AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF SOCIO-POLITICAL COLUMNS IN SELECTED NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS

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ABSTRACT

 The Ethnography of a linguistic text is a sociolinguistic approach to determine the communicative competence of the text. A lot of speech events have been studied using Dell Hymes Act of SPEAKING. However, there is a dearth of such studies on the socio-political columns of Nigerian Newspaper especially using the ethnographic theory to determine the level of communicative competence in it. Therefore this research applied the level of communicative competence of the socio-political columns in Nigerian newspapers using the ethnographic communication theory, in order to demonstrate the extent to which ethnography of communication can be used to determine effective communication.

  The data for this study are limited to five newspaper columns in five major national newspapers namely: ‘Return of Austerity’ by Steve Nwosu in the Column “Frank Talk” of Daily Sun (2014); ‘The Republic of Deception’ by Tony Afejuku in the column “In and Out” of Nigerian Tribune (2016); ‘Father andSon’ by Sam Omatseye in the Column “In Touch” of The Nation (2016); ‘On the Matter of the dog named Buhari’by Abimbola Adelakun in the column “Thursday with Abimbola Adelakun of The Punch (2016); and ‘The Mark ZuckerbergVisit’ by Reuben Abati in The Guardian (2016). Thus, the speech community for this work is the columnist and their readers.

The ethnographic studies of the various columns have been undertaken with respect to the four components of communicative competence. The analyses revealed that although the selected columnists employed different styles and approaches to communicating their ideas, they all shared some common traits. Some of the traits include the use of rhetorical questions, coinages, code switching and code mixing. Grammatical competence in terms of the use of tenses, repetitions, use of conjunctions, sentence construction, punctuation marks, choice of words; Sociolinguistics competence in terms of codes-witching and code-mixing, coinages; Strategic competence in terms of the use of humor, personification, lengthy paragraph, rhetorical questions, use of allusion, socio-cultural contexts and Discourse competence in terms of consistency in italicizing, cohesion and coherence.

  The study finally concluded that the socio-political columns of the five Nigerian Newspapers reflect the various features that constitute the four components of communicative competence. The overall contribution of the study to scholarship is underscored by various forms of interpretation into the communicative traits and competence of the speech community. Further studies in the area of economic, religious columns of other newspaper source.

Keywords:     Socio-political, Ethnography, Columnist, Grammatical competence, Speech community,

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Content                                                                                        Page

Title page                                                                               i

Certification                                                                 ii

Dedication                                            iii

Acknowledgements                                           iv

Abstract                                                             v

Table of Contents                                             vi

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION                                                     

1.1       Background to the Study                          1

1.2       Statement of the Problem                                       4

1.3       Objective of the Study                                                             5

1.4       Research Questions                                          6

1.5       Scope of the Study                                          6

1.6       Significance of the Study                                7

1.7       Theoretical Framework                                         8

1.8       Conclusion                                                      9

Content                                                                            Page

CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE

2.0       Introduction                                                              10

2.1       Discourse and Discourse Analysis                            10

2.2       Sociolinguistic Approach to Discourse Analysis                 13

2.3       Ethnography and Ethnography of Communication and Communicative Competence                                      16       

2.4       Speech Community: Political Columnists and their reader      20

2.5       Conclusion                                      22

CHAPTER THREE:  METHODOLOGY

3.0     Introduction                                            23

3.1     Method of Data Collection                    23

3.2     Method of Data Analysis                      24

3.3      Review of each Socio-Political Column                                     24

3.4      Analysis of Questionnaires                        25

3.3      Conclusion                                                      25

CHAPTER FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS, RESULTS AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS

  •       Introduction                                                                    27

