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LINGUISTIC FEATURES OF THE LANGUAGE
OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE, ONITSHA
UDOH, VICTORIA CHINWE
REGISTRATION NUMBER: PG/ MA/2000/27938
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND LITERARY STUDIES,
UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA
LINGUISTIC FEATURES OF THE LANGUAGE
OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE, ONITSHA
I, Professor S. M. Onuigbo, of the Department of English and Literary Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, do approve this project as having fulfilled the requirement
for the award of the Master of Arts in English and Literary Studies of the University of
This is to certify that this project is an independent study carried out by Udoh, Victoria
Chinwe with the registration number, PG/ MA/ 2000/ 27938 of the Department of
English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and that this work has not
been presented in part or full for the award of any diploma or degree in this or any other
Supervisor Head of Department
Dean, Faculty of Arts External Examiner
My husband, Udoh Chukwuma
(You are a great man).
My parents, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Ofoegbu
(Your efforts are highly appreciated).
I am highly indebted to my beloved husband, Mr. Chukwuma Udoh, who all these
while carried the burden of seeing me through this programme. Indeed I owe you a lot.
I must, most humbly acknowledge the stimulating encouragements of my parents.
You people are great. I will forever be grateful for all you have done for me.
May I pay a tribute to you, my children: Ifechukwu, Chidera, Necherem, Bmdom,
Simdi and Somtoo. You people are the source of my pride, I love you all.
Also may I extol my superior Prof. Sam Onuigbo, for his invaluable patience and
continued encouragement. May the good Lord reward you abundantly.
I am also particularly grateful to Mr. Nwoma, Romnus. Indeed your type is rare, I
owe you a debt of gratitude.
I also acknowledge the moral and financial support of my brothers and sisters:
Charles, Chike, Ngozi and Ifeyinwa, you people are great.
For other forms of assistance, I express my indebtedness to Dr. Ngozi Onwuka,
Chinelo Ezekulie, Ify Obi, Melda, Chibuzor Onukwo, I count on each of you.
Finally, I give thanks to the almighty God for his abundant mercies.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1 1.2 Background to the Study.. 1 1.3 Objective of the Study.. 6 1.4 Statement of the Problem.. 9 1.5 Relevance of the Study. 10 1.6 Scope of the Study 11
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Language and Communication.. 12
2.2 Varieties of the English Language. 15
2.3 The Nigeria Police Force as a Speech Community 23
2.4 Error Analysis. 25
2.5 Level of Education.. 28
3.1 Area of Study. 30
3.2 Theoretical Framework.. 30
3.3 Method of Observation.. 31
3.4 Instrumentation.. 32
3.5 Method of Data Analysis... 32
4.1 Phonological Analysis.. 33
4.2 Error of Substitution. 34
4.3 Error of Omission. 36
4.4 Error of Addition.. 37
4.5 Syntactic Errors 38
CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion... 46
In the present day Nigeria, the quality of the English language spoken by Nigerians is
perceived to have been deteriorating and needs urgent attention. The proliferation of
books and articles in the recent years can be seen as the native outcrop of its received
attention and the recognition as a matter of discourse. Evidently, every profession,
occupation or trade has its own variety of language for effective communication. In view
of this, the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha, a law enforcement agency under the Federal
Republic of Nigeria adopts the English language as its official language and in addition to
the English language also has other languages in use. Although the members of the
Nigeria Police use the English language, the degree of their proficiency is dependent on
the level of education of each police officer. This is to say that different varieties of the
English language are used within this community. The thrust of this research work is to
highlight the linguistic features of the language of the Nigeria Police Force as used in the
police journals and their everyday interactions. It tries to evaluate their use of the English
language: how efficiently it has been used. This evaluation would be based on the
phonological and syntactic analyses. In the light of the analyses conclusions were made
on the linguistic features of the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha. Also this community
would be looked at as a speech community because it has its own language apart from the
English language which is intelligible to its members. The errors committed would be
evaluated through the use of the concept of error analyses. Finally, this would be
followed by the conclusion and recommendation.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Human beings use language as a means of communication and communication
becomes meaningful and effective especially when it comes from the same speech
community. In fact, language is very significant because it is a tool for identifying
people, their origin, culture or even social statues.
Gimson (1970) defines it as a system of conventional signs used for
communication by a whole community. As a medium of communication, language does
not exist in a vacuum, but operates in a context of situation. These contexts determine the
variation of language.
Language is very crucial for human survival because it is the most important and
most effective instrument for communication. It is the bond that holds societies together.
Consequently, a society must afford shared cognitive experiences and
orientations, hence Aberle et al in Morrish (1980) emphasizes the need for a society to
develop a corpus of cognitive orientation which will provide meaningfulness to social
situation as well as a sense of stability derived from identity of experiences.On the other
hand, for motivation to be sustained in individual and group activity, a society must
provide a means of communication for its members. One of the essential elements of
living in a society or in a community with others is the means of communication, and this
can be achieved through language. One can invariably say that language is the principal
means of communication. The primacy of language cuts across every sphere of life: law
enforcement, technology, science, politics, religion as well as other interpersonal spheres.
