Glocal English

The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English in a Global World

by Farooq A. Kperogi (Author)
©2015 Monographs XXIV, 246 Pages


Glocal English compares the usage patterns and stylistic conventions of the world’s two dominant native varieties of English (British and American English) with Nigerian English, which ranks as the English world’s fastest-growing non-native variety courtesy of the unrelenting ubiquity of the Nigerian (English-language) movie industry in Africa and the Black Atlantic Diaspora. Using contemporary examples from the mass media and the author’s rich experiential data, the book isolates the peculiar structural, grammatical, and stylistic characteristics of Nigerian English and shows its similarities as well as its often humorous differences with British and American English. Although Nigerian English forms the backdrop of the book, it will benefit teachers of English as a second or foreign language across the world. Similarly, because it presents complex grammatical concepts in a lucid, personal narrative style, it is useful both to a general and a specialist audience, including people who study anthropology and globalization. The true-life experiential encounters that the book uses to instantiate the differences and similarities between Nigerian English and native varieties of English will make it valuable as an empirical data mine for disciplines that investigate the movement and diffusion of linguistic codes across the bounds of nations and states in the age of globalization.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance praise for Glocal English
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Part One: Conceptual Issues in Nigerian, American, and British English
  • 1 Conceptualizing Nigerian English
  • 2 Are There Native English Speakers in Nigeria?
  • 3 Comparing Broken English, Pidgin English, and Nigerian English
  • 4 American English, British English, and “Bastardization”
  • 5 Grammatical Dialectics and the Politics of Meaning and Usage in English
  • 6 Between Useless and Useful Tautologies in English
  • 7 The African Origins of Common English Words
  • Part Two: Comparisons of Nigerian, American, and British English Usage
  • 8 Nigerianisms, Americanisms, Briticisms, and Communication Breakdown
  • 9 Top Hilarious Differences between American and Nigerian English
  • 10 Grammatical Errors Common to Americans and Nigerians
  • 11 Comparing the Vernaculars of American, British, and Nigerian Universities
  • 12 Grammar of Titles and Naming in British, American, and Nigerian English
  • Part Three: English Usage in the Nigerian News Media
  • 13 The English of the Nigerian News Media
  • Part Four: Peculiar Expressions in Nigerian English
  • 14 Nigerian English’s Unique Telephonic Vocabularies
  • 15 Top Cutest and Strangest Nigerian English Idioms
  • 16 Back-formation and Affixation in Nigerian English
  • 17 Most Popular Mangled Expressions in Nigerian English
  • 18 Peculiar Salutations in Nigerian English
  • 19 Top Exclamatory Expressions in Nigerian English
  • 20 When Food and Grammar Mix
  • 21 Words Nigerians Commonly Mispronounce
  • Part Five: Politics and Nigerian English Usage
  • 22 Grammar of Nigerian Politics
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

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Trying to ignore the English language in today’s dizzyingly globalizing world is like trying to avoid daylight: you can do it, but with an effort so exacting it reaches the point of absurdity. The English language is, for all practical purposes, the world’s lingua franca. It is the principal international language in the fields of communications, information technology, entertainment, science, business, diplomacy, and so on. Its status as the language for aerial and nautical communications and as one of the languages of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Olympic Committee, and most other international organizations enjoys official recognition, prompting one scholar to characterize the English language as the “Latin of globalization” (Ivan, 2011).

Most importantly, it is the language of scholarship and learning. The Science Citation Index, for instance, revealed in a 1997 report that 95 percent of scholarly articles in its corpus were written in English, even though only half of these scientific articles came from authors whose first language is English (Garfield, 1998). Scores of universities in Europe, Africa, and Asia are switching to English as the preferred language of instruction. As Germany’s Technical University president Wolfgang Hermann said when his university ditched German and switched to English as the language of instruction for most of the school’s master’s degree programs, “English is the lingua franca [of the] academia and of the economy” (The Local, 2014). His ← ix | x → assertion has support in the findings of a study in Germany that discovered that publishing in English is “often the only way to be noticed by the international scientific community” (The Local, 2014). So most academics in the world either have to publish in English or perish in their native tongues. In addition, it has been noted in many places that between 70 and 80 percent of information stored in the world’s computers is in English, leading a technology writer to describe the English language as “the lingua franca of the wired world” (Bowen, 2001).

