Abeg na! we write so our comments can be posted!”: Borrowed Nigerian Pidgin pragmatic markers in Nigerian English

Foluke Olayinka Unuabonah,1 Folajimi Oyebola2 and Ulrike Gut2

Abstract

This paper examines three borrowed pragmatic markers from Nigerian Pidgin into Nigerian English, abeg, sef and na, with a view to exploring their meanings, frequencies, spelling adaptability, syntactic positions, collocational patterns and discourse-pragmatic functions in Nigerian English. The data which were extracted from the International Corpus of English-Nigeria and the Nigerian component of the corpus of Global Web-based English were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively, using the theory of pragmatic borrowing. The results indicate that the three pragmatic markers differ distinctly in their frequency across text types, syntactic position, the range of pragmatic meanings, the number of spelling variants and their collocations: abeg is used as a mitigation marker which can also function as an emphasis marker, sef is an emphasis marker but has additive and dismissive functions, while na is used purely as an emphasis pragmatic marker. The study shows the influence of Nigerian Pidgin on Nigerian English.

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

1.Introduction

One systematic difference between native and English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers appears to be their use of discourse-pragmatic items. Various corpus-based studies have shown that ESL speakers make use of a reduced lexical range in different areas: de Klerk (2005)de Klerk, Vivian 2005 “Expressing Levels of Intensity in Xhosa English”. English World-Wide 26: 77–95. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, for instance, found that Xhosa speakers of English use fewer different intensifiers compared to native English speakers from New Zealand. Likewise, Unuabonah and Gut (2018)Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Ulrike Gut 2018 “Commentary Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” English World-Wide 39 (2): 193–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, comparing ICE-Nigeria and ICE-GB, the Nigerian and the British components of the International Corpus of English (Greenbaum 1991Greenbaum, Sidney 1991 “ICE: The International Corpus of English.” English Today 7: 3–7. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Wunder et al. 2010Wunder, Eva-Maria, Holger Voormann, and Ulrike Gut 2010 “The ICE Nigeria Corpus Project: Creating an Open, Rich and Accurate Corpus.” ICAME Journal 34: 78–88.Google Scholar), found that Nigerian speakers of English have a reduced inventory of commentary pragmatic markers compared to British English speakers. Moreover, Nigerian speakers of English seem to use a smaller amount of stance markers expressing doubt: unlike in ICE-GB, there are no instances of the stance markers I presume, I reckon, I’m/I am not convinced, I’m/I am not confident and doubtful in ICE-Nig (Gut and Unuabonah 2019Gut, Ulrike and Foluke O. Unuabonah 2019 “The Use of Stance Markers in West African Englishes.” In Corpus Linguistics and African Englishes, ed. by Alexandra U. Esimaje, Ulrike Gut & Bassey E. Antia, 206–229. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

Not only the richness of specific lexico-pragmatic categories, but also the use of individual lexical items differs across varieties of English. Biber and Staples (2014)Biber, Douglas, and Shelley Staples 2014 “Variation in the Realisation of Stance Adverbials.” In Spoken Corpora and Linguistic Studies, ed. by Tommaso Raso, and Heliana Mello, 271–294. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar analysed the conversations, interviews and lectures contained in the Hong Kong Corpus of Spoken English and found that the ESL speakers employ more certainty adverbials and use fewer emphatic stance markers, especially in the conversations and lectures, compared to the English native speakers. In addition, Gilquin (2015)Gilquin, Gaetanelle 2015 “At the Interface of Contact Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition Research: New Englishes and Learner Englishes Compared.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 91–124. CrossrefGoogle Scholar examined the use of five discourse-pragmatic features and so, and then, I mean, sort of, and you know in the conversations of the ICE components of Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Philippines, Tanzania and Kenya. She also found that the ESL speakers used the markers less frequently than speakers of British English, except in the case of the marker you know, which had a higher frequency in the ESL varieties than in British English.

One reason why ESL speakers use fewer different intensifiers and pragmatic markers and use individual lexical items less frequently than native speakers might lie in the fact that ESL varieties of English are spoken in multilingual contexts that afford speakers many opportunities of lexical borrowing from the indigenous languages used in the speech community. When having available discourse-pragmatic items from other languages, ESL speakers might not need to employ the full range of English lexical items to fulfil their communicative goals. Indeed, a growing number of studies have demonstrated that many postcolonial varieties of English have borrowed pragmatic markers from the indigenous languages spoken in their environment, for example Indian English (Lange 2009Lange, Claudia 2009 “ ‘Where’s the party yaar!’ Discourse Particles in Indian English.” In World Englishes Problems, Properties and Prospects, ed. by Thomas Hoffmann, and Lucia Siebers, 207–226. Benjamins: Amsterdam. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), Singapore English (Gupta 2006Gupta, Anthea F. 2006 “Epistemic Modalities and the Discourse Particles of Singapore.” In Approaches to Discourse Particles, ed. by Kerstin Fischer, 243–264. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar; Gilquin 2015Gilquin, Gaetanelle 2015 “At the Interface of Contact Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition Research: New Englishes and Learner Englishes Compared.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 91–124. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Leimgruber 2016Leimgruber, Jakob R. E. 2016 “Bah in Singapore English.” World Englishes 35 (1): 78–97. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), Malaysian English (Tay et al. 2016Tay, Li Cha, Yuit Chan Mei, Thai Yap Ngee, Eng Wong Bee 2016 “Discourse Particles in Malaysian English: What do they Mean?Bijdragen tot Taal-, Land-Volkenkunde 172: 479–509. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and Ugandan English (Isingoma 2016Isingoma, Bebwa 2016 “Lexical Borrowings and Calques in Ugandan English.” In Ugandan English: Its Sociolinguistics, Structure and Uses in a Globalising Post-protectorate, ed. by Christiane Meierkord, Bebwa Isingoma, and Saudah Namyalo, 149–172. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). It has been suggested that they serve as ethnic identity markers that allow speakers to maintain their specific identity (Boas and Weilbacher 2007Boas, Hans C., and Hunter Weilbacher 2007 “How Universal Is the Pragmatic Detachability Scale? Evidence from Texas German Discourse Markers.” In The Proceedings of the Texas Linguistic Society IX Conference: The Morphosyntax of Underrepresented Languages, ed. by Frederic Hoyt, Nikki Seifert, Alexandra Teodorescu, and Jessica White, 33–58. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar: 33).

This study aims to explore pragmatic borrowing in Nigerian English (NigE), a postcolonial English variety spoken in a highly multilingual context. English exists together with an estimated 400–500 local languages in Nigeria as well as Nigerian Pidgin and various foreign languages, such as French and Arabic (Jowitt 2019Jowitt, David 2019Nigerian English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar; Eberhard, Simmons and Fennig 2019Eberhard, David M., Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.) 2019Ethnologue: Languages of the World (22nd edn). Texas: SIL International. http://​www​.ethnologue​.com. Accessed June 21, 2019.). The three Nigerian languages with the largest number of native speakers are Hausa (about 44 million native speakers, mainly spoken in the north of Nigeria), Yoruba (about 40 million native speakers, mainly spoken in the west) and Igbo (about 30 million native speakers, mainly spoken in the east). These three languages also function as a lingua franca in their respective regions. Hausa, for example, has approximately 20 million second language speakers in the north.

