In the wake of a revolutionary change of interest from language form to language function, attention of many language scholars have been shifted from the structural pattern of language to the function the language is used to perform in social discourses. The present study is one of such endeavours, and essentially explored the fields of Discourse and Stylistics by pointing out their different, but related, methods of text analysis. A brief analysis of an excerpt of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day Speech of 29th May, 2015 revealed that Discourse investigates more and reproduces more meaning from a text than Stylistics. Stylistics is only a tool used in Discourse.

  • Introduction

Prior to the advent of Discourse Analysis and Stylistics, the preoccupation of many linguists was basically the study of the structural pattern and form of language without much regard for the context and other features that shape meaning. Over the years however, the attention of language scholars has been shifted from language form to language function. Consequently, many scholars in humanities and social sciences have become keenly interested in the study of Discourse and Stylistics (Olateju 7).

Discourse and Stylistics are two different but closely related linguistic disciplines that are inseparable. The relationship between them can be likened to the proverbial controversy in the actual maternity of the hen and the egg. This is because it is very difficult to draw a line of demarcation between Discourse and Stylistics. While on the one hand, there is hardly any exercise on Discourse without a bit of Stylistic input, Discourse, on the other hand, “is broader in its analysis (Aziz n.pag). While Discourse is essentially communication, Stylistics on the other hand is concerned with the study of the pattern and style of what is communicated. In this study, we shall attempt to discuss Discourse and Stylistics and explore the various ways each of them approach analysis of a given text. To do this properly, we shall analyze paragraph five of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day Speech on 29th May, 2016 to reveal the levels or methods of text analysis in Discourse and Stylistics.

  • What is Discourse?

The word ‘discourse’ comes from Latin ‘discursus‘ which denotes ‘conversation, speech’ (Taiwo 14). According to Johnstone, it is “actual instances of communication in the medium of language” (2). Discourse is a discipline that has no stable definition. This is because so many scholars have given varied definitions to it based on their views of the subject matter. The common definition is given by Stubbs. He describes Discourse as “language above the sentence or above the clause” (1). Discourse is meaning communicated far above what is said. The study of Discourse is indeed the “study of many aspects of language use (Fasold 65). Discourse is essentially the study of language in use.

The term Discourse was first used by Zellig Harris in a paper he presented in 1952. As a structural linguist, he did not use Discourse in the sense that is commonly used now. He used it only as a sequence of utterances. It was in the late 1960s that scholars began to use the term as an approach to the study of social interaction. (Taiwo 16). Discourse was fully developed in the 1970s as a critique of cognitive process in communication. It is based on the notion that language needs a context for it to function properly. Thus, it becomes very impossible to understand the linguistic items used in discourse without a context (Ahmad 1).

Discourse is viewed as social performance or a social action. It is a relative social phenomenon that depends solely on wide range of disciplines, such as Psychology, Anthropology, Philosophy, Anthropological Linguistics, Sociology, Cognitive and Social Psychology. This fact is corroborated by Fairclough when he opines that “Discourse constitutes the social. Three dimensions of the social are distinguished- knowledge, social relations, and social identity-and these correspond respectively to three major functions of language” (8).

Discourse, viewed from the linguistic perspective, is, in turn, composed of a wide range of disciplines, such as Stylistics, Pragmatics, Conversational Analysis and Speech Act Theory (Ahmad 2).

  • Discourse, Discourse Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis

Discourse, Discourse Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis could be described as a three- in-one discipline mostly used interchangeably especially by non linguists. Discourse is not the same as Discourse Analysis. While Discourse is communication, Discourse Analysis on the other hand is a way of analysing communication (Aziz n.pag). When the analysis of a particular discourse aims at exposing the covert ideology embedded in such a discourse, it can then be said to be at the domain of Critical Discourse Analysis. To put it very simple, when Discourse Analysis becomes more critical (when the hearer or reader uses all linguistic features available in the said to generate meaning of the unsaid in a manner that exposes power and abuse of power, dominance, inequality and invested ideologies) , it becomes Critical Discourse Analysis. Generally speaking, every discourse is structured by dominance and the dominant structures are legitimated by the ideologies of powerful groups (Wodak and Meyer 3).

