A Lexico-Sematic Analysis Of Olu Obafemi’s Naira Has No Gender

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

A Lexico-Sematic Analysis Of Olu Obafemi’s Naira Has No Gender


This work focuses on the Lexico-semantic variation of the Nigerian English using Olu Obafemi’s text Naira Has No Gender. The aim of this work is to highlight meaning change according to context and environment. Element of Lexico-semantic variation in Nigerian English which are Transfer, Analogy, Acronyms, Semantic Shift and Extension and Coinages or Neologism identified by Adegbija (1989) are used to analyse data collected from Olu Obafemi’s Naira Has No Gender. In this analysis we discovered that lexical usage varies according to context and situation. We found out that contextual use of lexis resulted in meaning change. We also discovered that English usage in Nigeria reflects the culture and its various languages.

Table Of Contents

  • Title page
  • Certification page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of content

Chapter One

General Introduction

  • 1.0 General Introduction
  • 1.1 The English Language in Nigeria
  • 1.2 The Use of English Language in Nigerian Literature
  • 1.3 Purpose of the Study
  • 1.4 Significance of the Study
  • 1.5 Scope of the Study
  • 1.6 Methodology
  • 1.7 A Short Biography of Olu Obafemi
  • 1.8 A summary Naira Has No Gender

Chapter Two

Literature Review

  • 2.0 Introduction
  • 2.1 Nigerian English
  • 2.2 General Features of Nigerian English
  • 2.3 Lexico-Semantic Variation in Nigerian English
  • 2.4 Standardizing Nigerian English: A Conceptualization
  • 2.5 Conclusion

Chapter Three

Data Analysis

  • 3.0 Introduction
  • 3.1 Presentation of Data
  • 3.2 Summary Table of Analysis
  • 3.3 Data Discussion
  • 3.4 Research Findings

Chapter Four

Summary, Recommendations & Conclusion

  • 4.0 Introduction
  • 4.1 Summary
  • 4.2 Recommendations
  • 4.3 Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

General Introduction

Language is the brain behind communication among human beings in different societies (Jackson, 1990, p.1). This implies that ideas, messages, norms etc., are shared among people in divergent societies through conventional symbols and sounds- verbal communication. But communication can be non-verbal e.g. shaking of hands, gestures, nodding, winking etc. Jackson (ibid).

An aspect of this broad means of communication is lexic-semantics which is formed by lexis and semantics. Lexis is “the vocabulary of a language” (Crystal 2008, p. 279). While semantics is defined as “a major branch of LINGUISTICS devoted to the study of MEANING in LANGUAGE (crystal, 2008, p. 428). Thus the selection of words in relation to their functional ends in terms of meaning informs the field of lexico-semantics. This implies that each time a language user sets out to speak or write, he/she is faced with choices to select from among infinite sets of lexical items.

However, since contexts that constrain language users when speaking or writing differ in situational, socio-cultural, political and geographical degrees, there is bound to be lexico-semantic variation. The English language as used in the Nigerian context differs in these degrees, from the ways it is used in native contexts such as the USA, the UK, Canada, etc, (Jenkins, 2003). In this connection, Adedimeji (2009, p.2) has this to say “In Nigeria… the need to express local wisdom and concepts through the medium of an otherwise foreign language had generated the regional lexico-semantic variation that characterizes the use of Language.”

It is against this background that we set out to investigate Naira Has No Gender (a play piece by Olu Obafemi) through the lens of Lexico-semantics. The underlying assumption is that, since the text is written in English to express the socio-political realities of Nigeria, we shall then attempt to relate these “Nigerianisms” to their functional imports in the social context.

It is a compelling truism that the English Language is a world Language and that it is according to Aje, (2003).

“…. the most colonized and the most colonizing….” Language. This submission is reminiscent of the many invasions experienced by the people that lived on the island now called England and the imperialism and colonization of the English in many parts of the world. Nigeria was not an exception in the colonization business of the English.

