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The Anatomy of the Nigerian Accent (Archive)

Updated: Jul 16, 2018


Even though I somewhat agree that I have a slight bit of an acquired accent, an area of which I'll shed more light on, I am a self-appointed Accent Police Chief. I preside over the affairs of the Bureau of Accent Variance Analysis (BAVA), where we investigate on existing probable roots [fake or authentic], to find original proof of accent, primarily in a particular generation of Nigerians living in Nigeria, which enables us determine the eligibility of such persons in question, for the issuance of an official Legal Verified Accent Permit (LVAP)........or not.

By the law, in order to speak freely in an ‘accent’, without the troubles of some occasional yimu from silent hearersby, standersby and passersby, or some direct, unexpected, blatant interview screening from random people, on wherest thou schooleth, was bornest, or grew upest, you must possess the LVAP.

As I mentioned, this pertains to a specific generation of Nigerians - the youths.

Unlike many English speaking countries where the variance in English accents [among the younger people] lies mostly in intonations, stress patterns, with an underlying similarity in them all, Nigeria is different. This is majorly because we have a large number of ethnic groups, yes, but that's not the subject here. In this context, I'm referring to the modern society, the hashtag-snapchat-instagram generation – the one that seeks pop cultural acceptance, that desperately wants to be seen as ‘cool’, enlightened, above the lower class, and all that struggle.

Yes, that’s our generation, say cheese.. :D The late 70's-80's-90's babies, if that’s accurate.

In Nigeria, there are only three kinds of accents among the youths – British, American, and Nigerian, lol. There are no igbo, Yoruba, or anything else, it’s all of those, or none, that’s how we roll over there, lol, too funny.

Someone once said that Nigerians love everything and anything imported: clothing, furniture, accents…lol. It’s very funny, but true. Walk into a bank, and speak with a regular Nigerian accent, people will hardly turn, and you might not get special attention from the staff, but speak with maybe a British or American accent, and observe how much attention you draw....*sigh*

Having an accent in Nigeria is what I consider a skill (someone put it this way), which like every other skill, can be poor, or excellent, can open doors, and can also slam doors…in yao face. So, here, I’ve carefully analyzed various forms of accents below.

The Borrowed Accent cum Art Form

This particular one I’m yet to fully understand; I do, but at the same time, I don’t.

We love you Nigerian OAPs (On Air Personality), but please you have gat to stooooop :( :( Okay? Alright? Thanks. :(

This is the category of accents where the user has absolutely no ties whatsoever with any oyibo country. You were not born abroad, have never lived there, oh wait, you’ve never, ever travelled out in your life [until maybe recently]. “I watch only American films so I picked it up”, really?? All of that?! Okay oh. Well done. For the OAPs, one might say it’s an art form, which can be slightly justifiable. The funniest and worst is when overnight celebrities develop overnight accents too; I don’t want to call names, but we are tired sha.

The Acquired Accent

I personally fall in this category a bit, I'm being true to myself, and if I may add, I have once been accused of it too, like, me?! A whole Accent Police Chief, smh. Anyway, I’ll try not to be biased in talking about this category, since I am "supposedly" one. :)

In speaking, it is proper to connect with people in your region - via vocabulary, diction and pronunciation - for ease and flow of communication. However, having an accent is simply about consistency in the stress patterns and intonation in your words.

If you have a good command of English, it’s very easy to tip towards this category. This category is usually made of people who have had long and constant interaction with people in a certain sphere. It is possible for a person to acquire an accent because of where they work, say they frequently travel out of the country for work or pleasure, meet with people from other parts of the world.

Personally, I've seen myself go from three different levels of speaking in a quick moment - regular phone call gisting voice, to typical local market pricing accent, to saying hello to an acquaintance.....within a very short time! Lol smh, it actually happens, no forming added.

Another day, I found myself speaking in something that sounded a bit British, and I gave myself the look, like hey, what's going on?! Then I realized that truly, as you constantly interact with others, [and the media], you subconsciously pick up certain things (be the interaction in pidgin English or not, you are bound to pick up something, lol). So you can have a presentation voice, which could come out in certain situations - speaking engagements, meeting people for the first time; or your regular speaking voice among people like family and close friends, and probably a notch lower for everyday conversations with locals. It's more like an involuntary switch.

The Afrobritican Accent

This is supposed to fall under the borrowed accent category because this is characterized by people who do not know the difference in elements between the British English, and American English, or any English for that matter, they mix it up feeling cool and sounding fly.

The funny situation here is that such people do not realize the difference between having good diction in well spoken, phonetically sound, English, and speaking in a fake accent, which at the end of the day, is ultimately done to communicate an image of sophistication, enlightenment......which ironically usually ends up confusing or amusing those listening to the accent, lool. Too funny.

To be continued..

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