IDEATIONAL AND INTERPERSONAL ANALYSES OF OBITUARY AND IN MEMORIAM ANNOUNCEMENTS IN NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS


IDEATIONAL AND INTERPERSONAL ANALYSES OF OBITUARY AND IN MEMORIAM ANNOUNCEMENTS IN NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS  

ABSTRACT

The exploration of language use in Obituary and In Memoriam announcements provides some challenging but fresh insight into how language impacts our social and psychological situations in societies. The study aimed to describe how the language of Obituary and In Memoriam Announcements is structured to reveal the experiential and interpersonal meanings. The study investigated the mind frame of the announcers in Obituary announcements and how the reader’s behaviour is influenced through the use of language. The study employed the theoretical frameworks of Systemic Functional Theory (SFT), Appraisal Theory (AT), Generic Structure Potential (GSP) and Semiotic theory to analyze the data. The data for the study were selected from two Nigerian newspapers: The Guardian and The Nigerian Tribune within a particular year (2014) and from the months of June to December. The descriptive survey research was adopted to examine Obituary and In Memoriam announcements in Nigerian newspapers and a sample size of hundred (100) announcements were randomly selected from a total population of four hundred and twenty-eight (428) adverts on bereavements from the months of June to December 2014 in both The Guardian and The Nigerian Tribune. The study found that the announcements helped the readers to unravel and examine what flows through the minds of the writers and that contextual properties enhanced the communicative importance of the announcements by eliciting sympathy from the reading public. The findings of the study revealed that the announcements are concerned more with human emotions and behaviours. The study advanced knowledge by revealing that Obituary announcements expressed the feelings and grief of the announcers through the use of language. The study recommended that there is need to broaden research on how emotions of the bereaved can further be captured through the language use. The study concluded that language, culture and religion are inseparable in the Nigerian context.

Keywords: Ideational, Interpersonal, In Memoriam, Obituary, Systemic Functional Theory

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Communication is a means of transmitting information and there are several ways by which people communicate with one another. One of them, and perhaps the most important, is language in its spoken and written forms. The quality of any communicated message is conditioned by many factors such as the time, place and subject matter of what is being transmitted from the addresser to the addressee in a particular situation. The addresser communicates because he intends to exchange information and also to affect the behaviour of the addressee. Invariably, language is the core of communication; not only a medium of communication but also a social practice, a way of doing things. It presents different varieties which depend on the function of the text, numerous contextual aspects, the readership and the role of the writer. As a result, different language styles and varieties have come into existence. These are the reasons for the constant study of various domains of languages of which Obituaries and In Memoriam are one of them.

The study of Obituaries and In Memoriam gives a glimpse into the cultural interpretation of life and death. The language of Obituaries and In Memoriam reveals the beliefs our society holds about life and death. Obituaries and In Memoriam are likely to be the most frequently read section of the daily newspaper and they announce the passing of friends and acquaintances, the famous and the infamous, the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate. They recount the life stories of ordinary people and people of power. They offer an intriguing view of how we understand life and death in our society. Obituaries are usually seen by people as consisting of tailored information about the exit of a personality in a mild, positive and pleasant way, irrespective of the behavioural characteristics of the person while on earth. Although death is an

unpleasant but common human phenomenon, it is publicly announced in a language that does not only create grief in the bereaved but also presents the deceased in a way that evokes appreciation of him or her.

The study contains an investigation of the mind frame of the announcer in Obituary and In Memoriam announcements; how the reader’s behaviour is influenced; how attitudes, judgements and emotive responses are explicitly presented and how they may be indirectly implied, presupposed or assumed than they appear. This study examines therefore the functions of language as a useful tool in Obituaries and In Memoriam announcements by the use of Halliday (1994)’s Systemic Functional Theory (SFT) as theoretical framework, as well as (AT) - Appraisal Theory - by Martin and White (2005). This study focuses on how language is used to represent situations and events in the world, establish and maintain relations with readers and the evaluative meanings expressed in the announcements.