The police use language as every other field does in the performance of their
activities which includes enforcement of law and order, prevention and detection of
crime, protection of life and property and, other numerous activities.
This work is a linguistic inquiry into the language of the Nigeria Police Force,
Onitsha, in Anambra State. The Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha, is just like every other
Police Force in Nigeria. What is obtainable amongst the Police Force in Onitsha is also
obtainable in the whole of the Nigeria Police Force. The Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha,
has its main station which is referred to as the Central Police Station (CPS) in the heart of
the town with many other police posts in many parts of the town. Because of the multi-
lingual nature of the country, members of the Police Force are drawn from different
ethnic groups and all these people use the English language as their official language for
This study investigates linguistic features of the English language of the Nigeria
Police Force. It examines their use of the English language. The English language is
observed to play the role of official language in many countries of the world, and in
Africa, it is the second language of most countries including Nigeria. It is the language of
law, education, law enforcement and politics. It is the dominant medium of interaction in
different professions. The language of the Police Force studied in this work is the
Standard English as used by the Nigeria Police Force. This study will also discuss in the
brief the use of jargon by the Nigeria Police Force.
1.2 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This study being a linguistic inquiry into the language of the Nigeria Police Force, aims
1. describing the language situation in the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha.
2. the variety of the English language found in this community.
3. the context in which they used, with whom and for what purpose.
4. the syntactic and phonological structure of the English language used in the
The Nigeria Police Force, a Federal law enforcement agency, is found all over
Anambra State, with quarters and barracks in different parts of the State.
Nigeria is a multi-lingual nation with police officers drawn from different ethnic
groups and languages. The languages spoken in the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha,
comprises Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio, Efik, Kalabari, Izon, Pidgin and several other
The official language used for the spoken and written activities is the English
language. The English language is used for parades and drills, for lectures and seminars,
for court records and for most discussions between the officers and members of the
public. The Nigeria Police Force in the performance of her social functions of law
enforcement employs language as a medium of interaction, preservation and
dissemination of information. Communication of message both within and outside the
Police circle is done in English. The diatypic variety of the language of law enforcement
can be seen in the various activities and entries by the Police like reports, minutes,
statements, parades, drills, and so forth.
Going further, since this study is a linguistic investigation into the language of the
Nigeria Police Force, it tries to evaluate the use of the English language in this speech
community; how efficiently it has been used. This evaluation will be based on the levels
of linguistic analyses and these are phonology and syntax.
Also the Nigeria Police Force in their use of the English language produces
varieties. They are supposed to be using the Standard English that is the Received
Pronunciation standard but this is not so. Their proficiency largely depends on the level
of education of the individual officers. The English language in Nigeria has many
varieties. This is as a result of the contact between the English language and the local
Nigerian languages and because the English language is used within the local setting,
with local ideas and local attitude to life. Another reason is that the English language is a
According to Saville-Troike (1982) The range of varieties used for auxiliary
national purposes even within a single country such as Nigeria runs from pidgin English
on one extreme, through regionally marked varieties ( Hausa English, Yoruba English,
Igbo English) to educate Nigerian English and finally to varieties which very closely
approximate British or American norms.
These varieties abound in the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha. Their use of the
English language will be analyzed in the chapter four of this study. Also chapter two, this
perspective on varieties would be discussed elaborately.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is pertinent to note that a lot of work has been done on language and other
professions, but not much has been done with respect to the language of the police force.
Therefore this study sets to: identify the varieties of the English language used by the
Nigeria Police Force; determine the problem in the linguistic features of the English
language of Nigeria Police Force; find out the causes of these problems; and finally,
suggest how these problems can be solved to enhance the effective use of the English
language by the Nigeria Police Force.
1.4 THE RELEVANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is designed to provide an insight into the unique use of the English
language by the Nigeria Police Force and to bring out the influences on the choices and
uses of the language. Ijomah (1973) states that the vocabulary of language reflects the
physical and social environment of the people.
This study also points out the importance of language as well as its flexibility in
the context such as the one under study.
This research will help Nigerians to appreciate language of the Nigerian Police
Force and this will, no doubt, enhance the relationship between the Nigeria Police and the
It will also help the government in reshaping the Nigeria Police Force with regard
to the issue of qualification. The government, through this study will also put into
consideration organizing workshops and seminars for members of the Police Force to
help them improve on their use of the language.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study will cover the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha. In Onitsha, there is a
main police station referred to as the Central Police Station (C.P.S.) and many other
police posts situated at different parts of the town.
For the purpose of this study, two police posts and the main police station, that is,
the Central Police Station ( CPS) which is the headquarters will be used.