Nigerian Pidgin (NigP) is the language with the largest number of speakers in Nigeria. While it may be difficult to determine the exact number of native speakers of NigP in Nigeria, it has been reported that more than half of the Nigerian population can speak it (Ihemere 2006Ihemere, Kelechukwu 2006 “A Basic Description and Analytic Treatment of Noun Clauses in Nigerian Pidgin.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 15 (30): 296–313.Google Scholar; Faraclas 2008 2008 “Nigerian Pidgin English: Morphology and Syntax.” In Varieties of English: Africa, South and Southeast Asia (vol 4) ed. by Rajend Mesthrie, 340–367. London: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar, 2013 2013 “Nigerian Pidgin.” In The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages (vol 1), ed. by Michaelis, Susanne Maria, Philippe Maurer, Martin Haspelmath and Magnus Huber, 176–184. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar). Projecting Faraclas’ (2013) 2013 “Nigerian Pidgin.” In The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages (vol 1), ed. by Michaelis, Susanne Maria, Philippe Maurer, Martin Haspelmath and Magnus Huber, 176–184. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar estimate that well over half of the then 150 million inhabitants of Nigeria were speakers of NigP, it can be estimated that there are currently about 100 million NigP speakers in Nigeria with the total population having grown to over 200 million (UN estimates for 2019United Nations 2019Population of Nigeria. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar). The origin of NigP is difficult to determine. While factors such as the contact between the European merchants and the various ethnic groups along the coastal rivers (Elugbe and Omamor 1991Elugbe, Ben O., and Augusta P. Omamor 1991Nigerian Pidgin: Background and Prospects. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria) PLC.Google Scholar) and the influence of missionary activities from Sierra Leone (Faraclas 1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar) could have played a role in the development of NigP, scholars are cautioned not to overemphasise the role of these factors in isolation (e.g. Faraclas 1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar; Ihemere 2006Ihemere, Kelechukwu 2006 “A Basic Description and Analytic Treatment of Noun Clauses in Nigerian Pidgin.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 15 (30): 296–313.Google Scholar).

Contemporary NigP has a vocabulary that is largely based on English but includes words and expressions from indigenous Nigerian languages. It has a structure that is very similar to the structure of the indigenous Nigerian languages (Faraclas 1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar), and thus differs from the structure of other standard varieties of English. Examples include verbal grammar (Akande 2010Akande, Akinmade T. 2010 “Is Nigerian Pidgin English English?Dialectologia et Geolinguistica 18 (1): 3–22. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and sound systems (Elugbe and Omamor 1991Elugbe, Ben O., and Augusta P. Omamor 1991Nigerian Pidgin: Background and Prospects. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria) PLC.Google Scholar). Although many scholars have noted that the most salient aspect of NigP grammar is the lack of inflection (e.g. number marking) on nouns and verbs, which in standard Englishes expresses grammatical categories such as number and gender or mark tense and aspect (Akande 2010Akande, Akinmade T. 2010 “Is Nigerian Pidgin English English?Dialectologia et Geolinguistica 18 (1): 3–22. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), it has recently been reported that NigP pronouns now increasingly have inflections for gender, case and number (see Oyebola and Abidoye 2018Oyebola, Folajimi, and Ifeoluwa Abidoye 2018 “Number Marking in BBC Pidgin”. EKSU Journal of Linguistics 3(1): 34–45.Google Scholar). NigP is mainly used in contexts where speakers with different first languages meet, for example in the market place, in military barracks and on university campuses as well as in informal day-to-day conversations. In addition, it is used in stand-up comedy, radio and television discussion programmes, advertisements, and news broadcasts in Nigeria (see Jibril 1995Jibril, Munzali 1995 “The Elaboration of the Functions of Nigerian Pidgin.” In New Englishes: A West African Perspective, ed. by Ayo Bamgbose, Ayo Banjo, and Andrew Thomas, 232–247. Ibadan: Mosuro Publishers and Booksellers.Google Scholar; Adetunji 2013Adetunji, Akin 2013 “The Interactional Context of Humor in Nigerian Stand-up Comedy.” Pragmatics 23 (1): 1–22. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). NigP has grown to such an extent that Multichoice (an international cable television provider) included it as one of the languages of sports commentaries in the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) cup as well as the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). Equally, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) now holds news broadcasts and documentaries in NigP (BBC 2019BBC News Pidgin 2019https://​www​.bbc​.com​/pidgin. Accessed August 22, 2019.; The Guardian 2019The Guardian. “AFCON 2019 Match Commentary to be Broadcast in Pidgin on DStv, GOtv.” The Guardian. June 19 2019https://​guardian​.ng​/sport​/afcon​-2019​-match​-commentary​-to​-be​-broadcast​-in​-pidgin​-on​-dstv​-gotv/. Accessed August 22, 2019.). Although it is mainly used as a spoken language, several proposals for an orthography of NigP have been made, and NigP is now also widely used in writing in social media (see Chiluwa 2013Chiluwa, Innocent 2013 “West African English in Digital Discourse.” Covenant Journal of Language Studies 1(1): 42–61.Google Scholar; Heyd 2014Heyd, Theresa 2014 “Doing Race and Ethnicity in a Digital Community: Lexical Labels and Narratives of Belonging in a Nigerian Web Forum.” Discourse, Context and Media 4 (5): 38–47. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

Only very few studies have so far investigated the influence of NigP on NigE and vice versa (e.g. Mensah 2011Mensah, Eyo O. 2011 “Lexicalization in Nigerian Pidgin.” Concentric: Studies in Linguistics 37(2): 209–240.Google Scholar; Agbo and Ingo 2017Agbo, Ogechi, and Plag Ingo 2017 “Is there a Nigerian Pidgin: Nigerian English Continuum? An Empirical Study of Copula Constructions in ICE- Nigeria.” Eleventh Creolistics Workshop: Assessing Old Assumptions New Insights on the Dynamics of Contact Languages. University of Gießen, Germany, 23 to 25 March 2017.). For example, Mensah (2011)Mensah, Eyo O. 2011 “Lexicalization in Nigerian Pidgin.” Concentric: Studies in Linguistics 37(2): 209–240.Google Scholar suggests that lexical expressions such as go slow, machine, watchnight, houseboy and upstair(s) were borrowed from NigE into NigP. Although some studies have emerged that discuss borrowed pragmatic markers such as o, sha and abi from indigenous Nigerian languages into NigE (see Unuabonah and Oladipupo 2018Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Rotimi O. Oladipupo 2018 ““You’re Not Staying in Island Sha O”: O, Sha and Abi as Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” Journal of Pragmatics 135: 8–23. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Jowitt 2019Jowitt, David 2019Nigerian English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar), little is known about borrowed pragmatic markers from NigP into NigE.

In the investigation of commentary pragmatic markers, Unuabonah and Gut (2018)Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Ulrike Gut 2018 “Commentary Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” English World-Wide 39 (2): 193–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar showed that NigE speakers appear to use fewer emphasis pragmatic markers than British speakers: in ICE-Nig, only five different emphasis pragmatic markers (really, indeed, definitely, I insist that, to say the least) were found (with the last two being very rare), while in ICE-GB eight of such markers occur at least once. Moreover, the two most frequent emphasis markers really and indeed occur only about half as frequently in ICE-Nig than in ICE-GB. This suggests that Nigerian speakers of English might make use of borrowed emphasis pragmatic markers instead, and this has been confirmed in Unuabonah and Oladipupo (2018)Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Rotimi O. Oladipupo 2018 ““You’re Not Staying in Island Sha O”: O, Sha and Abi as Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” Journal of Pragmatics 135: 8–23. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, where the borrowed marker o was found to function largely as an emphasis pragmatic marker. It is the aim of this study to explore three pragmatic markers borrowed from Nigerian Pidgin into NigE, which might perform emphatic functions: abeg, sef, and na. These pragmatic markers were mainly selected based on two of the authors’ native speaker intuitions on their highly frequent use in NigE. This is also testified in the fact that sef has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary where it is, however, only identified as an adverb without considering that it may have developed pragmatic functions in NigE.

In this section, we have presented the background to this study. In Section 2, we provide more information on pragmatic markers, outline our data and method in Section 3 and present our results in Section 4. Finally, we discuss our findings and conclude in Section 5.

