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Debate in linguistics: Nigerians can confidently say 'how was your night'

I have read few articles that denounced the use of 'how was your night' as a way of enquiring about other people's night when you meet them the next morning. While I will say that those writers are not completely wrong to publish such an article, I will also love to clarify that you can say 'how was your night' confidently within Nigeria.


First things first, 'how was your night' is not an ungrammatical expression, and it can be well accounted for using either Transformational Generative Grammar(TGG) or Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) as your Grammatical Model of Analysis. Therefore, for anybody to say it is incorrect is unsatisfactory. 


However, there is a need to note that grammaticality and acceptability of expressions are two different sides of a coin. Sequel to this, on the one hand, an expression may be grammatical yet not acceptable according to the standard norms of a language while on the other hand, an expression may be acceptable yet not grammatical. Unfortunately, the debate of 'how was your night' is beyond grammaticality and acceptability and it has to do with Sociolinguistics- language and culture.


Convincingly, Nigeria as a country, according to Braj Kachru (1985), belongs to the outer circle that happens to be norms developing circle. Additionally, the countries that fall in this circle together with the countries that fall in the inner circle and those that fall in the expanding circle respectively make up World Englishes. While the inner circle is norms providing, the outer circle is norms developing and the expanding circle is norms depending. May I tell you that Nigeria as a country that belongs to outer circle can develop a norm of its own.


What more, Nigerian English speakers have contextualised the usage of 'how was your night' as a phatic expression- words used to convey social relationship rather than meaning or words that confirm ties of union. A good example of phatic expression is 'how are you?' Whenever someone say to you, how are you?', you are expected to say fine! whether you are okay or not because the person is not asking about what you have been going through. Do you know that whenever native speakers of English say to you how do you do?, you are expected to reply with how do you do? because the expression functions as a greeting and not an enquiry. Paul R. Kroeger (2005) illustrates , 'In the Teochew language (a “dialect” of Chinese), there is no word for '‘hello’'. The normal way for one friend to greet another is to ask: “Have you already eaten or not?” The expected reply is: “I have eaten,” even if this is not in fact true'. So, language and culture are two concepts that cannot be separated.


Conclusively, Nigeria, to an extent, is a speech community on its own according to John Gumperz's (1968) definition of Speech Community- 'the speech community: any human aggregate characterised by regular and frequent interaction by means of a shared body of verbal signs and set off from similar aggregates by significant differences in language use'. Therefore, it is acceptable to say 'how was your night' within Nigeria because the expression is well known and understood to almost all Nigerians and they do not find its usage offensive.


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