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LANGUAGE AND THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF WOMEN BY MEN IN TIV TRADITIONAL BRIDAL SONGS

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CHAPTER ONE

1.0       INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background of the Study

This study is in the field of linguistics and specifically sociolinguistics. One of the major concepts in Sociolinguistics is the notion of speech community. The speech community is founded on the Prague school notion of ‘speech bond’ that centres on shared ways of speaking which go beyond language boundaries. ‘Language bond’, involves relatedness at the level of linguistic ‘form’ both of which emphasize the production of speech itself over perception or attitude to it. Speech community helps to define a set of people who have something in common linguistically. This view can be narrowed down to groups of speakers which may be social, religious, political, familiar, vocational, etc. This gives the impetus to regarding socialization of women with special reference to Tiv women as a sociolinguistic group or speech community. Sociolinguistics refers to the way language is affected by differences in social class, religion, sex etc. While socialization is the process by which individuals learn to behave in a way that is acceptable in a particular society.

Sociolinguistics is concerned with investigating the relationships between language and society with the aim of bringing a better understanding of the structure of language and of how language functions in communication. Social structure can be better understood through the study of language by examining how certain linguistic features serve to characterize particular social arrangements. Downes (1998) sees sociolinguistics as that branch of linguistics which studies those properties of language and languages which requires reference to social futures including contextual features. Downes explains that in order to understand the nature of human language, language should be studied in its social context to achieve a better understanding of the nature of the relationship and interaction between language and society which this study attempts to make visible, using the CDA approach by Fairclough (1989) to examine the use of language, and social construction of women in Tiv traditional bridal songs within Tiv speech community.

This study seeks to examine language and the social construction of women by men in Tiv traditional bridal songs. Songs have constituted a major means of defining women in the African traditional setting. A people’s language constitutes their worldview; how they conceive and perceive the web of relations between sexes and what they view as natural and immutable in their ordering of the world. In the Tiv traditional society, men are the composers of Tiv bridal songs, some of the composers include Emmanuel Wade from Ishoruv in Buruku local government, Ajo Agor from Ukan in Ushongo local government, Apav Gbor from Mbatiav in Gboko local government, Diago Chia from Ipav, Gboko local government, Ihunde of Kunav in Vandikya and Kohol Moses of Mbatiav in Gboko local government all of Benue State just to mention a few. Bridal songs are composed for the women to use in celebrating newly married wives. The social construction of women in Tiv traditional bridal songs portrays a particular culture and tradition which imbues, generally, a very negative image of the Tiv women. These songs articulate the culturally scripted roles of women. The language apparently reduces the women to functional objects which may constitute a serious social problem.

Culture is what gives peculiarity to a race, nation or society in general. It is culture that ascribes certain images of note and reference to members of a community. Most of African traditional societies have established images of their women as attempts to define role and not basically to undermine or subdue the integrity of the woman.

Language and power have to do with language in social life but with a particular agenda in mind; how language in everyday usage enables us to understand issues of social concern, especially the way we communicate, which is constrained by the structures and forces of those social institutions within which we live and function. Our roles within them are in frequent measure defined by such particular language use. Language may simply refer to discourse. Similarly, society refers to the dynamic formation of relationships and practices constituted in large measure by struggles for power. Fairclough (1995) observes that language is significant in the production, maintenance, and change of social relations of power. Language contributes to the domination of some people by others. Fairclough (1992) further observes that ideologies are commonly linked to language, because using language is the commonest form of social behaviour, and the social behaviour which we relay is mostly on common sense assumptions.

The African culture ascribes certain roles to women and as such stereotyped. A stereotype has to do with a particular way of thinking; shaped by different traditional practices that are taught and learned right from birth. Language is human made and is bound to be infused with the ideology and slant of those who wield the power of defining entities and relations. (Jivka, 2003) Tiv language is rich in songs that reflect society’s thinking and also influences one’s thinking about the status of women. The problem of socialisation of women through the power of language by the use of Tiv traditional bridal songs is a stereotypical construct. The image of women, whatever their origin, reflects deep-rooted cultural prejudices that border on stereotypes.