2.1 LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION
We will speak and use language but seldom do we pause to think about language.
According to Naldman and Brooks as quoted in Azikiwe (1998), language is a
learned systematic symbolic vocal behaviour, which is culturally acquired as an exclusive
mark of man, by means of which a social group co-operates. Language permeates all
parts of society and does more than simply describe reality.
Ifensor (1996) defines language as a system of arbitrary vocal symbol by means
of which people within a social group interact.
Language provides society with a means of socializing its members and a
mechanism for role taking.
Mead in Morrish (1980) stresses the importance of language in the understanding
and taking the role of others. In the development of the self it is essential to have a mental
grasp of the consciousness or those around us. Meads postulates that:
Language in its significant sense is that vocal gesture which tends to
arouse in the individual the attitude which it arouses in others, and it is this
perfecting of self by gestures which mediates the social activities, that
gives rise to the possession of taking the roles of others.
Language is used in all human spheres of life, politics, government, trading, mass media,
education and science. The function of language is inexhaustible. It helps to preserve the
culture and history of a community. It is the vehicle used to preserve the culture and
history of a community. It is the vehicle used to impact knowledge and information to
express our feelings, emotions and thoughts. It enbables one to conduct oneself socially
and may even influence the behaviour of people. Chomsky sees language as the mirrow
of mind. He perceives language as an essential tool through which human beings are
It has been stated that language and communication are interdependent. They are
like siamese twins. One cannot be divorced from the other. Communication is a process
of interaction between persons, group or states. Okonkwo (1980) defines communication
as a process in which people share information, ideas, and feelings. It is a process
whereby information is transmitted from the sender to the receiver through the use of
common symbols. These common symbols can be represented aurally or
Communication relies so much on the language for effectiveness and the language
is the vehicle for communication. Language is a common tool with which human beings
communicate in both formal and informal situations. Language signifies a human system
of communication used in speech and writing involving vocabulary and sentence
Adetugbo (1980) categorically states that communication is the only tool for
interaction between two or more people. Language, be it oral, literal or symbolic is the
only means of communication. All human societies and institution are made possible
only by means of possession of language.
Language is said to be a human characteristic which exists in both spoken and
written forms and both are of great importance to this study.
The Nigeria Police Force uses language as every other field does in the
performance of the variety of activities which includes prevention and detection of
crimes, parades and drills and numerous and other activities. All these activities function
both in spoken and written language. Gimson (1970) states that:
Other aspects of language which would require investigation includes the
variations of the same language in the different regions and social classes
(dialectology) the influence of context and style upon the form and
substance of the language; the behaviour of human beings in their
production and perception of language (psycholinguistics) in which it is
This will be discussed more elaborately in the next section. This study focuses on
the use of the English language of the Nigerian Police Force. The research also delineates
the influences on the language as used by the Nigeria Police Force in order to justify that
this is a Nigeria variety of the English language.
2.2 VARIETIES OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The English language is Nigerias official language and serves as the second
language to most of its Nigerian users. As a second language, its acquisition makes
Nigerian users of the language either bilingual or multi-lingual. As the official language,
the English language has come to be seen as probably the most important language
because it is the language of government, business, commerce, banking, mass media and
most of inter-ethnic communication.
In all these, the major function of language is personal and social, but directive,
referential and imaginative functions are performed in varying degrees by the use of the
English language in Nigeria. Brosnaham in Banjo (1986) states:
English is the language of commerce and law, politics and administration,
of education and culture at all level above the local. And adequate
knowledge of English is an indispensable requirement for anyone to use
above or live in any wider context than the village.
The English language is a second language to most of its Nigerian users. As a
result of this, the users are either bilinguals or multi-lingual.
A variety of the language according to Jowitt (1991) is one of many general and
complete language system, each possessing characteristics that distinguish it from other
systems without requiring it to be classified as a different language. These varieties arise
from the fact that a Nigerian transfers the English language the tonal habits of his first
The second parameter is the education parameter. He posits that the type of
English spoken and written by Nigerians varies according to the level of general
education attained. According to him, there is a correlation between level of education
attainment and level of proficiency in the English language.
Linguistics is the third parameter used to distinguish varieties of the English
language. Here groups of linguistic features are distinguished according to the degree of
deviation which they manifest from exoglossic standard. Linguists have been theorizing
on these issues which Brosnahan as quoted in Banjo identifies as four levels of the
Nigerian variety of the English language.
Level I: Pidgin; spoken by those without any formal education.
Level II: Spoken by those who have had primary school education. Most speakers belong
to this level.
Level III: Spoken by those who have had secondary school education. This level is
marked by increased fluency, wider vocabulary and conscious avoidance of level 1 usage.
Level IV: Close to Standard English but retaining some features of level II and III.
Spoken by those with university education.
A close look at these levels reveals that Brosnaham based his schema on
education which is the second parameter as stated by Jowitt.
