Incipient Grammatical Variation in Educated English Use in Nigeria: A Decline in the Use of the -s Third Person Singular Verb Inflection in Nigerian Newspapers


  • Bernadette Ogbonna Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria



Key words and phrases:  incipient grammatical variation, third person singular,-s verbal inflection, Nigerian print media, educated English use


The -s inflection performs two functions in grammatical number. It is a marker of plurality in count-nouns and singularity in lexical verbs. This study observes a decline in the use of the -s third person singular, present tense inflection in lexical verbs in Nigerian newspapers and investigates this phenomenon to establish its significance. Data collected from news reports and feature stories in a cross-section of Nigerian newspapers over a period of seven years (2015 to 2021) were examined. The study is situated within variation theory; it adopts observational, quantitative and interpretive methods of enquiry. The findings reveal that the use of the -s third person singular, present tense inflection in lexical verbs is declining in new generation Nigerian newspapers and the uninflected verb form is increasingly replacing it. This suggests an incipient, morphosyntactic variation, emerging in the Nigerian print media. The study also counters existing literature which asserts that variation does not occur in educated written language.



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