The Nurture of English Language in Nigeria could be principally attributed to colonization, Christianity and commerce in the Country. For instance, the Christian missionaries were saddled with the responsibilities of proselytizing people from their traditional believes to Christianity, thereby establishing missionary schools whre the new African convert were taught how to read the Bible, Alabi (2007 p.78). This implies that the main aim of the missionaries was not to teach the English language for its own sake, but to make peole understand the message of the Bible. And since contact between people leads to linguistic and cultural transaction, the English Language was gradually being appropriated by the indigenes.

And like Christianity, colonialism is also a contributing factor in the nurture of English Language in Nigeria. To this end, (alibi, 2007, P. 28) has this to say,…. Later, the British colonized Nigeria and of course, used their language. English for administration. This administration states of the English further advanced the nurture and survival of English in the Country.

Equally prior to Christianity and colonialism, there had been trades contacks between certain British sailors in certain parts of the Country (Musaka, 2003, p.23); (Adedimeji 2009, p. 4-5).

These activities were followed by the infamous. Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, business returned some African states as Liberia, Sierra Leone etc. Their exposure to the European world implies that they were exposed to the English Language as well.

1.2 The Use of English Language in Nigerian Literature

There seems to be a proliferation of Nigerian literary works in the English language throughout the country, and it is observed that the country has the greatest output of literature in Africa in English Language, (http://www.onlinenigeria.com/Nigerianliterature/). Some of these works were originally written in the indigenous languages such as Fagunwa’s Igbo Olodumare translated by Ajadi (1984, 1995) as the Forest of God.

From the wake of the struggle, for independence in the 1950s, writers such as Achebe had written literary pieces to orchestrate the voice of the Nigerians against colonialism. These writers also extended their struggles against social, political and cultural maladjustments to the Present-post-colonial periods when independence had been achieved. For instance Soyinka’s The Man Died, and Kongi’s Harvest Achebe’s A Man of the People, and Anthills of the Savanah, and Amadu’s Sunset in Biafra, are important literary works of Nigerian. It could be said that the Nigerian Literature in English is the one which attracts greater attention and have the greater influence nationally and internationally” (http://www.onlinenigeria.com/Nigerianliterature/). This is probably due to the fact that English language has gained a wide currency nation wide and internationally.

The Drama, one of the three genres of literature, is a medium through which the Nigerian socio-political and cultural realities are mediated by using English language in particular. But this English seems to have maintained a middle course by trying to balance the equation between Nigerian socio-cultural contexts and the foreign tongue (English). This is expressly visible in the words of Achebe (1975) cited by Adedimeji, 2007 p.166) “The English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experiences. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new Africa environment.” This seems to be the place of English language in Nigerian literature.

1.3 The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is aimed at investigating Naira Has No Gender by Olu Obafemi using Lexico-semantic variation as our theoretical construct. It is presumed that the text has within it traces of Nigerianism which we shall attempt to bring to the limelight.

The study is as well premised on the need to explicate these Nigerianism vis-à-vis their functional uses in socio-political and cultural contexts where they are applied.

1.4 Significance of the Study

Much work had been done in the analysis of many Nigerian literary works using different theoretical frame works. This work, it is hoped, shall advance the scholarship in lexico-semantic variation in Nigerian literary works.

Beneficiaries of this study include students at the secondary School and undergraduates levels. Readers from other disciplines can as well benefit from the study as it will intimate them with such usages as Nigerianisms which are used in literary texts, with Naira Has No Gender being a case study.

1.5 Scope of the Study

Texts (literary texts inclusive) can be x-rayed through different layers of linguistic analysis such as morphology, syntax, pragmatics etc. However, due to time and space constraints and for a thorough analysis, we have restricted ourselves in this study to the lexico-semantic variation specifically the five typologies of Adegbija (1989). Another underlying reason for this restriction is that Lexico semantic variation best explains the socio-cultural aspects inherent in texts, literary texts in this case. The whole play will be studied with a view to identifying and classifying its lexico-semantic patterns.

