Coronavirus: One word, Many Pronunciations among Nigerians

  • Kenneth Ekezie Obiorah Department of Linguistics, African & Asian Studies, University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria
Keywords: Coronavirus, Pronunciation, Sociophonetics, Neologism


Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a disease that affects the respiratory tract. Since the emergence of
this disease in Wuhan province of China towards the end of 2019, it has spread to all parts of
the world including a multilingual nation, Nigeria with over 500 languages. Articulation of
foreign medical terms is not always easy among the basilect English speakers in Nigeria.
Consequently, the interactions and discussions of Coronavirus have generated various
pronunciations that this study is set to examine. A total of 50 short real-life videos and audio
clips made up of 30 adult males, 17 adult females, 2 teenagers (1 male and 1 female) and 1
pupil were gathered online. The data were analyzed using the socio-phonetics method.
Results show that the word Coronavirus has eighteen pronunciation types among Nigerians.
Strategies employed in trying to adapt to the pronunciation of Coronavirus includes sound
substitution, sound deletion, sound insertion, and other forms of neologism. This study has
established various phonetic interventions in the COVID-19 discourse in Nigeria. The study
concludes by advocating for official adaptation of medical terms such ‘Coronavirus’ and the
‘likes’ into local languages.