Banjo (1996) points out that this analysis which is based only on education is
somewhat too simplistic and therefore attempts instead a classification based on
grammatical features and degrees of approximation to a world standard as typified by
standard British English and Received Pronunciation. Banjo proposed four varieties in
which educational attainment does play a part but it is not the only determinant. These
four varieties by Banjo correspond Jowitts linguistic parameter for distinguishing the
English language varieties according to Nigerian usage.
Varity 1: Banjo states that this variety is spoken by semi-literates. Their educational is
not higher than elementary. Their spoken language has a lot of carryover interference
from LI because of inadequate mastery of the language. They compliment their speech
with a lot of gesticulations and other Para-linguistic feature like facial expressions.
Banjo contends that their intelligibility depends on these features. As far as
grammaticality is concerned, they have a lot of problems with English syntax as well as
phonology. It is also observed that their use of the English language is socially
unacceptable in Nigeria, it is internationally unintelligible and in some cases it is not
much different from pidgin. The tendency is that the speakers of this variety resort to
Variety 2: This variety is spoken by about 75% of Nigerians. Banjo posits that their
syntax can be regarded as passable. They transfer some phonological elements of their
first language, especially the dental signs. This variety is intelligible in Nigeria but it is
not very useful for external communication. This is because the speakers fail to make
vital phonemic distinction particularly between such minimal pairs like:
hit / hit / heat/ hi:t/
hat / ht/ heart/ ha:t/
spot/spt/ sport/ sp: t/
pull/ pul/ pool/ p :l/
Variety 3: This variety is spoken by about 10% of Nigerian. They can make phonemic
distinctions with the minimal pairs. To most Nigerians this variety is similar to British
English but has certain obvious Nigerian features like accent, voice, prosody (intonation,
Variety 4: According to Banjo, this variety is close to international model and is used by
a majority of 5% of Nigerians. It is mostly used by those who are naturally brought up in
England or children whose parents are English.
Though this variety is internationally intelligible, it is often socially unacceptable
Banjos variety 1, is quite distinctive from Brosnaham variety 1, which is in fact
pidgin and not English. Banjos 1 on the other hand is described as the variety used by
Nigerians who have internalized the language as a result of the exigencies of their
occupation. Much of it can be described as broken English, though it should be clearly
distinguished from pidgin. Not surprisingly, the most striking feature of this variety is
Granted that none of the three major Nigerian languages, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo
has up to ten pure vowels, and only Hausa has a diphthong, Received Pronunciation on
the other hand has twenty-two vowels made up of twelve pure vowels, eight diphthongs
and two diphthongs. This accounts for lack of proficiency by Nigerians in the use of the
It has rightly been observed by Banjo (1996) that as most Nigerian languages do
not have the vowels //, // and // for example, // is substituted for // while in a word
like bitter / bit/ , / /, is substituted by // and a/ is //. British Received pronunciation
/: / is replaced sometimes by / : / as in /w :st/ for Received pronunciation /w :st/ or
/e/ as in fest/.
Furthermore, there are similar, substitutions of consonant phonemes and these
vary from language to language. While some languages like Hausa and Igbo do not have
the phonemes /z/, Yoruba does not have it and so a Yoruba variety 1 speaker would
substitute /s/. Similarly, for the speakers of some languages including Yoruba /f/ is
substituted for /v/ and /s/ for /ts/. Breaking up of the English consonant clusters is a
common practice among interlocutors of some Nigerian languages like Yoruba and Igbo.
It will also be important to mention the contribution of Festus Adesonye to this
discussion of the varieties of the Nigerian English. Adesonye (1973) undertook a study of
the Nigerian written English and concludes by positing three varieties. This is important
to this study because some of his views will be applied in the analysis of the written
language of the Nigeria Police Force.
Going further, Banjo (1996) states that Adesonyes variety one represents the
English language of those with only primary education. They transfer a lot of linguistic
features from their first language to the English language.
Variety 2 consists of those with secondary education. There are few occurrences
of their mother tongue interference in their English language.
Variety 3 according to Adesonye as stated in Banjo (1996) is the apex of the
varieties. As far as he is concerned, there is hardly any feature that can differentiate this
kind of English and other educated varieties elsewhere. This variety is used by University
The varieties of the Nigerian English as used by the Nigeria Police Force will be
analysed in chapter four of this study. These varieties arise because of the level of
education of most of the Police officers, and also because of the different ethnic
backgrounds of the Police Force.
2.3 THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE AS A SPEECH COMMUNITY
Fishman (1978) defines a speech community as one all of whose members show
at least a single speech variety and the norms as a social group which may be either
mono-lingual or multi-lingual held together by frequency of social interaction patterns
and set off from the surrounding areas by weakness in the times of communication.
