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A SOCIOLINGUISTIC STUDY OF POLITENESS EXPRESSION IN IGBO: A CASE STUDY OF ERQ XLQ SPEECH COMMUNITY

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Linguistics politeness is the way people choose to speak and how the hearers react to their speech.

Udosen (2006) observes that languages is a social instrument without which our human interaction would suffer.

The most universal forms of language behaviour are those used to show our routine needs, professional and social. No one is free to say just what one likes in whatever form of discourse. Rather, our conversation is a prescribed ritual in which an individual generally says what his fellow men expects him to say, observing the pragmatic rules, though unconsciously. In our societies today, living in harmony with nature, conforming to the norms of our common experience is the right conduct of interlocutors and politeness is that aspect of social behaviour which promotes harmonious living with nature and conformity to the norms of our common experience.

Coulmans  as cited in Dioka (2009) claims that being polite is not an attribute of language but it depends on the interlocutors in a given speech situation. Politeness is socially determined, it is linked with social differentiations with making appropriates choices which may not be the same for everybody. Politeness criteria are not the same in different cultures, sometimes speaking indirectly is considered more polite than speaking directly like the Erq xlq dialect of Igbo.

 

1.1 Background to the Study

          According to Yule (1995), Politeness, in an interaction can then be defined as the means employed to show awareness of another person’s face. In this sense politeness can be accomplished in situations of social distance or closeness. Showing awareness for another person’s face when that other seems socially distant is often described in terms of respect or deference.

Similarly, Lakoff (1957), defines it as saying or doing the socially correct thing. Adebija in Prezi (2003) also says that politeness is associated with situations in which one speaks or behaves in a way that is socially and culturally acceptable and pleasant to the hearer. However according to Dioka (2009) Politeness in the practical sense of the word means doing or saying the right things with or among people.

Politeness is a virtue that is cultivated in every human being from infancy since every society has its own respect system. In all areas of the world, polite expressions are held in high esteem as the key to unlocking the beauty in the human nature and also in the society because without politeness there will be anarchy and chaos in our various societies. From the beginning of time, politeness, there will be anarchy and chaos in our various societies. From the beginning of time, politeness and polite expressions have been in existence, this is evident in the story of the Garden of Eden in the Bible, which can be seen in Genesis (3:1-15). Here, although man disobeyed God, God did not speak harshly to man but still talked to him as he had always done – politely.

In this study however, we will be narrowing our research to a particular area in African society which is Erq Xlq in Enugu state of Nigeria. Here we would take a look at the socio-linguistic implications of politeness and polite expressions and how it affects the very individuals we can relate with even in our rural areas. We strongly believe that politeness and polite expressions did not just start in our own generation and time but as always been in existence.

 

1.2 Statement of the Problem

In our world of today, the younger generation has thrown morality to the winds and gone ahead on the path of such ills as disrespect, disloyalty and lack of allegiance all in the bid to be in vogue. The lack of politeness in our society has brought about moral decadence of the society. This work we believe will help to restore the dignity of man.

 

1.3 Objective of the Study

The general objective of this research work is to use a sociolinguistic approach to discuss the issue of politeness as it occurs in Erq Xlq speech community. Then the specific objectives of this study are to:

  1. Identify the politeness expression strategies that are used in Erq Xlq speech community.
  2. Find out the sociolinguistic implications of Erq xlq
  3. Find out the relevance of using politeness expression strategies in the speech community of our interest.

 

1.4 Significance of Study

This research work will be of immense benefit to all language users since the polite use of language help in achieving the objectives for which the speech is meant to achieve.

Researchers who like to carry out further researches on the politeness expression strategies or related topics will find this work useful

Students will find this work useful for their academic purposes.

 

1.5 Scope of the Study

Politeness expressions are used in so many social groups and groups ranging from schools, communities organized and unorganized groups. Students also have their ways of expressing themselves especially when they want to get something from their lecturers parents, elderly and even within themselves. In Erq Xlq speech community, the elders have their own way of exhibiting politeness among themselves.

Also, the young ones have their own ways of expressing politeness to the elderly ones and also the young ones have their own ways of expressing politeness among themselves.

