A Sociolinguistic Analysis Of Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Sociolinguistic Analysis Of Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman


Sociolinguistic has become a recognized part of most courses on language study from the point of teaching research at university level. Today we think of the usage of a word and not its meaning. This is because a word means a lot of things different situations and environments. This work examined the place of bilingualism in the play.

That is, bringing out the characteristics of bilingualism, which are code mixing, code-switching and language interference as they reflect in the play.

Also, bringing out those things that reflect African social as they relate to the in Yoruba society in the 1990’s.

Table Of Contents

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title pages
  • Certification
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents

Chapter One


  • 1.0 Background of the Study
  • 1.1 Aim of the Study
  • 1.2 Scope of Study
  • 1.3 Significance of the Study
  • 1.4 Research Methodology
  • 1.5 A Brief Storyline of the Play
  • 1.6 Theoretical Framework

Chapter Two:

Literature Review

  • 2.0 Definitions of Sociolinguistics
  • 2.l Sociolinguistics Variation
  • 2.1.1 Geographical Variation
  • 2.1.2 Social Variations
  • 2.2 Speech Community
  • 2.2.1 Oyo as a Speech Community
  • 2.3 Definitions of Language
  • 2.4 Aspect of Language, Thoughts, Culture and Society
  • 2.5 Relationship between Language and Culture in the Play
  • 2.6 Language and Bilingualism
  • 2.7 Language and Gender

Chapter Three:

Data Presentation and Analysis

  • 3.0 Characteristics of Bilingualism as it Reflects In the Play
  • 3.1 Code-Mixing as it reflects in the play
  • 3.2 Code-Switching as it reflects in the play
  • 3.3 Language Interference
  • 3.3.1 Lexical Interference in the play

Chapter Four:

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

  • 4.0 Summary of Findings
  • 4.1 Conclusion
  • 4.2 Recommendation
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.0 Background Of The Study

Language, either spoken or written can be said to be the most ultimate tool for the expression of fiction, culture, wisdom and knowledge of a people and their creative spirit. Without one’s language, linguistic creation by mankind would be unachievable. The way in which language is used in the society is very important.

Sociolinguistics is the study of language in relation to the society. That is, how people in the society use language and what makes them use language in a particular way. Also, when we study sociolinguistics, we study the socio­-dialects across regions, that is, how a dialect of a given language can reveal gender, age, culture and social class of a speaker. A lot of people believe that some speeches or sentences are grammatically wrong without considering the gender, age, situation and context in which that speech was made or the speaker involved. Is the speech uttered in an informal or informal setting? A speech uttered in an informal setting (home) can take different forms, depending on the people involved.

However, socio-linguists are not interested in, or particular about the correctness of speech; rather, they are concerned with highlighting the differences in the use of language between individuals in different contexts and situations. They analyse the speaker’s behaviour or personality from his speech.

Therefore, the study of language in its social context means specifically, the study of linguistic variation. That is in different social contexts, an individual could speak in different way; this is called STYLISTIC VARIATION. Moreover, speaker’s who differ from each other in terms of age, sex and social class, will also differ in speech patterns, even in the same context, and this is referred to as SOCIAL VARIATION. Language also differs due to different geographical origins of individual speakers and this is called GEOGRAPHICAL VARIATION. All the above, codify the social functions of a language.

1.1 Aim Of The Study

The aim of this research is to analyse Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horsemanfrom the sociolinguistic angle. By sociolinguistic analysis of the play, I mean the study of the language (English) used in the play in relation to the society. That is, how the characters in the play used language as a medium of communication and the mode for transmission of culture.

Also, I will discuss why the character used language in a particular way, that is, what is, what prompted them to use language the way they did.

1.2 Scope Of The Study

The focus of this play is within the scope of sociolinguistics. That is, using the specific play, which is the case study, to discuss sociolinguistic issues. Basically, there is a literature review (Chapter two) which discusses scholars’s views on sociolinguistics.

The sociolinguistic analysis will be done from different perspectives of language analysis. Namely, language as it relates to the society and culture; language interference, how the indigenous language (Yoruba) has interfered with English language, language and bilingualism that is, the alternative use of languages. Features of bilingualism shall be discussed; code-switching and code mixing as regards language use in the play.

1.3 Significance Of The Study

The importance of this long essay is to show that people speak the way they do, due to certain reasons, mainly because of their cultural background.

Significantly, this essay will reflect the differences between language use in differentcontexts and not necessarily “correct” usage of language. This will help us to know that there is a big difference between the socio-linguist and the linguist, the latter being particular about correctness of grammar and language use according to the rules of grammar.

This essay will also show that culture and language are interwoven. That culture influences one’s usage of language irrespective of gender.

1.4 Research Methodology

The long essay is library based. That is, there is no use of questionnaire. The text examined is a play, Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka who is ritualistic. The analysis derives from the observation made in the play.

1.5 A Brief Of The Storyline Of The Play

This is historical play that showcase the event that took place in Oyo, the ancient Yoruba city of Nigeria, in 1900s, Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman tell how Simon Pilkings, a well- meaning District Officer, prevents the ritual suicide of the Yoruba chief. Elesin a sacrificial suicide demanded by the death of the king. There follow drastic repercussions in both indigenous and colonial communities, but in this confrontation of Africa characters wild European, of black with white.

