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Naija Language Medical Dictionary

Info: 11568 words (46 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: International StudiesMedical



1.0 Background of the Study

The United Nations estimate of May 2017 indicates that Nigeria has a population of more than 191 million people living in it; this number is scattered across its 923,768 square kilometers of forests, savannahs and swamps, the country (Nigeria) is a fusion of ethnically diverse groups of people speaking well over 500 different languages (U. N Population Division estimates 2017), which makes Nigeria an immensely large multilingual community with various languages used within the various socio-cultural lifestyle in the different states in Nigeria. Although English is still Nigeria’s official language and also the language used for education, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba prominently feature as regional languages in the northern, eastern and western parts of Nigeria respectively. This large number of languages spoken in Nigeria has been said to greatly influence the countries diversity and has long stood in the way of national unity in Nigeria.

One way this issue can be resolved is if the country (Nigeria) has a common indigenous medium of interethnic communication: The best strategy might be to choose a ‘neutral’ language that can be tolerated and increasingly used by all. For the purpose of socio-political integration and progress, it is necessary to have a medium which can be used widely throughout the country at all levels — the rich and the poor, men and women, educated and uneducated, young and old (Ndolo 1989).

Various linguists and writers have proposed the Nigerian Pidgin as the best candidate for resolving the national language, and identity problem in Nigeria, and in the last twenty or thirty years, Nigeria Pidgin has become one of the most widely spread, and the most ethnically neutral lingua franca used in the country today, as it is now the native language of approximately 3 to 5 million people and a second language for at least another 75million (Ihimere 2006:296).

The Nigerian pidgin has been in existence since the 15th century and yet no real recognition has been given to the language, even though the language is developing rapidly, This development can clearly be seen by the increasing use of Nigeria pidgin in all practical spheres of life including music, literature, drama, information dissemination (by government and corporate organizations), media and religion. A workshop in July 2009 on “CONFERENCE ON NIGERIAN PIDGIN”, held at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and it adopted among other things a change in nomenclature from Nigerian Pidgin to “Naija”…because it has been creolized in some part of the country, its functions have surpassed the functions of a pidgin and the term ‘pidgin’ has helped to encourage derogatory connotations associated with it” (Ofule 2010: 1). This use of the term Naija will be adopted in this study.

The study seeks to create a dictionary consisting of medical word in the Naija language. This dictionary is created to better aid medical practitioners’ communication with their patients who are speakers of the language. This study is meant to serve as a tool for health care providers who want to improve their ability to communicate with their Naija-speaking patients and I hope this project takes Naija a step further in getting the recognition it deserves in this country and globally.

This work is organized thus; chapter one is concerned with the general theme of the topic, while chapter two is the review of relevant literature, chapter three will deal with data presentation and analysis while chapter four is the summary, findings and recommendation.


The European explorers and traders first came to Nigeria in the late 14th Century, and this marked the beginning of an extended contact between the indigenous peoples of Nigeria and the Europeans.

The Portuguese were the earliest known Europeans to visit Nigeria, they started trading with the people of the region from as early as 1469AD (Ryder 1969 cf Esizimetor 2010). Strong diplomatic ties was formed between some of the great kingdoms in Nigeria and Portugal.

They established educational and religious institutions where they taught Portuguese and brought Christianity to the region. And this improved the ties between their language and the languages of the Niger Delta for an extended period of time. This, of course became crucial to the evolution of Nigerian Pidgin (Naijá), which started out as a Portuguese-based pidgin in the Niger Delta.

The Niger Delta region was made up of diverse communities among which were  Efik, Edo, Annang, Igbo, Ibibio, Isoko, Ijaw and Itsekiri with no known or well-established communication as their languages were mutually unintelligible, this made it easy for the people in the Niger Delta region to learn the Portuguese-based pidgin at that time.

After the exit of the Portuguese from the region, the Dutch entered and traded at the eastern end of the region for about half a century. They were then followed by the French who visited the region from time to time, even after the English arrived in 1650 AD to take effective control of trade in the region (Esizimetor 2010)

According to (Esizimetor 2010) The English were initially interested in trade especially in slaves. But between the 1700s to the 1800s, as the relationship between Nigeria and the English was sustained, this initial interest changed to religion, then to education, and on to a colonial focus, which led to a change in the language situation of the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole.

The emergence of English into the Nigerian environment, the pre-existing Portuguese-based pidgin of the Niger Delta began evolving in the new direction of the English language. In time English, replaced Portuguese as the major lexifier of the Naijá language. By the 1900s, the English-based Naijá started circulating across the emerging Nigerian nation, and by 1960 when Nigeria gained her independence from Britain, the language was not only  popular among those who were unable to speak standard British English but also became commonly spoken among the multilingual populations in the urban area. Today the number of people who speak the language outnumbers speakers of any other language in the country (Nigeria), as it is itself an undeclared lingual franca of Nigeria as its constitutes every person’s lingua franca, the elite inclusive (Ugorji 2010)

1.2 The Naija Orthography

The Naija alphabet shares similarities to the alphabet of many Nigerian languages and even the Cameroonian Pidgin but it is not exactly like them (NPLA 2003).

In February 2003, at a workshop Mercy Christian Ministry International held at the University of Ibadan with the aim of translating the Bible into the Naija language, the Naija orthography was standardized.

The Naija Alphabet is different from other alphabets, although it bears a striking resemblance to that of the English alphabet, writing and spelling Naija words differ from the way English words are written and spelt.

