A Morphological Study of Clippings in Nigerian English

Sani Galadima
Department of Languages & Cultures
Federal University Gusau, Zamfara State
sanee47@gmail.com +2348063216720

Abstract: This study examines a Morphological study of Clippings used in Nigerian English as a case study. The study discovers that Clippings have a wide spread use among Nigerians, particularly in public organizations and in some private organizations. The professional users of English, the Journalists, Newspapers, the publishers, Radio and Broadcast, Electronic and Prints media and General users are paramount stakeholders in the affairs of Clippings. It is also, found that Nigerian users find it easy to communicate their messages through Clippings. The Nigerian English users literates or illiterate are aspire to speak and use Clippings in their day to day activities. It also highlights the Nature and features of Clippings. The study reveals the functions, similarities/ differences and barriers in comprehending Clippings used in Nigerian English. However, the study brings out the processes of word formation in regards to Clippings. The research questions have been answered in response to the aim and objectives of the study. The Clippings found in the data were processed based on their morphological structure which helped to bring out their uses in Nigeria. Finally, the study establishes the fact that Clippings are not static as Clippings may come at front, middle or at the end.

Keywords: Morphology, Clippings, Nigeria, Word formation and English


Nigerian English also known as Nigerian Standard English is a dialect of English spoken in Nigeria. It is based on British English. Anytime such situation arises, some new words and collocations may emerge from the language which come from the need to express concepts specific to the culture of the Nigerians. Nigerian English (Nig E), therefore, belongs to the family of West African Englishes, which consist the largest number of non- native speakers of English in the West African sub- region. Nigeria’s overwhelming dominance in terms of population makes its variety of English the prototype


of West African English.


It is difficult to know the exact the number of Nigerian English speakers with the population of over two hundred million people. This uncertainty has led to the initial controversy that reflects the conflicting attitudes to English in the post-independence era. The word’ English ‘has become an expression of political and cultural reality. This reality is a profound manifestation of changes in sociolinguistic strategies and language engineering. Although many researches have been carried out on the true status of Nigerian English, a good number of such works have focused on the controversies, debates, interferences, flaws and the varieties of differentiation that seem to dominate the English of Nigerian users.


Literature Review

Features of Nigerian English

The influence of culture is very pronounced in the Nigerian English at the level of lexico- Semantics. Brann (1975) denies the existence of Nigerian English. The scholar rather attribute features referred to as Nigerian English to deviations from standard British English.


Fromkin and Rodman (1982) are of the opinion that words have defined meanings. We cannot speak outside these meanings, for, if we do, we would be unable to communicate with anyone. It is probably in view of this that Kachru (1983) developed a tripartite model where the three categories are presented as concentric rings. Though widely accepted and influential, it bristles with problems. In his own submission, Moag (1983) claims that non- native English passes through a ‘life-cycle’, functioning first as a ‘First language’ then as ‘Second language. In the same vain, Jowitt. (1991) explains that English words are couched nativized expressions to capture effectively our diverse socio-cultural orientations, sensibilities and philosophical views. This natural tendency of non- native English speakers to express feelings, thoughts and ideas using the English language medium brings about lexico- semantic differences which occur in what is known as transfer, analogy, coinage, semantic shift or extension, loan words and acronyms. Furthermore, Bamgbose (1995) observes that the English language has been pidginized, nativized, acculturated and twisted to express unaccustomed concepts and modes of interactions. This is at the heart of the term’ domestication’, which gave birth to Nigerian English.


Lastly, Crystal (1997) made all attempts to estimate the number of speakers of English in the world, yet some of the facts that he used to build his totals are nevertheless questionable because he goes strangely wrong where Nigeria is concerned in terms of Semantic and Phonological aspects.


Bamiro (1994) identifies ten categories of lexico- semantic features of Nigerian English as follows:


Loan Shift/ Semantic Extension


Bamiro (ibid) describes loan shift as a process whereby the meaning of a word or group of words in the base language is extended to cover new concepts of semantic extension. In this case, meaning change occurs when certain English terms have widened or changed meanings to accommodate new ideas in the Nigerian English. An example is in kinship terms. For the English man, the term ‘brother’, or ‘sister’ is used to refer to only siblings, that is, a nuclear family. In Nigeria, these terms extend beyond the nuclear family to extended family and even regional affiliations.


Semantic Shift / Coinages


In semantic shift, a new meaning is given to a lexical item to acquire a new understanding. For instance, ‘Anyway that boy never looked as if he was going to be something in life’. (‘Something’, which translates to ‘Oria’ in Esan is often extended to mean ‘being useful’). While Coinages refer to the creation of new words from the base language (English) to express new experiences, cultures and customs which the Nigerian environment introduces. For example: The programme was disrupted by the area boys (Miscreants).


Clichés / Translation Equivalents


A number of words or phrases constantly being indigenized by way of semantic modification. These include clichés of formal and informal styles. For instance: Last but not (the) least (formal), Bouncing baby boy (informal). Clichés are found constantly in different fields of discourse e.g education, health, politics, Sciences and religion. While Translation Equivalents are words used to express the ideas originally conveyed in the indigenous Nigerian languages, as in ‘I was very sorry to hear that your mother ‘kicked the bucket’. Majority of Nigerian users of English regard this as basic which is used by variety I and 2 speakers. He had not even ‘washed his mouth’. He had not even; brushed his teeth’ is the equivalent in British English.