These facts explain why English is spoken by hundreds of millions of non-native speakers in the world today. If you take into account the fact that most educated Chinese people now speak and write some English, the number of people who speak English in the world should exceed a billion. David Crystal, a widely cited retired professor of English at the University of Reading, estimates that there are now up to 2 billion English speakers in the world, the vast majority of whom are non-native speakers. As Edgar Schneider notes, the phenomenal expansion in the numerical strength of English speakers globally “has been driven not by native speakers—their number is stable at somewhere around 350 million to 380 million. The strongest increase has been found in countries where English serves as an official or de facto ‘second language’ (ESL), with strong internal functions, mostly in former British colonies such as India or Nigeria” (Schneider, 2014, p. 16). This fact demands that careful attention be paid to the distinctive structural character and flavor of old and emerging non-native varieties of English. That was what Schneider (2014, p. 16–17) meant when he said “An ongoing debate on ‘Who owns English?’ has its focus on the independent growth and increasingly distinctive character of these varieties.” So what are the distinctive features of Nigerian English that set it apart from other varieties of English?

While there is a plethora of literature on the grammar of several varieties of English, there is a paucity of books that compare the usage norms and conventions of native and non-native varieties of the English language. There is, in fact, no book in print that compares the usage patterns and stylistic imprints of the world’s two dominant native varieties of English (that is, British and American English) with Nigerian English, a semantically rich, syntactically robust, and rapidly evolving non-native variety of the English language that must rank as the English world’s fastest-growing non-native variety, thanks largely to the unrelenting ubiquity of the Nigerian (English-language) movie industry in Africa and in the historic Black Atlantic Diaspora (Rosati & Vaccarelli, 2012) and the remarkably vast migratory flow of Nigerians across the globe. This book derives inspirational strength from a desire to fill this gap.

In this book, I coalesce and substantially expand the series of well-received essays I’ve written in my newspaper grammar columns and on my blog over the ← x | xi → last several years. The columns compare the grammar, vocabulary, distinctive usage patterns, and phonological attributes of Nigerian, American, and British English. This book takes off from these essays. It expounds the conceptions of Nigerian English, compares it with and differentiates it from Nigerian Pidgin English while highlighting the overlaps between them. The book not only isolates the peculiar structural, grammatical, stylistic, and phonological characteristics of Nigerian English; it also shows its points of departure and similarities with British English and American English. The influences of both British and American English on contemporary Nigerian English as well as the often humorous points of divergences between the varieties are laid bare.

Several chapters also capture nascent, social media-induced forms of Nigerian English that have not been written about in any scholarly, systematic fashion. In addition, there is a chapter that chronicles common English words with African, especially Nigerian, origins.

Nigerian English is one of the world’s fastest growing “glocal Englishes,” defined by Pakir (2001, p. 346) as “English that is global and yet rooted in the local contexts of its new users. Glocal English is language that has international status in its global spread but at the same time expresses local identities.” It is found in countries like Nigeria, Singapore, India, Malaysia, etc. where English enjoys what Pakir (2001, p. 346) calls an “institutionalized role.” That is, where English, though not a native language, serves as the medium of instruction at all or most levels of education, where English is the language of the mass media, the courts, and of official communication. In other words, Nigerian glocal English is a variety of English that is inflected by local Nigerian socio-linguistic quiddities, while strongly rooted in the basic grammatical traditions of Global English.

The book deploys news stories, Op-Ed articles, anecdotes, and personal recollections to illustrate several key features of Nigerian English. For the most part, the book avoids jargon; it is written in an informal, narrative, and anecdotal style. This will broaden its appeal beyond academia and extend its usage in academia beyond English and linguistics departments. Overall, the book teaches English grammar, highlights common errors in English, and exposes readers to the constant dialectics between historical and emerging Englishes.

It is hoped that what is laid out here provides a springboard to start a process of codifying the idiosyncratic use of English in Nigeria and also provide an accessible chronicle not only of historical and contemporary Nigerian English usage, but of the emerging, as yet unformed, but nonetheless consequential contours of Nigerian English.

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This book is the product of a prolonged gestational intellection and of previous multiple incarnations in a variety of forms: newspaper columns, blog posts, Internet discussion boards, mailing list contributions, Facebook posts, and private email correspondences with a vast, curious, supportive fan base. A book with such variegated roots naturally owes debts to so many more people than there will ever be space to acknowledge. But the weight of the debt is no reason to refrain from mentioning a few people and institutions whose support was crucial to the materialization of this book.

First, I would like to thank the editors and management of People’s Daily and Sunday Trust in Nigeria in whose papers several of the first versions of the chapters in this book first appeared as weekly newspaper columns. I particularly want to thank Hajia Zainab Suleiman-Okino, former editor of the Weekly Trust, who nudged me to start a weekly column more than a decade ago. The column helped to spark and crystallize my thoughts on English language, grammar, usage, style, and the place of Nigerian English in this mix. My friend and former classmate at Bayero University Kano, Abdulazeez Abdullahi, who is the immediate past General Manager of the Abuja-based People’s Daily, encouraged me to start a column specifically on English grammar.

