Poetic Language; A Study Of Telephone Conversation

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Poetic Language; A Study Of Telephone Conversation

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

The link between literary studies and linguistics is language. It is the process through Which the thought and intension of a writer or a speaker is conveyed to the reader or Listener. The beauty of any writing is the ability of the writer to effectively employ Language to construct meaning. Linguistics is the study of language in general and of a particular structure. It is also a scientific study of language meanings.

Language functions to express moods and emotions of the individual. Language is inseparable from human beings; that is human beings cannot survive without language. The reason is that in all our activities, we employ language overtly or covertly. The transmission of shared knowledge; customs and beliefs, feelings, ideals and attitude would be practically impossible without language. It is one of the closest things to man and very fundamental to his self-fulfillment; that is, it is the most important part of a total system of human behavior in society.

On other hand, language has been defined: fractionally as a means of communicating ideas; emotions, and desire by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols. It is a variety of speech or body of words and a mode of expressing thought and feelings of the society or an individual. Language is the most effective means of dissemination of information .

Writers do not just disseminate information any how but in an appropriate way based on the genre of the discourse. A writer must use a language to communicate his view to the society before his meaning can be deducted. And since there is no meaning without communication, communication is a central and fundamental aspect of all human interaction. Though communication is an individual dissemination of both written and spoken information, every human being communicates with another in a speech community. Literature mirrors life. It employs the imagination and the resources of language to present important facts of life. It is the use of words to create an illusion of life.

In sum, the use of language provides the rules while literature expands the rules to produce the best expressions in the language. It is the creative and stylistics way of using language that makes it different from other discourses. Poetry as one of the genres of literature explores language in unique way that differentiates it from other genres such as prose and drama. It is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility. Poetry uses elevated and pleasurable language in a unique way. Webster’s dictionary defines a poem as

“An arrangement of words in verse, especially rhythmical composition of ideas, emotions in a style more concentrated, imaginative’ and powerful than ordinary speech.”

It springs from deep human impulses and fulfill human needs (Warren, 1986: 2-3). Poetry is deeply involved in the expression of emotion such as love, hate, pain, joy, grief etc All these feelings and more can be communicated to the reader/audience by proper choice of words – language which includes style and stylistics.

The choice of language use in poetry to convey the idea of the poet is of great importance. The diction carries metaphorical meaning through the creative use of language. The poet carefully selects his words that contain concrete meanings that needed to be broken down to readers to understand. These words are syntactically arranged to achieve stylistic effects. The stylistic effects of the poetic language indicate the peculiarity of how they are used by poets. Poets enjoy language immunity to do harm to normal grammatical structure so as to project certain ideas, beautify language or generate new expressions that will jolt us out of our mental stupor. This immunity is called “poetic license”. It enables them to use language in their own way – customized or specialized manner.

Stylistic analysis aims at giving objective account of how language is used in a literacy piece. It provides a close analysis for the purpose of understanding the possible meanings in a work of art. Stylistics is the bridge between language and literature (Leech. 1969). It is s systematic way of exploring literary texts. It looks at the language of texts and tries to explain how that language gives meaning, style and effects to the texts. It is the study of the variation in language style that is dependent on the situation in which the language is used, and also on the effect the writer or speaker wishes to create on the readers or hearers. On the other hand, stylistic sometimes include investigations of spoken language in a literary work and choice that are available to a writer. Stylistics is the study of style. Style is a manner of language used by poet. Style in a work of art therefore is the choice of dictions or words. The style is simply identified as the peculiar way an individual uses language to covey meaning.

Poets, can use language in different ways which include praises, poetry (that show attributes and appellation), epic (which narrates historical events)” ode (which appreciates nature and natural objects), dirge (which laments the death of beloved one in mourning), elegy (which expresses complaints about love) and satire (which is a sarcastic poem that ridicules people or institutions and vices going on in the society). Each of these forms of poetry uses language in their peculiar ways that enables it pass the message across effectively.

This study is the stylistic variation of the language use by Wole Soyinka and Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali carry out this study on the stylistic variation of the language use in expressing their feelings to the society. Wole Soyinka’s variation of language to express how disappointed he was by the racial prejudice of the whites in Britain where he has gone in search of the Golden Fleece. Also, Oswald Mtshali expresses the opposition of the African to the white man’s expressions.

Language may refer either specifically to human capacity for acquiring and using complex system of communication or to a specific instance of such a complex system of signs for encoding and decoding information. The human language faculty is thought to be fundamentally different and of much higher complexity from those of other creatures. Human language is highly complex in that it is based on a set of rules relating to symbols for their meanings.

Graghological effect of language which is the physical features that shows strangeness in the use of language and the features such as capitalization, spelling, punctuation and arrangement of verses and stanzas, italicization, indentation and other relevant features are studied in this research. The aim of this study therefore is to find out how language use in literature with particular reference to poetry helps in conveying meaning/creating effect.

1.2 Aim of the Study

The aim of this study is to investigate how poets to communicate ideas, emotions and feelings to the reader or listener use language.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

  1. The primary objective of the study is to find out the relationship between “language and how it is used as it relates to poetry.
  2. The study also seeks to know how the graghological and lexical analysis of language used by poets has significant role to play in the communication of meaning.
  3. It is also set to establish that language is extremely important in all human endeavors based on how it is used.
  4. The study will take a close look at how poetry uses language in a specialized way to convey meaning.
  5. It will determine the link between language and poetry.