Halliday (1978) also defines it as a group of people who themselves as using the
Speech communities may consist of small group bound together by face-to-face
interaction like the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha. Social communication within a speech
community may be seen in terms of functionally related roles which are allotted to
individuals within a community. Such roles include the drills, parades and so forth. The
language they use for these roles forms their communication matrix.
Viewed from this point, the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha makes up a speech
community with the use of the Police Jargons. They use these jargons in their day to day
activities. These jargons form an important part of their communication matrix. It is the
common language that is shared by all. Though they use the English language, it is not
intelligible to all of them. This is as a result of education and to some extent, the mother
Nigerian Standard English and the Police jargon are used in both the formal and
informal activities. Gumper (1972) defines jargons as Special parlances employed by
certain occupational groups in the pursuit of their activities. It is used to maintain
exclusiveness; thus, making it unintelligible to outsiders.
These jargons are used by these Police Officers to perform their day to-day
activities and through its use; they can be referred to as a speech community because it is
simply intelligible to all the members of the community. Here are some of these jargons:
Olokpa Policeman (Yoruba)
Dankadede Sir (Master)
Damsada Police Newspaper
Shun standing at an attention
Bade/ prade a group of Police Officers
File to short
Unload dropping of ones gun
Retere to move backwards
Reading to get set to fire.
2.4 ERROR ANALYSIS
Error analysis can be defined as a systematic diagnosis of the deviation from the
target language by a non-native speaker so as to effect positive changes in the pedagogy
of a second language. It is a linguistic deviance in performance on the part of a bilingual.
Granted that the members of the Nigeria Police Force are bilinguals, in their
native languages and the English language, the principles of error-analysis will be
employed in this study in analyzing their English language usage.
Error analysis according to Corder (1974) is branches of codes. The study of
error or analysis of errors, he claims are part of an experiment to confirm or disprove the
psycholinguistic theory of transfer. Error analysis involves the identification of and
interpretation of errors based on rigorous analysis; it deals with both overt and convert
errors; that is, errors that are hidden or not easily identifiable and those that are obviously
interlingua and training transfer as well as error due to communication and method of
He also contends that error analysis has to do with investigation of the language
of a bilingual, with the aim of pointing out errors, in the production of the target
There are two approaches to error analysis: the contrastive and non-contrastive
approach. The contrastive approach may be most predictive at the phonological level and
least predictive at the syntactic level. So many people are of the opinion or assume,
following logic, that it is easy to understand, that errors made by bilinguals are caused by
their mixing their native language with second language.
Summarizing these views of Robert Lado contained in Wilkins (1982), he states
The errors and difficulties that occur in our learning and use of a foreign
language are caused by the interference of the mother tongue.
This goes to confirm the basic assumption which underlines the idea of
contrastive analysis. This assumption which traces errors in foreign language to mother
tongue interference also goes further to assert that when the structures of the mother
tongue and the target language are similar, the usage is not difficult. In cases where there
exist structural differences between the two languages, there is bound to be error in
The situation in the Nigerian Police Force is multi-lingual in which many
languages are spoken and in their use of the English language; they transfer the sounds of
their native languages to the English language. This transfer hinders their proficiency in
the use of the English language. This transfer is as a result of the fact that most Nigerian
languages do not have up to ten vowels and only Hausa has a diphthong. The Received
Pronunciation has twenty vowels, made up of twelve pure vowels and eight diphthongs.
These abnormalities will be treated more elaborately on chapter four of this study.
With the use of data, it will be shown how the police use the vowels in their native
languages to make up for the ones in the Received Pronunciation and the reason for their
incompetence will clearly be seen.
Apart from the interference of mother tongue, another factor that hinders
proficiency in the use of the English language amongst the Nigeria Police Force is their
level of education.
2.6 LEVEL OF EDUCATION
It is assumed that anybody that has at least a senior school certificate should speak
English fluently. In Nigeria Police Force, most officers have their pos-primary school
education but a considerable number have a primary school education. Only a handful of
officers are graduates. Though most of them have their post-primary education, they still
find it very difficult to speak the English fluently.
Atiwhobbel (1991) states that Police should be versed with the language of
communication which is the English language. He postulated that the mastery of this
language is very important because their usage of the language affects report writing and
the giving of evidence. But above all, it affects their relationship with the masses.
As a result of the low educational qualification of the Nigeria Police Force, their
use of the English language is not proficient. Most of them learnt this language because
of the exigencies of their occupation.
The level of education of an officer clearly determines his ability to use the
English language. It would be of great help if the government would organize seminars
and lectures for Police Officers at least to train them on the basic usage of the English
Ultimately, we discovered that there are already existing researches on what
language is, its characteristics, its relationship with communication, the language of the
other speech communities and professions but there is no research yet on the language of
the Nigeria Police with particular attention to the problems in its linguistic features,
causes of the problems and solutions. This is the basis of our research.
