The Linguistic – Stylistic Analysis Of Nigerian Security Agencies Use Of Language

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

The Linguistic – Stylistic Analysis Of Nigerian Security Agencies Use Of Language


Most of the theories on the origins of language have all shown that language arose of man’s desire to adapt to his environment. For instance, the cooperation and contact theories show that language (speech) came into being out of the human instinct for survival and contact.

One of the basic conditions that must be fulfilled before an individual can claim membership of any society is the ability to communicate effectively in the language of that society (community-social group). The norms and traditions of a society are transmitted through specific linguistic codes (language). This view is in consonance with Hallowell’s (1953) claim that:

“A necessary condition for socialization in man is the learning and use of language and by the way, a socially conditioned Aspect of it, to be relevant in that social group of which he is a member.

No matter how primitive a society is, its cultural values and beliefs are presented in well defined linguistic forms and nuances. Among the various functions of language in our society, specialization is perhaps one of the greatest. It gives a distinct exclusivity and pride to a group. This is perhaps why the military and police personale will call those who do not understand their peculiar meta-language as “bloody, civilians”. This is echoed in Sapir’s view when he noted that: “Language is a great force of socialization probably the greatest” – Edward Sapir: Culture Language and Personality: University of California press (1956) page 1.

Perhaps, Bell’s opinion is even more apt when he says:

“Language is a set of culturally transmitted behaviour patterns shared by a group of individuals.

Roger Bell, sociolinguistics: Goods, Approaches and. problems: London, B. T. Batsford Ltd (1976) P.l4. In Bell’s view, language cannot be divorced from culture and society. A member of any society who does not know well, when and how to use the language peculiar to his society is a social outcast”. The ability to use the specialized and predominant languages of a society enhances social mobility, way, competence, reviewing and professionalism.

Having established that the French or language use of a group society sensitizes members to the orderly society. It has equally been established that language mobilized in entirety, the personalities of members to more effectively interact with the philosophy and codes of conduct of their societies.

In conclusion, language can be used to social solidarity and group infirmity. That is the reason a member of a security agency would probably not need any formal identification, when out of uniform, when he discusses with another officer of the law in the specialized security and police language. We will immediately experience a reality of, “he talks as us; he is one of us”

On the strength of the above lies the basis of this essay – an analyses of a special variety of language used by a special group in furtherance and advancement of their set objectives; hence, the Linguistic stylistic Analysis of Nigerian security Agencies use of language, with emphasis on the Nigeria Police Register.

Chapter One


1.1. Background of the Study

The truth, of course, is that it is precisely the multiplication of meanings which makes language the powerful and flexible tool that it is. The possibility of selecting adopting, standardizing of a selected set of vocabulary and specialized intended meanings for use by a society, the effectiveness and intelligibility of same have elicited a study in varieties and functions of language (English).

It is pertinent at this point to stress that in as much as uniformity in the use of language is desirable, it is not possible. Even if it were possible, it would not be in the best interest for the growth and effectiveness of the language; certain groups have peculiar sensibilities and needs. These peculiar realities must by necessity be addressed and furthered by a peculiar variety of language (English) which might be exclusive to this selected group but at best, vaguely intelligible to people outside the select group.

So far, we have seen that certain social factors have by no means acted as influence on language. While some have worked for greater clarity and efficiency, others have tampered with the adequate functioning of language.

Basically therefore, varieties of language in our study of English language, have emerged, distinguishing races, classes, occupations, etc.

This multiplicity of a compendium of varieties of one general language has considerably and unconsciously provided very powerful tool of identification uniqueness and exclusivity to certain groups in one larger general linguistic community. In the subsequent sections, it will examined how these specialized varieties have been able to satisfy the peculiar needs and sensibilities of the various linguistic groups such as the security agencies, the Nigeria Police, etc.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Language – “any language is a code”; a set of rules for generating what generative transformational grammarian call “well-formed sentences.” A breach of the standard code could therefore result in an “ill-formed” utterance (sentences).

Basically, many if not all social varieties of English are derivations from the standard normative features of the language. Our case study is the Nigeria police force’s Register.