2.Pragmatic markers

Pragmatic markers are syntactically optional elements, such as anyway, in fact and really, which do not significantly add to the propositional content of an utterance but contribute to the interpretation of a discourse segment by connecting an utterance to the linguistic and/or situational context of its interaction (Fraser 2009 2009An Account of Discourse Markers. International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2):293–320. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Buysse 2012Buysse, Lieven 2012 “ ‘So’ as a Multifunctional Discourse Marker in Native and Learner Speech.” Journal of Pragmatics 44 (13): 1764–1782. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Pragmatic markers have meaning potential as they may have “one or more several core meanings from which new functions can be created in the interaction” (Aijmer 2013Aijmer, Karin 2013Understanding Pragmatic Markers: A Variational Pragmatic Approach. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar, 12). Scholars have indicated that they perform textual, subjective and intersubjective functions (see Traugott 2010Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2010 “(Inter)subjectivity and (Inter)subjectification: A Reassessment.” In Subjectification, intersubjectification and grammaticalisation, ed. by K. Davidse, L. Vandelanotte, and H. Cuyckens, 29–75. Berlin: de Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). The textual functions cover discourse-organising aspects which deal with relations of elaboration, contrast and inference between discourse segments; subjective functions that address relations between the speaker and the speaker’s beliefs and attitudes which are expressed in turn-taking, epistemic and evaluative meanings; while intersubjectivity focuses on the relationship between the addresser and the addressee’s face and considers issues such as politeness and turn-giving (see Traugott 2010Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2010 “(Inter)subjectivity and (Inter)subjectification: A Reassessment.” In Subjectification, intersubjectification and grammaticalisation, ed. by K. Davidse, L. Vandelanotte, and H. Cuyckens, 29–75. Berlin: de Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

Generally, pragmatic markers have been studied from different theoretical approaches including the discourse-coherence approach (Schiffrin 1987Schiffrin, Deborah 1987Discourse Markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Lenk 1998Lenk, Uta 1998 “Discourse Markers and Global Coherence in Conversation.” Journal of Pragmatics 30 (2): 245–257. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), the grammatical-pragmatic approach (Brinton 1996Brinton, Laurel 1996Pragmatic Markers in English: Grammaticalisation and Discourse Functions. New York: Mouto de Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Fraser 1996Fraser, Bruce 1996 “Pragmatic Markers.” Pragmatics 6: 167–190. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), the cognitive-pragmatic approach (Blakemore 2002Blakemore, Diane 2002Relevance and Linguistic Meaning: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Discourse Markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and the variational pragmatic approach (Aijmer 2013Aijmer, Karin 2013Understanding Pragmatic Markers: A Variational Pragmatic Approach. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar; Unuabonah and Gut 2018Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Ulrike Gut 2018 “Commentary Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” English World-Wide 39 (2): 193–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). In this study, the borrowed emphasis markers are explored from a postcolonial corpus pragmatic perspective. This approach employs corpus-based investigations of pragmatic phenomena in postcolonial speech communities, which, due to their colonial histories, are characterised by the transfer of indigenous cultures and languages to the European language used and vice versa (Anchimbe and Janney 2011Anchimbe, Eric, and Richard Janney 2011 “Postcolonial Pragmatics: An Introduction.” Journal of Pragmatics 43 (6): 1451–1459. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Rühlemann and Aijmer 2015Rühlemann, Christoph, and Karin Aijmer 2015 “Corpus Pragmatics: Laying the Foundations.” In Corpus Pragmatics: A Handbook, ed. by Karin Aijmer, and Christoph Rühlemann, 1–28. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). This transfer results in variety-specific pragmatic phenomena such as speech acts, address terms and pragmatic markers. In order to fully describe the use of the borrowed emphasis markers in NigE, we employ Andersen’s (2014)Andersen, Gisle 2014 “Pragmatic Borrowing.” Journal of Pragmatics 67:17–33. CrossrefGoogle Scholar concept of pragmatic borrowing, which deals with the process and results of the transfer of discourse-pragmatic features from a source language into a recipient language. The concept pays attention to phenomena such as spelling adaptation, scope, collocations, positions, distribution, semantic stability, and pragmatic multifunctionality of the emphasis markers (see Balteiro 2018Balteiro, Isabel 2018 “Oh wait: English Pragmatic Markers in Spanish Football Chatspeak.” Journal of Pragmatics 133: 123–133. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

Very few scholars have examined the three NigP pragmatic markers under study: abeg, sef, and na. For example, Kemmer (2008)Kemmer, Suzanne 2008 “Abeg.” The Rice University Neologisms Database. https://​neologisms​.rice​.edu​/index​.php​?a​=term​&d​=1​&t​=2840. Accessed September 17, 2019. identifies abeg as a derivation from the English term I beg, such as in I beg of you, which shares similar meanings with the English politeness marker please, as shown in (1). In abeg, the diphthong /aɪ/ in I has been replaced by [a] and then blended with beg.

(1)
#
#
Abeg
Please
come
come
dey
PROG11.Progressive
go.
go.
I
i
no
neg 22.Negation
dey
exist
for
prep
that
that
one.
one.
Abeg
Please
abeg
please
abeg
please
#
 

# ‘Please start leaving. I am not interested in that one. Please please please’ (GloWbE 228)

As shown in (1), abeg is used to mitigate the command given to the addressee to leave a particular location, and the repetition of abeg indicates that it is also used for emphasis.

Working specifically on NigP, Faraclas (1996)Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar identifies sef as a particle which is a modification of the English emphatic pronoun ending – self that can indicate both contradictory and noncontradictory sentence emphasis and contrastive and non-contrastive constituent emphasis. Thus, in NigP, it is already identified as an emphasis marker and this influences the use of sef in NigE. An example from ICE-Nig is cited in (2):

(2)
but
but
e
exp 33.Existential pronoun
be
cop 44.Copula
like
like
e
exp
be
cop
like
like
say
nci 55.Noun clause introducer
them
3pl 66.Third person plural
don
pfv 77.Perfective verb
implement
implement
that
that
increment
increment
sef
really

‘but it looks like it looks like they have implemented that increment really’ (ICE-Nig con88.conversations_04.txt)

In (2), sef emphasises the proposition contained in the clause and can be replaced by really; it also occupies the clause-final position.

Faraclas (1996)Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar also identifies na as an emphatic focus introducer with copular features (Na mi/It is I) in NigP, which is found in cleft sentences and which forms part of the syntactic structure of an utterance. Thus, this na is a grammatical item and not a pragmatic marker because its absence would lead to the distortion of the syntactic structure of the utterance. There is, however, another na that also exists in NigP but which has not yet been fully discussed. An example of this na in a NigP clause from the corpus of Global Web-based English (GloWbE) is cited in (3):

(3)
#
 
Linda
Linda
Approve
approve
all
all
your
your
comments
comments
make
sbjv 99.Subjunctive clause introducer
we
we
read
read
na
indeed
(GloWbE 3)

‘Linda approve all your comments so that we can read indeed’

In (3), na is an optional item and its absence from the clause does not affect the propositional meaning of the utterance. Rather, it emphasises the proposition contained in the clause, so that we can read, and it occurs in the clause-final position. Thus, this na is a pragmatic marker and not a grammatical item.