This chapter discusses the research design for this study, the area of study,
theoretical framework, method of observation, instrumentation and method of data
3.1 AREA OF STUDY
This research was carried out in Onitsha, Anambra State. The Nigeria Police
Force has many stations in Onitsha, but out of all these, four stations were used for the
purpose of this research. Some data were collected from these four Police Stations.
3.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
This work is essentially a linguistic study specifically concerned with the
structure of the English language as used by the Nigeria Police Force. However, it is
important to note that there is a correlation between grammatical choices and the societal
function they perform. Thus, the theories of descriptive linguistics and sociolinguistics
are employed in this study.
Tomori (1999) believes that modern descriptive linguistics is usually studied
from the following perspectives: phonetics and phonology (or phonemics); grammar
comprising morphology and syntax; and semantics. Thus, descriptive linguistics accounts
for the structural organization of language from the level of phonemic to that of
Sociolinguistics, according to Osuagwu et al (1997), is the study of varieties of
language in the light of non-linguistic aspect of social structure. Huddson (1999) sees a
linguist and a socio linguist as two separate people. According to him, the former
accounts for only the structure of language while the later works on the examining the
social context which informs it use.
The relevance of these two theories is subsumed in the fact that a study of
language without reference to the society that uses it obviously rules out the possibility of
finding out the social explanation which accounts for the structures that are used.
3.3 METHOD OF OBSERVATION
During the collection of data for this research, the researcher was present at the
eight different morning drills by the police officers. As the commandant gives instruction
to the officers, the research takes down and also records their utterances. Sometimes in
the process of addressing these officers, she asks questions and the answers to the
questions by the officers are also written down and used as part of the data for this study.
The researcher also had the opportunity of listening to their conversation as they
interview suspects that are in detention.
The instrument for the data collection for this study was by the participatory
observation. The researcher was present at the Police stations used for this study for eight
times to collect and record information during different activities which includes drills,
interrogation of suspects and meetings.
3.5 METHOD OF DATA ANALYSIS
The method of data analysis is direct lifting of illustrative terms and sentences
from the chosen articles. Not all errors are analyzed, only those that are strikingly
illustrate the features investigated are made to represent the rest.
The method of analysis is essentially descriptive. Two linguistic levels,
phonology and syntax, are of concern to the research. In the phonological analysis, the
researcher looks at speech sounds as they were pronounced by the members of the
Nigeria Police Force. At the level of syntax, sentences which are wrongly used are picked
and analyzed, giving the right version as it is supposed to be. These included wrong
expressions, concord and tense errors, omission of sentence elements and wrong use of
This chapter examines the linguistic features of the language of the Nigeria Police
Force as used in their journals and their everyday activities like drills, parades et cetera.
Two levels of linguistic analyses, namely syntax and phonology, will be considered.
4.1 PHONOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
This part of study is based on the analysis of phonological errors in the English
language of the Nigeria Police Force. In other words, this study sets out to identify these
errors and analyze them.
Many people have always believed that there is no significant difference between
the phonologies of the standard of British English and Nigeria English.
Thus, some say that they are basically the same. This notion however has been
proved incorrect by the findings of this research.
For the purpose of this study, the researcher carried out an investigation of the
phonological competence of the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha. Their competence in the
articulation of the English sounds was tested and their errors were identified, classified
and explained for easy understanding. It was observed that the non-existence of some
phonemes in their indigenous languages provoked most of the problems with particular
reference to the influence of their mother tongue on the English language.
As earlier mentioned, this analysis will involve the use of error analysis. The
errors committed in the use of the English language by the Police officers will be
analyzed through the perspective of error substitution, error of omission, error of addition
and error of over generalization as well as incomplete application of rules and ignorance
of the rules of restriction.
4.2 ERROR OF SUBSTITUTION
Inn this area, the researcher is particularly concerned with how the Police Officers
substitute one phoneme with another as a result of the absence of the phoneme in their
indigenous languages. This is one of the major problems most speakers of Edo, Yoruba,
Igbo, Hausa and Efik encounter with English pronunciation. Such problems are restricted
to those traceable to the phonological interference of their mother tongue on the English
There are some vowels and consonants which occur in English but not in these
indigenous languages and as such what is obtainable is the replacement of one sound for
another. From the data collected, most Police Officers find it difficult to articulate certain
English phonemes such as // / /:/ because they pronounce any word that contain
these sounds wrongly.
The dental fricatives // and / / are invariably replaced by the alveolar plosives
/ t / and / d / respectively. From the data collected, the following words are wrongly
Here are some examples:
Words Wrong Correct
1. Path pat / pa: /
2. Then den / en /
3. Father fadar / f a /
4. They dei / en/
5. Theme tim / i:m/
6. Thank tank / /
7. Thorn torn / :/
8. Thick tick / ik/
9. Three til / ri:/
In the same way, some vowels which we do not have in the Nigerian languages
are also substituted by other sounds and the pronunciations of such words were
influenced by their spellings. For example, the vowel / / which is most commonly spelt
U as in cut, cup, O as in mother, blood and come is usually pronounced as / / by the
majority of these Police Officers.