Naija Language has (29) letters in its alphabet, which are

Orthography Phonetic symbol Naija                              English
a [a] Ansa Answer
b [b] Bẹg Beg
Ch [tʃ] Chia Chair
d [d] Dọg Dog
e [e] Ej Edge
[ε] g Egg
f [f] Fain Fine
g [g] Gud Good
Gb [ɓ] Igbo Marijuana
h [h] Hẹvun Heaven
i [i] Insaid Inside
j [dȝ] Jam Collide
k [k] King King
Kp [kp] Kpatakpata Totally
l [l] Land Land
m [m] Man Man
n [n] Nem Name
o [o] Opun Open
[ᴐ] krọ Okra
p [p] Papa Papa
r [r] Rod Rod
s [s] Sidọn Sit down
Sh [ʃ] Shake Shiver
t [t] Tek Take
u [u] Una You people
v [v] Vẹks Agitation
w [w] Wuman Woman
y [y] Yam Yam
z [z] Zink Zink


1.3 Statement of the Problem

Little or no research has been done in the area of medical terminologies in the Naija language and as such there is no awareness that some of these terms exist, this work tends to solve that problem by documenting these terminologies which will aid future research in similar fields of study.

1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this project is to properly classify and state medical terms in the Naija language. This dictionary of medical terms or words in the Naija language can serve as a guide to doctors or medical practitioners who cannot speak Pidgin English (Naija), to better relate when dealing with speakers of the language. In order to achieve this, the work will:

  • Orderly list and define over 200 medical terminologies in the Naija Language.
  • Present the meaning of these medical terms.
  • Describe word formation processes in the language.
  • Explain the role they play in forming or creating some of the medical terminologies presented.

1.5 Scope of the Study

This project deals with the compilation of medical terminologies in the Naija and entails the standard orthography, the proper phonetic transcription. Also this work considers if word formation processes such as borrowing, coinage, compounding and reduplication played major roles in the creation of the medical terms in the Naija language.

1.6 Significance of the study

Working in the healthcare industry, one cannot be expected to know every single medical term by heart especially when these terms are now in the Nigerian pidgin (Naija). Naija medical dictionary will be a source of reference that can be available whenever and wherever.

Also having a medical pidgin dictionary can enhance interaction between patient and care provider. In the sense that communication will be more effective when they both understand each other, this dictionary will serve as a guide to members of the healthcare industry who are L2 learners of the Naija language.

This project will benefit the medical practitioners in the aspect of them relating better with their Naija speaking patient. It benefits the patient as it makes them feel in good hands if they have a medical practitioner who relates to them in the language they understand. It also benefits the Naija language as it increases the prestige of the language. Other significance of this study is that;

  • It will help raise the standard of the Naija language. It will take the Naija language a step further in becoming standardize. One of the reasons why the Naija language is yet to be standardize is because it lacks technical terms, this project aims at reducing that lack in the Naija language.
  • To prove that the Naija language can be used in more situations and in more formal settings and not just be a language identified with the layman.
  • This Project will show that the Naija language has the capability of carrying out more tasks just as other languages of the world e.g. English, French, Spanish e.t.c. The Naija language has developed well and has the potential of being a full-fledged language.

1.7 Limitation

This study was limited by various factors such as, insufficient time, difficulty in getting informants and Limited resources. These factors were a stumbling block during my research and hindered me from conducting an in-depth analysis thus limiting the research to just word formation processes on the medical terminologies in Naija.

1.8 Methodology

The data for this project were collected from Dr. Okuonghae Efe a medical doctor practicing at the University of Benin teaching hospital and Miss Onowhahpor Victoria, a practicing nurse at Agbere Cottage based in Bayelsa State, who are fluent speakers of the Naija language. The interview method was used to source for data, the interviewing of persons was done orally, while the data was recorded with a tape recorder and a data-blank written record (in which the words are listed on a paper with blank spaces provided for the answers to be written in (B.A Okolo 2009). The data sourcing medical words are about 200 lexical items retrieved on April 23, 2017, from http://medicalspanish.com/dictionary/english-spanish.html.




This chapter reviews relevant literature that has been published by scholars who have carried out extensive research relating to this study. It is divided into three sections; conceptual review, empirical review and theoretical framework.


This section defines some of the key terms and basic concepts employed in this study. Some of these concepts are; linguistics, language, terminology, medical terminology, morphology and morphological processes such as reduplication, compounding and borrowing.

2.1.1 Linguistics:

Linguistics is defined as the scientific study of language whose goal is to describe and explain the unconscious knowledge individuals have of their language (Jimoh 2008). Through this definition we understand that linguistics attempts to establish general principles underlying the studies of all languages through scientific methods such as observation, creation of hypothesis etc. Robin’s definition, though detailed, is not contrary to the definitions given by other linguist. He defines it as a “study concerned with human language as a universal and recognizable part of the human behavior and of human faculties perhaps of the most essential to human life” (Robins, 1989: 2).

Also according to the applied linguist Olaoye (2008), “Linguistics is seen as a scientific study that deals with the grammatical system of a language and its interrelationship with the rest of mankind activities”.  Linguistics is a scientific study because investigation are carried out by means of empirically and controlled verifiable observations and with reference to theories of language structure. Also humans have the knowledge to know how to use language to communicate with each other, to express ideas, emotions, desires, and all the other things that need expressing. Linguistics studies these knowledge systems in all their aspects some of which are, the structure of these knowledge system, how it can be acquired, how is it used in the production and comprehension of messages, how it changes over time.

Linguistics can generally be classified into two branches the first which linguist use to maintain the adequate and proper description and analysis of language, is known as theoretical linguistics which deals with the components of language, These include: Phonetics, the scientific study of speech sounds; Syntax, the study of grammatical functions of language; Phonology, the study of sounds with their meanings; Semantics, the study of meaning of words and phrases; and Morphology, the study of the formation of words. While the second branch is applied linguistics which is the application of linguistics theories on other perspectives on language which are represented in interdisciplinary or specialized branches such as; Psycholinguistics, Anthropological Linguistics, Historical Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Dialectology, Computational Linguistics, and Neurolinguistics.