Professor Moses Ochonu, my best friend, former classmate, and confidant played more crucial roles in the conception, elaboration, and writing of this book ← xiii | xiv → than I can persuade him to believe. Since my relocation to the United States over a decade ago, he has become an inextricable part of my personal and intellectual journeys, and his family has become an extension of mine in more ways than I can express.

My late wife, Zainab Musa Kperogi, who was a graduate of English and one of the finest grammarians I’ve ever known, provided unquantifiable inspiration to me throughout several stages of the conception of this book. The countless discussions and arguments we had about English grammar and usage sowed the seeds for several insights you will read here. For many years, she encouraged me to publish a book on comparative English grammar. Unfortunately, she died in a car crash on June 4, 2010, and hasn’t lived to see the solid materialization of her hopes and dreams for me.

I want to thank my wonderful and amazing children—Sinani, Maryam, and Adam—whose infectious charm never fails to keep me in good cheer even in difficult moments. I will forever be grateful to them for their understanding and patience on those weekends when I was writing this book instead of playing hide and seek with them. Their intriguing transition from being Nigerian English speakers to native (American) English speakers also enriched the perspectives and thoughts in this book. In more ways than one, they embody the spirit of this book. I hope they grow up someday to read this book and be proud of how much they have contributed to shaping it.

My parents, Mallam Adamu Kperogi and Hajia Hauwa, have been my rock from the start. Without their guardianship, support, and the enormous confidence they invested in me at a time I had no awareness of my strengths, I would never be who I am today.

Several of my friends, readers, and fans also contributed, in more ways than they know, to the making of this book. Their questions, critiques, commendations and contestations helped to refine and shape this book. I particularly want to single out Dr. Abdulrahman Muhammad, Professor Pius Adesanmi, Professor Oyeronke Oyewumi, Alhaji Mannir Dan-Ali, Dr. Shola Adenekan, Muhsin Ibrahim, Dr. Nura Alkali, Dr. Raji Bello, Usman Zakari Ibrahim, Suraj Tunji Oyewale, Mohammed Dahiru Aminu, Kevin Ebele Adinnu, Dr. Aliyu Musa, Ibraheem Musa, Alhaji Ahmed Abdulkadir, Theophilus Abba, Adagbo Onoja, Dr. Michael Afolayan, Mallam Mohammed Haruna, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Dr. Matt Duffy, Dr. Jim Schiffman, Abdullahi Bego, Muhammad Shakir Balogun, Adie Vanessa Offiong, Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe, and Philip Adekunle whose friendship and intellectually enriching dialogic exchanges with me over the years contributed to the form and content of this book in both direct and indirect ways. I also thank the creator, admins, and members of the “Farooq Kperogi Fan Club” on Facebook, which I was initially too embarrassed to be a part of, for their support, feedback, thoughtful ← xiv | xv → questions, and discussions on many of the earlier incarnations of the chapters in this book.

I am really and truly grateful to Professor Kenneth Harrow, Distinguished Professor of English at Michigan State University, for writing such a delightfully compelling foreword to this book. I couldn’t have hoped for a better person to write it.

This acknowledgement would be incomplete if I failed to thank my students and colleagues at Kennesaw State University—and my former teachers, colleagues, and students at Bayero University Kano, Nigeria, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Georgia State University—for enriching my understanding of varieties of English in several different ways.

My thanks go to the editorial board and production staff at Peter Lang. I particularly want to thank my acquisition editor, Michelle Salyga, for her enthusiasm in this book from the start, Jackie Pavlovic for her patience and scrupulous attention to details in the production process. Professor Irmengard Rauch, editor of the Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotics series, also deserves thanks for accepting this book for inclusion in her series.

Finally, my wife, Maureen Erinne Kperogi, who is completing her Ph.D. in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University, deserves my appreciation for the immeasurable support she gave me throughout the writing of this book. She not only took care of our three children with grace and sensitivity while I worked on this book, she stayed up late nights with me, and helped with compiling and formatting the bibliography that appears at the end of the book.

| xvii →


XXIV, 246
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (May)
pidgin english dialects tautologies nigerainisms grammar
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XXIV, 246 pp.

Biographical notes

Farooq A. Kperogi (Author)

Farooq A. Kperogi is Assistant Professor of Journalism in the Department of Communication at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. A former Nigerian newspaper journalist, he received his PhD in communication from Georgia State University, Atlanta, his MS in communication from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and his BA in mass communication from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria. During his doctoral studies, he won the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. He also won the Outstanding Master’s Student in Communication Award at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Nigerian Television Authority Prize for the Best Graduating Student in Mass Communication at Bayero University, Kano. He is published widely and blogs at www.farooqkperogi.com.


Title: Glocal English
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