Human life has a general pattern: birth, marriage, and death. Death in Nigerian societies receives, however, peculiar attention. Major communicative events related to death are epitaphs, tributes, dirges, and Obituaries (Moses & Marelli, 2003). However, in this study, Obituaries and In Memoriam announcements will be emphasized because they do not only create grief in the audience or readers but also evoke appreciation for the deceased (Askildon, 2007; Fernandez, 2007; Bryant & Peck, 2009).

Obituary comes from the Latin word ‘Obitus’, meaning departure. It refers to a record of announcements of death or deaths, especially in a newspaper, usually comprising a brief biographical sketch of the deceased. Obituary announcement is a special feature because it focuses exclusively on the qualities of a human being and how that person’s life, at its end, can best be represented. Furthermore, Obituary moulds our understanding of the importance of life and death. It contains some vital information and this includes the deceased’s name, date of birth, place of residence, date of death and, sometimes, cause of death (Campbell, 1971).

Two types of Obituary are discussed by Fernandez (2007) and these are: the informative and opinative Obituaries. Informative Obituary, on the one hand, aims at giving relevant details about the death: the deceased, place and time of funeral, and the next of kin. This is an impersonal type of Obituary. This is achieved through the use of an impersonal language and concise expression. The language is presented in an objective and standardized manner which means it is devoid of flowery and decorated language. This is always written by an editorial staff. An opinative Obituary, on the other hand, is written by a relative, friend or the funeral home staff. It offers a more emotive and intimate account of the deceased by means of consolatory and laudatory tactics to satisfy and assuage the feelings of surviving family members. Opinative Obituaries are a personal type of Obituary and are subjective, which perform a peculiar function of impressing readers about the social status or the exemplary conduct of the deceased.

All in all, the communicative function of both types of Obituaries is to inform people of a person’s death. Invariably, Obituary and In Memoriam announcements perform the function of communicating the death of, or information about the funeral arrangements for a particular person to a specific audience.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The studies reviewed in relation to Obituary discourses have provided significant insights into the domain of Obituary and In Memoriam announcements .The research found out that there is paucity of research efforts in the field of Obituary and In Memoriam announcements in Nigeria and also that previous studies have not been able to identify the creativity and innovations of the language use in the announcements. It is pertinent to state that contributions have not been made on the language use of Obituary and In Memoriam announcements in Nigeria focusing on (SFT) Systemic Functional Theory, (GSP) Generic Structure Potential and (AT) Appraisal Theories. However, many scholars, as far as we know, have not gone beyond the

area of investigating Obituary announcements focusing on genre analysis by Afful, (2012), Moses and Marrelli, (2003) and Askildson, (2007) who discussed discourse features of Obituary. Also, Alfred, (2001) researched on pragmatics aspect of Obituary while Fernadez, (2006, 2007) observed euphemism and conceptual metaphorization in Victorian Obituaries and linguistic devices. The present study arose, therefore, from the need to address this yawning gap by examining and investigating the language use of Obituary and In Memoriam announcements in Nigerian Newspapers from the areas of SFT, AT, Semiotics and GSP. This would enable us to know how language is used to represent situations and events in the world, establish and maintain relations with readers and also studies the evaluative meanings expressed in the announcements.

AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The aim of the study is to describe how the language of Obituary and In Memoriam announcements is structured to reveal the experiential and interpersonal meanings. The objectives are to:

1) reveal the socio-cultural background of the Nigerian society through the application of SFT analytical tools to Obituary and In Memoriam announcements.

2) examine and identify the linguistic and non-linguistic(Semiotic) features used in the announcements.

3) analyze and explain how language reflects the attitudinal meanings in Obituary and In Memoriam announcements.

4) describe the contextual properties of the announcements by adopting the concept of Generic Structure Potential (GSP) .

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

1) How is the socio-cultural background of the Nigerian society revealed through the

application of SFT analytical tools to Obituary and In Memoriam announcements?

2) What are the linguistic and non-linguistic (Semiotic) features used in the announcements?

3) How does language reflect the attitudinal meanings in Obituary and In Memoriam announcements?

