The Question of the Superstrate and Substrate in Nigerian Pidgin

  • DU Mbagwu
  • CA Eme


Languages in contact, developing a pidgin are classified into the base language and the dependent language(s), or the superstrate and substrate(s) respectively. This paper questions what justifies this classification with reference to Nigerian Pidgin. Considering vocabulary resources, Nigerian Pidgin is likely a version of English even though English is not a sole lexifier. The grammatical systems of Nigerian Pidgin demonstrate very extensively the grammatical systems of Nigerian languages. Based on the conviction that mainly grammatical operations describe the structure of a language, the paper concludes by proposing that either 1) the local languages be classified as the grammatical superstrate and lexifier substrate (that is, if degree of lexifying is considered) while English retains its status as the lexifier superstrate and automatically the grammatical substrate; or 2) a neutral reference to the languages forming the pidgin be generated, which excludes colonial colouration or imperialism. This paper prefers the latter and, in pursuance to this, it recommends “Trace Languages (TLs)”, which it defines as the languages whose grammatical and/or lexical traces are evident in a pidgin. In other words, the trace languages of Nigerian Pidgin are English and the Nigerian languages.

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eISSN: 2458-746X
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