3.Data and method

The data for this paper comprise three pragmatic markers abeg, sef, and na, which have been borrowed from NigP into NigE. The markers were searched for in the International Corpus of English-Nigeria (ICE-Nig) and the Nigerian component of the Global Web-based English Corpus (GloWbE), both of which are freely available online. ICE-Nig is a 1-million-word corpus of spoken and written Nigerian English as it is used in Nigeria at the beginning of the 21st century (Wunder et al. 2010Wunder, Eva-Maria, Holger Voormann, and Ulrike Gut 2010 “The ICE Nigeria Corpus Project: Creating an Open, Rich and Accurate Corpus.” ICAME Journal 34: 78–88.Google Scholar). The corpus contains the text categories and annotations specified by the ICE project (Greenbaum 1991Greenbaum, Sidney 1991 “ICE: The International Corpus of English.” English Today 7: 3–7. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), including categories such as conversations, broadcast discussions, business letters, and examination scripts. Although the entire corpus was searched, the three NigP pragmatic markers which occurred in NigE utterances were found only in the category of private face-to-face conversations (containing 180,000 words) except one case of sef, which occurred in cross-examinations (containing 20,000 words). The Nigerian component of GloWbE contains 42,646,098 words sourced from different Nigerian websites such as discussion forums, blogs, and online newspapers (Davies and Fuchs 2015Davies, Mark, and Robert Fuchs 2015 “Expanding Horizons in the Study of World Englishes with the 1.9 billion Word Global Web-based English Corpus (GloWbE).” English World-Wide 36 (1): 1–28. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). A few scholars (e.g. Mukherjee 2015Mukherjee, Joybrato 2015 “Response to Davies and Fuchs.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 34–37. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Nelson 2015Nelson, Gerald 2015 “Response to Davies and Fuchs.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 38–40. CrossrefGoogle Scholar)1010.For a detailed review of the GloWbE corpus, see Mair (2015)Mair, Christian 2015 “Response to Davies and Fuchs.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 29–33. CrossrefGoogle Scholar and Peters (2015)Peters, Pam 2015 “Response to Davies and Fuchs.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 41–44. CrossrefGoogle Scholar in the special edition of English World-Wide 36(1). have suggested that GloWbE should be used with a measure of caution because it is very possible for users from other countries to comment on webpages that belong to a different country and to be thus included in the corpus components.

ICE-Nig was searched with the corpus analysis toolkit AntConc 3.4.4 (Anthony 2015Anthony, Lawrence 2015AntConc (Version 3.4.4) [Computer Software]. Tokyo: Waseda University. http://​www​.laurenceanthony​.net/. Accessed August 10, 2015.), while the Nigerian component of GloWbE was searched with the search software provided on the GloWbE website (https://​www​.english​-corpora​.org​/glowbe/). The retrieved data were checked for unwanted instances, for example, repetitions within one post and repeated posts (through copying) by other writers as indicated in (1), instances where the NigP pragmatic markers occurred in utterances made in NigP as indicated in (2), or in other indigenous Nigerian languages, as in (4). In addition, utterances were discarded in which the pragmatic markers occurred as names of people or substances, as cited in (5), where sef was used as a reflexive or emphatic pronoun ending, as shown in (6), where sef occurred as a noun, as in (7), where na was used as a variant of no, as cited in (8) and unclear cases, as in (9):

(4)

“Mba, obu ihe aru ini madu na mba” (No, it is a shameful thing to bury a man outside. (GloWbE 1003)

(5)

Muhammad Na Bakin Ruwa and’ alim Yunus Zawai who flourished in the reign of Muhammad Shashiri. (GloWbE 227)

(6)

if I was d one immediately as I get am gon na rape my bf and satify my sef see wat dat 2 mins enjoyment has caused her. (GloWbE 35)

(7)

i stayed wit his mum for three momth nd was workin as a teacher bt after smtime she showed me her tru sef…….. i had no wea to go. (GloWbE 51)

(8)

take necessary actions instead of whining and ranting about marginalization all the time # Nah, it is not the same thing. (GloWbE 138)

(9)

# 275 # 12.20 # 2.15 # NA? # NA? # P- value + # NA? # 0.001* # (GloWbE 205)

4.Results

Table 1 shows that the three pragmatic markers are used more frequently in the conversations than in web-based writings. While abeg has a similar frequency in both text categories, sef and na are more than five times more frequent in the spoken than the written category. While in the spoken conversations, sef and na occur more frequently than abeg, abeg is the most frequently used of the three pragmatic markers in the web-based language.

Table 1.Frequency per 100,000 words of the borrowed pragmatic markers in ICE-Nig conversations and GloWbE (raw numbers in brackets)
Pragmatic marker ICE-Nigeria conversations GloWbE Total (raw)
abeg 2.2 (4) 1.7 (711) 715
sef  5 (9) 0.9 (410) 419
na  5 (9) 0.4 (175) 184

4.1Abeg in NigE

Abeg generally functions as a mitigation (politeness) marker, as evident in (10), but it can also function as an emphasis marker as we will explain later in this section.

(10)

# Abeg, with due respect, you do not need to have a degree in English. (GloWbE 791)

In some cases, abeg may occur as abegi (n = 38), in order to indicate the degree of emphasis or exasperation, as in (11). There, it shares some meanings with the English emphasis markers such as honestly or really.

(11)

married, good n fine… If not, still good n fine. # Abegi! I am tired of all this write ups about not being married. (GloWbE 17)

Abeg has only four tokens in NigE utterances in ICE-Nig and all the four instances occur at the clause-initial position as in (12), while there is no instance of abegi in ICE-Nig.

(12)

Speaker 2:
I’m not going to library o
Speaker 1:
that erm
Speaker 2:
which
Speaker 1:
the library I told you
Speaker 2:
abeg me I don’t know
Speaker 1:
that I tell you (ICE-Nig con_07.txt)

In GloWbE, abeg has 711 instances, out of which it occurs at the clause-initial (n = 485), clause-medial (n = 1) and clause-final (n = 225) positions, as shown in (13), (14), and (15), respectively. This shows that the clause-initial position is the most favoured position for abeg in NigE even though there is no notable difference in the discourse-pragmatic functions of abeg at clause-initial and clause-final positions.

(13)

Take 10 naira and buy me 5 naira pure water, abeg bring change ooo!!! (GloWbE 988)

(14)

MC with an MSc and getting a PhD. The only MC with a PhD abeg from an ivy league school sef. (GloWbE 261)

(15)

# But who made that rule abeg? Is there a hard age gap where it becomes too old? (GloWbE 1020)

As indicated in (13), (14), and (15), abeg can appear in imperative, declarative and interrogative clauses.

Abeg may be doubled, as shown in (16), and also collocate with other mitigation markers such as please, jare, jor, and biko 1111. Jor (with the repetition of the letter ‘o’ in different spellings) and biko are borrowed from Yoruba and Igbo respectively, and both can be translated as please. They also perform mitigation and emphatic functions just like abeg. Jare is slightly different: it is an emphasis pragmatic marker but it sometimes combines the emphatic function with the mitigation function, especially in conflictual situations (see Unuabonah and Oladipupo 2020 2020 “Bilingual Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” World Englishes: 1–17. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). (see Unuabonah and Oladipupo 2020 2020 “Bilingual Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” World Englishes: 1–17. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), in order to emphasise an opinion or concern, as seen in (17), (18), (19), and (20), respectively:

(16)

# Pleas give me Emekas contact details abeg abeg. Just please. LOL? What a wicked world we live in. (GloWbE 38)

(17)

If you have a son or a daughter, please abeg, never tell them that. There is no justification for abuse. (GloWbE 370)

(18)

peter was contrite after denying Jesus thrice. her man is still sharping mouth. abeg jare! # The popular saying goes “Love is Blind” – (GloWbE 593)

(19)

that’s what K did throught the 91 days. # abeg jooor, i was sooo happy and jumped up wen i hrd. (GloWbE 372)

(20)

these popular trends can be found there for less than $ 3 at times. # Abeg biko, I do nt like anything cheap. They always come with some kinda. (GloWbE 588)

In addition, abeg also collocates with other emphasis markers such as o and na, as exemplified in (21) and (22), respectively:

(21)

and your card will surely be deliver to you soonest… abeg oooo #…. You will get it. (GloWbE 127)

(22)

Linda e be like say I don offend U, abi? abeg na! we write so our comments can be posted! (GloWbE 55)

Abeg also collocates with different forms of address terms, such as personal names, kinship terms, and terms of solidarity or comradeship, as shown in (23), (24), and (25), respectively:

(23)

Her family members are putting pressure on her to dump the dude. Abeg o Linda, wisdom is profitable to direct. (GloWbE 51)