Discourse Analysis basically studies and examines how an addresser structures his linguistic messages for the addressee and how the addressee in turn uses some linguistic cues to interpret them (the messages) (Brown and Yule qtd. in Taiwo 15).

Social context plays a vital role in generating meaning in a discourse. In fact, it determines the meaning that is to be communicated. Similarly, certain contextual features equally shape the language people use. These are: the interlocutors themselves, their discourse roles and the physical environment of the discourse, the worldview and cultural practices in the domain of the discourse. Discourse Analysis considers language, used together with the aforementioned features, to determine meaning. Discourse Analysis thus generates data for analysis based on the observation and the intuition of the language users. This is why Taiwo believes that a discourse analyst can analyze virtually every conversation, like “(casual, telephone, gossip, etc), speeches (campaigns, formal speeches delivered by political figures, etc), written discourse (novels, plays, news, written speeches, editorials, etc)” (15).

Discourse analysis picks up from where stylistics stops. The tasking questions discourse often asks are: What makes the speaker or writer use language the way he or she does? How does the hearer or reader interpret what the speaker or writer says or writes? Of course, this is where discourse shares a common boundary with Pragmatics. Indeed, the speaker or writer has total control of the choice of words to use but he or she certainly does not have control of the meaning the listener or speaker would derive from what is said or written (Aziz n.pag).

  • Basic Concepts in Discourse
  • Text

In Discourse, text simply means any instance of language in use. This comprises not only written language but also spoken language. A text could be as small as a word or sentence and could also be as large as a paragraph (Aziz n. pag). A text could equally be a whole chapter, a news item or a conversation. For a piece to be qualified as a text, Halliday and Hassan believe, it must form a “unified whole”(1). When that happens, it can then be regarded as a semantic unit.

A text is meant to have a texture. Texture, as used here, is the parameter that distinguishes a text from something that is not a text. Information in a text flows within and among sentences through the interplay of coherence and cohesion.

  • Coherence and Cohesion

Coherence concerns with sense in a text. That is to say that when a text makes sense to a reader or a hearer, it is said to be coherent (Osisanwo qtd. in Ogunsiji 48). Cohesion on the other hand is a Latin word for “striking together” (Stern qtd. in Ogunsiji 48). It is a term in Discourse that relates to how texts are held together lexically and grammatically as a whole. A text without cohesion is only a disjointed speech which may not generate any meaning. The following examples can be used to illustrate coherence and cohesion:

  1. Oko slapped his wife. His wife did not cook for him. (Coherent but not cohesive).
  2. Oko slapped his wife because she did not cook for him. (Coherent and cohesive).

Note: The conjunction “because” and the pronouns “she” and “him” in the second text are cohesive ties or devices employed to enhance coherence and cohesion in the text. They are conjunctive cohesion and referential cohesion respectively.

  1. Oko slapped his wife because South Sudan is the newest African country. (Not coherent but cohesive).
  2. Oko slapped his wife. South Sudan is the newest African country. (Not coherent and not cohesive).
  • Coherence in Discourse

Coherence in a discourse manifests by the extent to which a particular instance of language in use is able to match a shared belief, knowledge and social conventions of interlocutors in a social context. Unlike cohesion which establishes the linguistic connectivity of sentences and utterances using cohesive ties, coherence in discourse relates basically to the establishment of some relationships between utterances through an interpretation of illocutionary acts. There is an obvious manifestation of coherence in the following conversation between two interlocutors:

Speaker A: Sir, the visitors from Daura are already waiting at the reception.

Speaker B: I’m taking my lunch.

Speaker A: It’s alright Your Excellency.

