Dialect Shifting of Nigerian Pidgin English speakers when talking with Jamaican Creole Speakers

Farida Olayele, Isabelle Barriere

Although Jamaican Creole- the native language of Jamaicans- and Nigerian Pidgin
English- a language spoken as a 2nd/3rd/4th language used by Nigerians are two distinct
languages, they have a shared history and similar structures in their languages (Odimegwu).
There are linguistic similarities between both of these languages, to what extent will the speakers
of Nigerian Pidgin English alter their languages when speaking to speakers of Jamaican Creole
compared to when they speak to a speaker of Nigerian Pidgin English? Although it has been
observed that Jamaicans and Nigerian Pidgin speakers can converse with one another using their
respective language, it is unclear whether and to what extent they alter the way they speak when
they are conversing with one another versus speakers of the same language. The goal of this
study was to investigate this issue.
Participants in this study are between the ages of 40-60 and currently reside in New York
State. Participants are also native speakers of either Jamaican Creole and Nigerian Pidgin
English. This study utilized elicitation tasks to compare similarities and differences between
speech utterances of Nigerian Pidgin speakers and Jamaican Creole speakers. Three storyboards
are utilized in this study, 2 of which were created by me. Each storyboard consists of six images
displayed in a sequence that tell a story. Each storyboard varied in interpretation. Some were
relatively easy, like a storyboard showing a girl putting a ball in a bin, while others were created
with many details, in order to provoke more thought. .I used Zoom to conduct this study. Two
participants, one being a speaker of Nigerian Pidgin English and another a speaker of Jamaican
Creole were placed in a Zoom meeting. Each participant was aware that each of them spoke a
different language. The task required the Nigerian Pidgin English speaker or the Jamaican Creole
speaker to describe the storyboard, that was privately sent to each participant, to the speaker of
the other language, i.e: Nigerian Pidgin English speaker would describe the storyboard to the
Jamaican Creole speaker in Nigerian Pidgin and vice versa.
When analyzing the data I looked for the use of similar words and phrases, as well as,
different words and phrases that are shared between both languages. I also analyze how well
each participant understood the speaker of the opposite language. When performing this study,
speakers of both languages often switched to English, when talking to the speakers of the
opposite language, whereas when speaking to each other they made less transition to English.