A Pragmatic Analysis Of Political Interviews In A Selected Daily Newspaper (The Punch)

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Pragmatic Analysis Of Political Interviews In A Selected Daily Newspaper (The Punch)


Language is an integral part of our socio-cultural heritage that serves as the primary medium of communication for mankind. Pragmatics evolved to drill out meanings and to give interpretations to utterances beyond what is literarily said. This research work was carried out in order to give light to political interviews and to bring out meanings that are embedded in utterances made by politicians. One of the Nigerian daily newspapers was used, THE PUNCH, and 8 interviews were selected from this newspaper. From the data analysis presented in the research work, it has been discovered that politicians present their interviews or responses in a way that will make the masses to give their responses different meanings. The study shows that the application of pragmatic approach has really account for the meaning of utterances in context, especially in interviews.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Language is an instrument of thought or concept which gives clear and vivid meaning of human expression for the purpose of human interaction. In any speech community, if there must be interaction, language must be in use. Human language is said to be communicative when language users are able to use words as appropriate to context. Quirk (1962, P.42) sees language as a “human instrument of expression through sounds as released by vocal chord’s

Language then can be seen as a phenomenon that makes other human activities possible. Again, language could be seen as a tangible manifestation of human thoughts, an outward expression of man’s feelings and ideas, etc. These form the basis of interaction in a speech community which aids communication. So, the desire to achieve communicative competence in a language or the quest for how language functions meaningfully prompted the evolution of pragmatic analysis.

Interactionally, language helps to establish and sustain social ties. Man does not only have to keep his relationship with other men alive for the survival of the social system, but he has to use language in achieving this desire. Conversation is one of the ways of doing this. It is thus important to study conversation because it is so central to human interaction. One approach to study conversation is the pragmatic approach.

Pragmatics deals with meaning in utterances and the interpretation of conversation to bring out the meanings that are not decoded by hearers. To fully understand meaning in utterances, we use the pragmatic approach. This approach allows the total context of a discourse to be understood and therefore enhances meaning decoding and an identification of the intention of a speaker.

Interviews are a form of conversation. To understand interview, especially political interviews, it will be interesting to bring in pragmatic in the analysis for better understanding. Interviews are regarded as a journalistic art and pragmatic analysis which focuses on the way we produce and understand language in context of a speech situation, reveals for example, that interviewers construct their questions carefully to place politicians in a dangerous position in such a way that they tend to dodge or give indirect answers to the questions.

In this research work, pragmatic analysis will be used to examine some of these interviews.

1.2 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research work is to find out how interviews can be understood more effectively and how encoded information can be decoded by readers using the pragmatic approach. Interviews are sometimes interpreted wrongly and the consequence is communication breakdown as each person tries to give a different interpretation to the same interview. A pragmatic analysis is expected to solve this problem.

1.3 Justification

The researcher sees the pragmatic approach as an approach that is capable of decoding particular factors that are peculiar in political interviews and this is why the researcher finds it imperative to use pragmatic theory and its elements in the analysis of political interviews. This will bring out decoded facts from utterances and it will help those who intend to research on political interviews using pragmatic theory to have more understanding about the research work.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The Study is embarked on to account for how an utterance coveys meaning in context. However, the researcher has limited the study to The Punch newspaper because of time and space constraints. Also, only eight (8) interviews will be used for the analysis, because this is the much that will be conveniently accommodated by this kind of research.

1.5 Research Methodology

In this essay we will carryout a selective analysis of four (4) political interviews treating different political issues. In these interviews, two (2) interviews will be chosen from each newspaper making a total of eight (8) interviews. Normally political interviews in this selected newspaper are published weekly. Therefore, the research work will make use of interviews published in four consecutive weeks, those published on the 3rd, 10th, 17th , 27th July, 2010. These data will be analyzed using pragmatic approach and elements. The concern of this work shall be how language is used for communication in the interviews selected.

Chapter Four

Summary, Findings and Conclusion

4.1 Introduction:

Pragmatic studies how people make meaning pass across their messages and their intentions and how the hearers are able to understand the intention of the speaker. All these have been critically analyzed in the previous chapters. In this chapter however, the researcher shall discuss the summary, findings and conclusion.

4.2 Summary

Pragmatics investigates the speaker and users of a language. It deals with the aspects of language that require mutual knowledge between the hearer and the speaker. This aspect of investigation deals with intended meaning rather than the literal meaning.

The field of Pragmatics also looks at how people understand each other. It is concerned with how we understand structures through the context which select them. These concerns of pragmatics define pragmatics as the study of rules that governs behaviours. It studies the relationship between language and context or contextual principles.
Semantics which is the study of meaning in its entirety is limited to the study of language. Pragmatics in itself deals with all those things left unaccounted for after a semantic theory has been applied to the analysis of utterances. In political interview, Pragmatics deals with what is openly intended as communication which may be different from what is literarily said. This is the dichotomy of the intended versus unintended meaning.

In all, pragmatic accounts for “who says what” “where”, to who” “how” and above all, how it is interpreted.

4.3 Findings:

From the data analysis presented in the third chapter of this research work, the following findings have been generated. It could be ascertained that politicians flout the maxim of conversation especially the maxims of manner and quantity. In data (1, 3, 7), the maxim of quantity was flouted. By the interviewee, this is because they try to give more information to what the interviewers have not asked. This is done in order to save their face which might be threatened by the public.

Also, in data (4, 6, 8), the maxim of manner was flouted. In order to avoid giving answers which an implicate them, they try to make their response to be ambiguous and they put the public in a fix in order to give it different interpretation.

Furthermore, it was discovered that most questions posed by the interviewers are directives, while the politicians do not give a direct response. Implicature is easily flouted in speech act. The illocutionary act is always different from the force. In datum (6), the illocutionary act derived from the interviewee shows that while the interviewer gives a direct illocution, the interviewee dribbles with the answer thereby leaving the real intention behind the utterance. Example is seen in an utterance made by a women politician in datum 6.

In conclusion, it has been discovered that apart from the physical context where the interview takes place, the politicians operates a lot on the psychological context. This is because in their utterances, they tend to present themselves to be innocent and at the mercy of the masses in order to save their social relationship with the masses. For example, in data (3, 4) this was used by Governor Amaechi, the River State Governor.

4.4 Conclusion

A Pragmatics analysis of political interviews has revealed that political interviews. Which could touch the privacy of the interviewers is different from social interviews. Pragmatic approach has helped to bring out that a politician’s “Yes” might be “may be”, and their “may be” might mean “no”,. This is because they are always conscious of their utterances. So pragmatics is seen as the best tool that can be used to openly study what is intended by the politicians as communication which may be different from what is literarily said.

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