(24)

A kiss, a hug and another round of applause for Glory. Nne abeg tell them o. Keep telling them till they not only hear but comprehend! (GloWbE 268)

(25)

Fidel Castro and the late Ernesto Che Guevara! I like these Men!… Abeg, My Igbo Folks, I’m waiting for translations! # (GloWbE 534)

Abeg also collocates with emotive interjections such as mtscheew, lol, and haba (see Norrick 2015Norrick, Neal 2015 “Interjections.” In Corpus Pragmatics: A Handbook, ed. by Karin Aijmer & Christoph Rühlemann, 249–273. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Unuabonah and Daniel 2020Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Florence O. Daniel 2020 “ Haba! Bilingual Interjections in Nigerian English.” Journal of Pragmatics 163: 66–77. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), as cited in (26), (27) and (28), respectively:

(26)

MBGN to nigerians who are suffering? there are important issues on ground to tackle abeg! mtscheeew! # (GloWbE 709)

(27)

a hot dude and I won’t do? Ha… life is too short abeg! lol. This my current situation is even giving me nightmares…. (GloWbE 49)

(28)

but some treat theirs like they didn’t carry for 9 months? Haba… Abeg oh! # I go with Ema Leecious on this one. (GloWbE 1012)

Mtchew (with different spellings based on the repetition of ‘e’ and ‘w’) is an emotive onomatopoeic interjection borrowed from indigenous Nigerian cultures into NigE, and it is used to show derision and utter disgust, while haba which is used to show strong surprise is an emotive interjection borrowed from Hausa into NigE (see Kperogi 2015Kperogi, Farooq A. 2015Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English in a Global World. New York: Peter Lang. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Unuabonah and Daniel 2020Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Florence O. Daniel 2020 “ Haba! Bilingual Interjections in Nigerian English.” Journal of Pragmatics 163: 66–77. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Their combination with abeg further indicates that abeg is often used as an emphasis marker.

As earlier indicated and as evident in numerous examples, abeg functions very often as an emphasis marker in NigE. Thus, it is often employed to emphasise one’s opinion on a subject matter, as in (29).

(29)

Thunder thighs, cankles and christian mama arms are not sexy abeg. Not everyone can be skinny but hello fat will kill you. (GloWbE 41)

Frequently, abeg is used to emphasise agreement or disagreement with opinions, as shown in (30) and (31), respectively, and to show interest or disinterest in a subject matter, as indicated in (32) and (33), respectively:

(30)

Some of us may never qualify!!! # Please I agree with Mary-Anne abeg. I may not totally subscribe to her comments 100%. (GloWbE 207)

(31)

so u dnt knw wat ur brother gets to……. talk 4 ur self alone abeg, this girl made a whole lot of sence. (GloWbE 26)

(32)

We need some more interesting stuff to read abeg enough of all this baseless crap about Private jets and pastors. (GloWbE 879)

(33)

go read naija constitution.or do nt you see an igbo man in fasholas cabinet? abeg go to d nxt gist jor. # (GloWbE 946)

In (30), the writer uses abeg to emphasise his/her agreement with the stand of a third party, while in (31), the writer uses abeg to emphasise his rejection of the earlier comment on why a man should not cheat on his wife by asking the earlier writers to speak only for themselves while refusing to accept their opinion. While the writer in (32) uses abeg to emphasise his interest in a new topic instead of discussing pastors who own private jets, the writer in (33) uses abeg to emphasise his/her disinterest in the ongoing discussion.

Also, abeg marks and/or emphasises orders, requests, warnings, assertions, and questions, as illustrated in (34), (35), (36), (37), and (38), respectively:

(34)

record their conversation and act…… so so out of line……… Abeg go jooor # Yall freak hos shut the eff up, I herd bout dis. (GloWbE 91)

(35)

I can safely say I’m odourless down there. *wink*wink*. P.S. Linlin, abeg post my comment oh # What you eat has a lot to do with smel. (GloWbE 94)

(36)

leaders are talking about acquiring nuclear technology from Iran? Abeg somebody should warn them o, petrol fire/plane crash is moi moi. (GloWbE 799)

(37)

being sexy for him while holding a good profession to support the family….. abeg I am only human, one of the days a very attractive man I never (GloWbE 27)

(38)

why can’t Nigerians think logically without blaming the devil for every situation abeg? I hope the girl gets the treatment she deserves. (GloWbE 64)

In (34), abeg is used by the writer to order the interlocutor to either excuse him/her or stay quiet, while in (35), abeg is employed in order to request that Linda (the web host) post the writer’s comments on her blog. In (36), abeg is used to emphasise the writer’s concern about the danger in people going to hell. In (37), abeg is employed in order to emphasise the writer’s claim to be a normal person, while in (38), abeg is used to emphasise the writer’s question on why Nigerians quickly blame the devil for their bad behaviours.

Also, abeg is sometimes used to emphasise displeasure or disapproval of something, as evident in (39) and (40):

(39)

God forbid I lose sleep like that. # Abeg all these desperate single &; divorced ashawos shld leave married men alone. (GloWbE 33)

(40)

Okay let’s start with the bolded as they are hosting the next olympics # Abeg, you people should STOP attacking afam, it’s his opinion. (GloWbE 537)

In (39), the writer uses abeg to emphasise his/her displeasure about single or divorced women who cling onto married men, while the writer in (40) employs abeg to show his/her disapproval or dislike for people who criticise others unnecessarily.

In the same manner, abeg is often used to encourage or discourage other interlocutors from performing an action, as exemplified in (41) and (42), respectively:

(41)

totally unaware dat any of u exist…. its just laughable men! Abeg lets go and make our own impact so pple can talk about us jare! (GloWbE 665)

(42)

wen she was up 4 eviction n he bought her a guitar. Abeg free d guy let him do wat he likes # (GloWbE 88)

While abeg is used in (41) by the writer to encourage his/her interlocutor to strive to make impact instead of criticising others, it is used in (42) to dissuade the interlocutors from criticising a guy who tries all he can to express his affections to his girlfriend.

4.2Sef in NigE

NigE sef is used as an emphasis pragmatic marker with the core meaning of emphasising any proposition that is contained in the clause to which it is attached. It thus shares similar meanings with the English pragmatic marker really, as shown in (43). Sef (n = 392) is also written as self (n = 27) by some online users, but this self behaves the same way as sef, as shown in (44) and (45):

(43)

God wont be happy with you sef if you keep complaining. All of us on this blog have enough thats why. (GloWbE 164)

(44)

the dude is done n he is done, i support the guy to run self, you cant even hold your own as a woman, Crap # (GloWbE 2402)

(45)

if PHCN did not give us light they should not be distributing bill. Even self as far i am concerned if i am in the position to do that. (GloWBE 3143)

However, as we will later explain, sef has additional functions where it can be used as an elaborative marker or a dismissive marker, and thus, it shares similar meanings with indeed, actually and anyway, which also have emphatic, elaborative, and dismissive functions (see Ferrara 1997Ferrara, Kathleen W. 1997 “Form and Function of the Discourse Marker Anyway: Implications for Discourse Analysis.” Linguistics 35: 343–378. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Aijmer 2013Aijmer, Karin 2013Understanding Pragmatic Markers: A Variational Pragmatic Approach. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar).

