The Discursive Mechanisms of Nigerianisms and “Trancultured” Identities in Mary Specht’s Migratory Animals

Romanus Aboh, Chuka Fred Ononye


The study of literary texts from the purely formal-sentence linguistics is less helpful because it undermines contextual effects on the use of language in literature. Discourse analysis, unlike formal sentence-level linguistics, is more robust in its analysis of literary texts since it provides insights into how sociocultural and historical factors influence, to a large extent, writers’ use of language. Against this backdrop, we examine Mary Specht’s use of “Nigerianisms” in her novel, Migratory Animals (Migratory), to account for the context-specific ways through which language has been used, and how these articulate transcultural identity. The analysis draws deeply from the theoretical provisions of literary discourse analysis (LDA), a branch of discourse analysis devoted to the analysis of literary texts. From the analysis, three major forms of Nigerianisms which play up specific transcultured identities have been identified: code-switching, semantic shift/extension and Nigerian pidgin (NP) expressions. Code-switching, for example, allows characters in Migratory to switch from one code to another, thereby providing information about their “multiple” selves. By broadening different communicative contexts, semantic extension transforms the characters’ settings, drawing attention to their fragmented identities. Through NP expressions, Specht showcases the different linguistic backgrounds manifest in the English community in the text, which reflects the different the socio-cultural identities in Nigeria. From these, we argue that Specht’s use of “Nigerianisms” in her novel discursively depicts the present reality of existence – people’s “transcultured selves”. Hence, Nigerianisms are exquisite examples of how contextualised uses of language reveal the very polygonal cultural existence of humanity.


Transculturalism, Identity, Nigerianisms, Specht, Literary Discourse Analysis

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