Thus, in their speeches, they tend to mispronounce these words. Those words
mentioned are pronounced as follows:
10. Cut is pronounced / k t/ instead of /k t /
11. Come is pronounced /k m/ instead of / k m /
12. Blood is pronounced /bl d/ instead of /bl d /
13. Mother is pronounced /m dar/ instead of / m e(r)/
4.3 ERROR OF OMISSION
In the articulation of some English words, it is observed that these Police officers
tend to omit certain phonemes. This is also as a result of mother tongue interference. It is
also observed that some Police Officers from Edo and Yoruba omit the glottal fricative
/h/ when they occur at the initial positions. Thus, they pronounce the following words as
14. Helicopter is pronounced /elikppt/ instead of / helikppt(r)/
15. Happy is pronounced /pi/ instead of / h pi/
16. Heat is pronounced / I:t/ instead of /hi:t/
17. Hot is pronounced /bt/ instead of /hpt/
4.4 ERROR OF ADDITION
Most Police officers who omit the glottal fricative /h/ in the analysis given above
tend to insert the glottal fricative where it is not required. These set of Officers are mostly
from Edo and some from part of Delta State. This pronunciation problem can also be
attributed to mother tongue interference. Some of such words that ate pronounced that
way are as follows:
18. English is pronounced /hin f/ instead of /in f/
19. Hour is pronounced /h /r/ instead of / (r)/
20. Eye is pronounced /hai/ instead of / ai/
21. Honour is pronounced /h/ instead of / h t/
It is also observed that many of them pronounce words according to their
spellings as in the following:
22. Listen is pronounced / litn/ instead of / lisn/
23. Bomb is pronounced /bpmb/ instead of /bpm/
24. Behalf is pronounced /behalf/ instead of / bi ha:f/
25. Colleague is pronounced / kliki/ instead of /kli:g/
26. Whistle is pronounced /wistil/ instead of /wisil/
In the pronunciation of past tense markers, these Police Officers pronounce them
correctly when it is realized as /d/ but when it is //id/ they pronounce /ed/ while the
allophone/t/ does not appear in their pronunciation in most cases. Here are some
27. Provoked is pronounced / provoked/ instead of / prvukt /
28. Attribute is pronounced / tubu:ted / instead of / tributid/
29. Exhausted is pronounced / egz : sted/ instead of / igz : stid/
30. Passed is pronounced /pa:sd/ instead of /pa: st/
31. Picked is pronounced /pikd/ instead of / pikt/
From the analysis, it can be observed that not all errors come from mother tongue
interference. Most of them occur as a result of low level of education, lack of interest in
acquiring the correct skill and the environment they operate in.
4.5 SYNTACTIC ERRORS
Wrong expression can affect communication adversely and leave the audience
confused. Accuracy in speech and writing allow for effective understanding.
Syntactic errors make the English language incorrect. These syntactic errors
include wrong spellings, defective punctuation, wrong use of articles, omission of
sentence elements, concord and tense errors.
In the journals under study, the following expressions are made.
1. The secretariat takes care of IGPS speeches, monitors press report, and oversees the
IGPS secret Registry, Police Officers Wives Association, the IGPS personal
security staff, and the IGPS Hotline.
The above sentence introduces a list of three action performed by the secretariat.
There ought to have been a coordinating conjunction (and) joining the penultimate
verb (monitors) to the last one (oversees). The sentence should be recast as follows:
The secretariat takes care of IGPS Speeches, monitors press report, and oversees
the IGPS secret Registry, Police Officers Wives Association.
2. Recent events in some parts of the country have shown that some disgruntle
elements with fissiparous tendencies have been sowing seeds of discord aimed at
derailing the transition programme.
The error stems from the use of the disgruntle instead of the correct adjective
which is disgruntled used to modify the noun elements.
3. The emphasis is more on the acquitted of the innocents rather than the correction of
the guilty ones.
The errors above are two:
a) The first one is the use of the preposition on after the transitive verb
emphasize. Emphasis is obligatorily transitive and must be followed by a
b) When an adjective is preceded by the definite article to form a nominal, it
becomes plural and does not require any-s-plural inflection. Thus the use of
the innocents in the sentence is deviant.
4. The above notwithstanding, efforts is made to teach policemen the dignity of
human person and the need to treat fellow human being with equal respect.
The error above is the omission of an article before effort which is a singular
5. It is realized that as the Nigerian society becomes educated, so will it require of its
police force, articulated professionals, skilled in human resource management and
competent to analyze and perform its function with integrity, humility, commitment
The first error involves the wrong use of a definite article before Nigerian
society. When society refers to a nation, it is not preceded by a definite article. The
second error is the use of an intrusive comma to mark off required from its object
6. He promised to engage in total cleaning and purge of the force
There is lack of parallelism between cleaning and purge which are joined to
form a compound structure. The correct version should be:
He promised to engage in total in cleaning and purging of the force.