The security agencies register especially the police thrive on a long established alterations of the syntactic” semantic and to some extent, the phonological components of the English language. Some of such alterations which have combined to give a unique identity to the Nigerian Police register are:

  • Category rule violation,
  • Linguistic foregrounding,
  • Avoidance of technical
  • Verbiage,
  • Paradigmatic association,
  • Semantic compounding,
  • Neutralization of semantic opposition double extender,
  • Taboo expressions,
  • Tedious legal verbiage, etc.

The question which immediately arises is: Does this peculiar variety with all its peculiarities hamper the effective use of language for communication? OR better put, what are the socio-linguistic advantages, benefits, challenges and short­comings of this variety?

In summary, it has been established that the tenets of socio linguistics accepts that the peculiarities of every linguistic group present a varitable ground for the growth of distinct register. Now, the Nigerian Police has a recognizable and identifiable official variety of English. How effective it is in the advancement of the organization, its intelligibility and grammaticality are basically the problem this essay will address.

1.3 Purpose Objective of the Study

The purpose of this study is to carry out a stylistic analysis (basically semantic and syntactic), towards identifying the components of the Nigerian Police register. This analysis will be the background the emergence of the register, its linguistic and communicative effectiveness and overall, why and how this peculiar variety is suitable and has advanced the collective vision of the Nigerian police.

In summary, the objective of this study will be a comparative analysis of the intelligibility of the police register to members of the force vis-a-vis the civilians and the basic/standard deviations of the police register from standard formal English language expressions.

1.4 Significance of the Study

Our exhaustive analysis will reveal the mutual interaction that takes place between some of the structural components or standard everyday English language and the specialized if you like, close aspect (police register) of the language.

The study will furthermore open vistas on the extent and influence of socio­linguistic factors that come to play when a group of people develop and standardize a suitable English language diction that will reflect the syntax and semantics appropriate to their peculiar realities, while yet retaining the basic elements of the language (English language)

1.5 Scope of the Study

The scope of the research will not extend beyond the analyses of isolated expressions which contain linguistic elements that could be designated the Police register. Some of such peculiarities have combined to acquire the description – Police register are repetitions lexical items in a structure, Linguistic foregrounding, semantic compounding, taboo expressions, tedious legal verbiage, etc.

The project will also examine the semantic components that consist of the use of martial and specialized scientific expressions.

However the phonological components of the police register which is the least affected will however not be examined in details.

1.6 Research Methodology

Our data will be gathered from primary reference texts such as standard books on Linguistics, Socio-linguistics, Syntax and Semantics. Materials for analyses will be sourced from the Nigerian Police manuals, operational correspondences and the documented everyday expressions of Police officers in their offices and on the field.

The information gathered from the police manuals and interactions will be analysed and standardized, using appropriate reference texts. An establishment of the peculiarities of the police register coupled with a rigorous analysis will reveal the linguistic and stylistic effectiveness of same and help to appreciate the existence of peculiar registers.

1.7 Definition of Terms


This is the act of speaking, writing or signing, in a given situation; often referred to by the French term, parole (2) The Diagnostic system underlying a person’s use of speech writing or sign (often refereed to as competence); more generally, the system underlying the shared spoken, written or sign behavior of a whole community often referred to by the French term language (3) The biological faculty enabling individuals to learn and use speech, writing or sign – a defining feature of human behavior. (4) A particular variety or level of speech writing or sign – as encountered in such phrases as religious language and gutter language” (5) An artificially constricted system used to expound a conceptual are a (e.g. computer language) or to facilitate communication (as artificial language/), in this sense, the term contrasts with a natural language.


The study of the rules governing the way words are combined to form sentences and other constructions in a language. In this use, syntax is opposed to morphology, the study of, structure. More generally it is the study of the interrelationships between all elements of sentences structure (including morphemes), and of the rules governing the arrangement of sentences in sequences. In “generative grammar” the syntactic component contains rules for the generation of syntactic structures.


