Nigerian Pidgin English

The identity of a Nigerian away from home


  • Precious Affia York University



Language and Identity, Nigerian Pidgin English, Language attitudes, Sociolinguistics, Diaspora


Nigerian Pidgin (hereafter NP) is the most widely spoken language in Nigeria, but many Nigerians view it negatively, as they associate it with uneducated people in the country and often caricature it as a bad form of English. However, attitudes towards NP in the diaspora and its role as a marker of social identity within and outside Nigeria have not been researched. Through informal interviews and focus group discussions with 10 Nigerians (5 men; 5 women) in Canada, I find that the participants choose NP as the language they use to express their identity as Nigerians in Canada. While the women embraced Standard English, the men had more positive attitudes towards NP suggesting covert prestige. Therefore, this study provides a good pilot project for analyzing attitudes towards NP and its role as a language of identity for Nigerians in the diaspora.


Afolayan, A. & Bamgbose, A. (1980). The changing pattern of bilingualism in Nigeria. In E. Afendras (Ed.), Patterns of Bilingualism. Singapore University Press.

Agbali, A. A. (2005). Nigerian Pidgin, urban spaces and the construction of social identity. In T. Falola & S. J. Salm (Eds.), Urbanization and African cultures (pp. 295-321). Carolina Academic Press.

Agheyisi, R. (1984). Minor languages in the Nigerian context: Prospects and problems. Word 35(3), 235-253. DOI:

Akande, A. T. (2010). Is Nigerian Pidgin English? Dialectologia et Geolinguistica 18(0), 3-22. DOI:

Akande, A. T. & Salami. L. O. (2010). Use and Attitudes towards Nigerian Pidgin among Nigerian University Students. In Millar, Robert McColl (Ed.), Marginal Dialects: Scotland, Ireland and Beyond (pp.70-89). Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ireland.

Akinyemi, A. I. (2014). Demographic dynamics and development in Nigeria. African Population Studies, 27(2), 239–248. DOI:

Atkinson, D. & Kelly-Holmes. H. (2016). Exploring language attitudes and ideologies in university students’ discussion of Irish in a context of increasing language diversity. Language and intercultural communication 16(2), 199-215. DOI:

Barbag-Stoll, A. (1983). Social and linguistic history of Nigerian Pidgin. Verlag.

Blench, R. (2012). An atlas of Nigerian languages. Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.

Decamp, D. (1971). Introduction: the study of pidgin and Creole Languages. In D. Hymes (Ed.) Pidginization and creolization of languages: proceedings of a conference held at the university of West Indies, Mon, Jamaica, April 1968 (pp. 13-39). Cambridge University Press.

Discott (2010). File:Nigeria South Africa Locator (Orthographic projection ).png. Wikipedia Commons.

Deuber, D. (2005). Nigerian Pidgin in Lagos: language contact, variation and change in an African urban setting. Battlebridge.

Egbokhare, F. O. (2003). The story of a language: Nigerian Pidgin in Spatiotemporal, social and linguistic context. In P. Lucko, L. Peter & H. Wolf (Eds.) Studies in African varieties of English (pp. 21-40). Lang.

Elugbe, B. O. & Omamor, A.P. (1991). Nigerian Pidgin: Background and prospects. Heinemann Educational Books.

Faraclas, N. (2002). Nigerian pidgin. Routledge. DOI:

Ferguson, C. A. (1959). Diglossia. Word, 15(2), 325–340. DOI:

Gayawan, E., Arogundade, E., & Adebayo, S. (2014). Possible determinants and spatial patterns of anaemia among young children in Nigeria: A Bayesian semi-parametric modelling. International Health, 6(1). DOI:

Haddock, G., & Maio, G. R. (Eds.). (2004). Contemporary perspectives on the psychology of attitudes. Psychology Press. DOI:

Haugen, E. (1966). Semicommunication – The Language Gap in Scandinavia. Sociological Inquiry, 36(2), 280-297. DOI:

Hoffman, M. (2014). Sociolinguistics interviews. In J. Holmes & K. Hazen (Eds.) Research Methods in Sociolinguistics: A Practical Guide (pp. 25-41). John Wiley & Sons.

Holm, J. (1989). Pidgin and Creoles: Vol 2. Reference survey. Cambridge University Press.

Herbert, I. (2008). Empowering Nigerian Pidgin: a challenge for status planning? World Englishes, 27(1), 68–82.

Igboanusi, H. (2008). Empowering Nigerian Pidgin: a challenge for status planning? World Englishes 27, 68-82. DOI:

Ihemere, K. U. (2006). An Integrated Approach to the Study of Language Attitudes and Change in Nigeria: The Case of the Ikwerre of Port Harcourt City. In O.F. Arasanyin & M.A. Pemberton (Eds.), Selected proceedings of the 36th Annual conference on African Linguistics: Shifting the center of Africanism in Language Politics and Economic Globalization (pp.194–207). Cascadilla proceedings project.

Labov, W. (1966). The social stratification of English in New York City. Cambridge University Press.

Liebscher, G., & Dailey‐O'Cain, J. (2009). Language attitudes in interaction 1. Journal of sociolinguistics, 13(2), 195-222. DOI:

Mann, C. C. (1996). Anglo-Nigerian Pidgin in Nigerian education: A survey of policy, practices and attitudes. In T. Hickey and J. Williams (Eds.) Language, education and society in a changing world (pp. 93-106). IRAAL/Multilingual Matters.

Omachonu, G. S. (2015). Language documentation: A dependable linguistic practice for minimizing the effects of endangerment on languages in Nigeria. In O. Ndimele (Ed.), Language endangerment: Globalisation and the fate of minority languages in Nigeria (pp. 1–16). African Books Collective.

PANONIAN (2022) File:Afro Asiatic peoples Nigeria.png. Wikipedia commons.

Reed, H. E., & Mberu, B. U. (2014). Capitalizing on Nigeria's demographic dividend: Reaping the benefits and diminishing the burdens. African Population Studies, 27(2), 319–330. DOI:

Ryan, E. B., Giles, H., & Sabastian, R. J. (1982). An integrative perspective for the study of attitudes toward Nigerian Pidgin. In E. B. Ryan & H. Giles (Eds.), Attitudes and language variation: Socialand Applied Contexts (pp. 1-19) Edward Arnold.

Sarnoff, I. (1970) Social attitudes and the resolution of motivational conflict. In M. Jahoda, & N. Warren (Eds.), Attitudes (pp. 279-284). Penguin.

Schüppert, A., Hilton, N.H. & Gooskens, C. (2015). Swedish is beautiful, Danish is ugly? Investigating the link between language attitudes and intelligibility. Linguistics, 53(2), 375–403. DOI:

Trofimovich, P., & Turuševa, L. (2015). Ethnic Identity and Second Language Learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 35, 234–252. DOI:

Trudgill, P. (1972). Sex, covert prestige, and linguistic change in the urban British English of Norwich. Language in Society, 1(2), 179–195. DOI:

Wolfram, W. A. (1969). A sociolinguistic description of Detroit Negro speech (Urban Language Series, 5). Center for Applied Linguistics.

Yakpo, K. (2016). “The only language we speak really well”: the English creoles of Equatorial Guinea and West Africa at the intersection of language ideologies and language policies. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2016(239), 211-233. DOI:

Yitzhaki, D. (2010). The discourse of Arabic language policies in Israel: Insights from focus groups. Language Policy, 9(4), 335–356. DOI:




How to Cite

Affia, P. (2023). Nigerian Pidgin English : The identity of a Nigerian away from home. Working Papers in Applied Linguistics and Linguistics at York, 3.




Similar Articles

1 2 3 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.