In different geographical areas, phenomena such as time, dress type, mannerisms and even greetings will be expressed differently in either spoke or written language. This is because each society has its values, beliefs and aspirations. This is style within linguistics which looks at what is ‘going on’ within the language and what the linguistic associations are that the style of language reveals. The question ‘Where are you from?’ which signals geographical identity, can be balanced by another location question, ‘Where are you now? Many features of language correlate directly with the characteristics of the context or situation in which a communicative event takes place, (Crystal, 1987).
The context can be the person, place or situation in which a communicative event takes place. Context largely portrays the language habits of a community and so predisposes certain choices of interpretation. Lexical items are the starting points for this contextual interpretation then come other levels of linguistics like syntax and semantics. This applies to both spoken and written language. People learn social behaviour by the codes used in their language, both verbal and non-verbal. Their unique interpretation creates a sense of togetherness, a feeling of belonging. Writers will reveal this sense of belonging through the interpretation of the lexical items in their literary works.
The field of stylistics in linguistics is concerned with the study of varieties of language whose properties position that language in context. Stylistics also attempts to establish principles capable of explaining the particular choices made by individuals and social groups in their use of language, such as socialization, the production and reception of linguistic items, critical discourse analysis and literary criticism. The concepts of style and stylistic variation in language rest on the general premise that within the language system, the same content can be encoded with more than one linguistic form. Stylisticians can analyze the style of specific texts on stylistic variations across texts.
Considering style as a choice, there are a multitude of stylistic factors that lead the language user to prefer certain linguistic forms to others. The concept of style as recurrence of linguistic forms is closely related to a probabilistic and statistical understanding of style which implicitly underlies the deviation from – a – norm perspective. Stylistic features remain flexible and do not follow rigid rules since style is not a matter of grammaticality, but rather of appropriateness. What is appropriate in a given context can be deduced from the frequency of linguistic devices in this specific context (Mukherjee, 2000).
Whitney (1988) explains that style, as comparison, puts into perspective a central aspect of the previous approaches. It requires an implicit or explicit comparison of linguistic features between specific texts or between a collection of texts and a given norm. Halliday (1978) and Sinclair (1991) are the most important proponents of this school which is commonly referred to as British Contextualism. Their work is characterized by a clear focus; firstly, on the social context in which language is used and, secondly, on the in-depth observation of the natural language used. Linguists need to describe authentic language use in context. This approach allows for insights into the immense variation within language.
There are differences between communities which correlate with differences in their language. The way a particular speech community will use linguistic items such as words, phrases or clauses may vary or differ from the other. African writers writing in English tend to use lexical items and larger units basing their use on the speech communities that they come from. Two writers therefore, using English in their works may have different linguistic items for the same phenomena depending on the way language is used in their speech communities.
Literary works can be analyzed linguistically. This is because writers use language in a particular way in their works to bring out their concerns. A literary work, just like the spoken language, contains information that enables the reader or hearer to get the intended message. The use of language is therefore not mode specific. It can be in a text or spoken and either mode can portray the practices, values and aspirations of a particular speech community.
The weaker version of the Sapir – Whorf hypothesis, which postulates that the nature of a particular language influences the habitual thought of its speakers, still holds. Different language patterns yield different patterns of thought. This, therefore, means that the mechanisms of any language condition the thoughts of its speech community. The diversity of languages is not of sounds and signs, but of ways of looking at the world (Romaine, 1982).
Nature is dissected along lines laid down by our native language (Huckmann, 1987). The categories and types that are isolated from the world of phenomena are not found there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscope flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds and this means largely by the linguistic system of our minds (Hudson,1980).
All language users are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated. Yule (1985) states that one can only think in the categories which his language allows one to think in. Biber (1988) adds that writers writing their works in the second language often express loyalty to their first language. A large number of features of their first language are carried into the written language. Cultures exploit variation in linguistic form for functional purposes and usually the choice of the linguistic items is unconscious. If certain features consistently occur, then it is reasonable to look for an underlying functional influence that encourages their use.
According to Davidson et al (1996), linguistic items can be used functionally as indicators of subjectivity, feelings, judgments, motives or reasons. Gumperz and Hymes (1986) outline Halliday’s seven functional categories of linguistic features as ideational, textual, personal, interpersonal, contextual, processing and aesthetic.
The ideational function considers the coherence of the ideas expressed, for example, when a writer is writing on the issue of child abuse, the writer will express the ideas of child Labour, sexual misuse and mistreatment of children based on the cultural views of the community. The personal function looks at the relationship between the person and the information being conveyed. The interpersonal function considers the impact of the information in relation to one or more participants. The contextual function relates to the situation or the location of the message form. The processing of the message form is the decoding act of the hearer or reader. The aesthetic function refers to whether it appeals to the reader/hearer or if it does not, while the textual function looks at the information structure cohesion, that is, the way the message form is presented. The reader interprets the message in the text as a whole but the interpretation begins from the lexical items used.
Yule (1985) explains that different language groups have different world views which are reflected in their languages; for example, certain words existing with different meanings, certain figures like animal figures and physical features. The features which exist have been assigned lexical items while the non-existent or aspects which are very specific to the speech community may only have lexical items in that language. This is why writers may use first language lexical items in their works.
Human beings do not live in the objective world alone; not in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. The ‘real’ world is to a large extent built upon the language habits of the group. The ‘real’ world refers to the practices, values, norms of conduct, beliefs and the social structure of the particular society in question which differentiate it from the other societies.
No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. This is because of the differences in the geographical setting and the environmental factors. One society will use lexical items as dictated by the phenomena around them. The Igbo, for example, have many lexical items in relation to the supernatural like medicine man, priest, deity all have something to do with supernatural powers. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached to different aspects of their worldview. People see and hear and otherwise experience the world view and phenomena as they do because the language habits of their community predisposes certain choices of interpretation (Romaine, 1994).
Writers base their literature upon societies which are known to them. They may have lived in the society long enough to understand its worldview or may have been born and brought up in the society from which they borrow much of their literature content. This enables them to comfortably understand the figures of speech, the use of proverbs, the similes and also the myths and legends associated with that particular community. Literature is a product of society. A writer gets certain experiences or observes events as they unfold in the society and thus gets the ideas to write on. Societies differ culturally. For example, what is viewed as evil by one society may be viewed as good by another society.
The geographical setting of different communities also differs in that writers living in hilly places may have more lexical items reflecting the features associated with hilly areas while those living near large masses of water will also have more lexical items related to the features found in the water; for example, the Eskimos have many words for snow while some communities have one or none (Gumperz and Hymes, 1986). The writers therefore use language as guided by the society’s worldview which reflects the geographical setting, the aspirations and belief systems of the people and other social practices peculiar to them. In Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe writes in English but largely reflects the worldview of the Igbo by the lexical items which he uses. The Igbo values, ways of life, beliefs and aspirations are expressed. This is through the choice of lexical items, syntactic structures and also the semantic and pragmatic features in the book.
