Presented To

Department of English and Linguistics


This study investigates the syntactic features of Nigerian English which have been created

through the following processes – the use of subjectless sentences, reduplication, double subjects,

Pidgin-influenced structures, discourse particles, verbless sentences, and substitution. It observes

that the fact that some features of Nigerian English syntax are shared by other new Englishes is a

healthy development for the identity of non-native varieties around the world. It finally recommends

the codification of the new norms into variety-specific grammars and a common grammar

of new Englishes.

1 Introduction

The documentation of the various features of world Englishes has continued to

attract the attention of the linguistic scholar Like other varieties of non-native

Englishes, West African English (WAE) has received considerable attention

(see, for example, Spencer 1971; Sey 1973; Bamgbose – Banjo – Thomas 1995;

Wolf 2001; Igboanusi 2002a) However, not much has been published on the

syntax of WAE in general and that of Nigerian English (NE) in particular The

general belief is that grammatical features of national varieties of WAE are not

exclusive, and can also be found in other varieties of New Englishes (cf Peter –

Wolf – Simo Bobda 2003: 44) For example, some scholars (notably Todd

1982; Bamgbose 1992; Bamiro 1995) observe that most of the syntactic patterns

in educated WAE are similar to those of other new Englishes However, Todd

identifies the following syntactic variations of WAE: the indiscriminate use of

the tag questions isn’t it/not so? as in it doesn’t matter, not so/isn’t it?; differences

in the use of some phrasal verbs, eg cope up with for ‘cope with’; failure

to sometimes distinguish between countable and non-countable nouns (eg an

394 H Igboanusi

advice, firewoods, behaviors) Bamiro’s (1995) study on the syntactic variation

of WAE was a more comprehensive investigation than earlier studies on the

subject matter Using data from creative literature, Bamiro identifies the following

variations: subjectless sentences, eg Is because she’s a street walker for ‘It

is because…?’; deletion of -ly morpheme in manner adjuncts, eg Send patrol

van to pick her up quick (quickly); omission of function words, eg You say

truth (‘… the truth’); reduplication, eg Slowly, slowly the canoe moved like the

walk of an old man (gradually); formation of interrogatives without changing

the position of subject and auxiliary items, eg You’ve decided finally then?

(‘Have you finally decided then?’); tag questions, eg You are writing a paper

about our organization, not so? (‘Isn’t it?’); the use of the progressive aspect

with mental processes, eg Do you know what I am hearing? (‘Do you know

what I hear these days?’); non-distinctive use of reciprocal pronouns, eg The

captains (seven of them) looked at each other somewhat perplexed (‘one another’);

substitution of preposition in idiomatic usage, eg That is why they have

dragged the good name of my father, Joshua, son of Fagbola in the mud

(‘through’); focus constructions, eg You are a funny man, you this man

With regard to NE, Banjo (1995: 217) observes that “empirical contrastive

study of the syntax of Nigerian and British English goes back to the era of error

analysis and contrastive linguistics” (eg the works of Tomori 1967; Banjo

1969; Odumuh 1981; Kujore 1985) Further works on the syntax of NE are

found in Odumuh (1987); Jowitt (1991); Bamgbose (1992); Kujore (1995) and

Banjo (1995) For example, Odumuh (1987: 60-65) identifies some “typical

variations between British English and Nigerian English as spoken by tertiary

educated informants” Some of his examples include:

1) They enjoyed for BE ‘They enjoyed themselves’ (enjoyed occurs intransitively

in NE structure while it is usually transitive in BE);

2) He pregnanted her for BE ‘He made her pregnant’ (while NE structure uses

pregnanted as a verb, the word pregnant occurs in BE as an adjective);

3) You like that, isn’t it? for BE ‘You like that, don’t you?’ (in BE, while the

negative question tag is always determined by the verb, it is often represented

in NE by isn’t it?);

4) Give me meat for BE ‘Give me some meat’ (omission of article in NE

structure but not in BE structure);

5) I am having your book for BE ‘I have your book’ (NE structure uses the

ing as a stative marker);

6) He has been there since for BE ‘He has been there for some time’ (NE

structure uses an adverbial adjunct while BE structure has a preposition

followed by an adjunct)

Syntactic innovation processes - 395

Jowitt (1991) provides the following examples:

7) He offed the light for BE ‘He put off the light’ (1991: 112 – functional


8) After the referee might have arrived the match will begin for BE ‘After the

referee has arrived the match will begin’ (1991: 120 – illustrates the use of

modals in NE);

9) My father he works under NEPA for ‘My father works in NEPA’ (1991:

121 – subject copying)

A further example is:

10) I have filled the application form for BE ‘I have filled in the application

form’ (Kujore 1995: 371 – illustrates the use of the verb fill in NE where

the preposition in is deleted);

It has to be pointed out here that some of the syntactic features illustrated as characterizing

WAE or NE by existing studies are in fact shared by other varieties of English

For instance, Kachru (1982, 1983, etc) has noted the following syntactic features

in South Asian English – reduplication, formation of interrogatives without

changing the position of subject and auxiliary items, tag questions, differences associated

with the use of articles, etc Similarly, Skandera (2002: 98-99) identifies

some of the grammatical features of all ESL varieties which do not occur in Standard

English to include missing verb inflections, missing noun inflections, pluralisation

of uncountable nouns, use of adjectives as adverbs, avoidance of complex

tenses, different use of articles, flexible position of adverbs, lack of inversion in

indirect questions, lack of inversion and do-support in wh-questions, and invariant

question tags The fact that many of the features of NE or WAE syntax identified in

earlier studies are also shared by other new Englishes is an indication that new Englishes

around the world now have identifiable linguistic characteristics What needs

to be done is to intensify research on comparisons of these features across national

and regional varieties of non-native Englishes with a view to separating exclusive

features of these varieties from general or universal markers

2 Syntactic innovation processes

The present study is an attempt to account for innovations in the syntax of NE

resulting from the sociolinguistic context of Nigeria, namely Nigerian Pidgin

English and the indigenous languages How is “innovation” to be perceived? To

this question, Bamgbose (1998: 2) states that an innovation is to be seen as “an

acceptable variant” The problem here is to determine whether a usage or struc396

H Igboanusi

ture is an innovation or an error What is seen as an innovation in a non-native

variety of English may be perceived as an error by most native speakers of English

This problem is resolved the very moment we recognize the roles of social

convention as well as the relationship between social structure and linguistic form

in the use of new Englishes (cf Banda 1996: 68) As Skandera (2002: 99) has

rightly observed, “if the characteristic features of an ESL variety come to be used

with a certain degree of consistency by educated speakers, and are no longer perceived

as ‘mistakes’ by the speech community, then that ESL variety becomes

endonormative (or endocentric), ie it sets its own norms” Most of the examples

provided in the present investigation are so frequently heard in the speech of

many educated users of NE that they have ceased to be regarded as errors

3 The data

The data for this study is based on my observations through recordings and field

investigations over the past five years The recordings involve mainly the formal

and informal conversations of educated speakers of NE at different social

events, conferences and seminars, and students’ conversation as well as the

conversations of less educated NE speakers The informal recordings reflect

different settings, sexes, ages, and ethnic and educational backgrounds Some of

the data used in this work are also drawn from radio and television discussions

I have adopted some of the categories of syntactic variation in WAE identified

by Bamiro, which are commonly found in NE They include: reduplication,

subjectless sentences, substitution of preposition in idiomatic usage, and use of

double subjects I have supplemented these categories with such new ones as

the use of verbless sentences, Pidgin-influenced structures, and structures influenced

by the use of discourse particles Although many of the processes of syntactic

innovation discussed in this paper may occur in other varieties of WAE or

new Englishes, the sources of their influence and patterns of their use may be

different It is also important to note that some of these syntactic categories are

very important features of creation in the style of many Nigerian and West African

writers (as Bamiro has shown) and are regularly founded in Nigerian newspapers

and magazines In other words, they are not only restricted to colloquial

contexts Their uses also cut across different levels of education

I have carefully presented features which are found in both the basilectal and

acrolectal varieties of NE I have identified the variety of NE in which a particular

feature is dominant British English (BE) equivalents to the examples are

provided in parenthesis after each example

English in Nigeria presents interesting problems because even the acrolectal

variety is caught between the Standard BE norms and basilectal pidgin This

complex situation inevitably tolerates influences from Nigerian languages (as

Syntactic innovation processes - 397

with the case of discourse particles and reduplication) and Nigerian Pidgin (as

with the case of Pidgin-influenced structures)