This study is not going to treat politeness in general, rather the work will concentrate on the politeness expression only in Erq Xlq speech community. Any politeness strategies other than those used by people of Erq Xlq speech community will not be investigated.

 

1.6 Research Questions

          The study sought answers to the following research questions:

  1. What are the politeness expression strategies used by language users in Erq Xlq speech community?
  2. What are the sociolinguistic implications of politeness expressions in Erq Xlq speech community?
  3. What are the functions of politeness expressions in Erq Xlq speech community?

 

1.7 Limitations of Study

There were many limitations that confronted this research work. They include the following:

The respondents focus on  the researcher and this had influence on their speech as to make the data unreliable. Again, some of the respondents bluntly refused to give the researcher the correct politeness markers used in asking questions, making requests, greeting, thanks, showing sympathy, condolence, love and endearment and rendering apology. In order to avert these problems, the researcher made series of visits to the respondents in order to make herself familiar. The respondents were made to know that the information they will give will help the government to promote their dialects (i.e their dialects will be using in teaching in primary, secondary, tertiary and in Universities).

Other major limitations of this work include time and financial constraints. Time was hardly available for this research. This together with some other problems, explains why the research seemed to have lasted on for quite some time. On finance, a research of this type would require a lot of fund to enable the research move smoothly especially for traveling, especially in the area of questionnaire distribution, relevant work from the internet and gathering other research materials. The researcher tried as much as possible to manage the available resources.

 

1.8     Definition of Terms

It is necessary to define the major operational terms so as to put the reader and the researcher in the same position. According to Leech there is a politeness principle with conversational maxims similar to those formulated by Grice. He lists six Maxims: tact, generosity, approbation, modesty, agreement and sympathy. The first and the second form a pair as do the third and the fourth. Note that these maxims vary from culture to culture, meaning what may be considered as polite in one culture may be strange or downright rude in another.

 

  1. The Tact Maxim:

The tact maxim states: Minimize the expression of beliefs which imply cost to other, maximize the expression of beliefs which imply benefit to other. The first part of this maxim fits in with Brown and Levinson’s negative politeness strategy of minimizing the imposition and the second part reflects the positive politeness strategies of attending to the hearer’s interests, wants and needs:

Could I interrupt you for a second?

If I could interrupt you for a second?

 

(b) The Generosity Maxim: Leech’s Generosity

Maxim state: Minimize the expression of benefit to self, maximize the expression of cost to self: Unlike the tact maxim, the maxim of generosity focuses on the speaker and says that others should be put first instead of the self:

You relax and let me do the dishes.

You must come and have dinner with me.

 

(c) The Approbation Maxim:

The approbation maxim states: Minimize the expression of beliefs which express approval of others. The operation of this maxim is fairly obvious, all things being equal we prefer to praise others and if we cannot do so, to sidestep the issue to give some sort of minimal response (possibly) through the use of euphemisms or to remain silent. The first part of the maxim avoids disagreement, the second part intends to make other people feel good by showing solidarity:

I heard you singing at the crusade last night.

It was um – – – – – – different

John, I know you’re a genius-would you know how to solve maths problem here?

 

The Modesty Maxim:

The modesty maxim states; Minimize the expression of praise of self, maximize the expression of dispraise of self:

Oh, I’m so stupid – I didn’t make a note of our lecture! Did you?

 

 

 

  1. The Agreement Maxim:

          The Agreement Maxim runs as follows: Minimize the expression of disagreement between self and other, maximize the expression of agreement between self and other. It is in line with Brown and Levinson’s positive strategies of seek “agreement” and avoid ‘disagreement” to which they attach great importance. However, it is not being claimed that people totally avoid disagreement. It is simply observed that they are much more direct in expressing agreement rather than disagreement.

A: I didn’t want my daughter to do this, I want her to do that.

B: Yes, but Madam, I thought we resolved this already on your last visit.

