A Pragmatic Study Of Some Selected Political Posters

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

A Pragmatic Study Of Some Selected Political Posters


This long essay focuses on the pragmatics study of selected political posters imprinted in the pages of selected newspapers. It seeks to identify the influence of pragmatic elements on encoded texts or utterance; it analyse the thought provoking influence of such political posters; the rules of pragmatics governing the use of language in this aspect. The data of choice were randomly selected (from the pages of THE NATION, THE SUN and THE VANGUARD newspapers) and the pragmatic elements were applied on them.

Posters are capable of influencing the mind of the reader(s) when the context is taken into consideration, political ones for that matter. Implicitly, there are hidden intentions in most political posters. The pragmatic elements help to bring out the intended meaning of most posters. The outcome was evident in course of this research work. The study has shown that for political posters to perform their functions effectively, they must have in mind the reader’s ability to understanding their message through what is displayed.

Table Of Contents

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title page
  • Certification page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of content

Chapter One:

General Introduction

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of study
  • Justification
  • Scope of the work
  • Methodology
  • Data description

Chapter Two:

Literature Review

  • Introduction
  • Definition of Pragmatics
  • Historical development
  • Elements of Pragmatics
  • Context
  • Presupposition
  • Implicature
  • Inference
  • Participants
  • Topic
  • Intention
  • World knowledge
  • Mutual contextual beliefs
  • Theories of Pragmatics
  • Searle’s Theory of Pragmatics
  • Adegbija’s Theory of Pragmatics
  • P Grice’s Theory of Pragmatics
  • Bach and R.M Harnish’s Theory of Pragmatics
  • Definition of poster
  • Headline
  • Handbill
  • Placard
  • Conclusion

Chapter Three:

Data Analysis

  • Introduction
  • Data Analysis
  • Datum one
  • Datum two
  • Datum three
  • Datum four
  • Datum five
  • Datum six
  • Datum seven
  • Datum eight
  • Datum nine
  • Datum ten Summary
  • Conclusion

Chapter Four

Summary, Finding and Conclusion

  • Summary
  • Findings
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.0 Introduction

The dynamism of language as a powerful tool of communication cannot be over-emphasized. There is countless number of things which we could do or use to achieve. It is therefore, no surprise if language is used to influence decision in various ways (even in the field of politics). Can one really mention any particular field of endeavour that does not involve the use of language?

This bring us to the view about pragmatics; an aspect of language study. Communication in any society happens chiefly by means of language. However, the users of language as social beings communicate and use language in the society’s premises. Mey (2001), in his second publication: Pragmatics: An Introduction has this to say:

…pragmatics as the study of the way human being use their

Language in communication, bases itself on a study of those

Premises and determine how they effect and effectualize human

Language use… (pp6)

With the above aforementioned extracted text, we therefore, take a critical look at pragmatics, its influence on the analysis of political posters. The strength it commands in influencing the needed effect.

1.1 Purpose Of The Study

The purpose of this research work is to identify the influence of pragmatics elements on encoded texts or utterance; the meaning that is implied and the effect on the addressee. We do this with the use of deployed political posters (statements) in the field of politics. Besides exploiting the features of pragmatics, this study seeks to analyse the thought provoking influence of such political posters; the rules of pragmatics governing the use of language in this aspect.

This study, we hope, prioritize on the need to view utterance as instrumental in influencing necessary developmental changes. We also analyse the feature of context, among other things, as a necessary factor to understanding inherent objectives of most political posters. We intend to carry-out this work in relation to semantics since the synergy will help us in understanding of this research work.

1.2 Justification

So far it has been discovered from the analysis of previous research that many a researcher, who have carried research works on this particular aspect of pragmatics and its use on political posters have left some unresolved issues which we hope to clarify. Previous or past works on this matter need be advanced with the hope that future researchers would find it worthwhile in making reference to this work as a stepping stone. The manipulation of language as pointed out in the work of Mey (2001, p308) in his publication Pragmatics; An Introduction is an issue that need be corrected. The author seems to view utterance (what he referred to as ‘manipulation’) from the negative aspect. It must be stated that not all manipulation of language are of diabolic intention. Mey (2001) gave limited information which we hope to expand. Conversely, this present work will take a deeper look at the utterance of political posters (i.e. word captions, pictures, and headlines etc), their pragmatic meaning and implication on the hearers.

1.3 The Scope Of The Study

There are many aspect of pragmatics in different fields, delving into all its parts in entire will be too daunting for this research work. It is, therefore, necessary to limit our research to a more specific unit. Herein, we make use of Leech’s (1983) Principles of Pragmatics as we attempt to define, describe, analyse, explain and subsume the core aspects of pragmatics. This will, in no small way, help our understanding of some selected political posters i.e. applying those pragmatic features on samples of political newspaper headlines, pictures, captions etc entailing how meanings are decoded from them.

1.4 Methodology

The data of choice as used in this research work would be from randomly selected samples of political posters. By this, we mean deploying pragmatic elements, rules ad theories to captions, pictures etc in political aspect. These data material are randomly selected. We analyse them (i.e. the posters), the language and the affect they are trying to draw from the readers or hearers; the information they convey to the readership etc. we examine the level of understanding these political posters.

