Pidgin English is the corruption of English language just as Pidgin Portuguese is the corruption of the Portuguese language simply because of insufficient knowledge of the root lingua, just as there is a corruption of English; so there are corruptions of other major languages around the world, for the purpose of this article and findings, we are going to link the usefulness of a city to the development of a new type of language spoken by more than 500 million people around the world today and those who care to learn about Pidgin English and its Origin.
From time immemorial, the busiest and most important cities around have always been centres of attraction, some cities gain this edge by conquest while others gain it by the significance of their trade with other parts of the region. In the case of Benin City, it has been a capital and centre of attraction from any documented beginning there is. Modern day shows it was a state capital during the days of the Mid-Western Region, Bendel State and today Edo State.
The first European travelers to reach Benin were the Portuguese explorers in the late 13th century. A strong mercantile relationship developed, with the Edos trading tropical products such as ivory, pepper and palm wine with the Portuguese for European goods such as manila and guns. In the early 16th century, the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, Portugal, and the king of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin City. Some residents of Benin City could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 19th century. The first English expedition to Benin was in 1553, and significant trading developed between England and Benin based on the export of ivory, palm oil and pepper. Visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries brought back to Europe tales of “the Great Benin”, a fabulous city of noble buildings, ruled over by a powerful king. However, the Oba began to suspect Britain of larger colony designs and ceased communications with the British until the British attacked Benin in 1897which resulted in a weakened Benin Empire.
During these times, Benin City was a hive of affairs, when the foreign traders came, they lodged in Benin, they eat, dinned and wined, they relaxed and mixed up with the young men and women of Benin, they had wonderful times until the Benin traders came back from the hinterland with their goods before they would sail back to their countries pending their return again for more business. The hinterland then was Benin Territories like Warri, Sapele, Uromi, Akure, Owo, Izon (Today called Bayelsa) Asaba, and all the land the empire covered. From the time the traders came till the time they left, they communicated with the Benin’s with their language and the Benin’s responded with the little corrupted once they had learnt.
The Oba did not allow the white men to come in contact with any other town in the empire apart from Benin City because he wanted to have control over his trade, this was what angered the British which eventually led to the war of 1897. The British could not see the people in Warri, Sapele, Uromi, Izon or any other area, the Oba would never allow it, the only time the Europeans saw these people will be when they were bringing the boxes of the traders to Benin and going back, even at this, the Oba usually had a broker that was with them to make sure they had no dealing with the traders. In so doing, it was only the people of the city of Benin that understood the language of the white men, even Oba Esigie spoke Portuguese, this fact buttressed the point that the Benin’s where speaking the language of the white men well.
It was the English language that was not spoken perfectly that gave rise to a new brand of lingua called the Pidgin English, the Benins also spoke Pidgin Portuguese at a point in time. Today millions and more millions of people speak pidgin English especially along the west African sub region and the number is growing. This is another great innovation that came out of the Great Benin Kingdom of old as people have always wanted to know about Pidgin English and its Origin.