2.1.2 Language

Language which is an exclusively human property is a system of communication based upon words and the combination of words into sentences, and many definition of language has been proposed by various scholars, Essien, (1990) stated that “Language is by far one of the greatest, most complex and most enigmatic possessions of mankind”. It is the epitome of man’s humanity without which individuals and nations lose their mental and cultural heritage. There is no aspect of human activities that can be successful without the effective use of language.

According to Agbedo and Omeje (2010), language is the surest way to retain and safeguard knowledge, wisdom and societies’ authentic cultures.

Bloch and Trager (1942) defines  “A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social gorup co-operates”. While Noam Chomsky (1957:13) described language asa set of finite number sentences, each finite in lingth and constructed out of a finite set of elements”.This ability to construct speech sound and forming words is as stated earlier a specie-specific to human beings, Other members of the animal kingdom have the ability to communicate, through vocal noises or by other means, the distinction between animal communication and human communication is the infinite productivity and creativity human beings have making them unrestricted in what they are able to communicate.

2.1.3 Terminology

Terminology can be defined as the study of terms and their use. It’s therefore means that terms or “terminological unit” are words that in specific contexts are given specific meanings, these may diverge from the meanings the words have in other context and everyday language to represents a concept in a univocal way in a specific semantic field.  Examples are legal terminologies, linguistic terminologies and Medical terminologies. Terminology as a discipline studies, among other things, the development of such terminologies and their interrelationships within a specialized field.

Terminology differs from lexicography, as it involves the study of concepts, conceptual systems and their labels (terms), whereas lexicography studies words and their meanings.

Terminology systematically studies the labelling of concepts particular to one or more specialized domain of human activity. It does this through the research and analysis of terms in context for documentation purpose and to promote consistent usage of such terms. Terminology can be limited to one or more languages (for example, “multilingual terminology” and “bilingual terminology”), or may have an interdisciplinary focus on the use of terms in different fields. Terminology allows the compilation, description and presentation of terms.

Terminology primarily deals with analyzing concepts and concepts structure used in a field or domain of activity, identifying the terms assigned to these concepts, it establishes correspondence between terms in the various languages in a case of bi-lingual or multilingual terminology and then compiling the terminology of these field on paper or in databases and it also helps in creating new terms as required.

Terminology can be grouped into two categories which are Ad hoc terminology and Systematic terminology.

  • Ad hoc terminology deals with a single or limited number of terms, itis prevalent in the translation profession, where a translation for a specific term (or group of terms) is required quickly to solve a particular translation problem.”
  • Systematic terminologydeals with all the terms in a specific subject field or domain of activity, often by creating a structured ontology of the terms within that domain and their interrelationships.

2.1.4 Medical Terminology

Muñoz (2010) defined terminology as a science whose aim is to study terms, which lexical elements used in specialized fields. This means that various field have terminologies specific to them. The scope of this work centers on terminologies in the medical field.

Medical terminology is the language that is used to accurately describe the human body and associated components, conditions and procedures performed upon in, these language or terms are used in the field of medicine.

The language of medicine may sometimes seem like gibberish which is one of the barriers sometimes separating medical people from the rest of the world. Medical professionals use a lingo with special words. And these words, whether by design or not, are often incomprehensible to the rest of us.

Medical terms are often compound words. They are put together from other words that serve as the building blocks of medical language. The gobbledygook of medicine can often be understood if we can but recognize and glean the meaning of the individual building blocks. Take the word “pericardial.” It is the sum of its parts, from the Greek: “peri-“, around + “kardia”, heart to form the word “around the heart”.

Certain language rules are applied in the creation of medical terminologies. So therefore when a term is produced some logical processes are applied and these processes or rules are part of language mechanics known as “Linguistics”. “Language is the communicational tool with which the field of science use to conduct research with aims of improving the assessment, treatment and analysis of disordered speech Crystal (2000). However, language is not just a communication tool between doctors but also patient as it is used in prescribing treatments and further checkup on patients as language is actively involved in the field of medical consultation, which guides the doctors’ search for the clinical signs and condition of the patients, This set a path for medical terms to be used in not only asserting treatments but also interacting with doctors, nurses and patients with the same mindset.

2.1.5 Register/Jargon

A register according to Halliday, (1978:111) can be defined as the configuration of semantic resources that the member of a culture typically associates with a situation type. The term register was first used by the linguist Thomas Bertram Reid in 1956, and brought into general use in the 1960s by some linguists who wanted to distinguish among variations in language according to the user (defined by variables such as geography, sex, social background and age), and variations according to use, “in the sense that each speaker has a range of varieties and choices between them at different times” (Halliday et al, 1964). Halliday states that the register is recognizable as a particular selection of words and structures. But it is defined in terms of meanings; it is not an aggregate of conventional forms of expression superposed on some underlying content by ‘‘social factors’’ of one kind or another. It is the selection of meanings that constitutes the variety to which a text belongs.

The register was also defined Carrol (1978) as “the abstraction linking varieties of language to varieties of social context”. Linguistic varieties linked to professions, occupations or topics have been termed registers such as the register of law enforcement officers, the register of medicine, the register of law, the language of engineering e.t.c, which all have their unique terms specifically used in their field. Registers are usually characterized solely by vocabulary differences; either by the use of particular words, or by the use of words in a particular sense.

Jargon is a type of shorthand between members of a particular group, often these words are meaningless outside of a certain context. It refers to a language used by personnel in a particular or language used to represents specific terms within a field to those with a particular interest. Examples of medical jargon are; Acute – meaning extremely sharp or severe, FX – Medical jargon meaning bone fracture, BP – Medical shorthand for blood pressure. Jargons are common with most professions or social group having their own jargons, example of jargons in the military field include; AWOL – Absent without leave, TD – Temporary duty, SAM – Surface-to-Air missile, SQDN – A squadron,. Another good example of a jargon is the common abbreviations used in this internet age. Take for instance, when chatting online abbreviations are used to shorten sentences and express emotions and this type of jargon is commonly used among teens and youths, examples of internet jargons are; BTW – By the way, CYA – See you around, FAQ – Frequently asked questions, LOL – Laugh out loud.

