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Pidgin as a Unifying Language among Students

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Qualitative research
Analytical tool
Descriptive statistics
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This work examines Pidgin as a unifying language among students: level 400 students of the Department of English at the University of Buea. Pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication between individuals or a group of people from different ethnic groups who have come together for a specific purpose.

In the course of the study, this researcher used the simple random sampling technique, and questionnaires were administered to 40 of the respondents in order to get a quantitative analysis of the study. And the result of the study showed that pidgin is a unifying factor among 400 level English students of the department of English.

Also from the study, it was also discovered that not only 400 level English students use pidgin but also students from other departments use pidgin on a daily basis and this brings them together. From the results gotten from this study, the researcher recommends that pidgin should be allowed on the campus for reasons being that the language does not have any effects on the students’ academic performance. Further studies should be carried out to elucidate the view that pidgin is a unifying factor among students of the University of Buea.




Generally, language is one of the unifying factors that bring people together as far as communication is concerned. Language act as a major tool that the various cultures of the world have in common and it creates a forum where the values and beliefs system of the people can be respected. Any country that wants to grow in leadership, economics, politics, education, and religion must have a common language that enables each person to express his or her feelings, desires, and create a lasting bond for the development of society. On the other hand, those who cannot measure up to speak any acceptable language within a given society may be suffering from a serious impairment hence, the person or group of people in question may fail to exercise their civil right and will become unproductive as far as the nation-building is concerned. Therefore, language is a necessity for nation-building, governance, human right and it is a bridge on which every scholar must go through. The researcher is aware that there is a formal and informal language but concentration will be based on the informal language which has to do with Pidgin English.

However, the researcher will pay much attention to Pidgin as a unifying language among students. This researcher will use the following sources to carry out the research work in other to bring out the details on how Pidgin unifies students of the 400 level students of the Department of English at the University of Buea. However, Alessandro Duranti in his book title “Linguistic Anthropology” has quoted Woolard (1989) who states that “It is who speaks a language rather than where it is spoken that gives it its force. Authority is established and inculcated most thoroughly not in schools and other formal institution but in personal relations, face- to face encounter, and the invidious distinctions of the workplace and residential neighborhood.” Therefore, it is not the institution where the students are found that unifies them but rather it is the person who speaks the language that gives it its unifying force.

However, NkemngongNkengansong in his book title “A Grammar of Cameroonian Pidgin” states that Pidgin is a lingua franca in some parts of the world and it is already well established and documented. However, Cameroonian Pidgin in particular is flexible and a fast-growing language undergoing a rapid transformation in a constantly changing world. Looking at Pidgin within the Anglophone setting of the North West and South West Region, it has taken a full grip and has become the main lingua franca in the day to day communication.

The spread of pidgin has as well extended to the francophone areas but has a complexity in the fact that every jurisdiction has its own kind and way of Pidgin. Peter W. Vakunta has also accorded that Pidgin is broadly spoken in five varieties in Cameroon which are Grafi Kamtok use by the grass field region, Liturgical Kamtok use by the Roman Catholic, Francophone Kamtok use by the Francophones, Limbe Kamtok use around the coastal area, and the Bororo Kamtok use by the Fulani nomadic cattle traders. These sources that have been used are just a few of what will be used in the entire literature review which comes in the subsequent chapter.

Background of the Study

The background of this study is examined in two parts which include the history of pidgin which also relates to the forms in which pidgin occurs and pidgin in the 21sl century. According to Tosin and Onyidha (2012), West African Pidgin English arose during the period when the British dominated the Atlantic slave trade in the late 17th and 18th centuries, ultimately exporting more slaves to the Americans than all the other European nations combined. During this period, English-speaking sailors and slave traders were in constant contact with African villagers and long-distance traders along thousands of miles of West African coastline. Africans who picked up elements of Pidgin English for purposes of trade with Europeans along the coast probably took the language from the river systems and trade routes into the interior where other Africans who may never have seen a white man adopted it as a useful device for trade along the rivers.

A brief history of pidgin

Pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication between individuals or groups of people from different ethnic groups who have come together for a specific purpose. Cameroon pidgin is a combination of English and indigenous languages. It basically uses English words mixed with indigenous languages like the Mopke, Orolco, Nso, Mungaka, and Lamso. In the Mopke language for instance the word “Njanga” is purely a Mopke word which means crayfish and the word “Njanga” has been adopted and is widely spoken by the non-indigene. For Instance, it is usually said in Pidgin “go bai mi Njanga.” Pidgin used to be considered a code of the non-literate. The sociolinguistic reality in Cameroon today is such that pidgin is spoken by University students, graduates, professors, lawyers, and journalists.

According to (Holm 1988), language contact is closely as old as language itself. To support this view, he states that in ancient Egypt there was a trade language developed among several Hamito-Semitic languages in contact in the Nile valley which can be considered as a pidgin. Pidgin is a simplified version of a language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that does not have a common language.

Pidgin is a wide term covering a range of different regional factor which involves historical events such as the spread of Empires, settlement, migration, and international trade. There are different kinds of pidgin found in West Africa which include Cameroon pidgin, Nigeria pidgin, Ghana, and Sierra Leonia. Pidgins are not like other languages due to the fact that pidgin can be structured or unstructured as needed; there are no restrictions on this. Pidgins are not considered as mother tongues though, over time and generation, the language evolution is adopted and is gradually changing to become a first language for the new generation.

Pidgin English is extensively used and well recognized around the world especially in the part of West Africa and has really gone a long way because those in royalty do speak it. Boinod (2012) quotes Prince Charles’s statement during his visit to Papua New Guinea during the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebration and introduced himself as the “numbawanpikinibilongMisiskwin.” However, to be considered a pidgin it must be stable and have norms of meaning, grammar, and pronunciation. Some of the characteristics of pidgin are limited vocabulary, elimination of many grammatical devices such as number and gender, lack of inflectional and derivational morphemes, lack of verbal inflection, loss of prepositions and indicators of time, aspect and mood, lack of plural indicators, and lack of locative prepositions.

Pidgin in the 21st century

Lately, it has been discovered that most people especially students in various Cameroonian tertiary institutions find it very easy to communicate with pidgin whenever they are in an informal situation. Pidgin has been able to secure a place in the corporate world as people turn to switch to pidgin in the middle of a formal conversation either to explain themselves better or to bring out an instance to pass across the message they are trying to convey.

At the University of Buea, the students are from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds as well as international students who have come together for a common goal which is to study and communication has to take place. Therefore, the students prefer to use pidgin as a means of communication whenever they engage in informal conversation because the rules of Pidgin English are not as conventional as those of Standard English where one has to abide by the rules of grammar, phonetics, phonology, syntax, morphology, and semantics. That is to say the student feels more at home to express themselves in pidgin because there is always a tendency of being careful not to break the rule of English grammar.

The location of the University of Buea is in an urban area which is considered a strong factor influencing the students’ use and attitude toward Pidgin English. The University community, therefore, has a large number of Pidgin English users, showing that Pidgin English plays a unifying role among its users due to the fact that it is the language of the educated and uneducated irrespective of their linguistic background. Pidgin English could be regarded as a tool of identity and solidarity because it is an interethnic code available to Cameroonians who have no other common language.

Research Objective

  • The aim of this study is to describe how pidgin unifies 400 level students of the department of English at the University of Buea who have a different linguistic background.
  • To highlight how pidgin fosters, unifies, and brings about the ease of communication among 400 level students of the department of English at the University of Buea.


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