A Pragmatic Analysis of Conversational Breach in Frank Ogodo’s Harvest of Corruption

A Pragmatic Analysis of Conversational Breach in Frank Ogodo’s Harvest of Corruption



Language is a means of communication between people in a community. According to Osisanwo (1), “it is the human vocal noise or the arbitrary graphic representation of this noise, used systematically and conventionally by members of a speech community for purpose of communication”. Language studies for a long time concentrated on language form at the expense of language function. This research intends to adopt a pragmatic approach to study a Nigerian dramatic text. Pragmatics is derived from the Greek word “pragma” meaning deed or action. Yule 1, defined pragmatics as the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker (or writer) and interpreted by a listener. For so long, ‘play’ or ‘drama’ has been subjected to literary analysis by scholars and analyst. Therefore, the study it is an attempt to analyse a play using a pragmatics tool. ‘Drama’ is a genre of literature where societal events are acted or performed on stage. This, in other words, means that play involves spoken language and dialogue which is the interest of pragmatics and the major focus of this study.

Pragmatics has been variously defined by scholars. Yule (4) defines it as “the study of the relationship between linguistic forms and the user of these forms”. Bach and Harnish (1979), Wilson and Sperber (1981), Leech (1983) and Thomas (1995) generally explain that pragmatics accounts for specific meanings and situational contexts. According to Adegbija’:

Pragmatics is the study of language in particular communication contexts or situations….This would take cognizance of the message being communicated, or the speech act being performed; the participants involved their intention, knowledge of the world and the impacts of these on their interaction. What they have taken for granted as part of the context (or the presuppositions), the deductions they make on the basis of the context; what is said or left unsaid, the impacts of non-verbal aspect of interactions on meaning.(18)

The study of Pragmatics involves the understanding of the various approaches it contains. Among these approaches are; J.L Austin’s Speech Act Theory (1962), Grice’ Cooperative Principle and Implicature (1975, 1989) … Other aspects of pragmatics are; politeness principles, felicity condition, system of mood, presupposition, inference, entailment, hedges etcetera. This study is however concerned with cooperative principles and hedges.

Austine 1962 and Searle 1969 in Davies 3, Grice’s work on Cooperative Principle (CP) initiated the current interest in pragmatics, and led to the development of pragmatics as a separate discipline within linguistics … The main aim of communication in pragmatics is to give and receive information; people try to adopt a cooperative behaviour to convey their intentions and transfer their utterances implicitly. In this regard, Grice (41), points out that communication acts depend on the Cooperative Principle and interlocutors try to be cooperative with each other in most of the conversational exchanges. Conversation is based on a shared principle of cooperation. Cooperation is a term often used in linguistic literature to characterize human behaviour in conversation. By means of maxim, we assume that the meaning of the conversation which seems to violate the participant’s specifications or doesn’t seem to conform to cooperative principle has an implied or unstated meaning. According to Wale (248), the hearer of an utterance has no direct access to the meaning which the speaker has in mind. He has to go through the process of arriving at an interpretation of such utterances. This process is termed inference. Grice (43) divides inferences into two categories: first, inferences that are straightforward and listener can get the speaker’s intention directly, second, inferences that are conveyed by violating those maxims, which are called “implicature”. Conversation, no doubt thrives on cooperation between two interactants. Hence H.P Grice presents conversational implicature as relying on the cooperative principle.

Hedges, on the other hand, are cautious words, notes, and expressions applied by a writer to warn the listener or reader about how much of what is being said or written should be taken. They are small particles of language which soften the impact of Face Threatening Act (FTA). They include “sort of”; “by any chance”; “as it were”… (Osisanwo 96). Hedges are used as devices of politeness especially when the hearer is a person of a more authoritative status than the speaker.

Frank Ogodo Ogeche’s Harvest of Corruption (1997), is a drama text that is constructed and structured on dialogues which is the premise upon which CP thrives. Frank Ogodo Ogbeche is a Nigerian poet, playwright and novelist from Yala area in Cross River State Nigeria. He attended Awori-Ajeromi Grammar school, Agboju in Lagos and the Federal school of Arts and Science, Ogoja, Cross River State. He obtained his first degree in Communication Arts from the University of cross river in 1989. Frank Ogodo Ogbeche is a member of the association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPE) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). He has written a number of plays and poems. They are; “The Intruder”, “The promises of the gods” and “Harvest of Corruption”. His latest work of poetry is in his dialect entitled “Wogada” meaning “Echoes of the yesteryears”. The play, Harvest of Corruption focuses essentially on sexual immorality, bribery, large scale smuggling involving highly placed personalities, policy makers and law enforcement officers who are supposed to be the custodians of our traditional norms and laws. Worse still, young and innocent Nigerians are introduced to criminality in the name of money making and ostentatious living. The choice of this framework (cooperative principle and Hedges) is born out of the fact that it best suits the study because as dramatic text, it involves dialogues with implied meanings.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Harvest of corruption (1997) is the second play by Frank Ogodo Ogbeche. The few available critical studies on this play are done through literary perspectives. There are no linguistic analysis as at the time of this study to the best of the researcher’s knowledge. The study therefore seeks to examine the dialogues in the text through pragmatic perspective in order to analyse conversational cooperation among the characters as well as the Hedges employed in the use of language in the play.

1.3 Aim and Objectives

This study aims at how implied meaning is derived from the text Harvest of Corruption by Frank Ogodo Ogbeche . The objectives of the study are to;

1. identify and analyze how interactants hedge their conversation to avoid breaching the CP.

2. account for what a speaker intends, suggests, implies, infers or means by his utterances in the text Harvest of Corruption by Frank Ogbeche .

3. examine and determine the closeness or distance of interactants and their shared experiences.

1.4 Research Questions

Based on the issues mentioned above, the following research questions have been raised. They are:

1. how do speakers hedge their conversation to avoid breaching the CP?

2. how do we account for what a speaker intends, suggests, implies, infers or means by his utterances in the play text Harvest of Corruption?

3. how do we examine and determine the closeness or distance of interactants and their shared experiences?

1.5 Scope and Limitation

This research explores and analyzes the text (Harvest of Corruption) using Grice’s four maxims of Cooperative Principles (maxims of quality, quantity, manner and relation) and hedges (adverbial hedges, adjectival hedges, phrasal or clausal hedges….). The analysis is mainly on conversational implicatures and how speakers hedge themselves to avoid being committed to a proposition.

1.6 Significance of the study and contribution to knowledge

Series of research have been done in the field of pragmatics especially its application to the explication of literary texts. Frank Ogodo Ogbeche is a writer known to expose the social-cultural and political decadence of our time. His style relies heavily on the use of Standard English and Pidgin to pass his message to the reader. This study is a contribution to the existing literature on pragmatic analysis on Cooperative principle and Hedges and the application of pragmatic to African literary texts. The significance of this study cannot be over emphasized; as it will also be a useful resource to future researchers especially undergraduates and post-graduate students of language. The result of this research will also benefit literary linguists as pragmatic approach to literary criticism will engender a deeper meaning than a pure literary approach.

1.7 Methodology

1.7.1 Research Design

This study is a content analysis relying mainly on the chosen text, Harvest of Corruption by Frank Ogodo Ogbeche.

1.7.2 Sources of Data

The chosen text Harvest of Corruption (1997) by Frank Ogodo Ogbeche serves as the data. It is among the recommended texts for junior secondary school students by the West African Examination Council. Resource materials such as text books and journal articles are used for the review of related literature. The resource materials mentioned above were collected from the university of Abuja library and the internet.

1.7.3 Data Analysis

The data analysis chapter is divided into two chapters: chapter three is based on the cooperative principle analysis while chapter four is based on the hedges employed in the play and their implications. The work employs a purposive sampling technique whereby certain dialogues which are relevant to the subject of investigation are handpicked for analysis. Dialogues where the maxims have been violated will be analysed to derive implicature. The study also examines how interactants hedge their conversation to avoid giving direct answers to questions. In each of the chapters, the data are being labelled data 1,2,3 etcetera and the analysis follows accordingly. The data will first be described before its presentation and analysis.

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