The Workshop on the Standardization of the Alphabet and Orthography of the Nigerian Pidgin Language (NPL)

Background to the Workshop

The workshop on the standardization of Nigerian Pidgin Language (NPL) could be traced to the encounter that Apostle Roy Okonkwo the founder and president of Mercy Christian Ministry International (MCMI) and his team had with Late Prof. Kay Williamson of the University of Port Harcourt in 2002.

While giving her invaluable input on how MCMI should adopt the standard orthographies for Nigerian languages in the ministry’s translation work, Prof. Kay Williamson hinted that it will be very important to standardize the orthography of NPL. She gave this advice in view of the vastness of the Bible translation work.

She, therefore, linked MCMI with Professors Ben O. Elugbe and Augusta Phil Omamor in University of Ibadan, and Prof. Nick Faraclas, a renowned Pidgin language and Creole scholar and writer.

After some time of fruitful correspondence between the MCMI and the above trio, Late Prof. Kay Williamson scheduled the workshop to be held at University of Ibadan.

The Workshop

The workshop took place in February 2003. Apostle Roy Okonkwo and Late Evangelist Godwin Gilbert represented MCMI at the workshop.

Many people ranging from academics to post-graduate students of the Department of Linguistics were in the workshop.

Among the academics present were: Professor Emeritus Ayo Bamgbose, Prof. Kunle Adeniran, Prof. Kay Williamson (Late), Prof. Ben O. Elugbe, Prof. Augusta Phil Omamor, Prof. Francis Egbokhare, Dr. Herbert Igboanusi, Dr. Christine Yetunde Ofulue, Ven. Dr. John O. Akao, etc.

Other people present were: Mr. Nelson Abila, Miss Ayoola Abiola, Mr. Ademola Lewis, Mr. Mfon Udoinyang and Mr. Ahumibe Chidozie.

The meeting was chaired by Late Prof. Kay Williamson, who was assisted by Prof. Augusta Phil Omamor.

Prof. Kunle Adeniran, the Dean of Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan opened the workshop with an address. In his address, he hinted that God had made it possible for Mercy Christian Ministry to translate the Bible into Nigerian Pidgin Language.

He further noted that this would help solve the problems the language was experiencing.

The problems Prof. Adeniran talked about included the standardizing of the orthography of NPL.

At the workshop, MCMI provided the Bible translation work (undoubtedly the first major work in NPL) which was the reference material for the workshop.

Resolutions at the Workshop

The workshop lasted for five days, from February 6 to February 10, 2003. The following decisions were reached during the meeting/workshop:

1. The name of the language was called “Nigerian Pidgin Language”. Before the meeting, the language was referred to as “Nigeria Central Pidgin Language”.

The name “Nigerian Pidgin Language” was adopted so that the language would be that which all pidgin speakers in Nigeria and in Diaspora would be able to speak and understand, and would also be acceptable to all. It wouldn’t be a Pidgin language that belongs to any particular area where Pidgin is spoken in Nigeria.

2. The experts scrutinized the alphabet which MCMI used in her translation work of the Bible. They corrected errors and then agreed that Nigerian Pidgin Language (NPL) has 29 letters of the alphabet. Click here to see the letters of the NPL alphabet .

3. The participants, during the workshop, looked into the issue of NPL orthography and standardized it.

4. It was agreed that as MCMI continues to edit and polish the NPL Bible translation, the ministry’s work should be sent to the linguistics experts present at the workshop so that they would check and correct it.

5. Two committees were formed to help MCMI handle the work. The committees were: The Nigerian Pidgin Language Committee (NPLC) and Nigerian Pidgin Language Bible Translation Advisory Committee (NPLBTAC).

6. All the experts who were at the workshop, including other people present, agreed that the task of translating the Holy Bible into Nigerian Pidgin Language is God’s work and is also an enormous and difficult work.

They also agreed that it is a very important work that needs to be supported by people, churches governments, and other groups in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.

Late Evangelist Godwin Gilbert said the closing prayer for the meeting.

Mercy Christian Ministry International greatly appreciates the cooperation and assistance given to her by those who helped standardize the orthography of Nigerian Pidgin Language and the alphabet.

MCMI is especially grateful and thankful to God for Late Prof. Kay Williamson whom God used to organize the workshop. She also paid for lunch of the participants for the workshop.

Prof. Ben Elugbe was the facilitator for the workshop. MCMI is grateful to him and all other participants for contributing towards this important and enormous work of God.

MCMI also appreciates those who helped make it possible for her representatives to attend the workshop at Ibadan. They include: Engineer Dave Orunta, Chief Emeka Oji (JP), Dr. Sylva Kalu, Sir Mike Oku, Rev. Celestine Erimujor.

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