Direct Borrowing


According to Bamgbose (1995), languages in contact naturally influence each other in many ways. The most common and the best is borrowing which is commonly restricted to the vocabulary or lexical items. For example, words from Nigerian languages, such as the Yoruba languages come into Nigerian English as in ‘kiakia bus’ and ‘tokumbo cars’ (where ‘kiakia’ means ‘fast’, and ‘tokumbo’ means ‘used’) borrowed from the Yoruba language. However, a morphological processes of Nigerian English has a similar word formation processes with that of English Morphology which will help the present research as explains by Bauer. 

The above chart indicates that Morphology is concerned directly with morphemes through inflection and word formation processes of derivations. According to Atkinson (1982): 

Morphology received an appraisal in the 1970s to re-evaluate the long heed perception that Morphology is just the study of the structure of words. This is because words operate both on a syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationship within and outside the conceptual words. 

In the opinion of Asher (1994) no meaningful consideration of what the word is will be complete without a clear consideration of the morpheme.




Word formation according to Marchand (1969) is ‘that branch of Sciences of language which studies the pattern on which a language forms new lexical units’. He adds that it, thus, deals with formal and semantic analyzable composite forms’. Both definitions highlight forms and creating new lexical items to the existing ones. This is relevant to the present study as they emphasize on forms and lexical items of the language.


According to Mathews (1991), ‘word-formation is that branch of Morphology which deals with relations between complex lexemes’. He concludes that lexemes are of two forms either simple or complex which have relation between them. It is relevant to the present study, which is studying lexemes, both simple and complex ones. Word-formation processes deal with the ways of creating new words in English ‘the free encyclopedia of linguists (2008) maintains that word-formation rules form new words’. Therefore, based on what has been said earlier, it is pertinent to say that word-formation is concerned not only with issues of creating new words and their rules, but also the relationship that exists between the words (simple and complex). Thus, word formation deals with the processes in which languages tend to involve themselves in forming new words. Therefore, is a natural linguistic phenomenon that exists not only in English but in all the living languages of the world Mathews (1991). This study, therefore, is restricted within the scope of English Morphology specifically clippings.


Aim and Objectives of the Study


The aim of this study is to explore the Clippings as an aspect of English Morphology with a view to comprehend them better and use it well, however, the specific objectives that underpin this study are as follows;

1.      Examine the use of Clippings in Nigerian English.


2.      Determine whether the use of Clippings is static and non- dynamic.


3.      Identify the morphological processes of Clippings.


Significance of the Study


The research on a Morphological study of Clippings used in Nigeria will be significant in several ways thus; the finding in the study will be important to teachers and learners of English in Nigeria. The study will also be of tremendous help to other researchers in the area of English Morphology. Furthermore, it will be significant because it studies the area in greater detail. Finally, it will be significant as it would provide copious examples of the two aspects which were previously given brief treatment in books or journal articles. The findings could also guide future researcher in the other areas of word formation in English.


Source of Data


The data of this study Clippings is obtainable from the sources especially from English texts books on Syntax and Morphology written by well-known English scholars. The sources are ‘What is Morphology’, ‘English word Formation’, ‘The Evolution of Morphology’, ‘The study of language’. Thus, Clippings have been discussed by these prominent scholars in the area of Morphology. The scholars include: Malkjeer (1991), Fromkin and Rodman (1998), Tomori (1991), Aronoff and Fudeman (2005), Crystal (1980), Mathews (1991), Ndimele (2008), Carstairs (2010), Bauer (1983), and Yule (1996).


Analytical Procedure


According to Robinson (2004) data analysis is the process of systematically applying statistical and logical techniques to describe and illustrate, condense, recap and evaluate data. In fact, researchers generally analyze for patterns in observations through the entire data collection phase.


The analytical procedure adapted for this study is Lexical Morphology.


5.0 Data Presentation and Analysis


This section contains data presentation and analysis of Clippings used in Nigeria. It also reveals issues relating to Morphology of English as well as English used in Nigeria.

The Clippings found in the data will be processed based on their morphological structure which will help to bring out their uses in Nigeria.


Sample of Selected Clippings

Covid19- Coronavirus 2019

Gas - for Gasoline

Grad - for Graduate

Gym- for Gymnasium

Homo - for Homosexual

Kilo - for Kilogram

Lab — for laboratory

Lunch — for Luncheon

Memo — for memorandum

Phone — for Telephone

Photo — for photograph

Plane - for Aero plane

Poly - for polytechnic

Prelim - for Preliminary

Pro — for Professional

Psych - for Psychology

Roach — for Cockroach

Vet - for Veterinarian

Zoo - for Zoological Garden


English Clip names:

Al - for Albert

Andy - for Andrew

Charlie - for Charles


Joe - for Joseph

Liz (a) – for Elizabeth

Mike – for Michael

Prish – for Patricia

Rob – for Robert

Ron – for Aeron

Sue – for Suzan

Sam – for Samuel


The Morphological Analysis of Clippings


Bauer (1985) maintains that Clipping denotes the process whereby a lexeme (simple or complex) is reduced, while still holding the similar meaning and still being a member of the same class. It does not look at the expected number of syllables that will be retained in the clipped form. Bauer (1983) cites three main methods in which a lexeme is shortened to a clip. The most common one is for the beginning of the base to be retained i.e. advert (advertisement), exam (examination), and gym (gymnasium). Other category is when the clip preserves the final part of the lexeme, as in phone (telephone) and roach (cockroach). The last category is when the lexeme drops both its beginning and end but retains the middle as in fridge (refrigerator).


