What is ‘Pidgin'? What is ‘Pidgin English’?

A pidgin or pidgin language is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups that do not have a common language. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where there is no common language between the communicating groups. Typically, pidgins function as lingua francas, or means for intergroup communication and its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from several languages.

Fundamentally, a pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication, as it is constructed impromptu, or by convention, between individuals or groups of people. A pidgin is not the native language of any speech community, but is instead learned as a second language.

Among other things, pidgins often lack inflections on verbs and nouns, true articles and other function words (such as conjunctions), and complex sentences. They have thus been characterized from time to time as “broken” languages and even as “chaotic,” or apparently without communal conventions. Nevertheless, several pidgins have survived for generations, a characteristic that indicates a fairly stable system.

Pidgin English

pidgin_ESimply put, Pidgin English is a mixture of English and local languages which enables people who do not share a common language to communicate.

It is the widely spoken (and wildly inventive) lingua franca of much of west and central Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. Most African countries are made up of numerous different ethnic groups who do not necessarily have a lingua franca, so Pidgin has developed.

There are differences, because English is mixed with different languages in each country but they are usually mutually intelligible.

Today, the language is a cultural force, driving everything from the lyrics of Afrobeat music to movies emerging from Nigeria’s Nollywood, now the world’s second-largest film industry.

Indian Pidgin English

There is a wide variety of Indian Pidgin English (IPE) and it is matter if much discussion and debate. More than a dozen labels have been used to describe it: minimum pidgin, rudimentary pidgin, suspended pidgin, semi-pidgin, pre-pidgin continuum, restricted pidgin continuum, restricted pidgin, jargon, foreigner talk, broken English, Peacock English, Hinglish, Indish, Ingdi, Bhelpuri English, Biryani English and  tooti-footi (broken).

It is sometimes argued that the spread of education and modernization poses a serious threat to the life of a pidgin. During the past 50 years, since Independence, there has been a tremendous increase in India in both these areas, but it has not affected adversely the number of IPE speakers. However, in the domain of education in India, IPE is not perceived as a threat to standard Indian English, whereas Nigerian Pidginis viewed as a threat to standard Nigerian English.

Last modified: Monday, 27 April 2020, 11:43 AM