1.5 Data Description

The data of choice for our analysis focuses on the events building up to the 2011 elections, the presidency state visits, and legal tussle that characterised the previous election held in Nigeria. All these data were imprinted in the pages of newspapers that fall within the year 2010.

Majority of these data, seven of them precisely, were randomly selected from the THE NATION newspaper. Two of them were taken from THE VANGUARD newspaper. A datum was taken from THE SUN newspaper. The imprinted political posters in these daily newspapers were randomly analysed. We apply the pragmatic elements on these data wherever applicable.

The next chapter shall deal with the theoretical aspect of pragmatics and the various postulations about pragmatics.

Chapter Four

Summary, Finding And Conclusion

4.1 Summary

This essay has done an analysis of ten randomly selected political posters imprinted in the pages of three different newspapers. We did this using various pragmatic tools such as context, intention, mutual contextual beliefs, presupposition and implicature etc.

In the first chapter, we gave the general introduction to the essay, purpose of the study, justification, scope, methodology and the data description.

The second chapter presented a review of the necessary variables in the research topic. We defined pragmatics and its relevant tools. We looked at a selected view of scholars and we also defined poster in terms of meaning. We differentiated poster from hand-bill and placard.

The third chapter which is the main body of this essay contain data that was selected for analysis. It contain the ten data that was randomly selected from the pages of newspapers i.e. THE NATION newspaper, seven data; THE VANGUARD newspaper, two data and THE SUN newspaper, a datum.

The last chapter comprises the summary, findings and conclusion of the whole work as could be observed from the data analysed.

4.2 Findings

From the data analysis, the findings are based on the outcome and results of the elements on the political posters. We were able to see the different context i.e. physical, social and psychological etc manifest. We can understand from the analysis that no communicative activity can occur without regard to its context. This assertion helps us to fore-ground the importance of contextuality. It contributes to the understanding of how language is used in particular situations. Therefore, the reader(s) or decoder needs some contextual factors to gain access to the meaning of political posters.

Secondly, the strong influence of most political posters on the decoder or reader(s) becomes more effective because of those afore-mentioned pragmatic elements. World knowledge and mutual contextual beliefs (MCB) are interwoven because both the writer and the reader(s) share the same general knowledge about the topic of the poster.

The intention of the writer is a way by which he/she encodes certain utterance and the reader(s) and the reader infer from what have been written and posted; by this way, meaning is given to posters.

Furthermore, implicature, both conventional and conversational, can not be over-looked. They help us to understand the usefulness of political posters and work on the principles that discuss participants.

We see how interlocutors take for granted what they feel they already know about on the issue being raised or discussed by the posters. We found out this assertion through pragmatic element of presupposition. Through speech acts, we were able to know what most political posters set out to do i.e. give information.

It is equally obvious (as we found out) that political poster made use of popular names, pictures of notable personalities to give credibility to posters in general, political ones in particular. The influence of poster(s) on its reader(s) is also seen in the use of catchy captions.

It is, therefore, obvious that the elements of pragmatics such as context, intention, world knowledge, presupposition, mutual contextual beliefs (MCB), implicature, speech acts etc are sine-quo-non if we must fish out the inherent meaning in any utterance. Their relevance is seen in the decoding of hidden meaning. All the elements work hand-in-hand.

4.3 Conclusion

This long essay has done a pragmatic analysis of selected political posters imprinted in the pages of three different newspapers i.e. THE NATION, THE VANGUARD and THE SUN newspapers. It has shown that political posters can be used to achieve brevity and clarity when pragmatic elements are applied on them. The pragmatic elements have played important roles in the decoding of conveyed messages on political posters. Attempts have been made to allow the elements work hand-in-hand to decode meanings. The posters were analysed pragmatically by stating the action they performed. The analysis of each of them (posters) brought to the limelight the deep meaning that can be deduced and the meanings that could not be discovered at the surface level.

The strength of pragmatic elements in bringing out the needed effects from political posters is now understandable. One true fact observed herein is that without the presence of these elements i.e. context, implicature, presupposition and the like, it would be daunting getting to understand or comprehend political posters of any sort.
With these realisation, we deemed it fit to correct Mey’s (2001:308) assertion in which he portrayed pragmatic use of language as ‘‘a particular clear case of manipulation, understood as: making people behave in a certain way without their knowing why , even against their wish and best interest…’’. We must realise that rather than manipulate people, pragmatics through its various tools, help the reader(s) (people) to understand, judge and come to term with what a speaker says.

Finally, we can say that semantics works to some extend with pragmatics in helping us (i.e. the readers) understand meaning in contextuality. Semantics gives meaning in sentence structure of posters while pragmatics capture the actual meaning of what a person says through his/her utterances in relation to the context of occurrence.

4.4 Recommendation

In order for political posters to perform their function effectively those who make used of them (posters) as tool for achieving what ever intention they deemed it fit must bear in mind that the reader(s) would always their background knowledge into consideration especially were presupposition is needed.

To sum it up, posters (political ones for that matter) should be used informatively, instructively, briefly and with clarity which will help the overall understanding of political posters by the readers.

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