institutions of learning, as well as the stirring demand to communicate freely with people from diverse linguistic backgrounds, compels most people to resort to pidgin because of its relativesimplicity and error maximization.
Moreover, due to the ever increasing speed of enlightenment among the urban populace and need for the rural homes to be co-opted into the world of global language, parents who are neither educated nor posses any reasonable degree of proficiency in English language strive at all cost to raise their children using any form of English and at the same time try to enforce itscomprehensibility on the. Although not every form of erroneous use of the English language has the status of pidgin, the impact of such erroneous grammatical acuity in the learning process of most students manifests in their safe-drive to pidgin instead of facing the stigma of incorrect grammatical usages in the English language.
On this note, Faraclas (2005: p. 2) states that “the estimate of number of people who speak Nigerian Pidgin as a second language would have to exceed 40 million and the number of first language speakers have already surpassed 1 million”. This, no doubt, would have significant impacts on the communication and relationship of students of higher institutions.
Higher institutions of learning in Nigeria and other parts of the world could best be described as the macrocosm of the global society. This is because of the diversities in language, culture, social and educational backgrounds, ethnicity, etc that characterize the students. The common goal of the education which unifies the students equally provides that they must communicate with one anotherdespite their linguistic disparities. Whereas some are roughly unable to communicate freely in the English language, the knowledge of what they might have to say is best appreciated when they are mindless of such thought-demeaning errors, which in most cases let the listener work out the meaning in shared context with relative congnitive ease. Others who can communicate freely in the language are often socially displaced especially in informal situations as sounding bookish.
The varying perceptions about the use of pidgin are reflected in the view of scholars such as Akinnaso (1989) and Adegbiji (1994) who sees Nigerian Pidgin as positive asset to English language, because of the simplicity of its acquisition and large comprehensibility in its usage among speakers.
Others such as Brann (1985) and Elugbe (1995) view it as a debased form of the English language which should not have precedence over the prestige of good grammar. The opinion of the scholars notwithstanding, Nigerian Pidgin has gained popularity among the educated and uneducated people including students of higher institutions.
This study, therefore, aims to investigate the sociological aspects of pidgin as a means of communication in unifying students. The basis is on the knowledge of the prevailing socio-cultural and linguistic diversity among students of higher institutions. Considering their different levels of previous exposure to the English language and their chances of proper and expressive communication in English, this study survey intends to the impact of Pidgin in interpersonal relationships and socio interactions among students of higherinstitutions from different linguistic communities in order to approximate the possible nature of their compatibility and association if Pidgin were not an alternative medium of communication.
1.2 Research Problem
Although various concepts of Nigerian Pidgin have been extensively discussed by scholars, the particular aspect of its role as a means of communication in unifying students from different ethnic backgrounds has not yet been explored. The centre of this study is the investigation of the sociolinguistic variables that facilitate the use of pidgin as a means of communication in unifying students from diverse sociolinguistic and cultural backgrounds.
1.3 Scope Of The Study
The research focuses on the role of Nigerian Pidgin as a means of communication in unifying students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and who coexist in the university environment, which is a multilingual community. In order words, it intends to account for the sociolinguistic implications of pidgin as the midpoint for constructing a cross-ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic collaborations and harmony.
1.4 Aims And Objectives
The aims of this research are to investigate and describe how Nigerian Pidgin unifies the residents of the selected halls of the residence in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and who are from diverse linguistic background. The objective is to determine the effectiveness of Nigerian Pidgin in coalescing different ethnic and linguistic nationalities into a unified speech community.
1.5 Significant Of The Study
Nigeria is a multi-ethic and multicultural society mainly because of the dissimilar languages with which the cultural and social lives of the people are propagated. This invariably means that diversity in language is one of the factors that bring about ethnic consciousness, especially when the adherents of ethnic cultures are anticipatively unable to accommodate others by virtue of language barrier. In cases like this, Nigerian Pidgin serves as a meeting point for several language and their cultural peculiarities in order to promulgate social and cultural inclusiveness among people with contrasting linguistic expertise.
The input of this study to already existing studies on Nigerian Pidgin is invaluable to scholarship, since it does not just focus on the surface structure analysis of Nigerian Pidgin, but invests into its socio-cultural significanceamong students of diverse backgrounds, using the University of Nigeria, Nsukka,as a prototype of larger society.