The discourse above can be interpreted vis- a- vis the social conventions of interaction which include:

Speaker A requests speaker B to perform an action.

Speaker B gives the reason why he cannot comply.

Speaker A understands and proceeds to perform a legitimate action (his duty).

It is discovered that there are no cohesive ties in the above discourse but the needed cues to identify coherence are conventional structures of interaction, and this is a shared understanding by the interlocutors. That is the crux of coherence in discourse.

  • Context

Context is a set of facts that surrounds a particular situation. Viewed from the angle of linguistics, context means everything that surrounds the production and reception of a piece of communication. According to van Dijk,“context is subjective mental model of communicative situation” (n. pag). Communication is better understood in context. Taiwo corroborates this fact in his explanation of context and its features which include:

the physical situation in which the communication takes place, the interactants or interlocutors, the knowledge of the communicators of their cultural norms and expected behaviour, and the expressions that precede and follow a particular expression. All these features of context help language speakers to interpret meaning appropriately.(19)

Discourse dwells so much on the context of language use in social setting.

  • What is Stylistics?

Stylistics, in a simple sense, refers to the study of style and pattern of use by a writer or a speaker. It is the identification of patterns of usage in speech and writing (Ahmad 2). According to Ogunsiji, “Stylistics is also defined as a study of the different styles that are present in either a given utterance or a written text or document” (2). It is a term that is mostly associated with the literary genre but modern linguistic exercises have clearly shown that there is much of stylistic analysis to be done on non literary texts as is done on literary texts. A literary genre can be seen as style characteristics that is collectively recognized and agreed upon. Some of the aspects of literary stylistics include the use of dialogue, the description of scenes, the use of active and passive voice and the distribution of the sentence length (Ahmad 2).

Stylistics primarily attempts to explain the principles that informed the choices made by communicators which clearly manifests in their use of language. This is skillfully unraveled by the reader or writer by studying the style of the initiator of the communication (writer or speaker). Style on its own is aptly described by Lucas as “the effective use of language, especially in prose, whether to make statements or to rouse emotions. It involves first of all the power to put fact with clarity and brevity” (9). The study of style is central to stylistics. It is a selection and arrangement of linguistic features which are open to choice- a choice of words and expression by a particular person in a particular situation. One major concern of stylistics is the investigation into the continuous and consistent appearance of certain structures, items and elements in a speech utterance or in a given text. Thus, when a text is replete with some certain recurring predominant words or expressions, a stylistician becomes more interested in his investigation. Stylistics is particularly important because it enhances and maximizes our enjoyment of a text.

The relevance of stylistics can never be over emphasized. It is a technique used to explicate both linguistic and non linguistic text by objectively defining what an author does in his use of language. A stylistic analysis of a text in most cases reveals the good and or the bad qualities of a writing or speech.

  • Nature of Stylistics

Stylistics, according to Ogunsiji, is a “borderline discipline between language and literature”(9). This is because it focuses on language use in both literary and non literary text.

Stylistics, like Discourse, is multidisciplinary in nature, even though it has its own focus. It draws insights from disciplines such as Literature, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, and so on.

As earlier explained, Stylistics, majorly, is the study of style of a text. It looks at style in so many dimensions. They include:

  • Style as Choice: This considers style as a choice the speaker or writer makes in a text that ultimately makes his utterance or text to stand out. It becomes the responsibility of the stylistician to identify such a style in his (stylistician) analysis.
  • Style as Deviation:

What does not conform to a certain standard could be a style to a writer or speaker. This is mostly noticed in poetry where the poet has the poetic license to deviate from an acceptable norm to use language in a way that pleases him.

