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Friday, 11 May 2012

Pidgin English in African Fiction

I can't speak pidgin (shocking I know!) and my attempts at it are hilarious. I can understand it (as long as it's not the hardcore one that sounds like a foreign language to me). When I say pidgin, I am referring to West African pidgin English, mainly spoken in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone (not French-based pidgin, think that's creole?). I know that in Nigeia, pidgin used to be seen as solely reserved for those with little or no formal education. If you spoke pidgin, you obviously couldn't speak "proper" English. Nowadays things have changed - everyone speaks it.  Even though I can't speak pidgin I don't have a problem with books written in pidgin - it is a popular mode of communication amongst people in Nigeria (as usual I can only speak for Nigeria) so why shouldn't it be part of African literature? That's how I feel, but I would love to know what people think about the use of pidgin in African literature? Below are a few of the books I know written in pidgin. Though I haven't read them yet, I know A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe and The Trials of Brother Jero and Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka contain pidgin. I would love to know if there are more out there? 



                          

4 comments:

  1. Look at this one; it's a poetry anthology written entirely in Pidgin English (Nigerian)
    http://newbooksnigeria.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/if-yu-hie-se-a-de-prizin/.

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  2. Thanks a lot. Just had a look.

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  3. I suppose, language evolves, doesn't it? We no longer write as Shakespeare wrote. I was struck by this sentence on the Kwani Manuscript project: "The work should be in English or 'Englishes'" - there you go.

    On a different note, I wonder if the Pidgin spoken in Cameroon, let's say is very similar to the one spoken in Nigeria.

    In the Ivory Coast, we have our very own Pidgin French, Nouchi. Language evolves.

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  4. May I ask what "Englishes" is? Would that come under "alternative"/broken English?

    I have a few Cameroonian friends and when they speak Pidgin I do hear some similarities with Nigerian pidgin, but some things are also very different - so I'm guessing different countries will have their own take on it.

    Would you read a book if it was written in Nouchi, or at least some of it had Nouchi in it?

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