1.4 Statement of Problems

Literature is divided into three major genres namely drama, poetry and prose. Each of the three genres bas its peculiar features. While drama and prose can be said to be written in simple language that can be easily understood, poetry is not. It is rather written in an elevated/embellished language. This makes it more difficult for ordinary minded person to fully grasp or comprehend the message of the poet at first reading.

This study therefore aims at analyzing the styles of the language used by poets under study as guide in making poetic works more comprehensible to reader especially the ordinary minded one.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Research hypothetical statements made in this study stand as our assumptions. These assumptions are in agreement with our objectives .

Is there any specific ways in which poets use language?

  1. To what extent do poets communicate their message and meanings in a unique way?
  2. To what extent is poetry unique from other literary genres?
  3. To what extent does a poet explore his own style?
  4. To what extent do poets use language to differentiate their writings from other forms of literature?

1.6 Significance of the Study

The purpose of the study is to expose readers particularly the young ones to the nitty gritty of reading, understanding and actually enjoying poetry.

This study also aims at disabusing the minds of literature students of the age long belief that poetry is “acidic” and thus a no go area.

It is also aimed at equipping students with the knowledge of style and stylistics which will show them the hidden joys that poetry can give.

1.7 Scope of Study

The research will cover the study of stylistic use of language, which is carried out on the selected poems from Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation and Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali’s Nightfall in Soweto. The study will cover the graphological and lexical analysis alone on the selected poems to show the physical features of the lexical items in the poems.

1.8 Limitations of Study

The study would have taken a broader dimension if not for time limit. I would have loved to travel to places of domain of the poets to meet them one on one and get exactly their feelings as they write the poems. But this is impossible because of financial constraints. And also being a first degree project, I am not allowed to bite more that I can chew so as to be able to do a thorough job.

Chapter Five

This is the final chapter of this research project. The $1y bas investigated the stylistic use of language by poets using selected poems of Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation and Oswald Mtshali’s Nightfall in Soweto. Graphological and lexicon¬ semantic analysis have been carried out on the poem and the function of the poems respectively. Our research bas yielded appositive result by establishing how poets to convey their messages in a unique way different from dramatist and novelists are using language. Our finding is presented in this chapter with recommendations for further research.


This study sets out with the aim of ascertaining how poets to .communicate ideas, emotions, pains, joy etc to the reader or listener use language. Simply put, the study sought to prove that the choice of language used by a writer especially a poet goes a long way in determining the success of the effect created by such poem on the reader or listener.

In chapter one of the study, the issue being addressed is discussed addressed, highlighting the significance of study, aim and objectives.

Chapter two went through related literatures. This was done via extensive look at the origin/evolution of language and its diverse definitions., The diversity in the definition of language is a factor of the differences that are prevalent in all human society history, myth, culture, tradition, belief, values, norms etc. The study actually discovered that indeed some poets use language in a specialized manner that set them apart from their contemporaries.

In chapter three, the study outlined the research method used and the-theoretical concept upon which this study is based. It went further to throw more light on the theoretical concept adopted for the analysis and the methodology which identifies the data, its source and how the data is processed. This is crucial to prepare for the analysis of data.

Chapter four, saw the graphological and lexico-semantic analysis of the two poems. One is done before the other to show the relationship language form and messages it conveys.

Chapter five looks at the concluding part of the study and this includes summary of the entire study, conclusion, findings and recommendations.


The study concludes that poets use language stylishly because of the poetic license which they posses. Put differently, the study agrees that every poet especia1ly Soyinka and Oswald is at liberty to explore the style that suits him. In doing so, the poets have shown artistic mastery which have made the poems under study unique.


The following observations were made:

  1. That poets use language in a unique way different from other users of language.
    The choice of words made by the poets concealed meaning in them. Also expressions condensed deep meaning in a chuck of words. They use concrete language to convey their message in a special way. The language used by the poets is heavy because of its meaning potentials.
  2. That poetry is stylistically different from other genres of literature. It is written in stanzas and verses. The physical form of poe1ry is different from other genres. It is structures in poetic way. Either a poet observes the synthetic rules or not, the structure of poetry which is divide stanzas has some musical patterns which indicate style of poetry. The fact investigated in this study observes the syntactic structure of language in a poetic style.
  3. Poetry is unique from other kinds of writings because it uses poetic license which allows poets to violate the conventions of language by writing in the way they like. Figures of speech especially metaphor and description of images are used in poetry, The poets employ these devices because it makes their works different from other things. These elements are spices that make poe1ry a whole unique of writing.
  4. Poets communicate moral and political messages that affect them personally and society at large in a unique way. They conceal a serious and sensitive message in a few choices of words. The poets mainly economize words in their communication.


The study strongly recommends the following:

  1. That in studying poe1ry consideration should be given to the physical structures of poem so as to be able to discover the meaning thereof.
  2. The use of punctuation marks should be taken into consideration when analyzing poem because they help in bring out the actual message.
  3. Choice of words and structures in poems should be given special consideration in order to fully explore the hidden meaning
  4. That structure and content of poems should be studied thoroughly so as to be able to unravel the meaning in them.

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