1.6 Methodology

This study will be descriptive and analytic. It will adopt Adegbija’s (1989) classification of lexico-semantic variation in Nigeria English. These are: Transfer, Analogy, Acronyms, Semantic Shift or Extension and Coinages or Neologism and the framework will be used in describing and analyzing the data.

1.7 A Short Biography of Olu Obafemi

Olu Obafemi was born on April 4, 1950 in Akutupa Bunu, Kogi state, Nigeria. He read English at the Ahmadu Bello University of Leeds, England, specializing in dramatic literature.

Olu Obafemi, a professor of English at the University of Ilorin is a playwright, a poet and a scholar. His published works includes Night of Mystical Beast, Wheels, Pestle on the Mortar. His published plays have been performed to audience in Nigerian Universities and to Africa and international audience in Kenya, Cameroon, England and the United States.

Obafemi has won many academic fellowships and awards. He was awarded the DAAD study visit to the University of Bayreuth, Germany in 1993,1994 and 1995. Professor Obafemi is a fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) as well as fellow of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Arts (SONTA).

Olu Obafemi, a man of many part is currently the chairman, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in Nigeria.

1.8 Naira Has no Gender

Naira has No Gender by Olu Obafemi is one of his over thirty plays ever written ‘…through his University base theatre outfit, Ajon players and the University theatre works in Leeds.’

The playwright writes about the play as follows:

I have chose an ostensibly trivial part-domestic, part-social issue in this play to examine how conscious (socially and politically) individuals confront the reality of the existence in a bankrupt cynical and dysfunctional social order (Obafemi, 1990, p5).

Here the central focus of the play has been revealed. And since drama is meant to be acted, and not read, the play is said to have been performed several times across the globe.

Chapter Four

4.0 Introduction

In the previous chapter, we carried out an analysis of our data. In this chapter, we hope to discuss the summary of this research, recommendation and conclusion.

4.1 Summary

This study has investigated the patterns of lexico-semantic variation in Olu Obafemi’s Naira Has No Gender, The Study consists of four chapters. In chapter one, we discussed justification, scope and methodology from these, we introduced our selected text and the author.

Chapter two focused on the review of relevant literatures in our scope of study, which includes the historical background of Nigerian English and the examination of the lexico-semantic variation in Nigerian English, which constitutes our analytical theory.

In chapter three, we presented our research data, classifying them under the five elements of our theory and

grouped each under the various elements of Transfer, Analogy, Acronyms, Semantic Shift or Extension as well as coinages or neologism. These classifications were discussed and findings were arrived at based on the analysis. The last chapter, chapter four, summarizes and concludes the study.

4.2 Recommendations

From the foregoing, we recommend to the development of the standard variety of locally acceptable and internationally intelligible Nigerian English. This could be properly done by providing necessary assistance and support such as provision of funds and inclusion of the standard variety in the National Policy on Education for teaching in schools.

The method used in the essay does not allow for some amount of free interpretation and generalisations. This is because only aspect of lexico-semantic of Nigerian English is examined. It is therefore, recommended for subsequent researchers to extend the analysis of this and other texts to lexico-syntactic, pragmatic, semantic, socio-linguistic and other linguistic models of study.This will enhance and give a complete picture of the study on Nigerian English.

Also from the study, we recommend to scholars in the field of language and linguistics to develop a standard Nigerian English dictionary. This will help in the proper usage of the variety among a wide segment of the Nigerians.

Above all, Nigerians should develop a positive attitude towards the use of Nigerian English in order to appreciate the efforts Nigerian writers.

4.3 Conclusion

From our study, it is therefore clear that Nigerian usage of English differ from any other varieties with some peculiar features such as Transfer of meaning and culture, pidginisation of certain expression in standard British English, coinages of words and terminologies and Neologism. However, these usages and expressions are socially acceptable in the Nigerian context.

The interpretations and the resulting explanations in this essay have been supported by studies in the field of lexico-semantic analysis. However, the elements used do not represent all lexico-semantic devices, others can still be useful for further study.

We can therefore conclude by saying that Nigerian English is a variation of standard British English (SBE) due to meaning changes and addition of new meaning caused by the socio-cultural context of usage.

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