A writer cannot divorce context from his or her work of art. It gives the writing some authenticity. Cultural practices and values differ from one society to the other. A reader of a work of art from another society may understand a particular society from the language used by a writer. Certain values and practices are also similar and therefore one who compares the way a writer has used lexical items may find out what is similar and what is different between the two societies.
In conclusion, writers differ in the way they express themselves linguistically due to the different contexts from where their writings are based. By using lexical items to portray their societal worldview, authors apply style in linguistics. This is because the interpretation of a lexical item as defined by the worldview of the particular society positions that particular lexical item in context. Another society may not use the same lexical item to portray the same phenomenon. The readers will understand the worldview of a community in a different geographical location from the lexical items that a writer uses.
Statement of the Problem
The aim of a writer is to convey a certain message to the reader. The reader should decode the intended message by the writer. However, there are instances when the reader may not get the intended meaning due to the particular usage of the lexical items by the writer. This is because the writer may contextualize the lexical items according to the phenomena in his/her society which is often different from that of the reader.
This study focuses on lexical items which reflect the worldview of the Igbo in Chinua Achebe’s literary work, Arrow of God. The research is based on the assumption that since a writer is a member of a particular society, he/she uses language, and in particular lexical items, as dictated by their everyday interpretation in the society. The aim of a writer is to convey a certain message to the reader. The reader should decode the intended message by the writer. However, there are instances when the reader may not get the intended meaning due to the usage of the lexical items by the writer. This is because the writer may contextualize the lexical items according to the phenomena in his/her society which may be different from that of the reader.
The written texts communicate important information to the reader and so there is, need for a reader to understand a literary work from the point of view of the society from which the writer comes in order to benefit from his/her reading. This research, therefore, seeks to find out the extent to which the use of lexical items reflects the society from which Achebe’s Arrow of God is contextualized.
Objectives of the Study
The study set out with the following objectives:
- To identify the lexical items which reflect the Igbo society’s world view in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God.
- To find out the similarities and differences in the semantic and pragmatic use of the lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God.
- To explain the features of context brought out by the use of the lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God.
- Which lexical items reflect the society’s world view in Arrow of God by Achebe?
- What are the similarities and differences in the semantic and pragmatic use of the lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God?
- What features of context are brought out by the use of lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God?
- Certain lexical items used by Achebe in Arrow of God reflect the worldview of his community
- There are similarities and differences in the semantic and pragmatic use of certain lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God.
- There are certain features of context brought out by the use of lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God.
Rationale of the Study
Many features of language correlate directly with the characteristics of the context or situation in which a communicative event takes place. Language can portray attitudes feelings and emotions of people. Comments made in writing may be interpreted to give the nature of the society. In some communities, some lexical items may be considered derogatory, restricted or sacred. This can be shown by the way a speaker uses language. The use of language can also be dictated by the communicative event.
In different times and places, we may be obliged, permitted, encouraged or even forbidden to communicate. The quality of the language we use will be subject to social evaluation and sanction (Crystal, 1987). Writers are conversant with most aspects of the society they live in or are familiar with. Their writing is therefore based on the characteristics of a particular society.
Research has been done extensively on the social features of spoken language, (Langat, 2007, Njoroge 2006). It will therefore be of pedagogical importance to analyze written texts, as they are also a mirror of the society.
For second language learners of English, this research provides a basis for understanding different literary texts that they may come across. Hudson (1980) argues that to study a text without contextualizing it is like ‘studying courtship behaviour without relating the behaviour of one partner to that of the other|.
The way people talk or write has something to do with their social position or level of education. A sociolinguist is able to define precisely the nature of the linguistic features that are the basis of these judgements or social identity. Through sociolinguistic research by means of analyzing written texts the pervasive and intricate nature of the correlations between language and society can be appreciated (Crystal, 1987). This is because a reader is able to make correct interpretations of the lexical items by considering context.
Achebe, in Arrow of God, reflects the cultural aspirations and the general worldview of the Igbo society. His writing portrays linguistic aspects that are the basis of social identity. There are certain lexical, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic characteristics of his language in Arrow of God, which can only be understood from the point of view of the Igbo society. This worldview enables the reader to have an understanding of the text and other texts by the same author. The text is written from the social perspective of the society. Some of the English lexical items are used in a manner that can reveal some values held by the Igbo as the norm. For a reader of this text and others from the same speech community, this research will provide a fore ground of understanding such texts. A reader therefore who comes across these features will correlate them with that society hence he/she will get a better understanding of the literary text.
One of the most important functions of language variation is to enable individuals to identify with a social group. Many speech communities have indigenous writing systems unlike those of other written languages in order to stress their separateness from their neighbours and their linguistic independence (Giglioli, 1972). However, the reader who understands why a writer has used language in a particular way will read the work and benefit linguistically from the use of words, sentences and larger units to bring out the social values.This research has examined the use of lexical items by Achebe to show the world view of his society. This will enable scholars and linguists to have a better understanding of the concept of language and culture.
Scope and Limitations of the Study
This research focused on the sociolinguistic context and its influence on language use; there are other factors like attitude, class, education and health which influence language use and have not been considered here. The research sought to find out about contextual language use in written texts.
The sociolinguistic contexts under study are the aspects of the worldview portrayed by the writer’s use of language. The study focuses on the societal aspects portrayed by the writer which may involve gender, education, social relationships, leadership and other values and practices exhibited by members of the Igbo society in Achebe’s Arrow of God. The research has examined artifacts, societal values, beliefs, societal structure and practices of the Igbo as portrayed by Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God.
The research is a textual analysis. This therefore means that spoken language has not been considered. This is due to the fact that written language can reach readers who have never been to a certain place and they may understand the linguistic features of that society from the language used by a writer. The study will therefore analyze lexical items through which the writer mirrors the Igbo society.
The study begins from the lexical level of linguistics. It, therefore, does not include phonetics and phonology. By analyzing the lexical items, that is, their literal and implied meanings, this gives the reader ideas of the worldview of the society from where the writer comes. There is usage of certain words and word forms that is peculiar only to the Igbo and is depicted in this study. Twenty lexical items are sampled for the study. The twenty lexical items are enough to bring out the contextual aspects in Arrow of God. Milroy (1987) observes, one does not need a very large sample to observe linguistic phenomena. The selected lexical items, after careful observation can form a basis of generalization.
Only Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God is used to study the lexical items which portray the Igbo worldview. The text, set in the advent of colonialism, reflects some beliefs, values and practices which were/are part of the Igbo culture. Though written in English, a non-Igbo may find it difficult to get the usage of some lexical items because they are interpreted according to the Igbo worldview.
Because the study focuses on lexical items portraying the Igbo worldview, the text Arrow of God by Achebe is enough to show these lexical items. It is a text set in the advent of colonialism and is rich in societal aspects. The communication between the males and females, the leaders and subjects and also between members of the family is shown using the lexical items which have been translated to English. The text has enough lexical items whose interpretation is based on the Igbo worldview and is therefore sufficient enough to show the way writers use lexical items to depict the society. Achebe, being an experienced writer has seen the societal changes from tradition to colonialism to modernism and thus reflects this extensively in Arrow of God. The other texts by Achebe are written during and after colonialism. They may contain language with is not reflective of the Igbo society
Literature Review and Theoretical Framework
This section reviews the existing works that are related to the topic of study. First, there is the review of the concept of language and society followed by a presentation of literature on language and culture, the written text, language variation, textuality, context and language and literature. Further The review also covers the relationship between speech and writing and a section on language variation are reviewed. Finally, the theoretical framework that is adopted is discussed.
