A Pragmatic Analysis Of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Inaugural Speech, Nigeria: Our Nation In Mourning
Given the fact that communication is chiefly achieved through language, it is therefore important to study and account for how speakers encode their utterances and how meanings are decoded from the utterances during communication. This has made us to attempt a pragmatic analysis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning,because of its socio-political importance with a view to accounting for how the president has encoded his utterances and how meanings are generated from the utterances in the speech. All the eight utterances in the transcribed text were analysed using pragmatic tools, which are speech acts, context, indexicals, implicature and relevance. This study has revealed to us the effects of cognition, social principles and context on the president’s utterances and showed the president as a careful user of words and a performer of many actions with few utterances. Therefore to succeed as a communicator, and indeed a politician, rests greatly on the way one is able to choose and arrange his words as well as considering other non-linguistic factors.
1.0 Background to the Study And Statement of the Research Problem
There is no gainsaying the fact that the essence of language is communication. Many attempts have been made to describe what an effective communication is. One issue that runs through all the attempts is the area of meaning generation as a pivotal factor for an effective communication. Over the years, meaning generation has remained problematic because most of the approaches developed to explain how meaning is generated rely on the linguistic knowledge of the language users without looking at the extralinguistic factors, therefore making those approaches to be inadequate. It was against this backdrop that pragmatics emerged in order to account for how meaning is generated in a communicative act by considering both the linguistic and the non-linguistic factors.
The role of communication in governance cannot be overemphasised. This assertion supports the importance of delivering an inaugural speech on assumption of duty as an administrator. A presidential inaugural speech gives the president the first chance to use the official voice, which should indicate the direction of the new administration. Every utterance in such a speech communicates meaning.
It is therefore important to embark on a pragmatic analysis of PresidentGoodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, titled, Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning, looking at the tokens of utterances in the speech with a view to accounting for how meaning is generated from the speech.
1.1 Research Questions
In order to account for how meaning is generated from President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, some questions have emerged and they are:
- In what way can context contribute to generating meanings from this speech?
- What is the role of cognition in the way the president encoded his utterances?
- Does cognition play any role in decoding meanings from the president’s inaugural speech?
- How do social principles affect the utterances made by the president?
- How does the president performs actions with his utterances?
1.2 Aim and Objectives of the Study
This study aims to account for how meanings are generated from President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning, and study the ways he has encoded his utterances.
The objectives of the study are to:
- Examine the impacts of context in the speech.
- Evaluate the effects of social principles on how the president has communicated.
- Examine the role of cognition in the way utterances are interpreted.
- Assess how people calculate what is not linguistically expressed from what is expressed linguistically.
- Examine the way the president performs actions with the utterances in the speech.
1.3 Scope of the Study
This research report, a pragmatic analysis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, will be studied using some selected theories of pragmatics which are speech acts theory, relevance theory; and pragmatic elements which are implicature, indexicals and context. The theories and elements chosen are from the social-psychological and cognitive-psychological approaches to pragmatics.
These theories and elements will be deployed in the analysis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, titled, Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning.
Generating meanings from utterances requires more than just the linguistic knowledge. Non-linguistic factors are also needed to be considered so that a good account of how communications take place can be achieved, especially in a speech like this.
A lot of researches have been done on speeches, using pragmatic tools.For instance, Pragma-Rhetorical Strategies in Selected Speeches of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo by Babatunde and Odepidan (2009). The researcher notes that most of the works are products of only the social-psychological approach to pragmatics without employing the cognitive-psychological approach.
This work is distinct because the researcher draws eclectically, theories from the social-psychological approach(speech acts theory, implicature, indexicals and context) and the cognitive-psychological approach(relevance theory) to analyse the inaugural speech. Also, the socio-political importance of the speech as one made at the ascension of the vice president after the death of ademocratic president in office makes this research worthwhile.
This work will be of help to upcoming researchers, linguists and Nigerians who are politically conscious.
1.5 Research Method
This study applies the case study research design by applying some selected pragmatic theories and elements on President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, titled, Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning.
The transcribed text is divided into eight utterances based on paragraphs (each paragraph discusses a subject matter).All the utterances in the speech will be analysed with pragmatic theories and elements, which are speech acts theory, relevance theory,implicature, indexicals and context. This is because the researcher intends to achieve a fairly high level of investigation on each utterance.
