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1.1       Background of the Study

Linguistics is also concerned with various aspects of the representation of gender in language. One of the earliest linguists to examine gender ways of speaking was Dane Otto Jespersen whose analysis dates as far back as 1925, and serves as a useful starting point in the exploration of the study of gender speech and its ideologies. In his article “The woman” (1990),”women’s speech is clearly deficient of men’s”. The reason for this value judgment could be that there was no adequate record of situation to serve as basis of his result of pre-conceived stereotypes.

Fifty years later, Robin Lakoff established a set of gender features that seems to be a confirmation of an existing power imbalance reflected in linguistic expression (Lakoff :2004). Although counting as one of the first – if not first – contribution to feminist linguistics, some of Jespersen’s sexist assumptions are carried over into her work. Even though Lakoff’s data does not originate in empirical research, but is based on observations and introspection, this does not necessarily reflect the reality of the fe(male) speech community. The lexical gender markers introduced by her lack accuracy and stand as mere stereotypes, possibly rooted in women socialized role from the past. She claims, for example, that women use weaker and almost sweet sounding swear words such as “oh—dear,” or “goodness”, whereas men use stronger expressions such as “shit”, or “damn (Braun 2004:13)

In spite of the efforts and contributions worldwide of women, the old stereotypes that portray men as superior or domineering and women as passive or weaker vessels have continued to exist in today’s society. Despite men’s use of strong expressions as claimed by Lakoff in Braun (2004:13), women continued to strive to be equal with their male counterparts. In social circles, there is an underlying difference in the speech pattern of men and women. The men are assertive, interjecting with authority and humour, while the women on their own part are receptive and on defence. This has kept the old belief alive through generational transfer and associations.

The representation of genders in fiction falls into the category of how genders express themselves or are being expressed. Spender (1990:93) addresses the issue of men being the ones who made the world which women must inhabit. Such restrictive language forces women into a system of personal expression that is not necessarily true of their nature and this has been addressed not only by linguists, but also literary critics. For example,   as early as the first half of the 20th century the writer Virginia Woolf in Women and Fiction (Woolf, 1990), and The Angel in the House (Woolf,2004). In the above texts, Woolf addresses the struggle women writers experience because they are limited by the conventions of writing that has been created by the minds of men. Woolf felt that to write freely and according to their female nature, women have to learn to break out the role society expects of them. Hence, gender speech pattern is to a certain degree, confronted with the problem of an existing gender stereotypes and clichés in the society. Based on the dynamic approval and the concept of doing gender, styles of communication are classified as “masculine” or feminine”.

Generally in plays, authors use stylistic devices to bear on their chosen characters to behave in a particular way in a situation in order to achieve the desired results or effects. As the plays try to mirror real life situation so do the characters, their roles and the language they represent. There is, therefore, the tendency for playwrights to ascribe roles, characteristics and language reflective of society to characters in their plays. The characteristics, roles and language reflected in plays tend to delimit women on gender basis. In plays, characters are meant to play roles that correspond to their gender stereotypes and even in languages. According to Unoka (2010:763), male dominance has been pre-eminent from the time of the earliest written historical records. From the Bible to the traditional Hindu customs, the story has always been the same. Male dominance over the female counterpart is predicted on the biblical creation story in Genesis, chapter two. God fashioned the women from the rib He removed from the upper thorax of the man, Adam. This means that from nature, men were not created to be equal with women. Primacy of creation gives men an ordained superiority over their women counterparts. The material for the creation of the women was not taken from Adam’s head as to depict equality with the women counterparts. It was not taken from the man’s foot as to make the woman an object to be trample upon, but taken from a rib near his heart and created a being to be cared for, cherished and loved. The Bible book of Ephesians (Chapter 5:22-24) states thus: “Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife… Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

In the African traditional society and customs, the story is not different. Men in their wisdom generally see themselves as superior, overbearing and domineering over the women. This picture is given in Akoma’s (1988) Obidiya, where Oriaku is boasting of what he will do with Obidiya, Onuma’s wife after killing him:

… Onye ga-ekwu? Nwanyi ya    O ga-eme gini? nwanyi bu nwanyi.    O sie ike m kpo ya n’ ulo nye ya ego,     Luo ya (3)

(… Who will talk? What can a woman do?   A woman is a woman. If it comes to    Worst, I will give her money and marry her.)

Verbal communication is seen as a medium most commonly used among genders to express thoughts, feelings or ideas, and there are marked differences in their expressions. This difference results in each gender’s speech pattern to become related to their characteristics in representing past, present and even future convictions.

Cultural authority and pre-eminence are ascribed in Igbo setting. Such cultural ascription empowers the men to assert power and authority over those surrounding them, as seen in Chukuezi  (1979)  Aku Fechaa. Here Agu asserts;

O nweghi ihe a ga-ekwute na okwu a.  O bu dike na ibe ya.O bukwa Ibe na Odumodu (34)

(There is nothing else to be said about this matter.     This is man to man affairs. Is it not the Ibe and Odumodu)

The above citation implies that men can achieve the need for control over women and other male counterparts through dominance in conversations.

This domineering speech pattern in male characters is often experienced when they are in group setting, such as age group or group of friends.

According to the Igbo customs and traditions, men usually work hard to be recognized. Where a man fails to assert himself as expected of him, he is denied his social respect, treated and spoken of as a “woman”. This was what happened to Unoka, Okonkwo’s father in Achebe’s (1984) Things Fall Apart .Okonkwo suffered humiliation in a gathering, when a friend told him that his father was an agbala”, which implies a woman equivalence. Okonkwo realized that an “agbala” is not only a name for a woman but a man who has taken no title or a man of no consequence.

Consequently, men have different means of gaining the attention of the audience and control in a conversation. They are more likely to interrupt, challenge, ignore others and use mechanisms in gaining control and respect than women. Besides, they tend to interact in crude ways when in group situations. Narrative, jokes and stories are highly valued before their audience. Also, proverbs and jokes are some of the speech devices men employ to get the floor and gain prestige.

Nwadike (1999) notes that the character of Ogbazuruobodo the masquerade in Achebe’s Arrow of God presented his speech in the final ritual thus:

When a handshake passes the elbow it becomes another thing. The sleep that lasts from one market day to another has become death. The man who likes meat of the funeral ram, why does he recover when sickness visits him…

Another common male futuristic speech pattern exhibited by African writers is loud and aggressive arguments which often include “shouting, wagering, name-calling and verbal threats. A high value is usually placed on obscene language and swearing.

Realizing the domineering consequences of male speech pattern which have continued to place women at the low ebb and give men the controlling powers in the society, this research therefore, takes a look at four selected plays- Ome Ihe Jide Ofo, Ajo Obi, Nke M Ji Ka and Eruru by G.I Nwaozuzu.


1.2       Statement of the Problem.

As in real life, speech patterns in plays are not uttered in isolation. There is a deliberate attempt by playwrights to ascribe roles, characteristics, and language replica in society to characters in their plays. The characteristics, roles, and language reflected in plays tend to delimit characters on gender basis. It is not an easy task to ascribe a particular speech pattern to a particular gender. Gender speech pattern is influenced by situation, emotion and ego. To delimit gender speech pattern from literary genre poses some problems. The reader has to read to analyze the genre from the playwright’s eyes in order to find out why and how he has ascribed a particular speech pattern to a particular character in a particular situation.

In top confidential issues on the administration of the community, marriage and burial rites, land matters, inter-community clashes and inheritance, it is difficult to identify when the male speech pattern is based on the roles ascribed to the male folk or when it is an outburst of emotion and temperament.

Certain determinant factors of the human psyche like psychological, physiological, spiritual and physical makes up of the human personality use language as a medium of their expression pattern. These forms are complex in nature and formation and therefore, need complex expressive patterns. These problems trigger off speech patterns that are peculiar to a particular gender, hence the rationale for the present study.

It is these gaps between male and female speech pattern that the present study is geared to address. Based on this, one is now confronted with the selection of the appropriate literary genre that deals with the topic of the research. Consequently, since literature is an index of expressing human social behaviour, the four plays of Nwaozuzu used in this study to portray male speech pattern that results to socio-cultural crises buttressed by both male and female characters in the plays of study, would therefore, serve as a panacea for harmonious and mutual existence of all genders.


1.3.      Research Question

  1. Can speech pattern be used to categorize gender?
  2. What factors elicit male speech pattern in traditional Igbo society as used in the plays of study?

iii.        To what extent does male speech pattern differ from female speech pattern in the plays under study?

  1. In what aspects do male speech pattern affect that of the female in the plays under focus?


1.4       Purpose of the Study.

The general purpose of the study is to survey the male speech pattern in the plays of Nwaozuzu, while the specific purposes are to:

  1. examine if speech patterns can be used to discriminate gender in the plays under study.
  2. examine the circumstances that elicit male speech pattern in traditional Igbo society as reflected in the plays under study.

iii.        determine the extent to which male speech differs from that of the female in the plays under study.

  1. examine the effects of male speech pattern on the female gender in the plays of study.


1.5       Significance of the Study.

A critical analysis of the male speech pattern in the four (4) plays of Nwaozuzu will no doubt create in-debt literary consciousness on a good number of authors and scholars as there exists little or no work of this nature especially in Igbo drama. The study will look into gender speech patterns and linguistics and as well, give insight into what Igbo literature can offer to the society, as copious works have not been done in the area of male speech pattern, on different literary genre. This work will therefore, open up avenue for further inquiries into male speech pattern in both Igbo and other related literary genres.

Secondly, it will give an insight to Igbo playwrights as regards creativity and as it concerns manipulations of speech patterns on gender basis. Although it has given an insight into another dimension in which Igbo playwrights can be categorized, analyzed and criticized.

Furthermore, it will open up a window to socio-linguistic study and interpretation which in turn lead to thorough investigations as well as the mood, temperament of the characters, and the accompanying themes and plots as they manifest in linguistic and non-linguistics elements in the plays under study. This study will also point out some extraneous factors such as hot tempered, craftiness, arrogance, assertiveness, etc that affect language use and language functions.

Finally, this study is intended to stimulate the limitations of Nwaozuzu’s plays, and to proffer better approaches to the study of male speech pattern and development as it relates to the study of Igbo drama and literatures, which can be used as basis for the study of various Nigerian languages.


1.6       Scope of the Study

This study is restricted to the contemporary Igbo drama as a performance and as literature. It is intended to examine male speech pattern which will be restricted to the four (4) plays of Nwaozuzu. The researcher chooses these four (4) plays of the playwright as they portray vividly the speech pattern of the average Igbo man. To be able to accomplish this requires an in- depth knowledge of female speech pattern as it will help to bring out clearly the differences between male and female speech patterns.

To approach this, one does not loose sight of making reference to other dramatic works or cultures and or other genres of literature, especially when they serve to illustrate one’s points. As the researchers focus is on drama in Igbo socio-cultural environment, the study attempts to analyze male speech pattern or style as used in communication and as shown in the four plays under study. The plays under study include:


_ Ome Ihe Jide Ofo,(OIJO)1991

_ Ajo Obi, (AO) 1998

_ Nke M Ji Ka (NMJK) 2005

_ Eruru (ER) 2009


1.7       Research Methodology

The researcher adopts the following procedures in carrying out the study. These include: Research instrument, Method of data collection and Method of data analysis.


1.7.1    Research Instrument.

The research instrument  for this study includes the four selected plays of Nwaozuzu – Ome Ihe Jide Ofo (OIJO), Ajo Obi (AO), Nke M Ji Ka (NMJK) and Eruru (ER),journals, theses, internet materials and other literary textbooks that helped to elicit information about the study texts as well as the related literature reviewed.


1.7.2    Method of data Collection

In view of the fact that this research work is text-oriented, the researcher made intensive use of primary and secondary sources as well as the internet, which form the basic sources of information for the work. Also, as little work has been done in this area and considering the background nature of the study which reflect the Igbo culture, the four (4) plays of a female Igbo playwright are selected. These include:

–           Ome Ihe Jide Ofo (OIJO) 1991

–        Ajo Obi (AO) 1998

–       Nke M Ji Ka (NMJK) 2005

–       Eruru (ER) 2009.


1.7.3    Method of Data Analysis

The method of data analysis involves both deductive and inductive approaches. The deductive approach which is descriptive in nature, involves the use of inferences to draw up logical conclusion from the already existing or established facts while the inductive approach of the analysis which involves individualized ideas or facts is also used for generalizing rules or conclusion.

These approaches were used to analyze the context that marks differences in speech patterns of male and female characters in the four plays of Nwaozuzu.

The symbolism of the characters is examined in order to know how it expresses the theme of male speech pattern. Again, socio – linguistic criterion is used to examine the texts under study against the background of Africa as in Igbo value system. The study looks at the extent to which speeches of the characters can be used as stereotypes or models that can appropriately correlate to Igbo societal norms and value system. The data analysis will comprise of linguistic, morphological, grammatical,

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