Content                                                            Page

4.1       Contextualization of the columns.                                    27

4.1.1    “Father and Son” By Sam Omatseye                         27

4.1.2    “The Republic of Deception” By Tony Afejuku           28

4.1.3    “On The Matter of the Dog Named Buhari” By Abimbola Adelakun        29

4.1.4    “Return of Austerity” By Steve Nwosu                         30

4.1.5    “The Mark Zukerberg Visit” By Reuben Abati                  30

4.2       Ethnographic Analyses of  the columns                     31

4.2.1    The use of Tenses                                                           31

4.2.2    Punctuation Marks                                               32

4.2.3    Repetitions                                                   34

4.2.4    Use of Conjunctions                            34       

4.2.5    Sentence Construction                                                           35       

4.2.6    Choice of Words                                                     37

4.2.7    Code-mixing and Code-switching                            39       

4.2.8    Coinages                                                                      39

4.2.9    Rhetorical Question                                                    40

4.2.10   Use of Allusion                                                            41       

4.2.11     Lengthy Paragraph                                          42

Content                                                                                  Page

4.2.12   Personification                                                       42

4.2.13   Socio-cultural Context                                          43

4.2.14   Use of Humour                                                         43

4.2.15    Consistency in Italicizing                                           44

4.2.16   Cohesion and Coherence                                                      45

4.7        Review and Analysis of Questionnaires                     46

CHAPTER FIVE:   SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

5.1       Summary                                                                   50

5.2       Conclusion                                                       53

5.3       Recommendations                                                          53

References                                                                            55

Appendices                                                     58

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1   Background to the Study

This research is an attempt to embark on an ethnographic study of socio-political columns in selected Nigerian Newspapers, with the aim of demonstrating the applicability of ethnography of communication to the selected socio-political columns. Ethnography is a broad area of scholarship in social science and anthropology, where culture and society are structurally and functionally analyzed. According to Wardhaugh (2006), the function of an ethnographer is “to observe first-hand how a group of people behave in their natural settings” (p 249). In terms of its genesis, ethnography is rooted in anthropology but is said to have become useful to sociologists and linguists over time (Denzen & Lincoln, 2011).

This study is therefore predicated on the sociolinguistic approach to ethnography rather than its root, which is centrally anthropology. More specifically, the discussions in the study touched on discourse analysis and sociolinguistics, which were aspects of linguistics that deal with functional and contextual examination of language. It seeks to explore Hymes’ idea of the ethnography of communication as a means to understanding language in use rather than language as a set of structural rules, focusing on the ethnography of communication as theoretical frame work. The ethnography of Communication, a 20th Century conception developed by Hymes is essentially a sociolinguistics approach to analysis of discourses (Olateju, Oyebode & Ademilokun, 2014). The ethnography of communication relates ethnography the description and structural/functional analysis of society and culture with language, which is a cultural tool that helps people share knowledge such as arts, morals, beliefs and everything acquired by man in every human society.

Furthermore, this interesting area of communication/linguistic studies is an approach to understanding society, culture and the reconstruction of a given ethnic or distinct group of people within a society. Cameron (2001) stated that the ethnography of communication could be perceived as an application of ethnographic methods of anthropology and sociology to the communication pattern of a group of people. Communicative competence is described as the overall knowledge of a user of language in terms of not just syntax, morphology and phonology but also in various social contexts. In other words, it is not enough to be sufficiently knowledgeable in rules that govern grammar, words and phrases. Language users must also understand appropriate contextual application of language to have attained what Hymes described as “communicative competence”.

It is noteworthy that before constructing the act of SPEAKING Model with the purpose of creating a template with which linguists could understand the culture of an ethnic group through the communicative process, Hymes had brought up the idea of communicative competence in reaction to Chomsky’s idea of competence and performance. According to him, people can construct utterances that are ungrammatical yet socially appropriate (Hymes, 1989). Factoring the social context within which language is used underscores the essence of communicative competence. Although Hymes conceptualized communicative competence, the four areas that make up communicative competence were developed by other linguists such as Canale & Swain (1980). This study examined the four factors of communicative competence areas in the selected columns, with the overall goal of understanding the communicative competence of socio-political columnists in Nigerian Newspapers.

This study sprouted from a desire to further understand Language use and communicative competence within a group of people in the society, or more specifically, a specific speech community. While scholars have argued that language is more than communication (Atupa, 2011), the core function language performs in society is to act as a medium through which people share ideas and feelings. One important inference that can be deduced from this is that language cannot function outside the society just as much as the study of language cannot be limited to the usual functional/structural areas of linguistics.