2.1.6 Lexico-semantics in Naija

According to Holm (1988) Pidgin lexicons are usually restricted in size and make up for it through multi-functionality (one word having many syntactic uses), polysemy (one word having many meanings), and circumlocution (lexical items consisting of phrases rather than single words). He also notes that the lexicons have been [and still are] influenced by European lexical sources, African lexical sources, morphological, and semantic changes. The processes by which these take place include lexical loaning/retention, coining, semantic shifts such as broadening/extension, narrowing, syntactic shifts, calquing, and reduplication.

Oloruntoba (1992) observed from various speakers’ usage practices that Naija lexicon is quite dynamic and in a constant flux comprising the use of basilectal, mesolectal, and acrolectal varieties all at the same time. In other words, for one word you can have at least two lexical variations e.g. chop/eat for eat, ala/shaut for shout, rishi/rich for reach etc.

Faraclas (1996) notes that lexical processes in Naija are mostly derivational processes; they include multi-functionality in word order, reduplication, compounding, prepositions, serialized verb constructions, and ideophones. The multifunctional nature of Naija words make for productivity in terms of their capacity to function in more than one grammatical class.


The term morphology has been taken from biology to refer to the study of plants and animals. Its etymology is Greek: morph-means ‘shape, form’, it was first used in linguistics by the German linguist August Schleicher (1821-1868) to refer to the study of the forms of words. According to Hamawand (2011) “Morphology is concerned with the processes of forming words, that is, how words are formed from smaller units and how the smaller units interact in speech”.

Morphology deals with the study of the form of words or internal structure of words, lexical syntax e.t.c. sound is fundamental to linguistics morphology because the combination of sounds produce morphemes which are the morphological building blocks of words.

Morphology refers to the study of the internal structure of words and of the systematic form meaning correspondences between words. Consider the following English words that are listed below


Buy       Buyer

Paint      Painter

Sell       Seller

Send      Sender

In the above example, there is a systematic form-meaning correspondence when “–er “is added to the words in “A”. The corresponding meaning on the words in “A” is derived which is “one who (word in A). The nouns is “B” have been derived from “A”, the word Buyer is a complex word which can be decomposed into the constituents “Buy and –er”. Buy is a simplest word since it cannot be further decomposed. The systematic form-meaning is important in the assignment of morphology and morphological analysis/structures in a word.

Morpheme as described earlier is the morphological building blocks of words, it can also be seen as the minimal linguistics unit with lexical or grammatical meaning. They are commonly classified as either free morphemes (which can occur as separate words) or bound morphemes (which can’t stand alone as words), therefore “Buy” is a free morpheme, while “-er” is an affix, hence a bound morpheme which cannot function as a word on its own.

Ozomekuri (2009) defined the morpheme as the smallest meaningful unit of utterance which may not exist in isolation, he asserts that the morphemes have a vital role to play in word formation.

Various linguist have written articles and books on word formation and its processes. According to Obuasi (2016; 17), “morphological processes are those mechanisms employed by speakers of a language to change or modify the meaning of particular base-forms, as well as form new words”. It involves adding, subtracting or modifying the base-forms of words in a language to suit its syntactic and communicational contexts

A word formation process may be either or all about the following: a way in which an entirely new word comes into a language and/or a way in which a speaker creates complex words from already existing simpler word(s). in other words, word formation process is when new lexical words are formed from already existing words. It is also known as morphological processes by which new words are formed. These new words are formed by morphological processes known as compounding, affixation, clipping, reduplication and borrowing.

2.1.8 Borrowing

Peña (2010) defines borrowing as a process that involves the copying of a word from one language (to which it originally belongs) to another. For there to be a case of borrowing, the two languages involved must have come in contact with each other. Borrowed words often do not remain the way they are in the original/source language. However, they are modified to adhere to the phonological, morphological and syntactic patterns of the borrowing language. Languages that are in contact with one another tend to take on terms they lack from each other.

According to Osisanwo (2012: 46), The Nigerian pidgin (Naija) has been greatly criticized of borrowing largely from the Standard English, however, this does not mean that its borrowings can only be traced to the Standard English. Other languages such as Portuguese and indigenous languages in Nigeria are also involved in the word formation processes of the Nigerian pidgin. Since the Nigerian pidgin (Naija) is a product of contact, it tends to borrow from all the languages that came into contact before it was formed. For example

         Word        Source         Meaning
Dokto English Doctor
Pesin English Person
Pikin Portuguese Child
Wahala Hausa Trouble
Ogbonge Igbo Original
Dash Portuguese Gift
Kolo Warri Mad/Crazy
Agbo Yoruba Herbal medicine
Boku French Plenty
Kpeme Warri Die

Ozomekuri (2001) identified three types of borrowing which are “loan words” which means the borrowing language has taken a word from the borrowed or donor language to mean the same object and practice to which it originally refers to. “Loan blend” which refers to words created by combining morphemes of two or more language in its creation. “Loan translation” describes when words are created by using the morpheme of the recipient language to represent all the senses of a donor language.

2.1.9 Reduplication

In reduplication a morpheme or a part of a morpheme is copied or reduplicated and attached to a root or stem.  Two major types of reduplication which exist are, complete reduplication which results from copying the entire word, and partial reduplication which copies any number phonemes or syllables. Reduplication copies part or whole of the stem and attaches it unto the stem, either before or after it. When part of the stem is copied, it is known as partial reduplication, but when the whole stem is reproduced it is known as complete reduplication.