According to Quirk and Greenbaum (1975) the term ‘Clipping’ denotes the subtraction of one or more syllable from a word. Aronoff and Fudeman (2005) assert that clipping is the creation of an existing one. English clipping is classified into front, back and front and back clipping.


Front Clipping: this is the process of trimming words in the front. In this process, the front syllable is taken to stand as a word. i.e. phone (telephone), plane (aero plane)


Back clipping: This is another process of clipping where the trimming takes place at the back, whereby the back syllable is trimmed, i.e gas (gasoline), ad (advertisement), fan (fanatic), poly (polytechnic) and exam (examination).


Front and back clipping: This is where the clipping process takes place both front and back of the word, i.e flu (influenza).


The Orthographic and Phonetic Properties of Clippings The chaotic nature of clippings refers to the number of deleted segments Bauer (1988). This number differs from one clipping to another i.e (ad- vertisement) 10 deleted segments, (gym-nasium) 6 deleted segments, (exam- ination) 7 deleted segments. Within a rule based approach, the target must be specified either in phonological terms (syllables, segments) or in morphological terms (morphemes). However, the target differs from one form to another, as the number of remaining segments varies. Also, neither the deleted segments nor the remaining ones necessarily form a morphological unit. Thus, no rule (phonological or morphological) can be stipulated to generate these clippings.


Clipped Compounds: A clipped compound (cc) is a single pronounceable word formed from the beginnings of each of the words comprising the multi-word base. Usually, English clipped compounds are formed from two words bases consist of two heavy syllables, as illustrated earlier.


The Spelling and Pronunciation of Clippings


Bauer (1983) asserts that the way in which the base word is shortened is unpredictable, because it is impossible to predict the number of syllables which will be retained whether the final syllable will be open or close and whether the stressed syllable will be included in the shortened form or otherwise. Here are the examples which demonstrate the problem pointed out by Bauer:

The above table illustrates that sometimes the syllable containing primary stress is preserved i.e. (disco for discotheque), (photo for photograph) where otherwise not in (memo for memorandum), (frat for fraternity) and that regardless of the syllabic length of the base (whether 3, 4, or 5 syllables), the clipped form is maximally disyllabic.


General Discussion


It is evident that from the foregoing analysis of Clippings, the study establishes that the criteria used in the identification of Clippings is found to be similar in it morphological, phonological as well as the semantic criterion. This section contains general discussion on the topic of the study ‘Clippings’.


The Processes of Word formation in Clippings in Nigerian English


Word formation deals with the processes in which languages tend to involve themselves in forming new words. Therefore, is a natural linguistic phenomenon that exists not only in English but in all the living languages of the world specifically Clippings used in Nigerian English. Mathews (1991).


According to Mathews (1991), ‘word-formation is that branch of Morphology which deals with relations between a complex lexeme’. He concludes that lexemes are of two forms either simple or complex which have relation between them. According to ‘the free encyclopedia of linguists (2008) maintains that word-formation rules form new words’.


The Enrichment of Clippings to the Nigerian English Clippings are integral part of Morphology. It is believe that Clippings are a rich source of new words in Nigerian English and several words are added like- LAB, PHOTO, ADVERT, GAS, VET, POLY, MEMO, KILO, PLANE and ZOO are numbered among the recent addition of vocabularies in Nigerian English. Furthermore, the knowledge about this aspect of word formation in English (Clippings) will give students of English broad views about the area of research.


Findings on Clippings

I.                   In clippings the deletion can occur at any position


initial, final or medial.


II.                It does not seem predictable how many syllable be retained in clipped form.


III.             Speakers of English in Nigeria use to clip as it is easy to pronounce.


IV.      English users also like to clip each other’s names.


It is clearly that from the discussion and analysis of clippings

that the study has examined a morphological study of clippings

used in Nigeria as a case study. The study discovered that

clippings have a wide spread use among Nigerians, particularly

in public organizations and in some private organizations. The

professional users of English, the Journalists, Newspapers, the

publishers, Radio and Broadcast, Electronic and Prints media

and General users are paramount stakeholders in this study. It

is also, found that Nigerian users find it easy to communicate

their  messages  through the  use  of clippings.  The  Nigerian

English  users  make  use  of  clippings  in  their  day  to  day



Furthermore,  the  study  traces  the  nature  and  functions  of

clippings. The research establishes the fact that clippings are

not static as words may be clipped from at front, middle or end.



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