31 Subjectless sentences

There is a preponderant use of subjectless sentences in the speech of NE users

This practice involves the omission of the subject it in NE structures Where

this omission occurs in the speech of educated users of NE, it is largely influenced

by the process of shortening in which the form It’s is reduced to Is, especially

in spoken English Where it occurs in the speech of less educated users of

NE, it may be as a result of the influence of Nigerian Pidgin (NP) in which na is

transferred as is into NE structures Consider the following examples:

a) Is very far (‘It’s very far’)

b) Is about three hours or more (‘It’s about three hours or more’)

c) Is about ten dollars (‘It’s about ten dollars’)

d) Is the woman (‘It’s the woman’)

Although subjectless sentences may not be found in the written form of the

acrolectal variety, it does exist in the written form of the basilectal variety

32 Reduplication

Although reduplication has been treated by Bobda (1994) and Igboanusi (1998)

as lexical process of innovation, Kachru (1982) has noted that the reduplication

of items belongs to various word classes For instance, some English words are

often reduplicated or repeated consecutively, either for emphasis, pluralisation,

or to create new meanings Bobda (1994: 258) has rightly identified three categories

of words, which generally undergo the process of reduplication: numerals,

intensifiers and quantifiers And as Igboanusi (2002b) has observed, while

the occurrence of a second numeral denotes ‘each’ (as in one-one, half-half), the

reduplication of an intensifier or a quantifier may be for emphasis (as in manymany,

now-now, before-before, fast-fast, fine-fine, slowly-slowly) or for pluralisation

(as in big-big, small-small) Examples are:

a) Please drive slowly-slowly because the road is bad (‘Please drive very

slowly because the road is bad’)

b) Before-before, food was very cheap in this country (‘In the past, food was

very cheap in this country’)

c) Please get me two more bottles of beer fast-fast (‘Please get two bottles of

beer for me very quickly’)

398 H Igboanusi

d) I visited my friend’s campus and I saw many fine-fine girls (‘I visited my

friend’s campus and I saw several fine girls’)

e) Give me half-half bag of rice and beans (‘Give me half bag each of rice

and beans’)

f) We were asked to pay one-one hundred Naira as fine for contravening the

environmental sanitation law (‘We were asked to pay one hundred Naira

each as fine for contravening the environmental sanitation law’)

g) Do you have small-small beans? (‘Do you have small brand of beans?’)

h) You put it small small (‘It is put little by little’)

i) I have small small children in the house (‘I have young children i

Learn and Obtain Diploma in Web development, Software development, Business, Technology and Creative Skills taught by industry experts. Explore a wide range of skills with our professional tutorials.

About E-Project Material Centre

E-Project Material Centre is a web service aimed at successfully assisting final year students with quality, well researched, reliable and ready made project work. Our materials are recent, complete (chapter 1 to Minimum of Chapter 5, with references) and well written.INSTANT ACCESS! INSTANT DOWNLOAD. Simply select your department, choose from our list of topics available and explore your data

Why Students Love to Use E-Project Material ?

Guaranteed Delivery Getting your project delivered on time is essential. You cannot afford to turn in your project past the deadline. That is why you must get your project online from a company that guarantees to meet your deadline. e-Project Topics Material Centre is happy to offer instant delivery of projects listed on our website. We can handle just about any deadline you send our way. Satisfaction Guaranteed We always do whatever is necessary to ensure every customer's satisfaction


E-Project Topics Material Centre will only provide projects as a reference for your research. The projects ordered and produced should be used as a guide or framework for your own project. The contents of the projects should be able to help you in generating new ideas and thoughts for your own project. It is the aim of e-Project Topics Centre to only provide guidance by which the projects should be pursued. We are neither encouraging any form of plagiarism nor are we advocating the use of the projects produced herein for cheating.

Terms and Condition

Using our service is LEGAL and IS NOT prohibited by any university/college policies You are allowed to use the original model papers you will receive in the following ways:
  • As a source for additional understanding of the subject
  • As a source for ideas for you own research (if properly referenced)
  • For PROPER paraphrasing ( see your university definition of plagiarism and acceptable paraphrase) Direct citing ( if referenced properly)
Thank you so much for your respect to the authors copyright