Language and the Power of Subordination: Achebe’s Integration of Nigerian Pidgin

  • Thomas Jay Lynn
Part of the African Histories and Modernities book series (AHAM)


Achebe uses Nigerian Pidgin English in his fiction to focus the identity of a range of characters and to give their discourse a down-to-earth dimension. As a non-elite discourse, moreover, Pidgin underscores cultural and class tensions. In particular, it draws attention to the inequities that mark relations between several power orders in Africa—inequities that lie at the heart of Achebe’s themes. Pidgin infuses with carnivalesque potency and irreverence the expressions of non-privileged characters, especially in relation to members of the educated elite. With its blend of elements from different languages, its vernacular frankness, and its rhythmic vitality, Pidgin not only reflects hierarchical structures in Achebe’s literary dramas, but also serves to challenge them.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Jay Lynn
    • 1
  1. 1.Penn State BerksReadingUSA

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