Reduplication can serve many functions in languages, from making plural forms to marking intensity or diminutives. Reduplication can be seen as a process that duplicates all or part of the base to make a grammatical or semantic contrast (Pei, 1966), a common phenomenon in onomatopoeic expressions and some English compounding like ding-dong, zigzag etc. It occurs when a part or a whole word or phrase is repeated exactly or with slight change. When reduplication occurs three times, it becomes triplication, which some refer to as playing with tune.

Different languages have different kinds of reduplication, which can occur at any word position. Unlike English which duplicates words with the doubling of a given syllable, Naija duplicates by doubling the given word and at times syllables. In other words, it repeats a particular word twice either together or separated by hyphen. Naija is highly characterized by reduplication for example;

           WORDS           MEANING         WORD CLASS
Wel-wel   Very well Adverb
Kpata-kpata Totally Adverb
waka∙waka someone who walks about excessively Adverb
Toto Vagina Noun
Boku-Boku In large number/quantity Adjective

2.1.10 Compounding

It has been established that compounding is one of the areas in which English based-pidgin is most productive. Several scholars in their own way have defined compounding some of which are; Adams (1979: 30) defined compounding as “the combination of two free forms or words that have an otherwise independent existence”. While Quirk et al, (1972) simply described a compound as a unit consisting of two or more bases.

According to Rufa’i (1979: 2), “a compound is a word wholly made up of smaller words or syntagmas expressing one idea”. He adds that a compound has two elements: determinant and determinatum. The determinant is said to precede the determinatum because it is the determining element.

Platt et al (1984) argue that one of the commonest ways of coining or formingnew words is by compounding, i.e. by combining two words that are commonly used in English-based pidgin to form new expressions, and that some of these expressions are words translated from the background languages. In Nigerian English-based pidgin (Naija), some English words have changed their meaning while others retained their meaning in them.

A compound word contains at least two morphemes, which can stand on their own as words – free morphemes and those who can’t stand on their own as words-bound morpheme. Compounding has a peculiar characteristic in its word formation approach. Its word formation strategy is a process which involves the composition of two or more words classes (or free morphemes) to constitute a compound or associate construction.

Compounding is also basically found in content words. Hence, nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are the major word classes often used in compounding. Example of compounding in Naija language.

Trowe Throw away Adverb Verb + adverb
Eni-kain Any type Noun Adjective + Noun
Ge belle Pregnant Adjective Verb + Noun
Ge bodi Overweight Adjective Verb + Noun

From the above example it can be noted that some Naija words are usually endocentric compounds with the head normally on the right. This simply means that most Naija words are made up of two independent words one of which is the head. The one to the right is usually the head while the other word modifies the head.


Little or no research have been done on the medical terminologies In the Naija language, although a lot of scholars have carried out various extensive research on other fields relating to the Naija language such scholars include Mafeni(1971) who is credited with the first scientific study of the phonological system of the Naija Language, he believes the Naija language has twenty four consonants phonemes and seven oral vowels. He clearly does not recognize significant vowel nasalization. He believes that consonant clusters are allowed at the beginning and at the end of syllabic peak or nucleus of a syllable. At the peak or nucleus of a syllable, vowels and syllabic nasal are allowed. For example

                            WORD                          MEANING
Sto Store
n-ko So what

According to Mafeni(1971) ‘words such as ‘smile’ /smayl/ and ‘proud’ /praωd/ end in consonant clusters. There is thus no vowel sequences and no diphthongs’ in the Naija language. He also describes the Naija language as a “syllable-timed” language in which the “syllable constituting a stretch of utterance occur isochronously and tend to be of equal duration” (1971: 109). Also in Mafeni’s analysis of the Naija language, the says that the language has two tones which are, a high tone ( ̷ ) and a low tone (  ).

Elugbe and Omamor (1991) worked on various dimension of the Naija language and their work was very influential in describing the phonological system of the Naija language, Elugbe and Omamor (1991) identified 25 consonants in the Naija language using the variety spoken in Delta state other linguist who have worked on the Naija language include Agheyisi (1984), Faraclas (1996) and many others. These studies have surveyed the origin, structure, ethnolinguistic, phonological, syntactic, semantic, morphological and sociolinguistic relevance of Naija language. The Naija language has come a long way especially since after the “Conference on Nigerian Pidgin” which held at the University Of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 8-9 July, 2009. At this conference the Nigerian pidgin experienced a tremendous development. This development spanned from the rechristening of the name Nigerian pidgin to Naija language, the development of a standard orthographic system of the Naija language e.t.c. Ofulue(2010) among others wrote a book regarding the proceedings of the “Conference On Nigerian Pidgin” at the University of Ibadan,. In this book she talked about the Vocabulary Development and Lexical Expansion Processes of the Naija language. According to her “word formation processes that have been observed to be most productive in Naija are borrowing, coinages, idiomatisation, semantic extension, and reduplication”. She observed that “The multifunctional nature of Naija words make for productivity in terms of their capacity to function in more than one grammatical class”. Another linguist who worked with the proceedings of the conference was Esizimetor (2010) whose work was based on the historical development of the Naija language. he examined the development of Naijá across three major periods: the first period, which saw the Portuguese domination of trade and overriding influence on activities in the region; the second period, which witnessed the arrival of the English as the dominant imperialist force controlling activities in the region; and the third period, which accounts for the stabilization, expansion and spread of Naijá across independent Nigeria Esizimetor (2010). Naija which started as a contact language, was influenced by any language it come in contact with, which is why the language has different lexical items that has various languages from across the globe and around Nigeria as its origin, such languages include Hausa, Portuguese, English, Yoruba, Igbo e.t.c.