Language and Society
Through the influence of structuralists such as De Saussure (1959), language has been seen as an object, describable by deductive methods similar to those of natural sciences. More precisely, language has been seen as a system with its own components and relationships describable in and for itself, (Romaine, 1982). In stressing the social character of language, linguists have established a relation into the rather elusive relation between language and social structure. This is because language is in a quite direct sense the fundamental attribute of the social structural system in this way, language reflects the social system and the social concepts.
Milroy (1987) concerned herself principally with the study of language in the community; that is, the observation and analysis of language in its social context as it is used in everyday situations. Her findings were that communicative patterns characteristically carry social meanings, inaccessible to outsiders to the extent that communicative intent may often be misunderstood. Further, a body of evidence emerges from several different kinds of society to suggest that a close-knit network structure is an important mechanism of language maintenance, in that speakers are able to form a cohesive group, capable of resisting pressure, linguistic and social, from the outside group.
Each society has its code which is used by the members when they want to exclude outsiders, convey social information or portray a sense of identity. One of the distinctive roles of a writer is to give his/her work a kind of social identity. Crystal (1987) explains that with unfamiliar cultures and languages, there is a problem in recognizing what the writer intends to convey especially for those who do not belong to that particular society.
Societies may have special uses of language for ritual purposes. Often, ceremonial genres are marked by considerable verbal ingenuity. For example, among the Llogot of Northern Philippines, there is a speech style known as crooked language used in oratory, play, song, riddle and public situations. It is a style rich in witty repartee, puns, metaphor and elaborate rhythms. Writers therefore from this society who write on this genre will reflect this verbal ingenuity in their works (Giglioli, 1972). The above works suggest that language takes place in society and the codes employed in societies differ. This may be for the purpose of identity, excluding outsiders or expressing their cultural values and practices. This is why writers in English may tend to nativise some English lexical items. A writer may be guided by the usage of the lexical items in his/her first language ad make an interpretation directly. This may not be the literal meaning and it can pose a challenge to the reader. This applies to this study due to its nature of studying contextual features in lexical items.
Language and Culture
Crystal (1987) defines culture as behaviour peculiar to Homo sapiens, together with material objects used as an integral part of this behaviour. Specifically, culture consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, and ceremonies. Culture also refers to the customs, arts and social institutions of a particular group of people. Language is part of culture.
The SIL publication (2005) states that more recently, social contexts tend to be defined in terms of the social identity being constructed and displayed in text and talk by language users. Linguistic items for different referents, also the use of certain names and objects, may differ from one culture to the other. Some readers may easily get the meaning of certain linguistic items while others will have to look for interpreters.
Cultural references can be very useful in conveying information in a story but do have to be used sparingly and with careful consideration; for example, not all readers care or know much about cars. So referencing a car model in a book is not meaningful to them. The reader may have heard the model name but have no idea if it’s a luxury car, a sports car or a truck (Trudgill 1984). African writers bring out what is particularly relevant to them although writing in English Cultural reference is intended to convey some meaning to the reader for example, cultural references can add colour to the story, establish a sense of place and time or help to define personalities and characters. There is no problem using a reference that would be known by the majority of the general reading public.
Writers are, advised to make sure contexts convey the meaning for any reader who is not familiar with the reference being made. The gloss can be provided for clarity of the setting and for a better understanding of the text. Meaning is related to the present study because the lexical items sampled are meant to convey meaning to the reader. The general reading public is supposed to understand meaning based on the interpretation of the lexical items. Cultural values, beliefs and practices are aspects of the worldview and are expressed using language and in particular lexical items.
The Written Text
Everyday conversation is so habitual that it is easy to forget its status as a genre, with its own norms and conventions, often very different from those used in written language. Speech is usually quite rapid and it is often inexplicit because the participants can rely on context to clarify their meaning. The clear cut sentence patterns known from the written language are often missing in speech.
A written language is the representation of a language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children who will instinctively learn or create spoken or gesture languages. A written language exists only as a complement to a specific spoken or gesture language and no natural language is purely written. However, extinct languages may be in effect only known when only their writings survive. Cruse (1989) explains that written languages evolve slower than corresponding spoken language when one or more registers of a language comes to be strongly divergent from spoken language the resulting situation is called diglossia. However, such diglossia is often considered as one between literary language and other registers especially if the writing system reflects its pronunciation.
Native readers and writers of English are often unaware that the complexities of English spelling make written English a somewhat artificial construct. Littlejohn (2002) suggests that it is at least arguable that written and spoken English have reached the stage that can be considered diglossia. This is because written language may be tailored to suit the needs of the readers but the spoken mode may portray many aspects. Depending on the society, there may be differences in the use of lexical items in the written and spoken mode. This diglossic effect may be brought about by social factors such as ethnicity, age, social activity and the degree of interaction in the community. This study focuses written language and identifies lexical items that portray the societal worldview in the text.
According to Crystal (1997) the novel has become the major genre of literature in most literate societies. It has attracted a vast range of literary criticism, but few large – scale linguistic investigations. Part of the analytical problem lies in the way novels contain so much variety mixing. They tap the resources of a language’s stylistic range more than does any other genre. In principle, no character, situation, theme, plot or point of view is excluded. The novel is the text under study in this study and hence the lexical items that reflect the context will be analyzed as per the assumptions made in this study.
The SIL publication(2005) contains an investigation the features of language and dialect. The revelation is that what counts as a language depends on the sociolinguistic evaluation. Another well investigated area is the author’s use of linguistic devices to maintain realistic dialogue and to identify character such as such as metaphorical language. The third area that has been studied is the movement and direction of plot, which can be illuminated by the detailed study of patterns of sentence and paragraph connectivity a major feature of the emerging field of text linguistics (Zaja, 2006). One of the objectives of this study is to find out the lexical items which portray the worldview of the Igbo which is the language of the author. The contextual setting of the text reveals aspects of the Igbo cultural values, beliefs and social structure.
The characters in a novel can be represented in several ways; the author can describe them directly, other characters can talk about them or they can talk about themselves. One of the most important linguistic techniques is through the use of distinctive style of speech which emphasizes features of regional or class background. The way a speaker uses lexical items, mostly vocabulary, may reflect their class and regional background. This may be noted by someone who listens to them. The worldview is revealed in the meaning of the lexical items as stated in the objectives of this research.
In traditional grammars, a basic distinction is drawn between direct and indirect speech. Towards the end of the 20th century, there arose a reaction against the traditional view of a literary work as the product of an author’s way of thinking about the world, in which the writer’s personal history and culture milieu were crucial factors in arriving at an interpretation. Formalist approaches displayed several limitations. They were unable to handle types of literature that did not use specifically literary language and then micro analytic techniques were not suitable for larger texts such as the novel. Structuralism paid little attention in its analyses to the role of the human mind or social reality. The author was no longer the authority of interpretation. The meaning of a text was to be found in its individual use of language.