Sef occurs in ICE-Nig (n = 9) where it occupies both the clause-initial (n = 3) and clause-final (n = 6) positions, as shown in (46) and (47), respectively:

(46)

Speaker 5:
who don’t even dress well
Speaker 3:
even ten o’clock sef you will see me coming out of the brothers’ hostel
Speaker 1:
what campus is that (ICE-Nig con_11.txt)

(47)

Speaker 2:
I don’t know how they even do all those things sef
Speaker 1:
erm you will take it to a technician
Speaker 2:
yes all those people that (ICE-Nig con_09.txt)

In GloWbE, sef 1212.This includes self. (n = 410) occurs at clause-initial (n = 33), clause-medial (n = 44) and clause-final positions (n = 333). This indicates that the clause-final position is the most favoured position for sef. An example at the clause-medial position is given in (48):

(48)

d idiot dat brought up d bird strike issue am pretty sure his won family sef doesn’t fly dana airways ill mannerd son of a bitch # (GloWbE 124)

What is noticed is that, in the initial position, sef is always preceded by another discourse element that is syntactically optional such as pragmatic markers and address terms, as shown in (57) and (58), respectively. It appears that sef (in form of -self) moved from the clause-medial position to the clause-initial and clause-final positions, as the medial position is where the emphatic pronoun myself/yourself usually stays, as shown in (49) and (50), although it may also be positioned at the final position of a clause, as shown in (51):

(49)

Speaker 1:
how will you counsel people when you yourself are
Speaker 2:
you’re not my teacher you don’t have to teach me
Speaker 1:
behaving (ICE-Nig cr_09.txt)

(50)

Speaker 2:
and even it’s going to be free and fair but I myself I know that this erm (ICE-Nig con_53.txt)

(51)

GB:S1A-015 #37:1:A> You could I suppose commission some prints of you yourself <ICE-GB:S1A-015 #38:1:B> Uh <ICE-GB:S1A-015 #39:1:A> You could commission prints of yourself <ICE-GB:S1A-015 #40:1:B> (ICE_GB_spoken.txt)

Sef tends to collocate with pragmatic markers, such as in fact (n = 5), even (n = 5), as a matter of fact (n = 4), and gan (n = 3) in (52), (53), (54), and (55), respectively. These markers also have emphatic, elaborative and contrastive functions (see Aijmer 2013Aijmer, Karin 2013Understanding Pragmatic Markers: A Variational Pragmatic Approach. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar; Fuchs, Gut and Soneye 2013Fuchs, Robert, Ulrike Gut, and Taiwo Soneye 2013 “ ‘We Just Don’t Even Know’: The Usage of the Pragmatic Focus Particles Even and Still in Nigerian English”. English World-Wide 34: 123–145. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). It also collocates with mtchew, which is an emotive interjection in NigE, as seen in (56):

(52)

So the old cow with rotten teeth is lying!! In fact sef let us just look at the picha and feel sorry for her! Eaahhyyaaaa… (GloWbE 452)

(53)

I respect a man who can handle his business and handle it well, even sef it frees me up to do my own thing. # (GloWbE 141)

(54)

As a matter of fact sef they are our stalker hard core fans who are definitely stewpid ediotic people. (GloWbE 68)

(55)

By the look of things it seems Afro Poet gan sef is not really into Naija. (GloWbE 578)

(56)

that oge ugly okoye also fhucked married men and is still fhucking married men sef! Mtchew! Let’s all NAME n SHAME those shameless beitches!!! (GloWbE 445)

Gan is an emphasis pragmatic marker which is borrowed from Yoruba.

In addition, sef collocates with address terms such as personal names, community-based names and pronouns (in the objective/accusative case), as depicted in (57), (58), and (59), respectively:

(57)

# Oke, you sef, I’m ashamed you are still so narrow minded. (GloWbE 273)

(58)

anthropologist will put this matter to rest in less than 5 sentences # but Nigerians sef, why is it strive to be foreigner but no foreigner wants to be Nigerian. (GloWbE 45)

(59)

# A tiny girl washing oga’s coats and jeans haba! Even me sef i used to duck out of the house to avoid spending hrs at night. (GloWbE 330)

As noticed in (59), sef collocates with personal pronouns in their objective case. The few cases where it collocates with possessive pronouns such as my and your, from where emphatic pronouns can be formed have been removed.

Sef can occur in declaratives, interrogatives and exclamatives (see also in NigP, Faraclas 1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar), as shown in (57), (58), and (60), respectively. It occurs only once in an imperative clause, as indicated in (61):

(60)

I noticed the baby almost immediately too. Linda you sef. (GloWbE 33)

(61)

# Visit winners chapel or any church sef…. and you will know what christianity is all about. (GloWbE 529)

As earlier indicated, sef can perform additive functions where it could be replaced with elaborative or additive pragmatic markers such as too and also, as exemplified in (62) and (63):

(62)

# At least that’s what he’s claiming… with photo evidence sef. For those who don’t understand what this is about, let me explain. (GloWbE)

(63)

is this son of a bitch calling u when he is married? and you sef will be picking his calls, on the second hand he cld just need u. (GloWbE 166)

In (62), the writer uses sef to indicate that the person in question has added the photo evidence in addition to the claims he made, while in (63), the writer uses sef to indicate that the addressee’s action of picking a man’s call adds to the wrong act of the married man calling the addressee.

Sef also performs dismissive functions and thus shares similar meanings with the English pragmatic marker anyway (see Ferrara 1997Ferrara, Kathleen W. 1997 “Form and Function of the Discourse Marker Anyway: Implications for Discourse Analysis.” Linguistics 35: 343–378. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), as illustrated in (64) and (65):

(64)

start preparing your candle, torch light and gen (thats if there’s fuel sef) smh 2. terrible internet.. OMG!! i cant believe in this day. (GloWbE 172)

(65)

woman that much agony, abeg… that is if this story is for real sef. (GloWbE 593)

Like anyway, sef is used after an evaluation that negates a previous observation. In (64), the writer inserts sef after a negative evaluation of the possibility of lack of fuel which would affect the use of a generator in the previous clause, while in (65), the writer uses sef after an observation that a story about a woman might not be real. This negates the previous observation that the woman had gone through a lot of agony.

4.3Na in NigE

NigE na is a syntactically optional item, as shown in (66) and (67). It occurs 9 times in NigE utterances in ICE-Nig.

(66)

Speaker 1:
do you know ah who el- who whosoever get that place ah you know he will collect bribe na
Speaker 2:
no (ICE-Nig con_50.txt)

(67)

Speaker 2:
I’m sure it’s from either the mosques she went to cause it’s definitely not our parents
Speaker 1:
of course na there’s a there’s a way the religion integrate the children (ICE-Nig con_44.txt)

In GloWbE, NigE na appears as na (n = 81), nah (n = 62), nau (n = 15), naa (n = 8), naaa (n = 8), and naah (n = 1), as shown in (68), (69), (70), (71), (72), and (73), respectively:

(68)

decide not to pick my calls? “#” My phone was on silent na. I didn’t even know you were calling.” # (GloWbE 4718)

(69)

u are talking about, Me too… been there, done that. But nah, no no no no!!! I have only rolled with strippers for. (GloWbE 118)

(70)

just say he should use his brain…? He s been using his brain nau, btw they should do more investigation, maybe his Phd is in kidnapping. (GloWbE 8)

(71)

That does not mean he’s the most succesful naa, afterall he’s not an artiste anyway.Look at Tuface who undoubtedly is very successful. (GloWbE 11)

(72)

I think its the lady that keeps the ring oh! But you know naaa.. Men can be petty, some just demand for it outright. (GloWbE 6)

(73)

100 million dollars this year i would probably date 4 girls at the sametime too naah scratch that make it 40 girls # (GloWbE 2)