A branch of linguistics related to the study of meaning in languages. In particular, the approach called structural semantics applies all the principles of structural linguistics to the study of meaning through the notion of semantic relations between lexical items (such as synonymy and antonym). In “generative grammar”, the semantic component is a major area of the semantic representation to a sentence and analyses lexical times in terms of semantic features.


To start with, linguistics is the scientific study of language. Several approaches can be distinguished, according to the linguistics focus, range and interest. Socio-linguistics is a study of the influence of one’s society on his use of language whether his first language (mother tongue) second language or foreign language


Variety according to the subject matter or social group involved in a speech act (in this case English language speech act) is known as the register of that Linguistic group. The presumption is that it is possible that an individual or a group can adopt one distinct variety peculiar to them as their permanent form of English. But the same speaker(s) has/have a repertoire of varieties and habitually switches to the appropriate one as occasion arises. Most typically, perhaps, the switch involves nothing more than turning to the particular set of lexical items habitually used for handling the subject and situation in question.


A higher level language devised in order to talk about an object of study or discussion (the object language). Linguistic metalanguage includes all terminology, nomenclature and special expressions which have been introduced to talk about the human language in its use in various aspects of life.

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion

5.1 Summary of Findings

Most of the theories on the origins and specialized use of language such as sound mimicry pooh-pooh, Ding – Dong (Nativistic), Ye-he-ho, ta-ta babbling, naming and the musical theories have all shown that language arose out of man’s desire to adapt to his environment. For instance, the cooperation and contact theories show that language came into being out of the human instinct for conformity with a distinct group, for survival, contact and relevance.
One of the basic conditions that must fulfilled before an individual (a policeman) can claim membership of any society or organization is the ability to communicate effectively in the language of that community or organization. The norms and traditions of an organization are transmitted through language. This is in consonance with Hallowell’s (1953) claim that:

A necessary condition for ‘Socialization and relevance in a man is the learning and use of the language of his social
group or organization.

-Irvin Hallowell, “Culture, Personality and Society: Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (1953).

Also, Schmidt – Rohr and Joshua Fishman (1972) gives the domains a particular language may dominate among other as: the family, the play ground and street, the school, the church, the press, for military and police, the courts, etc. language in any of the above domains is determined mainly by Socio¬-Psychological factors, where the individual actor may be seen as locked in a cage of imposed linguistic and social structures; his experience and thought are nearly perfectly conditioned by these structures.

5.2 Recommendations

The foregoing reveals that in the tenets of sociolinguistics, there are different forms of various deviations which manifest in the English language spoken across the various strata of the society. These various forms are regarded as registers. Registers are specialized forms of the use of English which grow out of a necessity of create a uniqueness among a group and in some cases, to build and entrench an exclusivity mutual to and beneficial to the linguistic group. Rather than condemn the various deviations which constitute the Nigeria police register, vie should study, appreciate and standardize it. Why? Because according to Fergusen C.A. (1966); Sociolinguistic studies have shown that a speaker of any language adjusts his language (whether bilingual or not), to the various social and organizational contexts, in which he employs it. The register of language spoken maybe defined by the status, occupation and social affiliation of the speaker in relation to his hearers.

5.3 Conclusion

This essay has examined the sociolinguistic dynamics of the register of the security agencies with an emphasis on the Nigeria Police force. We have established that the dynamics of Socio linguistics has produced a peculiar variety (register), exclusive to the police force. We have examined the peculiarities of this register and have established that according to Joshua Fishman (1972 P.18):

Language in any domain is determined mainly by Socio-economic factors and job situations, where the individual or group actor(s) may be seen as locked in a cage of imposed linguistic and social structures. Ibid.

As a way of rounding off, we wish to state that this essay lays, no claims to being exhaustive especially as the vistas we have raised are not general register issues, but the dynamics of the register of the Nigeria Police force. We might come across as probably subjective, rather than objective, as far as linguistics analyses are concerned. Other researchers on this topic might probably be struck by other features’ and regard them as more significant. This is inevitable.

Also, it is particularly risky to make generalizations of the sort we have made but provided one is not to categorical about them, generalizations can bring to the forefront, striking trends that wilt indicate possible directions to be taken by other researchers.

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