Aspects of Lexical Deviation in Effiong Johnson’s Install the Princess

Happiness Uduk

Maurice Udom

1.0 Introduction

Nigerian English usage reflects peculiarities of the Nigerian situation: its people and culture. This is the result of long interaction of English with indigenous languages, which has led to the nativization of English in Nigeria, (cf. Kachru, 1985 and Igboanusi, 2002). With this remarkable development in English, educated Nigerians have focused on creating a variety that is mutually intelligible and acceptable to Nigerians and speakers of English the world over.

        Consequently, Johnson’s play, Install the Princess deploys the Nigerian culture, its norms and beliefs in select lexical coinages. Lexical deviations are newly formed words which are used to interpret cultural artefacts of a speech community (cf. Udom, 2007). Generally, lexical deviations are dynamic and pragmatic in nature, especially in Nigerian English. The newly formed words are capable of adaptation in books as well as educational and social situations in Nigeria.

        With lexical deviations, vocabulary in indigenous languages is adopted to fill semantic gaps that exist because of the differences between British English and Nigerian culture, (cf Jowitt, 1991). In addition, the play, Install the Princess employs lexical innovations to expose the male chauvinistic ideology in the traditional African setting, where women are regarded as second class citizens in various aspects of human endeavour Including politics, governance and family.

        The play is indeed a celebration of a successful African theatre experience because the author uses linguistic features peculiar to Africa to demonstrate its thematic concern and plot as well as characterization. It is a known traditional African belief that women should not be assigned leadership roles. This is shown in a decision of the elders in Ekondo community where they prefer Etiowo, the king’s third son, who is deaf and dumb, to ascend the throne: UKPOTIO:… except that you did not remember that the throne of Ekondo is exclusively for kings and not queens. All

through the years as far as we can remember, there was no time in the life of Ekondo

that a woman ever ruled… (p62)

        However, with tenacity to imbue change in Ekondo, Ufokiban threatens profanity in the land by instructing the women to go naked to drive home their point:

NNE MMATIAM: …Every woman in the square shall be stark naked as the gods beautifully designed and decorated them. We are not mad. It is Ekondo which makes us behave like mad people (p8).

        The male folk know that the consequence of that act will be disastrous. They pave way for the Princess to be installed as the Queen of Ekondo.

UKPOTIO: In Ekondo, any girl-child is as important as us the boys. Her place in the family is not inferior to that of the boys. The gods forbid. She cannot be the cook while the boys are the eaters. No, roles must be responsibly shared. In school any girl can beat any unserious boy… Ekondo Isongo, (p 99).

        However, the author has achieved a dramatic effect prevalent in the play through the use of code switching, ‘Ekondo Isongo’, a greeting mode in Ibibio language community. This switch in language use is to reinforce the collective decision of the elders of Ekondo to relinquish power to the female folk and to build solidarity and loyalty to the throne. It is the objective of the paper to identify the lexical deviations used in the play with a view to examining their validity and intelligibility. The theory of the generative lexicon (Pustejovsky, 1995) is adopted for the analyses of these newly formed words in the play, Install the Princess since the system accounts for how words which assume new senses in novel contexts can be used creatively. Adequate data analyses under such selected functional units as compounding, code mixing, proverbs, denominalization, and argument structure will show English with Nigerian flavour as a good candidate for use in the lexicon and for teaching in schools.

        Consequently, with the lexical items of indigenous Ibibio language the author depicts the setting, props, seasons, and use of artefacts common to tradition of the people of Africa to handle a subject of international concern – feminism. It is the goal of this paper to examine lexical items, which are predictable as rule-governed and rule-bending principles, which show how creativity manifests itself and identify how the author came up with aesthetic theatrical performance to achieve the desired emotion in the play.

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