Plural Marking Patterns in Nigerian Pidgin English
This paper examines the pluralization system of Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE). Extrapolating from proposals in the literature on English-based créoles as well as other vernaculars, we utilize quantitative methodology to assess the contribution of syntactic, semantic, and phonological features to variability in plural marking. Although the English plural marker -s is most robust in the data, its patterning reflects neither English grammar nor a conventional functionalist distribution. Instead, surface variability in NPE is conditioned by two factors: animacy and nominal reference. Our findings suggest that these are substratal features whose effects are sensitive to speaker position on the créole continuum. This is strong empirical confirmation that the grammar underlying variable linguistic elements may be inferred from the distribution and conditioning of surface variants, even when none of them originate from that grammar.
Published online: 01 January 1997
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