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Language Attitudes towards Ghanaian Pidgin English among Students in Ghana

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2012 24 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies

Excerpt

Contents

TABLES

FIGURES

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

POLITICAL MAP OF GHANA

1 A brief introduction on Pidgin English
1.1 Historical Context
1.2 Language attitudes

2. Analysis of the Questionnaires
2.1 Groups that constitute majority of speakers of Pidgin
2.2 Period of Active Acquisition and or Influence
2.3 Domains of Use
2.4 Reasons for use
2.5 Patrons in use
2.6 Language attitudes towards pidgin

3. Conclusion

References

TABLES

Table 1: CLASSIFICATION BASED ON LANGUAGE(S) SPOKEN

Table 2: CLASSIFICATION BASED ON REGION OF RESIDENCE

Table 3: CLASSIFICATION BASED ON EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

Table 4: ATTEMPT TO LEARN PIDGIN

Table 5: EXPOSURE OF PIDGIN

FIGURES

Figure 1: PERIOD OF ACQUISITION/INFLUENCE

Figure 2: SCOPE OF ACQUISITION

Figure 3:DOMAINS OF USE .

Figure 4: IN WHOSE PRESENCE IS PIDGIN USED?

Figure 5: MOTIVATION FOR ACQUISITION OF PIDGIN

Figure 6: REASONS FOR USE OF PIDGIN

Figure 7: WITH WHOM IS PIDGIN USED?

Figure 8: WILL YOU RECOMMEND PIDGIN TO OTHERS?

Figure 9: ATTITUDES TOWARDS PIDGIN

Figure 10PERCEPTIONS ABOUT NON-SPEAKERS OF PIDGIN

Figure 11PERCEPTIONS ABOUT SPEAKERS

Figure 12: INFLUENCE OF PIDGIN ON STANDARD ENGLISH

Figure 13: HOW NON-SPEAKERS FEEL IN THE MIDST OF PIDGIN SPEAKING PEOPLE?

Figure 14: ARE SPEAKERS OF PIDGIN ADMIRED IN THE SOCIETY?

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

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POLITICAL MAP OF GHANA

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1 A brief introduction on Pidgin English

A Pidgin is a language that comes into being as a result of the contact of two or more mutually1 incomprehensible languages (Meyerhoff 2011:71).

1.1 Historical Context

Ghanaian Pidgin English (GhaPE) or from a broader perspective West African Pidgin English (WAPE) emerged as a result of the contact between British tradesmen and west African traders. The plurality of languages in West Africa caused the emergence of several varieties such as: Ghanaian Pidgin English (GhaPE), Nigerian Pidgin English (NigPE), Cameroonian Pidgin English (CamPE) among others and one can even find internal variations since these countries also have many different languages (cf. Huber: 1999).

The British traders arrived on the shores of the then Gold Coast, as they called it, around 1900’s and engaged in the trade of gold and other mineral resources that the Gold Coast had in abundance. The British spoke English and the coastal people spoke Fante. A Pidgin therefore evolved out of the need for communication between these two parties (cf. Huber: 1999). GhaPE is therefore a hybrid of Standard English and not only Fante, but numerous Ghanaian languages. It serves as a lingua franca not necessarily between foreigners and indigenes, but contemporarily between non-speakers and speakers of English who do not understand any Ghanaian language in common.

1.2 Language attitudes

Language attitudes are the feelings people have about their own language or the language(s) of others (Crystal 1992:215). Daily, we tend to form our opinions about others from the way they speak. Our attitudes to different varieties of a language colour the way we perceive the individuals that use those varieties (Meyerhoff 2011:58).

In the Ghanaian society, there are basically two distinct varieties of English besides the standard Received Pronunciation (RP) and American English; these are the Standard Ghanaian English (StGhaE) and GhaPE. The social distinction for the users of these varieties has for a long time been educational status. Whereas StGhaE was associated with the educated, the non- standard, GhaPE was associated with the uneducated class of the society, who were often seen as a class that struggled to express themselves in English against all odds (cf. Huber 1999:140).

Observing the Ghanaian society today, there seem to be a gradual attitudinal change especially among students in the second cycle and tertiary institutions towards the perceived non-standard of English, Pidgin. Pidgin English has been seen as a preserve of the uneducated and frowned upon by the schooled class. Recent development, however, shows the active use of a variety of Pidgin among students in Ghana. Huber (1999:140) terms it as an educated variety of Pidgin1 which he distinguishes from the uneducated variety, while Dako (2002) calls it Student Pidgin2 (SP).