  • Style as Situation: A style could be adopted by a speaker or writer based on the situation in question. A text comes to life through the context or situation. This could be physical, socio-cultural or pragmatic.
  • Style as the Individual: There are specific features that are associated with a particular speaker or writer due to his choice of style. That becomes his ideolets. A speaker or writer stands recognized basically due to his style.
  • Style as Time/ Era: This has to do with time relevance of a style. It deals with whether a particular style is in vogue or obsolete; whether it is ancient or modern. It is the task of the stylistician to point this out.
  • Text Analysis in Stylistics

The focus of Stylistics is the text. In analyzing a text, the business of a stylistician is to look at many features of the text. Stylistic features like graphology, syntax, lexis and semantics are looked into. These are discussed under the following captions

  • Graphological Features

This concerns the physical appearance of a text. The primary focus here is foregrounding. That is an act of bringing to fore, certain words to give them prominence. This can be identified by looking at words in italics, capital letters, bold letters, words that are underlined, and so on. The use of punctuation marks can equally create stylistic effects. It is the task of the stylistician to explore and give description of these graphological features in a text.

  • Syntactic Features:

The focus here is on sentence types and the effect they create in a text. A text may contain a combination of simple, complex, compound and compound complex sentences or just simple sentences. Aspects of ellipsis, parataxis, hypotaxis, right and left- branching sentences are equally considered significant here (Ogunsiji 11). For example, a dislocation in syntax of a text could mean the dislocation in human thoughts. James Joyce’s novels are replete with this style.

  • Lexico- Semantic Features:

In any stylistic exercise, attention is specially given to words. This is because words may be used by the speaker or writer to produce connotative, denotative, associative, collocative, affective, thematic, idiomatic and even stylistic meanings. The stylistician watches out for the various meanings conveyed by the use of such words.

  • Discourse and Stylistics: Methods of Analysis

Discourse and Stylistics are two linguistic disciplines that are analyzed using different methods and tools. The text is the object of analysis for both the discourse analyst and the stylistician. One noticeable difference however is the manner in which they approach their analysis. In fact, a close study of the two methods of analysis shows that Discourse begins from where Stylistics stops. In this section, we shall attempt analyses of an excerpt from President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day Broadcast on 29th May, 2016 from both the angle of Discourse and Stylistics in order to point out the slim line of demarcation between them.

  • Analysis of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day Speech

Paragraph eight:

From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram. By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and remnants had been routed by our gallant armed forces. Our immediate focus is for a gradual and safe return of internally displaced persons in safety and dignity and for the resumption of normalcy in the lives of people living in these areas.

  • Stylistic Analysis:

In doing a stylistic analysis of the above text, certain linguistic features such as graphology, semantics and lexis will be explored.

  • Graphological Features

Foregrounding is one predominant feature used in this paragraph by the speaker which is realized through a particular lexical item. For example, the first person plural pronoun “we” as used in the paragraph is a foreground. It is repeated three times in the paragraph. This is used to show that the achievement recorded so far in area of security is a collective effort by both the government and other well meaning Nigerians.

Parallelism is one vital stylistic device that is equally used to reiterate and emphasize the idea of collectiveness. The speaker willfully uses the word “we” to begin both sentence 1 and 2 to further emphasize this.

  • Syntactic Features

The paragraph contains five sentences with about ninety three words. All but the last sentence are simple sentences. This is a device used to enhance audience comprehension, considering the reality of the time. Of course, this was a time many Nigerians were becoming impatient with the government which had earlier promised a change in the status quo in governance. The speaker was obviously aware of this and therefore skillfully set out to use simple sentences for everyone to understand very quickly and feel, without difficulties, what the government has been able to achieve in one year.

One other device used in this paragraph is parataxis, which is an act of placing together cohesive clauses without an intervening conjunction or connective words to achieve coherence. For example:

From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram.

The use of linking words like “Therefore” and “Also” to begin the second and third sentences respectively would have, possibly, been used by the speaker. His style becomes obvious by not using such linking words to tie up the three sentences which are seen to be cohesive but not coherent.

In the paragraph, there are words that are intentionally omitted by the speaker and yet the meaning is communicated. This device, which is called ellipsis, shall be discussed in detail under discourse analysis.