We propose that NigE na (with its variants) is a shortened form of now as an emphasis pragmatic marker (see Oladipupo and Unuabonah 2020Oladipupo, Rotimi O., and Foluke O. Unuabonah 2020 “Extended Discourse-pragmatic Usage of Now in Nigerian English.” World Englishes, 1–19. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).1313.We do recognise that na may also be spelt as now. However, it will be impossible to prove this since we do not have access to the writers of the post. We have already argued that the pragmatic marker na developed from now as an emphasis pragmatic marker, and both are used in the corpora as well as in everyday conversations, based on participant-observation. Now has been identified as a temporal marker and as an attention pragmatic marker with discourse-organising functions (see Fraser 2009 2009An Account of Discourse Markers. International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2):293–320. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). However, in NigE (as well as in NigP), now, in addition to its temporal and discourse-organising functions, has developed an emphatic function like NigE o (see Faraclas 1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar; Unuabonah and Oladipupo 2018Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Rotimi O. Oladipupo 2018 ““You’re Not Staying in Island Sha O”: O, Sha and Abi as Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” Journal of Pragmatics 135: 8–23. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Jowitt 2019Jowitt, David 2019Nigerian English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar). This now is pronounced differently from now as a temporal or attention pragmatic marker. NigE emphatic now has a fall-rise tone compared to the rise-fall tone of now as temporal and attention markers. The suggestion that na is a shortened form of emphatic now is evidenced in the use of the spelling variant nau, as shown in (74) and (75):

(74)

Is it possible to love two guys at the same time? # Of course nau. Take me for example; there was this stupid boy I was loving. (GloWbE 15)

(75)

Thorpe, ur a clown joor… Yes nau, we” re now friends. Av been calling for friendship since naa but u no. (GloWbE 22)

In (74) and (75), nau is emphatic as it emphasises agreement, which is indicated in of course and yes, respectively. In (75), it occurs in the same utterance with now, which is used as a temporal marker in the clause we” re now friends. A similar situation in the co-occurrence of na and now is found in (76):

(76)

What warrants your stupid comment now na… what is ignorant in the post? Please explain. (GloWbE 1525)

This indicates that Nigerian users know that the temporal marker now is different from the emphatic now, and are now finding ways to differentiate the two words. It appears that the NigE na/nau identified in GloWbE is similar to Faraclas’ (1996)Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar nàw which is a constituent-final particle that is used to “indicate that the preceding constituent is the topic of the assertion at hand” (p. 121). An example from Faraclas (1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar, 121) is cited in (77):

(77)
Im
3sP
sel
sellF
gari
gari
nàw
T p
for
 
maket.
market

‘(S)he sold gari (you know) in the market.’

Faraclas (1996)Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar equally identifies now as a temporal marker in NigP, which is written as naw (p. 117). Thus, we can claim that na and its variants have been formed from emphatic now.

In ICE-Nig, na occurs in both clause-initial (n = 2) and clause-final (n = 7) positions, as exemplified in (66) and (67) above. In GloWbE, na occurs at the clause-initial (n = 11), and clause-final (n = 163) positions, as shown in (75) and (76). It occurs only once in clause-medial position, as seen in (78). This shows that the clause-final position is the most preferred position for na.

(78)

each others events even without Wayne so I get that case more. This one NAH that Sunmbo will just be smiling and plotting. nolly has spoken. # (GloWbE 240)

Unlike sef and abeg, na rarely collocates with other discourse-pragmatic items. The few items it collocates with include address terms, secondary interjections, and discourse markers, as shown in (79), (80), and (81), respectively:

(79)

want you to read this. And I know you will *kisses* # U c naa Sarah? That’s why u can never be among such delegates cos what u. (GloWbE 6)

(80)

do nt give a fhuck character is fake all for publicity stunts. # Yes nah we all know that! That her “tweet” is the death of her. (GloWbE 190)

(81)

I’m trying to convey. They say Naija is lawless no be so? Okay na, let’s get dirty!!! # jimmy # No comment! # (GloWbE 1714)

In addition, as can be seen in (80), (81) and (82), na can be attached to interrogatives, declaratives, and imperatives.

As earlier indicated, na emphasises any speech act or proposition in the clause to which it is attached. Thus, na can be used to emphasise disagreement as illustrated in (69), opinion as exemplified in (71), intention as seen in (73), confirmation as shown in (80), challenging as cited in (81), ordering as indicated in (82), warning as exemplified in (83), advice as seen in (84), and insult as shown in (85).

(82)

does not mean it isn’t being made. Oya stay in your beloved America na, soon you won’t be paid enough. (GloWbE 1534)

(83)

wow, brethren. You’re spoiling the unbelievabers’ party na. They were close to having fellowship and whining in persecution. (GloWbE 2494)

(84)

girls marry early, even majority oyinbo get children early. try to find out na. (GloWbE 3613)

(85)

you that our boss is your boy? It is YOU who is a boy na. Boy sef? Let me not give you disciplinary! (GloWbE 4311)

4.4 Abeg, sef and na compared

Table 2 shows that the three pragmatic markers borrowed from NigP into NigE vary distinctly in terms of their spelling variants, position in the clause, collocations, distribution across clause types and their pragmatic functionality. While abeg and sef only have two spelling variants each, there are six different spellings attested in GloWbE for na. However, this does not reflect a wider range of pragmatic functions: on the contrary, na is only used as an emphasis marker, while abeg can function as both mitigation and emphasis marker and sef is used as emphasis, additive, and contrastive marker in NigE. Likewise, na has fewer collocational options than the other two pragmatic markers borrowed from NigP. All of the three borrowed pragmatic markers can be found in a variety of speech acts and sentence types such as imperatives, declaratives and interrogatives. They differ sharply, however, in their preferred position within the clause: while abeg occurs clause-initially in two thirds of all cases and finally in one third, both sef and na occur predominately in final position. Sef is the only borrowed pragmatic marker that is also produced in medial position.

Table 2.Spelling variants, position, collocations, distribution and pragmatic functions of abeg, sef and na
PM Spelling variants Position Collocations Distribution Pragmatic functionality
abeg abeg, abegi initial: 68.4%
medial: 0.1%
final: 31.5%
with other emphasis markers, other pragmatic markers, address terms, secondary interjections in imperative, declarative and interrogative clauses mitigation, emphasis
sef sef, self initial: 8.6%
medial: 10.5%
final: 80.9%
with emphatic, elaborative and contrastive markers, also address terms, secondary interjections in declaratives, interrogatives and exclamatives emphasis, additive and contrastive
na na, naa, naa, nau, nah, naah initial: 7%
medial: 0.5%
final: 92.5%
rarely with other pragmatic markers, only address terms, secondary interjections, discourse markers in declaratives, interrogatives and imperatives emphasis

5.Discussion and conclusion

This study investigated the use of the pragmatic markers abeg, sef and na borrowed from NigP into NigE. It showed that they differ in terms of their semantic and pragmatic functions, the syntactic position they can occur in as well as their collocational patterns. Na stands out as having the most restricted functionality, only as an emphasis marker, a less variable syntactic position (this it shares with sef) and a smaller collocational range by not collocating with other pragmatic markers. In addition, it has many more spelling variants than the other two borrowed pragmatic markers. Possibly, the greater variety of spellings of na reflects an attempt of the writers to render visible the great variety and importance of the prosodic characteristics of na described above.

Furthermore, the findings show that it is the pragmatic na that is borrowed from NigP and not the grammatical na, since the use of the grammatical na automatically means that the utterance is in NigP. We have also indicated that the pragmatic na developed from the emphasis marker now, which itself developed from the temporal marker now due to mother tongue influence (see Oladipupo and Unuabonah 2020Oladipupo, Rotimi O., and Foluke O. Unuabonah 2020 “Extended Discourse-pragmatic Usage of Now in Nigerian English.” World Englishes, 1–19. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), and which is evidenced in one of the variants of na, as shown in some of the examples. Although both are emphatic, it is not likely that it is the grammatical na that has become the pragmatic na. As evident in the examples of Faraclas (1996)Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar and in GloWbE, grammatical na is still a very strong feature of NigP sentence structures.

There is no evidence of semantic broadening, narrowing or semantic shift when the uses of the markers within NigP and NigE utterances in ICE-Nig and in web-based writing in GloWbE are compared, which may be due to the fact that both corpora roughly comprise language produced in the same period. It thus appears that any case of semantic broadening or semantic shift would have taken place within NigP itself. For instance, abeg, which occurs very frequently both in NigP and NigE utterances in GloWbE was only mentioned once in Faraclas (1996)Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar as separate items i.e. a beg. Thus, it appears that it is a fairly recent phenomenon in NigP.