4) What are the contextual properties of the announcements?

1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The exploration of language use in Obituary and In Memoriam announcements provides some challenging but fresh insight into how language impacts our social and psychological situations in societies. This study is embarked on with the aim of making the readers of Obituary and In Memoriam announcements have better understanding of the implied messages and to be able to appreciate the uniqueness and the peculiarity of the announcements. It is also embarked on with the intention of being beneficial to the writers of the announcements in their use of language and also to other future researchers in accounting for how announcements project meaning, how readers construct the meaning and why readers respond to the announcements the way they do. The study also shows the importance of understanding the language and the proper utilization of its resources as factors that help language users, writers of Obituary announcements, and readers to accomplishing personal goals.

Moreover, the study is significant because it serves as a guide to other future researchers not only to be concerned with discovering meanings alone in a text, but also to take greater account of the relationship between the text they are studying and the context in which it is both produced and received. It is also of a great significance in discovering/observing how people read and interpret Obituary and In Memoriam announcements as well as how language and

society are interrelated. It is significant to writers of Obituary and funeral homes who write Obituary and In Memoriam announcements as well as educational organisations for it give them insight into how emotions of people can be expressed through language. Also, it is also significant to governmental organisations and publishing companies/ media outfits as it affords them the opportunity to discover and express their emotions, love, gratitude and feelings to their departed ones through the use of adequate and appropriate language.

Connecting the living with the dead through the use of language in this way is the maintenance of attachment and it affirms the belief that the relationship between the author and the deceased is intact. The level of creativity and innovations employed by the sponsors of Obituary are revealed through the announcements. Furthermore, the study provided answers, very significantly, to questions of how language functions in the announcements. The study is significant because it is intended to reveal the socio-cultural background of the Nigerian society through the application of SFT analytical tools. The study is meant to create awareness on how language reflects the attitudinal meanings in Obituary and In Memoriam Announcements. The study is significant because it described the contextual properties of the announcements and identified the linguistic and non-linguistic (Semiotic) features used in the announcements.

SCOPE AND DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY

The study examines Obituary and In Memoriam announcements in selected reputable Nigerian newspapers with wide circulation: The Guardian and The Nigerian Tribune. The Guardian is chosen because it covers four geo-political zones in the country and is the newspaper of the elite group, while The Nigerian Tribune covers the South Western States. The researcher has chosen the print media over other forms of announcements such as Radio, Internet and Television because of its comprehensive account (which is easily accessible and affordable to the readers and writers)/ its long-lasting and visual effect which will be more persuasive and permanent to the readers. The study does not include, therefore, an analysis of the

announcements in all languages (e.g., Nigerian Pidgin, Nigerian Languages, etc.). The scope of the study includes the use of SFT approach (Ideational and Interpersonal meanings); the Appraisal Theory (attitudinal meanings); the Generic Structure Potential (GSP) to account for the contextual properties of the announcements; Semiotic features to account for the non- linguistic devices and the analysis of the linguistic devices in the announcements. Our goal is to demonstrate that Obituary and In Memoriam announcements perform both linguistic and social functions. This is because a thorough and detailed description and interpretation of the data confirms that language does not only have form or express meaning but can also be situated in a context to perform some function.

OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS

1) APPRAISAL: This is semantic resource that includes words, phrases and structures which speakers or writers employ to negotiate emotions, judgments and valuations.

2) ATTITUDE: It is referred to as resources used by speakers/writers to express emotional responses towards participants, phenomena and processes, to judge human behaviour or to appreciate others.

3) IDEATIONAL: The process of understanding the world around us through linguistic means.

4) IN MEMORIAM- This is a remembrance of a dead person.

5) INTERPERSONAL: It deals with the way in which a writer/speaker establishes a linguistic interaction with a reader/listener.

6) OBITUARY- This is a published announcement of a death, usually with a short biography for the dead person.

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IDEATIONAL AND INTERPERSONAL ANALYSES OF OBITUARY AND IN MEMORIAM ANNOUNCEMENTS IN NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS



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