Ayo Osisanwo (2012) in his publication in the journal of Linguistic Association of Nigeria made mention of three major linguistic theories which apply to the study of morphemes. These theories are: I.A (Items and Arrangement), I.P (Items and Process) and W.P (Word and Paradigm). I.A (Items and Arrangement) was developed by Block and Nida (1966), it deals with the syntagmatic arrangement of elements in a linguistic utterance. I.P (Items and Process) theory can be traced to Hockett (1966). According to Hockett, I.P. theory is simply an attempt to provide necessary explanations for the processes undergone by the base form of a word before its present state. And the third is W.P. (Word and Paradigm) theory which was first applied to the analysis of Latin and Greek languages which have been described as highly inflectional languages. However for the purpose of this study the I.P (Items and Process) theory will be used.

The item and process theoretical approach was developed by American structural linguist Charles Hockett in 1966.  According to Hockett there are eight processes that a linguistic form can undergo; prefixation (e.g Extra + Ordinary), infixation, suffixation (Enjoy + ment), juxtaposition, consonant change, vowel change (Steal + Past= Stole), Reduplication, Suppletion (e.g Furniture + plural= Furniture).

The item and process framework deals with the construction pattern of lexical items in a language. Item and process is a “lexeme-based morphology in which complex words result from the operations or process of simpler words. In the item and process theory a linguistic form can either be simple or derived,a simple form is a root, while the derived form or a constitute is the result of a process on one or more underlying forms.These underlying forms are the Immediate constituents of the derived form, some shapes of derived forms may not be coming from an underlying form but representing/ marking the process applied to them.





This chapter show the presentation and analysis of data using linguistics tools such as reduplication, borrowing, compounding as a means of analysis, which are the major morphological process that occur in the Naija language. According to Andy Bodle (2016) “dictionary publishers never tire of reminding us, our language is growing. Not content with the million or so words they already have at their disposal, English speakers are adding new ones at the rate of around 1,000 words a year”. The reason why these new words can be created formed or derived is based on the fact that man has the creative ability to form or create new words to express new experiences in his daily life, therefor the characteristics of all human language is the ability to derive new words. Our knowledge of morphology allows us to combine the pieces of old words to create something new.


Data obtained from our various sources will be presented in this section.

Abdomen A part of the body lying between the thorax and the pelvis, and containing the abdominal cavity and viscera. Bele


Abortion Induced termination of a pregnancy with destruction of the embryo or fetus kọmọt bele

[kͻmͻ bԑlԑ]

Abrasion a wound caused by rubbing or scraping the skin or a mucous membrane Wund


Ache A dull, poorly localized pain, usually of less than severe intensity Pain


Acute Extremely sharp or severe, intense Shap


Admit(into hospital) To place in a hospital for treatment, care, or observation Stay bed

[ste bԑd]

Adolescent A person in the period of developmental maturation between puberty and young adulthood; a teenager Bọbọ


Agitation A state of mind, usually due to anxiety or tension, which causes obvious restlessness Vex


Aids Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is an infectious disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) Eeds


Albino A person with a genetic defect causing absence of the normal body pigment, MELANIN, which gives color to the hair, eyes and skin Yelo man

[jelo mã]

Alcoholic One who abuses or depends on alcohol ingestion. Drunkarman


Amnesia Partial or total loss of memory, usually resulting from shock, psychological disturbance, brain injury, or illness Fọrget


Amputate To cut off (a projecting body part), especially by surgery Cut


Amputee A person who has had one or more limbs removed by amputation Pesin weh dem cut

[pԑsĨ we dԑ͂ kͻt]

Ancestor A person from whom one is descended, especially if more remote than a grandparent; a forebear Fọre fọre fadas

[fͻ fͻ fᴂdᴂs]

Anesthesia Artificially induced loss of ability to feel pain, done to permit the performance of surgery or other painful procedures. Kil the bodi

[kil di bodi]

Anxiety a feeling of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear without apparent stimulus, associated with physiological changes Wọri


Appointment A mutually agreed-on time reserved for the patient to receive treatment. Metin


Artery A relatively thick-walled, muscular, pulsating blood vessel conveying blood away from the heart. Bọdi rope

[bͻdi rop]





An evaluation of the data presented in section 3.1 is carried out here using the Item and process morphological framework.

Morphology of the Language

Morphology is the study of the forms of words in different use and constructions. Morphology studies the form and internal structures of words through the identification of morphemes, often identified as the smallest linguistic pieces with a grammatical function (Aronoff and Fudeman, 2005). The word and morpheme are two important concepts in morphology. The word is an independent linguistic unit that has identifiable meaning and grammatical function with a fairly consistent phonological shape e.g the forms, sing, sings, singing, sang, sung are all forms of the single word “sing”. By grammatical function; we mean word class e.g noun, verb etc. phonological shape means the pronunciation of the word. The term morpheme can be used to come up with a single definition of a word. A word can be defined as a linguistic unit made up of one or more morpheme and can stand alone in a language.

Morpheme can be defined as the minimal meaningful unit or grammar of a language. It cannot be broken down into any other meaning unit. There are two types of morphemes; free morpheme and Bound morpheme.

Free Morpheme: these are morphemes that can stand alone and make sense. In other word it can be defined as a grammatical unit that can occur by itself and have meaning. All words are free morphemes but not all morphemes functions as words. Example of free morphemes;

Pompoo [pompu] ─ Navel

Mọzul [mͻzu:] ─ Muscle

Mad [mad] ─ insane

Dọktọ [dͻktͻ] ─ Doctor

Bound Morpheme: A bound morpheme cannot stand alone and make sense. They can only be attached to another part of a word. They are also called grammatical morpheme because they are bound to the meaning of other lexical morpheme to which they are attached. However in the case of the Naija language there is no proven occurrence of bound morphemes.