Structuralism however, brought a valuable objectivity into literary analysis; the social context and the varying historical situation which are both applicable to this study.
Arimi (2006) studied syntactic variation in written English. His findings were that there exists syntactic variation in written English that is conditional by factors of gender and rural- urban dichotomy. The findings also tallied with Wango (2000) assertion that certain features of syntax seemed to occur among students sharing similar social background. This social background is the object of the social language theory which is used in this study.
Zaja (2006) did an investigation into citing text, culture, context and pedagogy in literary translation. According to him, the idea of linguistic composition and pragmatic utilization is important in the sense that it allows both the recognition and participation of text creators and text users. As such, whether one is talking about text in a linguistic literary or cultural sense, it must be borne in mind that a text is always held in language. It is language immanent, it is that which is held in language and which, therefore, provides a site in which it is possible to rethink meaning in broader terms that go beyond minimalist structural contrasts so as to accommodate issues that are contextually and culturally sensitive to literary translations.
These studies are of benefit to the present study because both text creators and text users are part of the society albeit belonging to different contexts. The writers observe events taking place in the society and they utilize the language they as it is used in the particular society. This gives the readers who read the works ideas on the practices, values and the general phenomena of the writers’ society. There is a connection between language use and context. The written text can portray aspects of the social phenomena among the writers society. Some of the lexical items that an author uses have meaning which can only be understood by interpreting it according to context. This is despite the fact that authors use English in their literary works. Some of the lexical items need to be interpreted by referring to the social context of the writer in order to understand their implied meaning.
The language variation paradigm posits that language varies in communities of speakers and concentrates in particular on the interaction of social factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and social class. Speech communities share a socially based organization of linguistic means which is not necessarily cast in the highly restrictive form of a community grammar consisting of variable rules. A language system must undoubtedly be more open-ended with respect to use. Even within a social group, there might be linguistic sub-classes who are part of the community. Labov (1966) found that the most educated used the r-ful and the less educated adopted the r-less reflecting class differences between the higher and the lower class. This is variation in the spoken language. Written language also differs from one society to another. This is because writer has different experiences from their historical and social background.
Linguistic variation is correlated with a wide range of sociological characteristics of speakers, Romaine (1982). Variationist studies indicate that factors such as gender and social class are linguistic variants which indicate differences. Most studies, however, have dealt with phonological variation.
Njoroge (2006) looked at linguistic variation in spoken English as used by teachers in Kenyan primary schools. He noted that varieties of a language provide a means for communication and express a sense of belonging to a community. He recommended that there be a codification and ultimately the use of the Kenyan educated variety of English in schools and in the society. This is due to the different varieties of English that exist in each society. English, being no native language to many communities in the world has been nativised to suit the needs of the social groups. Romaine (1994) observes that language has no existence apart from the social reality of its users.
These variationist studies by Labov (1966) and Njoroge (2006) are related to this study because language varies according to the user and the sociolinguistic context in question. Variation can be within the same society due to the nature of the communicative event or due to other factors that may compel the writer to use certain lexical items differently from their common usage as English words. Variation is prevalent from society to society due to the differences in the geographical, environmental, historical and political factors. English lexical items will be interpreted differently by writers depending on what they want to express and the interpretations according to their society.
The social context refers to the surroundings, the circumstances, the background or the settings that clarify meaning in an event. Chambers (1995) states that when the world is seen as a global village, understanding of the complex and subtle relationship between language, society and culture becomes an essential condition for peaceful co-existence among its villagers. An understanding of language use among the villagers is therefore essential and so the work of Chambers is relevant to this study.
Traditionally in sociolinguistics, social contexts were defined in terms of objective social variables such as those of class, gender or race. More recently, social contexts tend to be defined in terms of the social identity being construed and displayed in text and talk by language users.
Trudgill (1984) notes that comprehension of a text involves much more than knowledge of phonological, syntactic and semantic rules. So much redundant information is introduced into communicative situations by a combination of linguistic and real world knowledge.
Arimi (2006) states that in different social contexts, an individual will use language in different ways. Literary works therefore give a clear meaning if they are contextually interpreted. The influence of context parameters on language use of discourse is usually studied in terms of language variation, style or register.
The basic assumption here is that language users adopt the properties of their language use, (such as intonation, lexical choice, syntax and other aspects of formulation), to the current communicative situation. In this sense, language use or discourse may be called more or less appropriate in a given context. This assumption is therefore relevant because when one claims to comprehend a text, then they should understand the meaning of the lexical items that the writer uses. In this study, the textual analysis seeks to find out the lexical items which portray the worldview of the Igbo and if the meaning they carry can hinder comprehension of the literary work.
Language and Literature
There are various works which have argued for the use of literary texts in linguistic analysis. Leech (1969) discusses how one should carry out a linguistic research on English poetry. He discusses the features of poetry such as sound features like rhyme. In addition, Culler (1975) explains how the structuralism theory of linguistics may be used to analyze literary works. His rationale being that literature is founded o language. The works of Crystal and Davy (1969) who write on how one may investigate English style based on conversations and commentaries. Written and spoken material also helps establish the connection between language and literature. Collie and Slater (1992) note that although the literary world of novels and plays is a created one, it offers a full and vivid context in which characters from many social backgrounds are depicted. This offers an indirect route to understanding how language is used in the culture of origin. These works help to justify the choice of a literary text in the present study. This is because of the use of the literary text, Arrow of God in the study.
Chinua Achebe was born in 1930 in the Village of Ogidi in Eastern Nigeria. After studying medicine and literature at the University of Ibadan, he went to work for the Nigerian Broadcasting Company In Lagos. Things Fall Apart, his first novel, was published in 1958. It has sold over 3,000,000 copies and has been translated in over 30 languages. It was followed by No longer at Ease (1960), then Arrow of God (which won the first New Statesman Jock Campbell prize) in 1964, and then A Man of the People (a novel dealing with post independent Nigeria) in 1966.
Anthills of Savannah was short listed for the Booker MacConell prize in 1987. Achebe has also written short stories and children’s books. Beware Soul Brother, a book of his poetry, won the commonwealth poetry Prize in 1972. A collection of essays and literary criticism, Hopes and Impediments, was published in 1988. Achebe has lectured in universities in Nigeria, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and among the many honours he has received are the award of the Fellowship of the Modern Language Association of America, and eleven honorary doctorates from universities in Britain, USA, Canada and Nigeria. He followed Heirich Boll, the Nobel prize- winner as the second recipient of the Scottish Arts Council Neil Dunn fellowship. In 1987, he was recognized in Nigeria with the Nigerian National Merit Award – the country’s highest award for intellectual achievement. Achebe now lives in the United States, teaching at the Bard College in New York. He is married and has four children (Anthills of the Savannah, Chinua Achebe, A Biographical note)
Arrow of God
This literary work is set during the advent of colonialism. Most of the practices, values and beliefs are traditional alternated with a few changes brought about by the white man. Achebe, for example uses the term backward (Appendix 2) as guided by the events taking place. The arrival of the white people with their culture makes him use the lexical item backward especially when the lexical item is used by the whites. The use of this lexical item is used due to the historical events taking place. The term is used by the whites who consider themselves civilized as compared to the blacks. The society is male dominated with female characters in the background. Females are seen through the eyes of males and are often loved, pitied or castigated in this literary work, However, women are satisfied with their position and carry out their roles without any qualms. Since males are the dominant figures in the literary work, the selected lexical items may point towards patriarchal privilege.