Soyinka is concerned with more than just a ‘clash of cultures’. However, devastating, his triumph in this is to evoke the mystery and ritual of Yoruba life, a world of the living, the dead and the unborn, and giving it palpable and breath­taking theatrical form, in sinking contrast to the desiccated life-style of the colonials.

1.6 Theoretical Framework

In every language study, there must be a theoretical framework on which the analysis will be based. This is because language is so complex.

The theoretical framework in use in this play is sociolinguistics.

Sociolinguistic is the study of language in relation to society. That is, it studies language by considering the situation and context of its users. It did not look at actual correct usage, rather it looks at how the people in the society use language, what made them to use language the way they did with the SITUATION and CONTEXT of the speech.

Situation as defined by Adejare and Adejare (1996; 6) is: controversial linguistic category recognized but excluded from consideration as linguistic phenomena by most accommodating linguists and considered as totally irrelevant others.

This definition is not considered true by the sociolinguist. Sociolinguistic analyses are largely based on situation and context. This is because sociolinguistics takes into consideration the situation and context in which an utterance is made before analyzing it.

Situation and context are conditions that give meaning to what we say or show the scene or environment in which to interpret what we see. Sociolinguists are particular about the behavior of the speakers. That is, they are concerned with highlighting the differences between the use of language by different speakers in different context, unlike the linguist who is particular about grammatical errors and giving rules for usage.

Situation refers to the place, environment, participants involved or surrounding in which the utterance was made while context is similar to situation, in that it is the specifics of the situation in which meanings of the utterance made are deduced or derived. Taken this into consideration, one we find why in a society people speak in different ways irrespective of gender. Therefore, Soyinka ‘s play Death and the King’s Horseman we will see how and why the writer made use of language (Via his characters) the way he did, especially language interference that is looking at the situation and context of the language in use.

Chapter Four

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

4.0 Summary

In this long essay, I have analyzed Wole Soyinka’s “Death and the king’s Horseman” from the sociolinguistic angle by bringing out some bilingual features (code-mixing, code-switching and language interference).

Soyinka is a prolific writer and he reflected this in his play. In chapter one, the aim of this long essay is to examine how Yoruba culture have been portrayed by the author and the way the character made use of language.

The play as I have mentioned is an example of African drama that mingles with Western any Yoruba elements. Also, because of its cultural responsibility and the universality of its theme, the play is seen as a good introduction of African thought and tradition. Most of the proverbs and wise sayings were used at the right time and in the right speech.

Furthermore, this long essay, to some extent, has shown that the situation and context of speech contributed a lot to achieving the meaning or rules of the language. The environment in which these people exist (Oyo people) their culture and the way they do. They made use of language interference not because of the writer’s choice but rather the situation demanded it to be so and for work to reflect the African culture, it must be embedded with some indigenous words. This is because some indigenous proverbs or idioms will lose their meaning if written in English.
Also the culture of the Oyo people influenced their choice of words (language). This is the significant contribution of this long essay: that culture influence people’s speech. We speak of what exists in our culture and not the other way round. Culture and language are inter-woven; without language, culture cannot be expressed.

Language helps us to document and preserve our culture. Soyinka was able to write this play because the facts and figures he needed were documented by history, he extracted all that he needed and wrote an interesting play. In addition, this long essay dealt with the features of bilingualism as they reflect in the play, that is, code mixing, code-witching, and language interference. Examples were drawn from the play and explained. The most peculiar difference between code¬-mixing and code-witching is that code-mixing is the mixing of two languages or code in discourse. As earlier mentioned, the writer code-mixed and code-switched because some Yoruba ideas or views do not have English equivalents. If such views are expressed in English, they will lose their flavour and meaning. I believe he manipulated the facts and figures he collected to suit the cultural view.

4.1 Conclusion

In conclusion, there are other aspects of sociolinguistics which are not included in my work. Issues like the use of different types of language varieties such as pidgin, standard and non-standard English and the communicative functions of different languages like French, English, German etc. Sociolinguistics is wide and it covers a lot of variations in language and it contributes immensely to language generally.

4.2 Recommendations

The recommendations in this study are directed to all language students and teachers. I recommend that all language students should take into consideration the SITUATION and CONTEXT of speech before analyzing it. Irrespective of the researcher concerns, be it from the linguistic angle or sociolinguistic angle. Situation and context of a speech is very important. This helps one to know exactly the conditions in which the speech was made. In addition, I also recommend that Nigerian English should be standardized. This will help our culture and language to grow and for it to be recognized worldwide like every other standardized language. It will help to distinguish between wrong Nigerian English usages and correct Nigerian English.

Get Complete Project Material

5,000 5000

The Complete Material Will Be Sent to You in Just 2 Steps

Quick & Simple…

Step One Purchase

Make Payment (Through Transfer) of ₦5,000 to the Account Below

Zenith BankAcc No: 1225513212
Samphina Academy
Current Account

Or CLICK HERE To Pay With Debit Card

CLICK HERE To Purchase Material ($15)

Step Two Purchase

Send the Following Details on WhatsApp ( 08143831497) After Payment

  1. Payment Details

  2. TOPIC: A Sociolinguistic Analysis Of Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman

The Complete Material Will Be Sent To You On WhatsApp After Receiving Your Details
T & C Apply

  Contact Our Help Desk

Need a Different Topic? Perform a Quick Search

List of Related Works

Click on Any Topic to Preview the Content


Samphina Academy

Samphina Academy is an Online Educational Resource Center that is aimed at providing students with quality information and materials to aid them in succeeding in their academic pursuit.