We hypothesised that NigE speakers use pragmatic markers borrowed from NigP as a multilingual resource and possibly as a marker of a specific Nigerian identity (cf. Boas and Weilbacher 2007Boas, Hans C., and Hunter Weilbacher 2007 “How Universal Is the Pragmatic Detachability Scale? Evidence from Texas German Discourse Markers.” In The Proceedings of the Texas Linguistic Society IX Conference: The Morphosyntax of Underrepresented Languages, ed. by Frederic Hoyt, Nikki Seifert, Alexandra Teodorescu, and Jessica White, 33–58. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar). Confirmation for this hypothesis might come from two findings: the difference of frequencies of occurrence of the borrowed pragmatic markers across text categories and their overall frequency. First, it was found that the three borrowed pragmatic markers are more frequent in face-to-face conversations than in online language. While reflecting general differences between spoken and written language use, this might also be caused by audience differences: in the conversations in ICE-Nig, speakers were talking to other Nigerians, while when writing on some of the websites included in GloWbE, writers might have unconsciously adapted their use of borrowed pragmatic markers, thus catering for a wider international audience (see also Loureiro-Porto 2017Loureiro-Porto, L. 2017 “ICE vs GloWbE: Big Data and Corpus Compilation.” World Englishes 36 (3): 448–470. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Second, the frequency of the NigP markers in NigE indicates that they are regularly used. Unuabonah and Gut (2018)Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Ulrike Gut 2018 “Commentary Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” English World-Wide 39 (2): 193–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar showed that only five ‘English’ emphasis markers are used in NigE with a frequency of 2.2 per 100,000 words across all text categories of ICE-Nig. The three pragmatic markers with emphatic functions borrowed from NigP with a frequency of between 0.4 and 5 occurrences per 100,000 words in the two corpora analysed for this study therefore do by no means have a marginal status but seem to constitute commonly chosen alternatives or additions to the ‘English’ emphasis markers present in NigE. This might also explain why some emphasis markers such as by all means, by no means and on earth that are used in ICE-GB do not occur in ICE-Nig at all (Unuabonah and Gut 2018Unuabonah, Foluke O., and Ulrike Gut 2018 “Commentary Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” English World-Wide 39 (2): 193–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Future investigations may also include emphasis markers borrowed from indigenous Nigerian languages in NigE to offer a comprehensive account of the multilingual resources NigE speakers have and use for expressing this pragmatic function.

Another promising avenue for future research might be an investigation of other pragmatic markers borrowed from NigP in earlier times. This is possible by examining NigE texts produced from the 20th century. Presently, a historical corpus of NigE is being compiled by one of the authors, which could reveal such borrowing. It is quite possible that the frequent use of NigP pragmatic markers in contemporary NigE is correlated with the rising esteem of NigP as a language across Nigeria and a positive change towards the language (see Akande and Salami 2010Akande, Akinmade T., and Oladipo L. Salami 2010 “Use and Attitudes towards Nigerian Pidgin English among Nigerian University Students.” In Marginal Dialects: Scotland, Ireland and Beyond, ed. by Robert McColl Millar, 70–89. Aberdeen: Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ireland.Google Scholar). This is a recent phenomenon that has developed only over the past 20 or 30 years. Before then, NigP was mainly regarded as ‘broken English’ and the language of the uneducated and had little prestige (Faraclas 1996Faraclas, Nicholas 1996Nigerian Pidgin. London: Routledge.Google Scholar; Deuber 2005Deuber, Dagmar 2005Nigerian Pidgin in Lagos: Language Contact, Variation and Change in an African Urban Setting. London: Battlebridge.Google Scholar). As Akande and Salami (2010)Akande, Akinmade T., and Oladipo L. Salami 2010 “Use and Attitudes towards Nigerian Pidgin English among Nigerian University Students.” In Marginal Dialects: Scotland, Ireland and Beyond, ed. by Robert McColl Millar, 70–89. Aberdeen: Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ireland.Google Scholar argue, NigP may now be seen as the language that enhances “the propagation of national ideas, socio-cultural, linguistic and political developments as well as peace and unity in the country since it is the only language that both the educated and the uneducated, irrespective of their ethnic affinities, can identify with,” and thus, NigP can be taken as a marker of identity by NigE users. If pragmatic markers borrowed from NigP by the speakers of NigE indeed constitute identity markers, their use should be far less frequent in the NigE spoken in the 20th century than it is now.

Another area of future investigation is the possible spread of some of these markers to other varieties of English, especially West African varieties, as English-based Pidgin is spoken across Anglophone West Africa. Indeed, abeg also occurs in Ghanaian Pidgin; however, its use in Ghanaian English is relatively low compared to NigE as evidenced in the Ghanaian component of GloWbE. Since the data in GloWbE were collected shortly before its release in 2013, it is possible that newer data might reveal a spread of these markers in Ghanaian English. Moreover, a number of Nigerians live and have businesses in other West African countries such as Ghana, which may also influence the spread of abeg, sef and na in other West African Englishes.

Funding

Research funded by Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung (N/A) to Foluke Olayinka Unuabonah.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and also appreciate the critical comments of two anonymous reviewers and the journal editors.

Notes

1.Progressive
2.Negation
3.Existential pronoun
4.Copula
5.Noun clause introducer
6.Third person plural
7.Perfective verb
8.conversations
9.Subjunctive clause introducer
10.For a detailed review of the GloWbE corpus, see Mair (2015)Mair, Christian 2015 “Response to Davies and Fuchs.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 29–33. CrossrefGoogle Scholar and Peters (2015)Peters, Pam 2015 “Response to Davies and Fuchs.” English World-Wide 36 (1): 41–44. CrossrefGoogle Scholar in the special edition of English World-Wide 36(1).
11. Jor (with the repetition of the letter ‘o’ in different spellings) and biko are borrowed from Yoruba and Igbo respectively, and both can be translated as please. They also perform mitigation and emphatic functions just like abeg. Jare is slightly different: it is an emphasis pragmatic marker but it sometimes combines the emphatic function with the mitigation function, especially in conflictual situations (see Unuabonah and Oladipupo 2020 2020 “Bilingual Pragmatic Markers in Nigerian English.” World Englishes: 1–17. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).
12.This includes self.
13.We do recognise that na may also be spelt as now. However, it will be impossible to prove this since we do not have access to the writers of the post. We have already argued that the pragmatic marker na developed from now as an emphasis pragmatic marker, and both are used in the corpora as well as in everyday conversations, based on participant-observation.

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Address for correspondence

Foluke Olayinka Unuabonah

English Department

Redeemer’s University

PMB 230

232101 Ede Osun state

Nigeria

unuabonahf@run.edu.ng

Biographical notes

Foluke O. Unuabonah received her PhD from University of Ibadan and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Redeemer’s University. Her areas of specialisation include (corpus) pragmatics and discourse analysis. She has published articles in Discourse & Society, Pragmatics & Society, Intercultural Pragmatics, Corpus Pragmatics, Text & Talk and Journal of Argumentation in Context. She is currently compiling a Historical Corpus of English in Nigeria with other colleagues in Redeemer’s University.

Folajimi Oyebola earned his B.A. (English and Literature) from the University of Benin, M.A. (English Linguistics) from the University of Lagos and PhD (English Linguistics) from the University of Münster, Germany. His research interests include African varieties of English, phonetics and phonology, sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics and language use in discourse. He has published in a number of international peer-reviewed journals.

Ulrike Gut currently holds the Chair for English Linguistics at the University of Münster. She received her PhD from Mannheim University and her Habilitation from Freiburg University. Her research interests include postcolonial varieties of English and L2/L3 phonological acquisition. She has compiled the LeaP corpus of non-native German and English, ICE-Nigeria and is currently compiling ICE-Scotland together with Ole Schützler.