Achebe is conversant with the Igbo communicative behaviour. He writes from his understanding of the Igbo language forms. He writes in English but has nativised some English lexical items to suit the social role they are supposed to play. This is because the meaning of some lexical items is rather dictated by the phenomena among the Igbo. He uses the lexical item at home to show the Igbo belief that a girl should be a virgin before marriage, while nothing is said about her partner. This is in line with the theory of language variation by Labov (1966). The lexical items extracted from the text show that variation can be brought about by social factors one of these being gender.
The Sapir- Whorf hypothesis (Gumperz and Hymes, 1986) postulates a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it. The hypothesis further states that a particular language’s nature influences the habitual thought of its speakers. Different language patterns yield different patterns of thought. It acknowledges that the mechanisms of any language, condition the thoughts of its speech community. The hypothesis emerged in strong and weak formulations.
The strong formulation of the Sapir Whorf hypothesis (Gumperz and Hymes, 1986) is a combination of extreme relativism with extreme determinism. It claims that there are no restrictions on the amount and type of variation to be expected between languages including their semantic structures and that the determining effect of language on thought is total. There is no thought without language. This formulation holds that language determines thought. It therefore postulates that the linguistic items we have in mind determine our thought processes.
The weaker version of the Sapir – Whorf hypothesis holds that language influences thought to some extent. Much of what we think about is influenced by the linguistic items we have in our mental faculties. However, a speaker or writer can make use of new linguistic items or borrow from other languages. Whorf and Sapir state that ‘we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language’.
For the purpose of this study, the weaker version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is used. This is because the writers’ use of language is influenced by the meaning of the lexical items they have in mind. This will be used to show that the writer has used language from the point of view of his speech community. The pragmatic use of the lexical items is purely societal and refers to the phenomena prevalent in the Igbo society. Identifying himself with his social background, Achebe uses the lexical items whose interpretation can be made on the basis of the worldview of the Igbo.
Our thoughts, which may be expressed in speech and writing, to a large extent reflect the societies from which we come. For example, a Kamba writer will use names of artifacts that are found in that community like gourds, calabashes, ropes, and pots. This is because the writer has these artifacts in his mind. It is therefore difficult or impossible to use names of artifacts that do not exist in his/her language. New phenomena can, however be assigned a lexical item. The social language theory, (Gumperz and Hymes, 1986), which relates the use of language to social phenomena, can be used to understand the concept of context or situation in the analysis of a text.
In the realm of the theory, speech community studies have shown that the question of structural uniformity of languages is largely a matter of the linguist’s basic assumptions: the extent to which his analysis is abstracted from everyday behaviour and above all of the field elicitation procedures he employs. When studied in sufficient detail, with field methods designed to elicit speech in significant contexts, all speech communities are linguistically diverse and it can be shown that this diversity serves important communicative functions in signaling interspeaker attitudes and in providing information about speakers’ social identities.
The social language theory is relevant to this study because the way a writer uses language is defined by the forms of social linguistic interaction in his / her society. Members of a society have different social interactions like marriage, cleansing, planting and others which have special uses for certain lexical items. For example, in Achebes Novel, Arrow of God, the sentence, ‘Move another step if you call yourself a man’ may not be easy to interpret unless one has knowledge of the society and what it requires of a man. Among the Igbo, the status of a man may be different from that emphasized in other communities and so are the different roles.
When Achebe says that the Ogene rang GOME, GOME and not ding dong, this lexical item has a social interpretation and not a linguistic one. Here it refers to the referent that was rung and the nature of sound that it produced. The reason why Achebe uses this lexical item is to give a picture of the particular sounds that are used by the Igbo during certain occasions. He chose to write the sound in Igbo and not in English because of the influence of his society. Littlejohn (2002) states that the social language theory depicts that the language people use in everyday conversation reflects the relationships, belief systems and values of a certain social group.
Another theory that is adapted by this study is the literary theory (SIL, 2005). This theory emphasizes the methods that readers and critics use in understanding a text. According to this theory, in order to understand a literary text, one has to consider the contextual setting among other methods. This field, being an outgrowth of the study of how to properly interpret messages, is closely tied to the ancient discipline of hermeneutics. The methods taken in the interpretation of the texts may extend far beyond literary interpretation and may also help in other disciplines that require interpretation, for example, the constitution and law.
The present study utilizes the literary theory in the analysis of the lexical items that are selected. This is because the lexical items are drawn from a literary text. By use of this theory a bigger understanding of the way they have been used to portray the worldview of the societies will be arrived at. The analysis is based on the worldview of the particular society and not English in which the literary work is written. In interpreting the lexical item untouched for example, the reader has to identify the linguistic context in which it occurs and this brings him/her to a closer understanding of the meaning of this lexical item contextually. The broad theory of language variation has also been applied. The proponents of this theory include Labov (1966), Trudgill (1984) and Njoroge (2006). It posits that variation exists in speech communities and can be brought about by social factors such as education and ethnicity. Variation correlates with social factors and is realized in various forms and types because language takes place in a certain contextual setting. This theory is relevant to sociolinguistic studies because society interacts with language at all levels from phonetics to pragmatics. The linguistic variation theory is also a theory which considers linguistic variables that are entrenched within the socio- cultural setting. The language variation paradigm therefore, forms the basis for analysis and interpretation of the phenomena observed in spoken and written language.
Njoroge (2006) analyzed linguistic variation among Kenyan primary school teachers and applied the language variation paradigm. He used it to explain the reasons for variation in the spoken English of teachers in Kenyan primary schools. In writing, some of the lexical items used will tend to have pragmatic use which reflects the social context of the writer. This because of the variation in the pragmatic or implied meaning that is assigned to them. This study utilizes this theory because variationist studies tend to show that, just as social values and practices differ, so does the language used.
The variation can be due to class distinction, gender and even age. However, variation can also be due to societal differences Labov (1966). Lexical items will vary from society to society, yet they may portray similar meaning. Similarly the same lexical items might be used by two writers from two different societies to portray different pragmatic aspects. Some lexical items may lack meaning in a certain society yet they may have meaning in another society. A reader who does not understand the use of a lexeme based on context may give the wrong interpretation which may be based on the meaning in his/her own society but not that of the writer.
