A Pragmatic Analysis Of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Inaugural Speech, Nigeria: Our Nation In Mourning

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science


Chapter One


General Introduction

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:

  1. In what way can context contribute to generating meanings from this speech?
  2. What is the role of cognition in the way the president encoded his utterances?
  3. Does cognition play any role in decoding meanings from the president’s inaugural speech?
  4. How do social principles affect the utterances made by the president?
  5. How does the president performs actions with his utterances?

1.2 Aim And Objectives Of The Study

This studyaimsto account for how meanings are generated from PresidentGoodluck 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:

  1. Examine the impactsof context in the speech.
  2. Evaluate the effects of social principles on how the president has communicated.
  3. Examine the role of cognition in the way utterances are interpreted.
  4. Assess how people calculate what is not linguistically expressed from what is expressed linguistically.
  5. 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.


1.4 Justification

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.


1.7 Conclusion

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).


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