7. Those posted to traffic duties are known to have arbitrarily harassed motorists about
the traffic rules and regulation, which they never read
That does not introduce a non-restrictive relative clause. The correct
conjunction/relative pronoun to use is which.
8. He has to convince all and sundry that the high level of corruption in the force is as a
result of alarming percentage of illiteracy in the force.
An article should precede the noun percentage. It should have read: an/the
9. The versatile inspector-General of Police, Mr. Etim Inyang is of the view that a
Police boss should not collude with his subordinate to perpetuate heinous and highly
These articles are replete with punctuation errors:
a. There is the omission of a comma after the appositive Mr Etim Inyang
b. The omission of a definite of article before view.
c. The misspelling of the word Subordinate
10. Through the setting up of Police community committees in all nooks and
crannies of the federation.
The fixed expression nook and corners should be nook and corners so that
expression is erroneously used.
11. The penchant for his men to take bribe disturbs Mr. Inyang so much that
a. There is the omission of an article before bribe which is a singular common
noun. It ought to have been: a bribe or bribes.
b. The use of a comma to mark off the subject penchant from its verb disturbs is
12. recommendation from traditional rulers, are expected to be great significant.
a. The first error here lies in the fact that the subject is separated from its verb with a
b. The adjective significant is wrongly used in place of the noun significance in
13. As an incentive in this direction, a 13 year old boy who helped the police catch up
with an alleged corned robber, has been awarded scholarship tenable up to the
a. The noun scholarship as used in this context is countable and should be preceded
by an indefinite article -a
b. The clause who helped the police catch up with an alleged corned robber is a
relative clause and should not be marked off with comma.
14. the chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon gave an
incisive account of the goodies mapped out to improve the image of the Police
Here, the appositive Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon should have been set off with
two commas and not a single comma.
15. Prepared by the IPO who examined the scene of crime and interrogates
witnesses is known as Modus Operandi (M.O.) report
The errors here are the lack of parallelism between the two verbs that form a
compound structure examined and interrogates.
The correct version should be:
examined and interrogated or examines and interrogates as the case may be.
16. This realization led to the formulation of the Modus Operandi (M.O.) system, which
seeks to analyze according to a give formula the ingredients of crime
The present tense form of the verb give is used to modify the noun formula
instead of the past participle given.
17. Like all rules, however there are exceptions here.
The error above is a concord error. There anticipates a plural subject to agree
with the verb are but as seen above, the subject exception is singular instesd of the
18. But in a given crimes, all these more tangible things may be lacking.
An indefinite article does not precede a plural noun in English as wrongly used
above in a given crimes.
Finally, not all errors are analyzed, only those that strikingly illustrate the features
investigated are made to represent the rest.
The thrust of this work is the linguistic features of the language of the Nigerian
Police Force, Onitsha. The Nigeria Police Force uses the English language as their
official language. This work evaluates their use of the English language to determine the
extent to which they can be proficient in the use of this language.
The Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha is a multi-lingual community with officers
drawn from different ethnic groups and languages. Some of the languages discovered
amongst these officers are Igbo, Hausa, Efik, Yoruba, Ibibio, Izon, Kalabari and so forth.
The English language is however the official language used in this community. In their
use of this language, many varieties emanate and this is as a result of certain factors like
mother tongue interference, low level of education, lack of interest in acquiring
proficiency in the language. As observed, their English language is far from what the
Standard English should be.
Many of these Police Officers are not competent at all in the use of this language
and this gives rise to many linguistic errors as stated in this work. The reason for this is
not farfetched. A good number of these officers are neither graduate of English nor of
other disciplines. Most of them have only first school leaving certificates; a good number
of the acquired only senior school certificate. Majority of them are primary school
dropouts and just a handful of them are graduates. They are simply trained on their job
and no matter their length of service, they are not experts in the use of the language.
The Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha is a speech community. This is established
because there is need for a language which is intelligible to all the members of this
community. This need arises because the English language is not intelligible to all the
members of this community. The language established is referred to as the Police jargon.
Though most members cannot understand the English language and use it effectively, the
jargon is intelligible to all the members of the community. In addition to the jargon, they
also use various signs, whistle and drum languages which they use to convey information
and messages which only the members of the group can understand.
The Nigeria Police Force serves the public and their incompetence in the use of
the language of communication constitutes a problem to the citizens of this country. It is
therefore recommended that, a language school should be established in the Police
College. Also they should be exposed to in-service training in order to help them to be
proficient in the use of the English language. Most importantly, the government should
take strict measures to uplift the standard of the Force by employing only graduates.
To this end, the researcher has analyzed the language of the Nigeria Police Force
as used in their journals and their everyday activities. This will, no doubts, become the
basis for further research.
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