Achebe, for example, uses the lexical item crier which as a noun may refer to an individual who in one society may have a different role from the one in another society. Similarly, the phenomenon may not be existing in another society. In its bare form, crier is formed from cry which is the act of shedding tears accompanied by sobs usually due to pain or joy. Variables in the social context such as gender issues, the family, social setting, race and social practices which make the lexical items vary in meaning will be considered in the present study.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
This section discusses the methodology in terms of: research design, sampling technique and sample size, data collection procedures and data analysis procedures.
The research is mainly library based because it is a textual study. However, a survey of reader interpretation has also been incorporated. The study focuses on lexical items featuring the society’s worldview in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God. The research design that is extensively used is qualitative design. In qualitative design, the phenomenon under observation is studied and a clear description of the characteristics is done. The data is analyzed descriptively so as to get an in-depth understanding of the characteristics. It does not generate discrete numerical data. Qualitative design is suitable for observation of phenomena in its natural context. Content analysis is the specific qualitative design that has been adopted by this research. Content analysis is the systematic qualitative description of the composition of the objects or materials of the study. Content analysis involves observation and detailed description of objects or things that comprise the sample (Mugenda and Mugenda, 1999). The quantitative design has also been used in data analysis.
As a qualitative design, content analysis is used to determine the presence of certain words or concepts within texts or set of texts. Researchers quantify and analyze the presence, meanings and relationships of words and concepts, then make inferences about the message, the texts, the writers(s), the audience, defined broadly as book chapters, essays interviews historical documents, speeches or any occurrence of communicative language (Seliger and Shohamy, 1989). Kombo and Tromp (2006) have brought forward the pragmatic content analysis whose emphasis is why something was said. It is applicable in the analysis of the pragmatics of the lexical items.
Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe is contextually analyzed. A description of the lexical items in terms of the semantic and pragmatic features which are similar and those which are different, and reflect the context, in which they are written, is given. The sampled lexical items have features which reflect the different aspects of the Igbo worldview. The semantic or literal use of the lexical items is identified and also the pragmatic use is given. This gives the differences and similarities which may make a reader of the work of art understand it or not.
The text is described from the Igbo worldview. The units of analysis are the particular words and word forms which have contextual features that place the literary work in a particular social setting. Since the lexical items are in English, the researcher uses inference to determine their pragmatic use as compared to the semantic use. Inference is the determination of the meaning of a lexical item by referring to the linguistic context in which it occurs. The features which distinguish the context are also determined by the researcher from the linguistic context of the lexical items.
Sampling technique and Sample size
Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe was purposively selected for the study. In purposive sampling, the researcher selects the sample that has the characteristics that are needed (Mugenda and Mugenda, 1999). The sample consists of lexical items which portray the worldview of the Igbo people. After reading Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe, the researcher identified words whose meaning was ‘marked.’ This formed the basis for using the literary work for the contextual research. The literary work contains information that gives the socio-linguistic aspects of written works as portrayed by the use of lexical items. The text has enough lexical items that portray the Igbo worldview.
The researcher randomly selected five chapters from the book and by use of inference identified the lexical items that give the socio-cultural features of each society from each chapter. This sampling technique is adopted because the researcher had read the text and could infer the meanings of the lexical items from the linguistic context (ff.Appendix 3).
The sample size is four lexical items out of each chapter. This means that from the five chapters, twenty lexical items were purposively selected. Lexemes in the first language are included in this sample size. This sample is enough to enable the researcher to get the required data. Milroy (1987) observes that one does not need a very large population to observe a linguistic phenomenon.
Data Collection Procedures
The linguistic data required was lexical items. There were certain lexical items which depicted the societal features of the Igbo even when written in English (Achebe, 1964). The Igbo lexical items (ff.Appendix 2) were also be picked out as they portray certain aspects of the society. Content analysis was adopted because each of the chapters in the sample was studied to find out the lexical items which show aspects of the society’s worldview.
The data was extracted manually. This is despite the fact that there are machine extraction programmes. This is due to the fact that for one to obtain data from a text, it need not be machine readable. The researcher used inference to identify the lexical items which show aspects of the worldview in the text. This was done by moving from chapter to chapter in the text, picking and noting down the lexical items whose meaning depicts the society’s worldview. This was through inference and the use of the linguistic context (ff.Appendix 3). The researcher also formulated a questionnaire in form of a test based on the meaning of the words extracted from the novel and administered it to five teachers in Katumani Secondary School (ff. Appendix 4). She gave the teachers the questionnaire in the morning and collected in the afternoon. The questionnaire was based on the meanings of the sampled lexical items and the teachers were required to explain the meanings briefly, using the linguistic context and their own understanding as a guide (ff.Appendix 4).
Data Analysis Procedures
Qualitative analysis procedures were used to analyze the data. The data was analyzed descriptively. This was because cultural values and beliefs can be discussed at length by description. The researcher used inference to determine the contextual meaning of the selected lexical items. This was through a thorough examination of the linguistic context, the communicative event, the relationships existing and the circumstances of the occurrence of the lexical items. The pragmatic content analysis, (Kombo and Tromp, 2006), was used to determine the pragmatic use of the lexical items.
The researcher arranged the lexical items depending on the aspects of the worldview being portrayed. The similarities and differences that were brought out by the use of the lexical items by the writer were identified. Each of the lexical items was described in terms of its semantic and pragmatic similarities and differences in relation to the society. The features of context were also determined. This data made it possible for a conclusion to be made on the degree of influence of the sociolinguistic context on language use.
Data Analysis and Presentation
This section comprises the analysis and presentation of the contextualized lexical items in Chinua Achebe’s literary work, Arrow of God (ff. Appendix 1).The focus is on written language and in particular, the use of lexical items portraying the worldview of the Igbo. The analysis seeks to find out the extent to which the writer has been influenced by the worldview of his society in his literary work. The data co nsists of twenty lexical items collected from five randomly selected chapters in Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe (ff. Appendix 2). Since the application of the literal meaning of a word to the reader may render it either meaningless or give the wrong meaning, the understanding of the contextual setting of the lexical items has been explicitly discussed. The analysis will also suggest that when considering lexical items in the literary works, one has to bear in mind the contextual setting of the particular literary work in terms of the worldview. The contextual features that are represented in the use of English lexical items are identified. To comprehend a text, it is important to make a comparison between the literal and the contextual use of some lexical items that one comes across in the course of reading.
Categorization of Lexical items The lexical items fall into different categories according to the social roles they play. They represent the worldview of the Igbo society in different ways. They can therefore be categorized according to the different aspects of the worldview that they present. A worldview is a combination of different factors forms the aspirations, feelings, customs and the general culture of the people. When this is expressed linguistically, then the writer nativises some English lexical items according to his society. Texts in English may contain lexical items which show characteristics of the worldview of the author. Pragmatic use of the said English lexical items may differ from society to society. The lexical items have been categorized as artifacts, practices, values, social structure and beliefs. These are the components of a society’s worldview according to Crystal (1987). According to him, the way a writer uses language is defined by the forms of social linguistic interaction in his/her society. This categorization shows the aspects of the social phenomena as per the social language theory which relates language use to the social phenomena in a society.