Gender inequality is a social construct that is transmitted through culture by language and has perpetuated over time. Reeves & Baden (2000) observe that the defence of culture and tradition is often used by men to rationalize practices that limit women’s life chances and out­come. They also observe that efforts to challenge power imbalances are often denied legitimacy. Women’s domestic role and place within the communities are reinforced by dominant rural beliefs and practices (Little, 1987). Paechter (2003) asserts that in order to sustain gender power differentials in families and communities, males and females are required to behave in particular ways and they are recompensed or punished for conformity to, or deviance from the norm. All Tiv people speak the homogeneous Tiv language which has no dialect at all except for little variations in tone. According to Dzurgba (2011), most Tiv traditional beliefs have their academic source in cultural rumour or stereotype. Dzurgba sees stereotype as an idea, image, name, quality, ability or action which is regarded as unique and peculiar to a particular nation or ethnic group. Dzurgba further stresses that stereotypes are often used negatively, partially, unfairly, unjustly and destructively in order to alienate, exclude, hurt and damage one’s identity.

The Tiv people are a virile race of farmers, whose two great aims in life are to fill their yam stores and granaries with food, and their homes with children. They have a quick temper and somewhat unstable nature; they are refered to as the Tiv nation. The Tiv language belongs to a group which has usually been called semi-Bantu more recently, classified as Sauna (East, 2003). The Tiv people are of central Nigeria in West Africa. The society is essentially patriarchal in nature. This is manifest in the high premium placed on patrilineal rights and privileges in socio-cultural and political engineering processes often to the detriment of the matriarchal heritage. (Tsaior, 2007). In Tiv culture as in most African cultures, the socio-economic roles of men and women are clearly defined. The man, for instance, is the traditionally accepted head and spokesman of the family. The woman, on the other hand, plays a supportive role since she was originally created as ‘helper’ to the man. The woman’s level of education and sophistication makes no difference, all about the woman including her daily routine is guided mainly by the standards and principles traditionally laid down overtime.

Leadership roles in Tiv society and most Tiv families are determined not by personal endowment but by gender where the ‘orya’ (man of the house) is the head of the family both immediate and extended family. Leadership ranges from the ‘Orya’ to ‘Mbayav’, (heads of the houses) to ‘Agum a ior’, (the youth-male) to ‘Mbayev Normsuu’ (male children) and then ‘Kasev’ (women). The ‘Orya’ is generally the head of the extended family, the Orya must be a man and of course the oldest man, one becomes Orya by age. If the extended family has a membership of over 500 people, the oldest male is automatically ‘Orya’ until his death the next oldest man does not become the ‘Orya’. His responsibility is to act as a watchman over all the affairs of every member of the family including health, emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual and any other aspect of the family life. All matters of disturbance are reported to him and he will only handle matters brought to his notice formally. He is traditionally regarded by members of the extended family as a representative of the gods. He therefore has the prerogative of taking decision, giving directives, setting rules, norms, orders etc.

This always favours the man; such that despite global changes and socio-economic transformations women are still suffering restrictions politically and otherwise. The women are still expected to perform complementary roles such as cooking, washing and any such roles termed inferior. Attempts made by Tiv women towards self actualization are met with serious challenges from the men. However, as Chukwuma (2000) puts it, ‘the woman is a completer, the finer essence of man, who gives the much needed wholeness, contentment and self-actualisation to man’, and therefore, the man needs the woman for his completeness just as the woman needs the man to be fulfiled.

The Tiv culture practises polygamy as its institution of marriage. This is the marriage institution in which a man marries more than one wife (Dzurgba, 2007). The Tiv culture tends to show that the higher the number of wives a man has the greater the fame and prestige, this is a situation where such a person is said to be showing up affluence (shagba). More wives mean more children, more labourers on the farm and so greater wealth and recognition. This goes a long way to explain the Tiv saying ‘u kume shagba, u kuma tor, tor lun a kwase mom ga’ (You have demonstrated glamour, you are worthy of being a chief, ’Chiefs do not have only one wife’) these sayings refer to a Tiv man who has many wives, he is seen as being worthy of becoming a chief because he owns not just ordinary property but a higher property in wives and children.

This research examines language and the social construction of the Tiv women in the Tiv speech community. The language and social construction of women which seems to constitute a social problem calls for attention and redress.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The discourse rules of Tiv bridal songs are highly structured rule governed speech events. Both the speaker and addressee adhere to a set genre – specific rules respectively. The bridal songs are a form of constant negotiation between the speaker (soloist) and the addressee (chorister/bride) in order to achieve certain norms. This is a situation where the bride silently goes through the process of the bridal celebration, which is done using the songs to the clear hearing of the bride. It is generally assumed that the bride has adhered to the principle of cooperation as classified by Grice (1975).

