English as a contact language: Nigerian English as a case study
Letona López, Aritz
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Throughout the 16th century, the colonial aspirations of the British Empire took the English language to territories where it got in contact with different linguistic realities. These contact situations resulted in new English varieties emerging that exhibit exclusive indigenous features of languages native to the territories colonized by the British sailors. This paper focuses on Nigerian English, one of the many English varieties that have resulted from these language contact situations. The linguistic scenario of the country was already complex before the arrival of the English. Nevertheless, it became more complicated when English started to get in contact with a high number of the more than 500 languages spoken across the Nigerian territory. For the English language, this entailed the borrowing of countless features coming from Niger-Congo languages. Consequently, the diffusion and development of the English language went through some difficulties in its initial steps. However, English became the administrative, educational and judicial language of Nigeria in the 19th century and thus it has been possible for English to become nativized. In this moment, signs of endonormative stabilization (Schneider 2007) are visible as actions are taken to establish a standard form of Nigerian English. This paper aims at giving a description of the morpho-syntactic features believed to be representative of Nigerian English while reflecting on their nature. Curiously, some of these features explained have been found in other varieties of English as well as in different contexts where English is used as a communicative means. Therefore, the features can be subdivided into three main kinds: (i) features reminiscent of English as a Foreign Language contexts (due to the former status that English held in Nigeria), like particular uses of articles or prepositions; (ii) features exclusive to African English varieties, like the determiner + noun + possessive word order coming from a Bantu L1 background; and (iii) features common to other new varieties of English emerging from a similar language contact context, like the use of the invariant tag question isn’t it. It should be remarked that all these features share the fact that the outcome of a language contact situation tends to be a simpler linguistic form, in this case, morphologically speaking.