Word Formation Processes in Naija

Word formation processes also known as lexicalization referred to all processes connected with changing the form of the word by, for example, reduplication, which is a matter of morphology. In its wider sense word formation denotes the processes of creation of new lexical units. Word formation refers to the ways in which new words are made on the basis of other words or morphemes. Word formation process can be seen as a morphological process by which words are formed and lexicons enriched in any language has been identified and described. This is a direct result of the discovery that every natural language is essentially a system of rule or principles or process. There are different methods or processes through which lexical items and concepts are formed in different languages. And the Naija language use some of these methods in forming new word, some of which are reduplication, compounding and borrowing. Analysis of these listed morphological processes will be carried out using the table of data presented.


According to (Nadarajan 2006) Reduplication is a word formation process in which some part of a base (a segment, syllable, morpheme) is repeated, either to the left, or to the right of the word or, occasionally, within the middle of the word. Reduplication can be defined as the repetition of part or all of one linguistic constituent to form a new constituent with a different function (Lieber and Štekauer 2014). Reduplication is also seen as the repetition of phonological material within a word for semantic or grammatical purposes (Carl Rubino. 2013). Reduplication are of various types, Total or full reduplication occurs when there is a repetition of a root, stem or word, with minimal or no phonological modifications, while partial reduplication involves reduplication of only a part of a word e.g Bololo ─ bald.  It has many functions in a language, it can serve to show pulralization or to form or intensive or diminutive forms of a word. However, reduplication in the Naija language, can result in the extension or intensification of any given meaning or it can have a zero semantic effect (Elugbe and Omamor 1991; 53). Below are some examples of reduplication of medical terms in the Naija language from the table presented

Bie- Bie [biε biε] [biε biε] Beards
Bọbọ [bͻbͻ] [bͻbͻ] Adolescent
Jedi jedi [dȝεdi dȝεdi] Dysentery
Mama [ma ma:] Mother
Papa [pa pa:] Father
Toto [toto:] Vagina
Fear fear [fiε fiε] Phobia
Sisi [sɪsɪ] Girl
kwik kwik [kwik kwik] Urgent


Using the item and process theoretical frame work the process of reduplication is illustrated with this word formation rule X=x+x, where X is the reduplicated word.



Bie  Bie + Bie  [biε biε] Beards
Bọ Bọ + bọ [bͻbͻ] Adolescent
Jedi Jedi + jedi [dȝεdi dȝεdi] Dysentery
Ma Ma + ma [ma ma:] Mother
Pa pa + pa [pa pa:] Father
To to + to [toto:] Vagina
Fear fear + fear [fiε fiε] Phobia
Si Si  +  si  [sɪsɪ] Girl
Kwik Kwik +  kwik [kwik kwik] Urgent



In compounding two or more independent morphemes are put together and the end result derives an entirely new word. According to (Scalise & Forza, 2011) “Compounding is the morphological operation that puts together two free forms and gives rise to a new word”. Compounding is one of the major source of new word formation for some languages e.g. Chinese. Compounding is a very common morphological process in the Naija language, example of compounding in the language include; the process of compounding is derived by combining two word class together to form a new word, the IP framework illustrates this thus;

                  ITEM                PROCESS
KọmỌt bele [kͻmͻ bԑlԑ]



kọmọt[kͻmͻt] +  Bele [bԑlԑ]

V                        N

Remove       Stomach

bodi rope [bodi rop]



Bodi [bodi] + Rope [rop]

N                   N

Body              Rope

Yelo man [jԑlo ma͂]



Yelo [jԑlo]  +  Man[man]

Adj                   N

Yellow             Man

Getbelle [gεtbεlε]



Get [gεt]  ­+  Bele [bεlε]

V    N

Get              Stomach

dọndie [dᴐ̃dai]



Dọn [dᴐ̃]   +   Die [dai]

V                  Adj

Has                Die

Sidọrbu [sı:dᴐbu]


Double vision

si [sı:]   +      dọrbu [dᴐbu]

V                    Adj

See                double

 drọfọr [drᴐfᴐ:]



      drọ [drᴐ]  +  fọr [fᴐ:]

V        V

Draw           fall

Beleful [bεlεfu:]



bele [bεlε]  +  ful [fu:]

N                  Adj

Stomach         full

Bọn Pikin[bᴐn pikin]



Bọn [bᴐn]   +  Pikin [pikin]

V                    N

Birth            Child


Borrowing is a morphological process, where new word are added into the lexicon of a language by adopting terms from another language. It is the process of importing linguistic items from one linguistic system into another, a process that occurs any time two cultures are in contact over a period of time (Hoffer 2002). The language that borrows is called the “recipient language” while the one being borrowed from is called “donor language”.  The Naija language originated as a contact language when the need came for communication between the Europeans and the costal people of Naija language. This is to say that borrowing is a common word formation process reason being the Naija language came in contact with various language during its early and developing stage both local and foreign, among these languages the English language is the major lexifier of the Naija.  Example of borrowed words in the presentation of Data are;


Pikin              [pıkın] Child Portuguese
Magani         [mágέnı̀] Native aphrodisiac Hausa
Sisi                 [sısı] Girl Yoruba
Kuturu              [kuturu] Leprosy Hausa
Deti                  [dԑ̀tí] Germ English
Wọs                  [wͻs] Worse English
Jedi jedi        [dȝεdi dȝεdi] Dysentery Yoruba
Dọkto             [dͻktͻ] Doctor English
Waka              [wᴂ̀kᴂ́] Walk English
Agbo                 [ag︠b︡o] Herbal medicine Yoruba
Tit                         [tɪt] Teeth English

The Naija language adopts structural patterns and lexical items from indigenous Nigerian languages therefor there is no process occurring in the borrowing of Nigerian indigenous languages however for languages such as English and Portuguese some structural changes occurred in the derivation of these new words. These changes are;

Deti                [dԑ̀tí] Dirty Dirty     Deti
Dọktọ             [dͻktͻ] Doctor Doctor   Dokto
Waka              [wᴂ̀kᴂ́] Walk Walk      Waka
Pikin              [pıkın] Pequeno Pequeno   Pikin
Tit                         [tɪt] Teeth Teeth   Tit




This chapter shows the findings, summary and recommendation of this research work.