This shift in attitudes might be confirmed by the Social Identity Theory (SIT) proposed by Henri Tajfel (Meyerhoff 2011) which purports that people identify with different identities at different times. Pidgin was from the beginning a daring attempt at deviancy - a flouting of school rules that prohibited the use of local languages (cf. Dako 2002).

In my High School days, which was about five years ago, students who spoke Pidgin did not do so in the presence of, or to their teachers. I remember being punished countless times in the Senior High School (SHS) for speaking pidgin which was and I believe still is a heinous crime within the confines of the school. I therefore spoke pidgin only when I knew that neither a teacher nor senior was anywhere in sight and I could get away without being punished. On the contrary, I spoke standard British English in the presence of my teachers with as much mimicry as possible to clear all doubts that I ever was a perpetrator of this infamously heinous crime of speaking Pidgin. While I was reprimanded by my teachers for speaking Pidgin, my friends and colleagues lauded me whenever I spoke Pidgin English.

Acknowledging without a doubt that there is an increasing rate of use of pidgin among students in educational institutions in Ghana, this paper seeks to reconcile the views of both speakers and non-speakers of pidgin on: who, when, where, why, with whom and above all what they think about educated users and non-users of pidgin English in educational institutions in Ghana. This paper makes use of original data obtained from an electronically administered questionnaire, personal interviews with speakers and non-speakers of pidgin and countless years of experience as an active speaker of GhaPE. A review of existing literature on the topic also served as an indispensable resource. For the purpose of this paper, the term “Pidgin” will be used to refer to the educated variety (Huber 1999) of pidgin or what might be called student pidgin (Dako 2002) unless otherwise explicitly stated or implied.

2. Analysis of the Questionnaires

2.1 Groups that constitute majority of speakers of Pidgin

This research begins by trying to find out who the speakers of Pidgin are or which cross section of Ghanaian students can be said to possess more speakers of the educated variety of Pidgin and which possesses fewer speakers.

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Table 1: CLASSIFICATION BASED ON LANGUAGE(S) SPOKEN

A glance at the above table gives an impression on a linguistic classification of respondents to the administered questionnaire. All respondents were classified into the Gru and the Kwa group of languages which are the major parental language groups in Ghana. It also gives a classification based on gender, as we see how many male and female speakers and non-speakers of Pidgin there are.

The values of the table could lead to two quick conclusions. The first being: more male students speak Pidgin and very few females speak Pidgin. It reinforces earlier findings by Huber (1999: 147) and Dako (2002) that Pidgin is usually used among male students. The second conclusion that can be drawn is that: more Kwa than Gru language speaking people are speakers of Pidgin. The fear of the second conclusion is that, it might be premature and not representative, in that, many Ghanaians speak more than one language and because of the increase in immigrants especially southwards, we have many Gru speaking people also speaking Kwa languages but the reverse is not very likely. This classification will therefore be complemented with the table below which is a classification based on the region of residence of both speakers and non- speakers of Pidgin.

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Table 2: CLASSIFICATION BASED ON REGION OF RESIDENCE

According to Huber (1999:139), pidgin is an urban phenomena…it is spoken in southern towns especially the capital, Accra. With the political map of Ghana as a guide, it is noticed that fewer people speak Pidgin in the Upper regions. The number suddenly increases in the Northern Region, falls again in the middle belt, whilst the capital, Accra records the highest number of speakers of Pidgin. These results confirm the assertion of Huber. One surprising turnout is the fact that the Ashanti Region, which justifiably recorded the highest regional population in the 2010 population census, recorded a relatively low figure in the above table. This is possibly a confirmation of Dako’s (2002) findings that GhaPE is losing out to Twi, as Twi is assuming an increasingly important role as the lingua franca of Ghana. Since the Ashanti Region is the home of Twi, it will only then be normal to find that it is almost always used for unofficial communication purposes.

It is true that Pidgin is an urban phenomenon. The Northern Region, which possesses the biggest urban centre northward, attracts people from its environs and the same applies to the capital city, but recent development as shown by the table above indicates that there is an increased and/or an increasing use of Pidgin in the northern part of the country.