  • Lexico- Semantic Features

Collocation: A close study of this paragraph shows that the speaker chooses his words to collocate. This points out the meaning conveyed in the paragraph.


correct” and “condition” (Sentence 1).

reinforced, galvanized” and “armed forces” (Sentence 2).

tackle” and “Boko Haram” (Sentence 3).

resumption” and “normalcy” (Sentence 5).

From the above collocative words, it can be deduced that there was a problem (represented as “condition”) that was solved (corrected) through the deployment (reinforcement and galvanizing) of the armed forces. The problem was “Boko Haram” that was “tackled”, thereby restoring (resumption of) normalcy to the nation. The meaning of the paragraph becomes so glaring due to the deployment of collocation.

Connotation: Also, the use of words like “correct”, “change”, “reinforced”, “galvanized”, “marshaled”, “defeat”, “routed”, “gallant” is highly connotative. They are military terms that show action. They remind the hearer of the military era. In fact, those words connote action put up by the government to end insurgency.

4.2. Discourse Analysis:

  • Cohesion and Coherence

In doing a discourse analysis of the paragraph, we shall first investigate if the paragraph passes the test of coherence and cohesion. A cursory glance at the sentences shows that they are coherent. Though there is no explicit lexical cohesion, the paragraph is however tied up by grammatical cohesion. Related ideas and thoughts are connected and tied up in such a manner that the entire paragraph presents a unified whole message. Sentence 1 establishes a point and the rest of the sentences develop and build upon it. There is a linear progression of ideas from beginning of the paragraph to the end, and that essentially brings out the beauty of cohesion. This ultimately explains government’s efforts in tackling insurgency, beginning from 29th May, 2015 to 29th May, 2016 (the day the speech was delivered). This exercise is, of course, a major preoccupation of discourse.

  • Ellipsis

Omission of some words and phrases is obviously intentional. Examples of ellipsis as used in the paragraph are:

  1. From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition,[…..] to change Nigeria (Sentence 1).

The phrase, that is” is intentionally omitted, obviously to create certain effects on the hearer. This means that “to correct our condition” as used in the sentence means “to change Nigeria.”

  1. By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and remnants […..] had been routed by our gallant armed forces (Sentence 4).

There is equally a willful omission of “of Boko Haram” in the fourth sentence. This device is used here to avoid undue repetition.

  • Reference

There is the use of anaphoric reference in the paragraph. Anaphoric reference draws the attention of hearer or reader to a preceding text. In this case, “all” in sentence 4 refers to Boko Haram mentioned in the preceding sentence

  • Revelation of Power and Ideology

The choice of words and tone of the speaker obviously unearths power and ideology. Such words as: “correct”, “change”, “reinforced”, “galvanized”, “marshaled”, “defeat”, “routed”, “gallant” connote militarist ideology of the speaker. This portrays power and essentially unveils the opaque ideology hidden in the speech. There is no gainsaying the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has a military background, and that ultimately reflects in his choice of words.

  • Conclusion

Discourse and Stylistics are linguistic disciplines that analyze text in an attempt to establish principles in explaining the particular choices made by individuals and social groups in their use of language (Ahmad 2) which, by extension, produces and reproduces meaning. Though it is a herculean task in trying to locate a demarcating line between the two disciplines, it has been discovered that they approach the analysis of a text with different, but similar, methods. While a discourse analyst approaches his analysis by looking for such things as the textuality, coherence and cohesive interplay of the text which by extension could reveal ideology and power inherent in a discourse, the stylistician on the other hand analyzes the style and pattern of language use in a text. Discourse is concerned with language in use, analysis of language in social, political, religious and cultural contexts, Conversational Analysis, Speech Acts, Co-operative Principles and so on. In a nutshell, Discourse relies so much on various other disciplines. Stylistics’ major concern is the idea of style and what informs the choice of such style. One common denominator between Discourse and Stylistics is that both have text as the object of analysis.


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