Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Center for the Study of Language and Society

The relationship of Nigerian Pidgin English and Standard English in Nigeria: Evidence from copula constructions

Dienstag, 28.05.2019, 18:15 Uhr

Das Forum Language and Society ist eine Reihe von Gastvorträgen zu Themen der Soziolinguistik. Doktorierende der GSH können sich die Teilnahme als Zuhörende mit 0,25 ECTS pro Vortrag anrechnen lassen. MA Studierende der Soziolinguistik können sich nach Teilnahme an 6 Vorträgen 1 ECTS anrechnen lassen.

Veranstaltende: Forum Language and Society
Redner, Rednerin: Ingo Plag (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
Datum: 28.05.2019
Uhrzeit: 18:15 - 19:45 Uhr
Ort: 105
Hochschulstrasse 4
3012 Bern
Merkmale: Öffentlich

Deuber (2006, 2009) investigated variation in spoken Nigerian Pidgin data by educated speakers and found no evidence for a continuum of lects between Nigerian Pidgin and Nigerian English. Many speakers, however, speak both varieties, and both varieties are in close contact to each other, which keeps the question of the nature of their relationship on the agenda. This paper takes a new look at the relationship between Nigerian Pidgin and Nigerian English by choosing an approach opposite to Deuber’s. We investigate the conversations in Standard Nigerian English by educated speakers as they occur in the International Corpus of English Nigeria (ICE-Nigeria), using the variability in copula usage as a test bed.

We first provide a variationist analysis in which we list and quantify the different copula constructions used by the speakers. We find a range of standard and non-standard constructions belonging to either of the two varieties. An analysis of the data reveals that there are strong implicational relationships between the different variants. Speakers vary, and they do so systematically along a cline.

Closer inspection of the data reveals that the implicational patterning should not be interpreted as evidence for the existence of intermediate lects, but as the result of code mixing for the purposes of style shifting. The speakers’ competences in both languages help them to style-shift along an implicational scale, with topic, formality and social relationship as determinants of the code mix.


Deuber, Dagmar, (2006). Aspect of Variation in Educated Nigerian PidginVerbal StructuresInDeumert Ana, Durrleman Stéphanie (eds.), Structure and Variation in Language Contact, 243-261. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Deuber, Dagmar, (2009). The English We Speaking.Journal of Pidgin and creole Languages24(1) 1-52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.