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Table 3: CLASSIFICATION BASED ON EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

As evident in table 3 above, a large chunk of speakers of the educated variety of Pidgin can be found in the Nation’s Universities and very few in Colleges, Polytechnics and Institutes. The low figures recorded in the SHS and JHS group is a matter of interest. Teachers especially in the SHS and JHS fear adverse effects of Pidgin on students’ performance in the English language at these levels, so it is vehemently discouraged, but students resort to it in the school yard when unobserved by teachers (Huber 1999: 147). This accounts for low figures especially for SHS students. Students who use Pidgin at these levels are seen by the school authorities as deviants while the “law abiding” students only have working knowledge of Pidgin. Pidgin signifies a badge of identity in opposition to non-members, teachers and adults (Huber 1999:147)

2.2 Period of Active Acquisition and or Influence

Using the educational periods as bases for a timeline, this sub-section seeks to find out when informants started speaking Pidgin, were influenced the most or first came into contact with Pidgin.

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Figure 1 :PERIOD OF ACQUISITION/INFLUENCE

The above figure represents answers of two groups of informants to two different questions. Speakers of Pidgin were asked when they started to speak Pidgin while non-speakers were asked when they first heard pidgin.

The results however do not differ much for both speakers and non-speakers of Pidgin. It is realised that the SHS period is when the acquisition of Pidgin is at its peak and correspondingly even non-speakers get to hear it and are exposed to it.

One major difference is that, even at the JHS many people have already heard and known what Pidgin is, but because of the circumstances described under table 3 above, they do not use it or do not get the opportunity to use it till they get to the secondary school. These SHS’ are mostly boarding schools where students get to spend not only their classes hours but also their nonclasses hours with colleagues and friends.

By the time students get to the tertiary institution, Pidgin is nothing new to them and this is depicted by the graph since we have very few people who first heard or started speaking Pidgin in the tertiary institutions.

Pidgin is usually carried from school to homes where it is spoken among siblings with secondary education of a considerably close age difference (Huber 1999:148), thereby exposing younger siblings to Pidgin.

The home and community records low figures, but there still is evidence that Pidgin is acquired at home and in the community.

It was observed by Huber (1999:151) that pre-school children could be heard speaking Pidgin. The findings however do not reflect this since no figure was recorded for either speaking or hearing Pidgin during informants’ kindergarten school days.

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Figure 2: SCOPE OF ACQUISITION

The above statistic is a very conclusive one. Pidgin among students is used not out of communicative necessity, but as a means of expressing solidarity and intimacy among peers (Huber 1999:147). It signifies a badge of identity in opposition to non-members, especially teachers and adult ((Huber 1999: 147). As a peer group binder, Pidgin is acquired and used in an in-group which accounts for the results above. Pidgin is acquired from friends and to a relatively lesser extent classmates and older brothers.

As expected no one learns Pidgin from their teachers or parents, who are always ready to discourage, if not punish, children for use of Pidgin. It creates a divide and serves as a means of opposition between the young and adults.

2.3 Domains of Use

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Figure 3: DOMAINS OF USE

Pidgin is mostly used among friends, serving not as a means of communication as already mentioned, but as an expression of solidarity. It is not common to find a group of male Ghanaian students speaking Standard English in a conversation. Most male students even find it weird to be addressed by friends or people of their age group in Standard English. It is not surprising to find even a group of male students, studying English in the University of Ghana, speaking Pidgin instead of Standard English out of classroom situation. I personally do not remember speaking Standard English with my very close friends who also study English linguistics and literature.

One realisation that may be surprising is that, some informants indicated that Pidgin is used in the work place. The use of Pidgin in this domain is however restrictive. Pidgin is used at work places such as construction sites, where little education is required to do the work. However, there is a recent development of the use of Pidgin in offices. This occurrence is due to the fact that young graduates who are employed in offices identify with their fellow young graduates and they address one another in Pidgin thereby building solidarity. It must noted however, that this is done in the absence of their supervisors and bosses who will not take it lightly with them when they are caught. The use of Pidgin causes a lively atmosphere especially when these young graduates share an office, which is usually the case. They even usually go the extra mile to address other young university students who visit their office in Pidgin.

Pidgin is also used in public gatherings depending on the audience of these gatherings. When young people meet or when a programme is organised by youngsters for youngsters, it is very likely that for most part of the programme Pidgin will be used to address the participants. However, if it is a general programme with audience from different age groups, Standard English is used.

[...]


1 A variety spoken by people who have had at least secondary school education

2 A variety used by students in second cycle and tertiary institutions

Details

Pages
24
Year
2012
ISBN (eBook)
9783668002760
ISBN (Book)
9783668002777
File size
1.4 MB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v302327
Institution / College
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen
Grade
15
Tags
language attitudes ghanaian pidgin english students ghana

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Title: Language Attitudes towards Ghanaian Pidgin English among Students in Ghana