As a further development to Noam Chomsky’s transformational grammar as well as other scholars’ theories in morphology, phonology, semantics and pragmatics, language studies have taken a social science slant which has led to the emergence of studies such as sociolinguistics and discourse analysis. This progression was, of course, ignited by a reason which (Jaworski & Coupland, 1999) described as the need for linguists to understand the threads that run through language, meaning and society. 

Moreover, the issue of performance and competence, which after Chomsky theorized, led to an understanding that language use and effective communication has many variables that transcend structural and transformational grammar. These variables, having been considered by a good number of linguists since Hymes demonstrated that meaningful consideration of competence in communication must recognize the functionality of language.

Consequently, this study examined socio-political columns with focus on functional aspects of language studies, primarily, pragmatics, sociolinguistics and discourse analysis. It will rely on the ethnography of communication, specifically communicative competence, for critical assessment of the primary discourse data. The subfields, Sociolinguistics and discourse analysis is discussed in detail in chapter two of this study.

Although there are various scholarly definitions of discourse analysis, two of the lot helps to create a meaningful background to this research work. Discourse analysis, as defined by (McCarthy, Matthiessen & Slade, 2002), is the analysis of language in its social context a definition that helps to situate this research as sociolinguistics. Likewise, (Fairclough, 1992) states that discourse is “more than just language use: it is language in use, whether speech or writing, seen as a type of social practice” (p. 28).  While both agree to discourse analysis being a study of language as a social tool, (Fairclough, 1992) specifies that the discourse could be in speech or written.      

The term, the ethnography of communication, when first conceptualized by Hymes, was ethnography of speech. The idea borders on the examination of language use within the wider context of the socio-cultural practices and beliefs of members of a speech group or speech community. Through ethnography of communication, Hymes established a system (SPEAKING) whereby the linguistic competence of an ideal speaker is measured not merely by producing grammatically correct sentences but also by considering the appropriate socio-cultural contexts within which language is used.

Since Hymes, various scholars have theorized on ethnography as it relates to language studies and communication. For instance, Canale and Swain (1980) conceived certain components that define communicative competence. The components were later expanded by Canale (1983) to include: Grammatical competence, discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence and strategic competence. Invariably, Canale’s proposition concluded that communicative competence of a language user is determined by all four components. It is against this background that the researcher proposed to conduct the theory of the ethnography of communication in selected newspaper column using Canale’s model of communicative competence.

In addition, the study recognizes political columnists and their readers as comprising a speech community which has various unique contexts of language use. It is generally understood that a speech community is perceived not merely by common language shared by members of this community but mainly by common linguistic norms and contexts (Atupa, 2011). One can therefore propose that a speech community is not necessarily physical. What is paramount is for the community to share idiosyncrasies and rules for conduct of speech. This research will attempt to demonstrate the linguistic norms common to political columnists and their audience. In addition, it will endeavor to demonstrate the application of the ethnography of communication to written texts.         

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The application of the ethnography of communication to research endeavours is not uncommon in language studies since Hymes proposed his SPEAKING Model. In fact, researchers in linguistics and philosophy of language have applied the Model to numerous speech communities with meaningful findings that continually validate its usefulness. Besides, language students with interest in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and pragmatics all over the world have sufficiently conducted researches on the SPEAKING Model. This study took a departure from Hymes’ SPEAKING approach to the ethnography of communication but retain its objective of demonstrating that communicating effectively is influenced by both linguistic competence and communicative competence. It will essentially attempt to use Canale’s (1983) model of communicative competence as tool for the ethnography of communication.

There is no gainsaying the fact that despite the fact Hymes conceived the idea of communicative competence, it was developed as a theory by other linguists over time. Unlike Hymes’ act of SPEAKING, the ethnography of communication theory using the four components of communicative competence has not been fully explored in relation to the diverse speech communities that abound in Nigeria. This research seeks to apply the ethnography of communication theory using communicative competence to socio-political columns, though with a certain audience that makes up the speech community (the columnists and their readers), in order to demonstrate the extent to which ethnography of communication can be used to determine effective communication.

AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF SOCIO-POLITICAL COLUMNS IN SELECTED NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS