A Study of Conjuncts and Cohesion in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck

A Study of Conjuncts and Cohesion in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck



Background to the Study

The interpretation of a text is tied to the ability of the readers to not just make sense of the individual lexicon but also draw a connection between the groups of words, phrases and sentences into one meaningful unit. This may also require a background knowledge of the mental image being portrayed by the writer’s linguistic choices. Once the average reader is able to make sense of the individual word in relations to other words which brings meaning, ideas and understanding of the writer’s message, such a text may be considered to possess cohesion which may further bring coherence.

Every writer tries to communicate an idea or ideas and without certain linguistic elements, such idea may elude the reader who is not able to piece the ideas in the passage together probably due to insufficient use of cohesive ties or the lack of grammatico-semantic features which is the domain of functional grammar. Functional grammar focuses on meaning and treats grammar as a resource for language users in making meaning in a given social context. Thus, Larsen-Freeman (npn) in Liu and Jiang (62-63) suggests that “language form, meaning, and use should be approached as an integrated whole.” The three aspects of grammar are interwoven because “a change in one will involve a change in another” (Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman 4).

In addition, lexico-grammar studies lexicon and grammar as two inherently connected parts of a single entity, challenging the traditional “wisdom of postulating separate domains of lexis and syntax” (Sinclair, 104). Francis (142) further explains that “a grammatical structure may be lexically restricted” and, conversely, lexical items are often grammatical in nature, for the use of a lexical item often has grammatical implications.

Many studies have investigated this close lexical and grammatical connection (Biberet al., 1998; Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, & Finegan, 1999; Francis, Hunston, & Manning, 1996, 1998; Hunston & Francis) and cohesion is usually a part of such discourse. Cohesion therefore is one aspect of Lexico-Grammatical study, because it analyses the use of cohesive ties in a text to achieve meaning.

According to Laeli (9), the concept of cohesion is a semantic one; it refers to relations of meaning that exist within the text and that define it as a text. Cohesion occurs where the interpretation of some elements in the discourse is dependent on that of another. The one presupposes the other, in the sense that it cannot be effectively decoded except by recourse to it. When this happens, a relation of cohesion is set up, and the two elements, the presupposing and the presupposed, are thereby at least potentially integrated into a text.

Laeli (10) conceives of Cohesion as the formal aspect of language in discourse. It is a “syntactic organization”. Syntactic organization is the texts which are coherent and well-structured solid. Lexical cohesion is a guide to the organization of the flow of ideas in the text: Tracing groups of words with related meanings, one sees which semantic domains are used, to what extent and in what patterns.

Cohesion can also be defined as a set of resources of constructing relations in discourse which transcend grammatical structure. According to Martin J.R cited in Schiffrin (203), Cohesion is a part of the study of texture, which considers the interaction of cohesion with other aspects of text organization. Texture, in turn is one aspects of the study of coherence, which takes the social contexts of text into considerations.

Halliday and Hasan (5) state that like other semantic relations, cohesion is expressed through the strata of organization of language. Language can be explained as a multiple coding system comprising three levels of coding, or strata: the semantic (meaning), the lexico-grammatical (forms) and the phonological and orthographic (expressions). Meanings are realized (coded) as forms, and forms are realized in turn (recorded) as expressions. To put this simply, meaning is put into wording, and wording into sound or writing. For the writer to communicate with the readers, the corpus will require certain cohesive ties which help to elucidate meaning clearly for the readers.

Reference and conjunction are parts of the elements with which cohesion is achieved. Reference is the relation between an element of text and something else by reference to which it is interpreted in the given instance. Reference is a potentially cohesive relation because the thing that serves as the source of the interpretation may itself be an element of the text (Laeli 12).

Conjunction is a word that connects words, phrases and clauses in the sentence. Conjunction involves the use of lexicons in a way that the writer wants the reader to relate what is about to be said to what has been said before. Halliday and Hasan offer the specific relative conjunctive relation as those of and, yet, so, and then which used not just to turn, linking one speaker’s turn of the current speaker, or else marking a shift in topic or sub-topic (often with but). For examples: The student has studied hard. Yet he has not passed the examination/ Today, I have a meeting. So don’t be late.

Thus, it is true that cohesion occurs when there is a presupposed or another elements in a discourse. One element may immediately presuppose another element in the preceding sentence or in the following one. In this regard therefore, this study shall analyse Chimamanda Adichie’s The Thing around your Neck, using Halliday and Hassan’s framework on cohesion. The study shall analyse the use of References and Conjunctives as devices that connect sentences and paragraphs in the selected short stories in order to interpret their meanings.

Motivation for the Study

This study is first motivated by the researcher’s interests in the field of discourse analysis which looks out for meaning in any piece of discourse whether in text or speech. In other words, the motivation for this study is purely linguistic. Also, Chimamanda Adichie’s writings have been an influence for this researcher who hopes to thread her path someday in creative writing. Examining a discussion of the cohesive ties in Adichie’s short story collection will help this researcher and other readers to better interpret and appreciate the text under review.

Chimamanda Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck

Adichie’s third book is a collection of twelve short stories titled The Thing around Your Neck. It is written in 300 pages and was published in April 2009. The stories are set in Nigeria, America and Cape Town. Though the stories are not linked, a common thread runs through them. Some themes are religious fanaticism, religious and cultural clash between Christians and Nigerians, interaction between traditional religion and Christianity and married life. The Thing around Your Neck is rich with references to history, culture and literature.

The twelve short stories are:

  • Cell One
  • Imitation
  • A Private Experience
  • Ghosts
  • On Monday of Last Week
  • Jumping Monkey Hill
  • The Thing Around Your Neck
  • The American Embassy
  • The Shivering
  • The Arrangers of Marriage
  • Tomorrow Is Too Far
  • The Headstrong Historian

But, in this study, our analysis is restricted to the stories: The Thing Around Your Neck, The Shivering, The Arrangers of Marriage, Tomorrow is too Far and The Headstrong Historian respectively which have been randomly selected because of the themes they project. The study is restricted to these stories because of time and space constraint as well.

Statement of the Problem

The collection of short stories in The Thing around your Neck has been analysed using the literary tools by scholars. Oshodi, Adewale in 2010 titled her study “Nuggest in Chimamanda Adichie’s Cell One. Also, Banks, Ashley did “A Literary Analysis of The Thing around your Neck in 2012. This research will further contribute to the literature in Adichie’s short story by analyzing references and conjunctives as cohesive devices to ascertain meaning in the story. This is the problem to be solved in this study.

Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to ascertain how Chimamanda Adichie has used References and Conjunctives in The Thing around your Neck. This aim will be achieved through the objectives below:

i. It will identify and analyse the use of References in the selected stories.

ii. It will also, identify and analyse the use of Conjunctives in the selected stories.

Scope and Delimitation of the Study

This study covers the analysis of Chiamamanda Adichie’s short storycollection, The Thing around your Neck, using Michael Haliday and Ruqayyat Hassan’s framework on Cohesion as an approach. The short story collection contains 12 stories; but for convenience, the study analyses only five randomly selected stories: The Thing Around Your Neck, The Shivering, The Arrangers of Marriage, Tomorrow is too Far, and The Headstrong Historian.

Cohesive ties are categorized into five by Halliday and Hassan (reference, substitution, ellipsis, lexical cohesion and cohesive conjunctives) and only cohesive conjunctives which contain additive, adversative, temporal and result, and references are adopted for analysis in the current study.

Significance of the Study

This study is significant as it advances studies in Chimamanda Adichie’s fictional writings, contributing to the bulk of literature. Also, a study of the cohesive devices will help to shed light on elucidating the text, The Thing around your Neck. Future researchers and students will find this study useful as source materials for enriching their work and knowledge in references and conjunctions as cohesive ties. In sum, this work is significant for its contribution to knowledge.


The study uses Halliday and Hassan’s framework on cohesion and cohesive ties to discuss excerpts from randomly selected short stories in the collection. The researcher analyses the excerpts to identify the conjunctives and references that feature in them and how these help to shed meaning to the story. After the analysis of the cohesive ties on the excerpts from selected stories, a tabular presentation of the identified cohesive ties (taxonomy table) was used to further show the type of cohesive ties that feature in the selected stories. This helps to also demonstrate the type of ties that feature most prominently in the text.

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