The representation of womanhood in Tiv traditional bridal songs is mainly negative. This is because Tiv traditional bridal songs are appropriated by men, and the songs esteem the men as custodians of knowledge which women are thought to be incapable of. This female stereotype has been a fundamental problem that calls for serious concern. History has shown that, the female gender has been looked down upon by the males. The language construction of the women folk in the Tiv speech community seems to be negative and the women appear not to be comfortable with the trend. This constitutes a social problem that this study seeks to address with the aid of the CDA as an approach which exposes hidden social wrongs and inbalances.

Several scholars such as Harold (1970), Doki (2003), Dzurgba (2007), Torkwembe (2003), Amase & Akaan (2013) have researched extensively on language, power and social construction in Tiv speech community. However, these works mentioned immediately above and not that I know of, have been carried out using or involving the CDA. Moreover, same works have not discussed issues that border on the linguistic features in Tiv traditional bridal songs as they function in the social construction of Tiv women. Therefore, this study investigates the social construction of women in Tiv speech community using CDA with the focus of throwing light on the social construction of women in Tiv society in order to expose such inbalances that may seem to portray the women in a negative and derogative way.

1.3       Objectives of the study

The main aim of this study is to examine language and the social construction of the female folk as manifested in Tiv traditional bridal songs. In a nutshell, this is aimed at exposing the hidden implication of these traditional bridal songs to the men that inherited these songs and are in the business of composing such songs that construct the women in such a way that portrays a negative image and to also enlighten the women of the implication of these songs that the men compose for them to use during bridal celebrations. Specifically, this study seeks to:

  1. Examine bridal songs as a form of social interaction in Tiv speech community.
  2. Expose the discursive character of interactional power relations as evident in Tiv traditional bridal songs.

iii.        Determine the extent to which interactional power relations constitute a social problem in Tiv speech community.

  1. Suggest practical ways of addressing the language and social construction of women by men in Tiv traditional bridal songs.

 

1.4       Research Questions                               

This study is guided by the following research questions:

  1. What makes bridal songs forms of social interaction?
  2. What discursive characters of interactional power relations are evident in Tiv traditional bridal songs?
  • To what extent has interactional power relations constituted a social problem in Tiv speech community?
  1. What are the practical ways of addressing the problem of language and social construction of women by men in Tiv traditional bridal songs?
  • Scope of the Study

The scope covers only Tiv traditional bridal songs as a form of social interaction in Tiv speech community and investigates the discursive character of interactional power relations evident in the songs, determining the extent of this interactional power relation in the community. The study which focuses on language construction of womenfolk in Tiv speech community intends only to examine the Tiv traditional bridal songs using CDA as a sociolinguitic approach to expose wrongs and inbalances in these songs that may constitute problem in the Tiv speech community.

  • Significance of the Study

Theoretically, this work seeks to contribute to knowledge in the field of Languages and Linguistics. The research will further serve as a motivation to researchers in CDA study of language and the social construction of women in Tiv speech community in the area of sociolinguistics. The research is significant to the extent that it will expose the negative implications of the Tiv traditional bridal songs by revealing the wrongs and inbalances evident in the songs against the women. Also sensitizing the women of the abnormality in the language and the social construction of the bridal songs by the men who are the composers of the songs the woman is celebrated with at the instance of her marriage. This research study and its findings will be very useful to Tiv language users in helping them use Tiv language, especially its traditional bridal songs in civilized and un-offensive ways: this will be possible because at the end of this study, both the men and the women will become aware of the negative implication of these traditional bridal songs on themselves as individuals and the society at large.

It is worthy of note that this present study is significant to the extent that with the aid of CDA, it seeks to critically examine to bring out hidden inplications in cultural practices such as traditional bridal songs that exhibit and perpetuate acts of wrongs and inbalances against Tiv women through the manipulative use of such traditional bridal songs using Fairclough (1989) approach to CDA. Finally, this research work will serve as a reference material to researchers in this area.

1.7       The Limitation of the Study

The women were initially uncoorperative when they realized that the researcher was gathering the traditional bridal songs. They were rather curious to know the reason for the recording which took extra efforts from the researcher who had to take from her limited time to explain to the sampled communities that the data collected was for the purpose of research and nothing implicating. It took time to convince them as expressed in the questions that followed the researchers’ explanations. The members sensitized asked questions such as, ‘these songs existed before you were born. What do you want to study about them? Do you want to change our songs? Do you think you can compose better songs for us?’ these are a few out of many questions that were asked. Eventually the researcher was able to convince the people to let her interact and also record their songs although few individuals remained reluctant about the exercise. The researcher also had some constrint due to the unavailability of adequate resource materials in this particular area of study, this is because there is no work done on Tiv traditional bridal songs using the CDA that is known to the researcher

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