 

  1. The Sympathy Maxim:

The sympathy

Maxim states: Minimize antipathy between self and other, Maximize sympathy between self and other. This includes a small group of speech acts such as congratulation, commiseration and expressing condolences all of which is in accordance with Brown and hevinson’s positive politeness strategy of attending to the hearer’s interests, want and needs.

I was sorry to hear about your father’s death.

 

  1. What is Politeness?

          All Nations English Dictionary sees polite behaviour as having the following components: “being courteous, having good manners, being considerate of others: “Using correct social behaviour’ Roughly put, politeness is appropriateness of behaviour and speech acts towards other people.

Similarly Yule defined politeness as the means employed to show awareness of another person’s face. In this sense, politeness can be accomplished in situations of social distance or closeness.

Adebija in Prezi (2003) also says that politeness is associated with situations in which one speaks or behaves in a way that is socially and culturally acceptable and pleasant to the hearer. Brown says that politeness can be said to be the act of saying or doing things in such a way as to take into account the other person’s feelings.

Journal of Nigerian Languages and Cultures (volume holds) says that politeness is one of the most important aspects of human communication. Human beings can only exist in peace together if certain basic conventions of politeness are observed.

Social cohesion depends upon awareness and consideration of the “face needs” of others.

  1. The Concept of Face

Within an interaction, however, there is a move narrowly specified type of politeness at work. In order to describe it we need the concept of face. As a technical term, face means the public self image of a person. It refers to that emotional and social sense of self that everyone has and expects everyone else to recognize. In most English-speaking contexts, the participants in an interaction often have to determine as they speak, the relative social distance between them and hence their ‘face wants’.

  1. Face Wants

In this discussion, let us assume that the participants involved in an interactions are not living in a context which has created rigidly fixed social relationships. Within their everyday social interactions, people generally behave as if their expectations concerning their public self-image, or their “face wants’ will be respected. If a speaker says something that represents a threat to another individual’s expectations regarding self image, it is described as a face threatening act. Alternatively, given the possibility that some action might be interpreted as a threat to another’s face, the speaker can say something to lessen the possible threat. This is called a face saving act.

Imagine a night scene, where a young neighbor is playing his music very loud and an older couple are trying sleep. One of them proposes a face threatening act and the other suggests a face saving act.

Example. Him: I’m going to tell him to stop that awful noise right now!

Her: Perhaps you could just ask him if he is going to stop soon because it’s getting a bit late and people need to get to sleep.

Because it is generally expected that each people will attempt to respect the face wants of others, there are many different ways of performing face saving acts.

Brown and Levinson (1978) present a cohesive and comprehensive theory of politeness in which the concept of ‘face’ is central. Several researchers have investigated the concept of “face” all of them borrow their use of them from Goffman (1967) who may have derived it from Chinese usage. Goffman defines ‘face’ as the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact”. (cf Goffman’s 1965:5). Based on his observational research, Goffman claims that there are three features of a person’s face. A person desires as consistent as having worth and as worthy of respect. He claims that there are two basic rule of social interaction: be considerate and be respectful, both of which exist for the maintenance of face. Following Goffman’s views of face and face-work and his interactional perspective. Brown and Levinson (1987) offer a descriptive analysis of the strategies used by interactants to maintain their respective faces in social interaction.

The concept of ‘face” is explicable in Brown and Levinson (1987:61) thus:

“… each participant is normal human society has two types of face need – ‘positive face need’ and a ‘negative face need”. The positive face need is the positive consistent self-image or “personality” (crucially including the desire that this self-image be appreciated and approved of) claimed by interactants’ and the negative face need is the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, rights to non-distraction – i.e freedom of action and freedom from imposition.

In agreement with the above, Holmes 1995;154 says

‘… positive politeness’ attends to a person’s positive face needs and includes such speech acts as compliment, invitations greeting and press goodwill and solidarity, while ‘Negative politeness’ on the other hand attends to a person’s negative face needs and include indirectness and apologies. It expresses respect and consideration”.

(J) MAND: It is the cover term coined by Skinner and popularized by Lyons (1977) for utterances such as commands and requests, questions often analyzed by linguists as a sub-type of Mands Brown and Levinson (1987) refer to them as “face threatening acts”.

 

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