A fresh bid for Nigerian English Dictionary for schools: arguing for new methods and outcomes

Abstract

The existence of the Nigerian variety of English has long been agreed as attested in very many studies on the subject (Gut and Fuchs 2013, Udofot 2013, Olaniyi 2014, Onyemelukwe 2015, Okoro 2017, Jowitt 2018, Kperogi, 2018, Jowitt 2018). However, its formal adoption as language of education is yet to occur because its local acceptance remains to be completed. To achieve this, Nigerian English needs to be codified in grammar books and in standard dictionaries (Esimaje, 2010). Despite a few attempts at producing a lexical inventory of Nigerian English (Jowitt, 1991) or a dictionary of Nigerian English (Igboanusi 2002, Blench 2005, Adegbite, Udofot and Ayoola 2014), there is yet a very long way to producing a standard dictionary of Nigerian English (NE) and one that can be adopted in schools. This research hopes to make a major contribution to solving this problem by its production of a 5,000 word dictionary of NE for school children which will be a comprehensive guide and an up-to-date account of English usage in Nigerian schools. This dictionary will be based on the corpus of the texts used in schools and will be comprehensive, that is, including other words of British or American origin used in Nigeria as well as the peculiarly Nigerian usages. By so doing, this project would be adopting the modern approach to dictionary making by being corpus-based, having a comprehensive scope which is unlike the previously documented attempts at dictionary writing in Nigeria, as well as focusing on a segment of the population – secondary which is also not the case with existing NE dictionaries.

To begin the process, this study undertakes the task of providing reliable corpus data and wordlists. Therefore its objectives are (1) to compile a corpus of relevant texts used in secondary schools so as to make a word list from them, (2) to match the word list with an existing dictionary of English, used by secondary school children to identify existing gaps and thus provide the justification for a new, different dictionary, (3) to analyse the 5000 most frequent words in the list so as to identify words and examples in the existing dictionary which do not fit the definition in Nigeria or words that do not appear in the existing dictionary. In this endeavour, all previous attempts at the writing of a NE dictionary will be critically examined to identify gaps which the present study will fill on the one hand and on the other hand, the study will include the overall word usage in Nigeria whether they are peculiarly Nigerian or not. This will enable a comprehensive inventory of words and their usages in Nigeria.

Key words: Nigerian English, Dictionary, Corpus, codification, English usage.

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