1.6 Data Description
Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning is the title of the President’s inaugural speech delivered by President Goodluck Jonathan on his assumption of office on May 6, 2010 as the 14th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His ascension to the office of the president was as a result of the death of President Umar Musa Yar’adua, who died after a protracted illness at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on May 5, 2010.
Following the Nigerian constitution, the vice president became the president. This necessitates that President Goodluck Jonathan delivers an inaugural speech as the new president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The speech was delivered after he was sworn in on May 6, 2010 at the Presidential Palace, Abuja and it was broadcast to the whole nation through the media.
As an inaugural speech, he discussed different issues like the death of the president, electoral reform, the Niger-Delta crisis and some other pertinent issues.
The utterances that make up the speech are numbered and presented at the appendix section. This is done so that we can realize a good presentation and clear analysis.
In this chapter, we have presented a general introduction to the study by looking at the background to the study as well as the statement of the research problem, the research questions have been raised, the aims and objectives of the study have been made known. Also, the scope of the study, justification, the research method and the data description have all been presented.
We will therefore proceed to the next chapter where we shall trace the history of pragmatics, review some of its definitions, and finally review our selected theories and elements(as expressed in our scope of the study).
Summary, Findings and Conclusion
This research report, a pragmatic analysis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, contains four chapters. In chapter one, the general introduction to the study was presented. It is made up of an introduction to the study, the statement of the research problem, the research questions, aims and objectives of the study, the scope of the study, the justification, the methodology applied in the study as well as a description of our data, which isPresident Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, titled Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning.
Chapter two contains the literature review. We started by tracing the history of pragmatics, we reviewed some of its definitions, we also reviewed some theories and elements of pragmatics as well as looking at the efforts of their contributors. Speech acts theory, relevance theory, implicature, indexicals and contexts are the pragmatic tools that we reviewed.
In the third chapter, the reviewed theories and elements in the second chapter of this work were deployed on our data for analysis. The summary of the analysis was later presented in a table (figure A at the appendix 2) and the observations that arose from it were discussed. It was in this chapter that our research questions were answered.
In the light of these, we shall proceed to present a summary of our findings and conclusion.
4.1 Summary of Findings
Going by the analysis done so far and the data discussion presented in the third chapter of this report, the salient findings are summarised below:
Firstly, context is an important element in the interpretation of utterances. It serves as a conversational undertone for speeches where there is no immediate linguistic feedback.
It is also through context that implicatures can be calculated. What forms a social principle (which its flouting results to implicature) is based on context. Therefore, implicature is calculated using context.
In addition, context helps us to recognise the intention of participants in a communicative act. It is through this intentions (cognition) recognition that adequate inferences can be gotten.
Furthermore, assertives and expressives are necessary for achieving persuasion and creating a strong co-operation between the hearer and the speaker. These illocutionary acts provide the felicity conditions that will guarantee the success of other illocutionary acts. From these, it is obvious that the way a speaker arranges his utterances affects the success of a communicative act.
Another finding is that more than one illocutionary act can be embedded in an utterance. This shows that a speaker can perform many actions with few utterances.
Person indexicals are essential for achieving a rhetorical effect by a speaker.
Apart from these, a single indexical can be used more than once in an utterance to refer to different referents.
Not only these, speakers can use their utterances to refer to the whole population of listeners, specific group of people or an individual among the whole population. In a situation where the utterance shifts from addressing the whole population to a specific group of people or an individual, such group of people or the individual forms the primary audience.
Euphemisms can be used to express respect and honour.
Finally, when a speaker understands that his audience can calculate a negative implicature from his utterance, he makes the implicit meaning to be explicit; cancel the implicature; or provide procedural encodings that will restrict the implicature.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, titled Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning has been looked into using some theories and elements of pragmatics. As it is already known, the aim of pragmatics is to investigate how meanings are generated from utterances beyond the reliance on only the linguistic properties of utterances made.
It is, by general observation, known that language is the means of communication and there is the great need for leaders to communicate with the governed. It therefore behoves one to properly account for the meanings contained in the utterances of leaders. That is why we have chosen the inaugural speech of President Goodluck Jonathan for analysis.
In this research report, it has been proven that President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech, titled Nigeria: Our Nation in Mourning is embedded in and constrained by cognition, social principles of communication and the context that surrounds it. This report also shows the president as a careful user of words and a performer of many actions with few utterances.
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