Table 1: Categorization of Lexical items
|Artifacts||Arrow, Ikenga, Gun, Ogene|
|Practices||Cure, Purify Crier|
|Values||Untouched, At home, Station|
|Social structure||Compound people, suckling child, priest, Title|
|Beliefs||Doze, Deity, Raw, Backward, Return, Hold|
Table 1 above presents the different categories of the selected lexical items. Each of the lexical items has its etymological use except the first language lexical items Ogene and Ikenga (ff.Appendix 2) which the author may have used because they do not have their English equivalents. The different categories form the worldview of the society as posited by Crystal (1987). When a reader comes across these lexical items in the process of reading, they will get to understand some aspects of the Igbo worldview. This is because the lexical items have been used by the writer according to the phenomena they represent in Igbo but not in English.
This categorization shows that each language has its unique characteristics and each society uses language according to their everyday practices. These first language lexical items can be regarded as marked entities in texts because the reader can only apply their use in that particular society. The etymological and contextual use of the lexical items will be analyzed later.
Achebe has used lexical items which portray artifacts of the Igbo. The society depends on these artifacts for certain functions and practices. When Achebe uses the lexical item arrow, this is an indication that among the Igbo, an arrow is used for certain practices. The work of the arrow is to shoot. Achebe uses the term arrow to refer to a human being who is used by a deity to shoot or to punish another deity.
The lexical item is used to indicate that the arrows can be used as a form of punishment and there is no other use that is suggested. This is pragmatic because the literal meaning is the same only that Achebe has been guided by the existing phenomena in his society to use this artifact pragmatically. This artifact shows that rivalry exists among the deities and this effect is felt by the people. The use of this lexical item is metaphorical and the meaning can only be understood if the reader takes a pragmatic examination of the lexical item in context.
The lexical item gun (Appendix 2) has been used by Achebe to portray yet another peculiar practice of the Igbo. The gun among the Igbo is shot to scare away evil spirits from a sick person. It is therefore an indication that there is healing derived from the gun shots. Achebe therefore gives another dimension of sickness and healing as practiced by the Igbo. In the novel, the people shoot the gun to scare away evil spirits in order for the man to get well. This is done because the person is suffering from the disease of evil spirits. This is different from the literal usage of the gun as a weapon.
Ikenga has been used to show how the Igbo are attached to their ancestors whom they adore and offer sacrifices to. The fetish Ikenga is linked to a man’s soul so that when it is broken it is tantamount to killing the person. In reference to the splitting of the Ikenga, the following sentence tells us the value of this artifact ‘let us put ourselves in the place of the man he made a corpse before his own eyes’. Achebe has not found any English equivalent of this artifact and so uses it in its original form. This is particular to the Igbo and may not have a meaning in any other society.
There are lexical items which reflect the practices of the Igbo (Table 1). One of these is the lexical item crier. A crier is a person who sounds a message to the people. The person does so by sounding the Ogene. The crier therefore neither cries nor uses his mouth to send the message. The word crier therefore represents the Igbo worldview because they choose to refer to a person who more or less is a messenger as a crier. This lexical item moreover shows that among the Igbo, there are those whose work is to send messages to others hence they are referred to as criers. The use of this lexical item is rather societal and is not related to the etymology of the lexeme cry though in both there is production of sound.
The lexical item cure is used by Achebe to portray the practice of punishing and its effects among the Igbo. To them, when one is cured, it means that they will not repeat the mistake again. ‘To cure’ here refers to punishing by beating or hitting a person in order to stop a bad or evil practice. This lexical item may not be used in the same way in another society. In the usage of this lexical item, Achebe shows that when a person is problematic, they are considered as sick people who need cure.
Achebe has also used the lexical item purify to bring out the worldview of the Igbo. The practice of purifying the land before planting is representative of Igbo worldview because according to them, the land has to be clean before planting can take place. The purification has nothing to do with the land but has everything to do with the people. The usage is on the purifying of the land but it is the people who participate and they the land does not have much to participate in. It is the practice of holding feasts or ceremonies before planting. This portrays the Igbo worldview about land and farming.
Huckmann (1987) acknowledges that the practices of a people are so repeated that they become part of their normal behaviour. This can be expressed by use of language, either spoken or written. Most practices are peculiar only to a particular society. Authors may foreground issues that are prevalent in their society and readers can get this when reading a text.
Igbo values have been identified through the use of lexical items. The use of the lexical item untouched (ff.Appendix 2) exemplifies these values. When one is untouched, it means that she has not gone to bed with a man. Achebe portrays a man who has lets his bride to go untouched till marriage as a highly disciplined man. This lexical item shows the value attached to a woman’s purity according to the Igbo.
The lexical item at home also gives an idea of the Igbo values. When referring to the value of being found at home, Achebe writes, ‘Her husband was even now arranging to send the goat and other gifts to her mother in Umuezeani for giving him an ‘unspoilt bride’. When a woman or bride is found ‘to be at home’, it means that she has not been to bed with any other man and is therefore a virgin. This seems to be an important value because if one is not at home; then the mother misses the prize. Achebe has shown the Igbo worldview here because it seems to suggest that if one is not at home, then her character is questionable. By referring to a man of authority as a man of a certain station (Appendix 2), Achebe shows the value attached to power among the Igbo. It means that if one is of a certain station, there are certain things he is bound to do or not to do. This is what the Igbo attach to their people in authority. For example, a representative of deity or a priest should not go to certain places alone but has to be accompanied. This shows the value attached to the station of priesthood. In the novel, Achebe presents Ezeulu as a man of a high station who should go to places accompanied. This is because of his power and a representative of the deity.
Crystal (1987) explains that a social structure is the organization of a society in terms of the roles defined and what the society expects of the members who have different roles. In the society, there are those who are in authority and those that are not. The society’s social structure is also another worldview which Achebe has lifted for his readers to understand. When he uses the lexical item compound people
Achebe gives an idea of a family structure made up of several wives and children. The man is the head of compound and is usually the one who makes decisions on the behalf of the entire compound or the family. The family is therefore a social unit and they do things together like fetching water, building and also farm work.
The lexical item suckling child has been used to refer to the least people in the society. When Achebe says ‘even a suckling child knows him’ means that even the least is aware. This lexical term shows that the suckling child is considered the most ignorant and so according to the Igbo, something that can be known by the suckling child can be known by everyone or by all. In the text, the person giving instructions says that even a suckling child could know Ezeulu.
A priest according to the Igbo is an important person in the society who represents a deity. He performs special duties among the people which exonerate and exalt him above the rest of the people. He has the power to call a meeting of the important people in the society. He can also punish the people if they prove to be headstrong. He can also be used by his deity to fight another deity. According to the Igbo, the chief priest is the leader of the people and he even eats yams on behalf of deity. The society therefore reveres the priest because he represents the deity. Everyone has to obey what the priest says. However, he can cause problems in the society and may even do evil to them. In the novel, Ezeulu, who is a chief priest, refuses to call for the feast of the new moon which precedes planting. This is because the people have wronged him. This is a negative aspect of the priesthood because a priest is supposed to be a messenger of the deity.