This project aimed at improving the prestige of the Naija language by working on medical terminologies in the language and also analyze the word formation process involved in the creation of these terms. The data was analyzed using the item and process theoretical framework developed by Charles Hockett. It was discovered that processes such as compounding, reduplication and borrowing especially are involved in the formation of these terms.

The Naija language has come a long way from being a contact language that arose when there was no mutually intelligible language between the Europeans and the people of Nigeria. It was developed and is even creolized in different part of the country.

This project was on terminologies used in the field of medicine in which the language peculiar to their terminologies are used. From the analysis carried out it is glaring that certain terms through the combination of words is one unique to contain particular occasion and profession and how the various word formation processes involved in the creation or formation of these terminologies. The terminologies is either formed by noun-noun, verb-noun, noun-adjective, verb-adjective in compounding. Also reduplication in Naija is mainly used to emphasize certain situations or occurrences. It was observed that most words in the Naija language are formed using the borrowing morphological process. Thereby making the lexicon of the Naija language filled with borrowed words from various languages especially English.


           This study was carried out on the linguistic study of medical terminologies in the Naija language, by studying some of the morphological processes in the language such as compounding, reduplication and borrowing.

During the research and after proper study of the data the following finding were; in the Naija language compounding performs various functions, for instance, compounding changes the word class when two noun element are being combined, it results into a noun element.

Example:     First noun            +            Second noun      =    Compound

Bodi [bodi]                          rope [rop]               bodi rope [bodi rop]

Body                                      rope                          Artery

There are also evidence of combining a verb and a noun class element in the Naija medical terms. Example

Verb                  +                 Noun             =      Compound

  1.            kọmọt[kͻmͻt]                           bele [bԑlԑ]         =      Kọmọt bele

Remove                                   Stomach                   Abortion

  1.              get [gεt]                ­                 belle [bεlε]         =      gebele

Get                                         Stomach               Pregnancy

Medical terminologies in Naija can also attest for two verb element combination to form a verb element. Example

First verb            +                      second verb      =     Compound

a) drọ [drᴐ]            +                      fọr [fᴐ:]           =     drọfọr [drᴐfᴐ:]

Draw                  +                      fall                            slip

There is also evidence of combining a noun class element and an adjectival class element. Example

Noun                  +                         Adjective      =          Compuond

a)         bele [bεlε]           +                           ful [fu:]        =           beleful

Stomach                                             full                           Satisfied

b)         Yelo [jԑlo]             +                       man [man]      =         yelo man

Yellow                                             Man                          Albino

There are also verb class element and adjective combinations in the medical terms of Naija. Example

Verb                      +                 Adjective      =        Compound

  1.       dọn [dᴐ͂]                                      die [dai]            dọndie [dᴐ͂ndai]

Has                                                Die                        Deceased

  1.      si [sı:]                      +                dọrbu [dᴐbu]          sidọrbu [sı:dᴐbu]

See                                                  double                 Double  vision

Compounding also results to consonant elision (a phonological process whereby a consonantal sound is deleted from a segment). Example

  1. kọmọt[kͻmͻt]      +     bele [bԑlԑ]       =            Kọmọt bele [kͻmͻ bԑlԑ]

Remove                       Stomach                         Abortion

In the above examples the voiceless alveolar stop /t/ gets deleted when it occurs at word boundary before a voiced consonant.

Reduplication in Naija, words are reduplicated in the language  to achieve a variety of purposes, mainly to show emphasis and intensity for example the word “Jedi jedi” and “Fear fear”  both meaning dysentery and phobia respectively functioning to show emphasis also the work “kwik kwik” which means urgent. The Naija language also use the semantic features of some lexical items collected from major languages which together affect the formation of its words, These new words are connected with sizes, names etc, and are formed through the process of reduplication. For example the reduplicated word “sisi” and “Bobo” meaning “Girl” and “Adolescent” were gotten from Yoruba words. The Naija adopts structural patterns, the lexical items, among other things from the Nigerian indigenous languages (Okpongette and Okon 2016:4).

The phenomenon of borrowing in the Naija language, happens when a word is created by importing linguistic items from other languages into the Naija lexicon of another. This process occurs as a result of contact between the two languages.

According to Esizimetor (2011) the linguistic development of Naijá evolved across three major historical eras which were; the era of Portuguese Influence in the Niger Delta, the era of English Influence in the Niger Delta, the era of the spread of the language across Nigeria. The Naija language being influenced by these languages made borrowing one of the most used word formation process in the language.  The Naija language borrowed mainly from English lexemes and modifies it to fit into the phonological structure of the language. Example of borrowed word from the English lexicon are;

Tit                         [tɪt] Teeth English
Dokto             [dͻktͻ] Doctor English
Waka              [wᴂkᴂ] Walk English
Wos                  [wͻs] Worse English
Deti                  [dԑ̀tí] Germ English

The Naija language also borrowed lexicon from the Portuguese when they made contact with the people of coastal Niger delta. Example

Pikin              [pıkın] Child Portuguese

The Naija language as also been greatly influenced by a number of Nigerian languages. Examples are;

Magani         [mágέnı̀] Native aphrodisiac Hausa
Sisi                 [sısı] Girl Yoruba
Kuturu              [kuturu] Leprosy Hausa
Jedi jedi        [dȝdi dȝdi] Dysentery Yoruba
Agbo                 [ag︠b︡o] Herbal medicine Yoruba



Knowing that the Naija language is still crystalizing and new words are being formed every day, there is no doubt that soon we will be able to produce a comprehensive medical dictionary in the Naija language. There is however need for more work to be done in the language especially in the area of linguistic codification (the process of developing and standardizing a norm for a language in the language).

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