Asides the English lingua franca of the West African country of Nigeria, the local pidgin is a popular medium of communication.
Synthetically formulated by cut and join English and native Nigerian phrases, the Nigerian pidgin is, in fact, a rich language.
Over and over, debates have been put forward to make the pidgin language an official one. However, this debate is never sufficient to deter the beloved language use. An everlasting favourite among Nigerians and some foreigners.
Formed in the seventeenth century, pidgin was essentially, an influence of contact between Nigerians and the colonial Europeans.
Locally, pidgin common in local markets, streets and certain states like Edo and Warri, with their desirable distinctions in pronunciation and phrases.
Educated and uneducated Nigerians communicate with the savvy, less demanding pidgin socially, and mostly informally.
Most popular languages boast (or confuse lol) with homographs and the Nigerian pidgin is no exception.
Homographs are words slept alike (not necessarily pronounced alike), but having different meanings.
An example of an English homograph is the word, ‘pen‘ meaning in some cases a writing material using ink or in other cases, a shelter for keeping domesticated animals like goats.
In French, the word ‘plus‘ becomes a homograph in two different sentences:
“il n’y en a plus” : there are no more left.
“j’en veux plus!” : I want more.
will be pronounced differently with the ‘s’ not pronounced in the first sentence.
Two popular pidgin homographs are ‘ehn‘ and ‘ehen‘
Ehen depending on context may mean an affirmative, ‘I understand‘, offensive ‘so?‘, the defensive question ‘so what?’, express ‘surprise’, a reminder as in ‘don’t forget‘ and so on.
Ehn can stand as an affirmative as in ‘yes‘ in different situations. Sometimes this shorter word may be used as a shortened form of ‘ehen‘.
Although yet to be recognized as an official language, pidgin continues to be part of the Nigerian lifestyle.
As unique as each region is as diverse as the language gets. Nigerian native languages tend to add their borrowed dialectic words and phrases when speaking pidgin. The Igbos for instance, will tend to add ‘nna‘ meaning ‘brother‘ and contextually meaning ‘friend‘ or ‘buddy‘ in their pidgin sentences.
Hausa speakers will tend to use ‘gaskiya‘ in describing their absolute honest opinion. Gaskiya loosely translates to ‘honestly‘ or in the more Nigerian pidgin, ‘I swear to God‘.
Yoruba speakers will also tend to use ‘shebi‘, an affirmative usually used to emphasize on a question, request mostly and sometimes a sentence.
Although the popularity, diversity and importance of the Nigerian pidgin has failed to sign it in as one of the country’s official language, it’s no harm that some of us look forward to this revolution in future.
However, if this never happens, e no go mean say we no go dey yarn our pidgin as e dey hot.
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Image Credits: Woman on phonecall, Africa Rising