Men of title have also been used to identify another aspect of the Igbo social structure. The title ranges from priest to medicine men and the very elderly. The lexical item title has been used to give a distinction between certain men and others in the society. The society gives them certain powers and responsibilities in the society. By making these men shine above everyone else, Achebe readily promotes male dominance and shows that no woman had any say in the society but was there to bear children and serve their husbands.
Achebe portrays the land as having dozed (Appendix 2) before the rains. This is an Igbo belief because they had much to do with the land and everything that comes out of the land. It was their belief that when there is no rain the land is inactive or dozing. Achebe uses this lexical term as dictated by the society’s beliefs and shows the comparison made for inanimate phenomena as if they were living. This practice of personification is characteristic of the Igbo worldview.
The Igbo beliefs are also shown when Achebe uses the lexical term raw to show that one is young or inexperienced. When one does not know much in the society, one is considered raw. This is so for the young who have not understood the societal practices. The Igbo seem to have the belief that a young person is comparable to food that has not been cooked in the literal sense. This comparison may be peculiar to them.
Achebe also uses the lexical term backward. The use of this lexical item is dictated by the state of affairs. He refers to the Igbo as backward. In using this lexical item, it portrays the notion which was among the educated Nigerians. They considered their people as backward. It was their belief that all that was white was civilized and all that was African was backward. These were the ideas originating from the colonialists. He therefore shows us the comparison which was being made between the educated and the ignorant Igbo versus the white people.
The belief in the deity is advanced by Achebe in Arrow of God. The importance of the deity in the lives of the people is outlined. There are several deities who at times fight one another. This lexical item therefore gives the reader an idea of the Igbo belief in the supernatural beings. Achebe extensively shows the deep attachment to the deities by the Igbo because they seem to control most of the societal activities. It shows that according to the Igbo worldview, the deities were very important.
Another lexical item which shows the Igbo belief is the return. The body returns to the person when he/she gets well after an illness. The idea of a body leaving a person and returning to him/her is only an Igbo belief and shows the Igbo worldview as far as diseases and healing are concerned.
The lexical term hold also reflects another Igbo belief. The sky is has to hold and this means to wait for sometime before the rains start. The belief that the sky can be obedient and wait for some time before it rains portrays a peculiar belief that inanimate phenomena can behave animatedly and portray qualities that can make it understood by people. The Igbo worldview is that even non-living phenomena have some characteristics of human beings. The linguistic context where the lexical items occur is provided in Appendix 3.
Literal versus Contextual meaning
According to Murkherjee (2000), lexical items may have literal and contextual meaning. The contextual meaning is part of style employed by a writer in order to identify with his/her society or to exclude the non-members of the society. The literal use is the use according to the dictionary and is thus unmarked. Contextual use is marked and can be used in line with the aspects of the society. The use of the lexical item raw in the text to show who is young and does not know much about society is pragmatic. Due to different writer characteristics, lexical items may have meaning which is completely unrelated or related in terms of their literal and contextual uses.
Some lexical items have meanings which are different from the way they are used every day. The meaning may be related to the dictionary meaning but may have more information. The lexical item may also be a combination of the function and content words and the meaning can be found in combination and not in isolation. A lexical item may also have different meanings in two different societies. In other instances there is a close relationship between the literal and pragmatic use of certain lexical items as used contextually.
The basis for this analysis is the literary theory and the social language theory. The literary theory emphasizes the methods of interpreting messages so that a reader is able to get the proper meaning of a lexical item. This study, being textual requires that an analysis of the way the writer has used lexical to suit the worldview of his society be done. This will give a clear difference between the way the lexical items are defined in the dictionary and the way they are nativised according to the writer’s worldview. The literary theory emphasizes style in language use especially in written texts. This is due to the diversity of readers and writers of literary works. Achebe, for example, uses the lexical item compound people to refer to one’s family especially when it is used by the family heads who in this society happen to be men. This is Achebe’s style of showing family roles.
The analysis is also based on the social language theory because the contextual meaning, as emphasized by the writer assists the reader to interpret or understand the text he/she is reading. According to the proponents of this theory, all speech communities are linguistically diverse and therefore their interpretation of English lexical items will be based on their social setting. The literal meaning is based on the dictionary definition while the contextual meaning is based on the pragmatic interpretation.
Table 2: Lexical items and their literal and contextual meaning
|Word||Literal meaning||Contextual meaning in the text|
|Arrow||A thin stick that is sharply pointed at one end and designed to be shot from a bow||A person used by the deity to punish another. They are used in the fight between one deity and another.|
|At home||Home- The place where one lives||Of women. The virtue of chastity. When no one has been to bed with the woman|
|Backward||Having made or making less than normal progress||Not European. The other races are backward. Only Europeans are not|
|Compound people||Compound- An area enclosed by a fence etc in which a house factory or other building stands||The family- usually consisted of extended families living in the same compound under one head- the father,|
|Crier||Cry-To produce tears, to weep||One who sounds the Ogene to give a message to the people|
|Cure||Make someone healthy again.||Do something bad to someone, a kind of punishment|
|Deity||A supernatural power- A god||A supernatural being who was present among the people and controlled their
everyday activities. There were many deities and each had priests who represented the. The deities could be at logger heads
|Doze||To sleep lightly||Of land, when there is no rain|
|Hold||To remain secure in position||To wait, for example rain|
|Gun||Any type of weapon that fires bullets or shells||An implement which is shot to scare away evil spirits|
|Priest||A person appointed to perform religious duties||A representative of the deity. One who eats the sacrifice on behalf of the deity|
|Purify||Remove dirty, harmful or undesirable substances||Holding a feast before planning. Usually organized by the chief priest|
|Raw||Not cooked, in the natural state||Young and not knowing much|
|Return||To come back to a place||Of a body, when one was sick and gets well, the body returns to him/her|
|Station||A place, building where a service is organized||Power and authority. A person of a high station is one who has special duties in the society|
|Suckling child||To suckle- to feed a baby or young animal with milk from the breast or udder||Anyone, including the least in the society|
|Title||A name of a book, poem, picture etc||Men of title-men who matter in the society or who hold special positions.|
|Untouched||Touch- to put ones hand or fingers onto somebody or something||Of women, one who has not been involved in sexual relations with a man|
The above analysis represents twenty lexical items selected from the five chapters of Arrow of God. The representation shows that for some lexical items the social meaning may be totally different from its literal use but in most cases, the social meaning is closely related to the literal meaning though differences may make it difficult for a reader to understand a text.
Because conditions vary so much from community to community, the social meanings may be attributed to the aspects of the society that they interact with. The Igbo, having so much to do with the Supreme Being may socially use many words relating to each aspect of this supernatural power for example, deity, priest and arrow all have something to do with the supreme being.
Teachers were presented with a meaning test (ff.Appendix 4) to explain their understanding of the lexical items out of context. This is because they had used the words in the past and they can also get the meaning from the linguistic context which in this case was the sentences. The sentences gave them an idea of the meaning of these lexical items’ usage. They explained the meanings of the words as they understood them. In some of the explanations, the meanings are closely related while in others, there is no relationship in meaning. The researcher wanted to find out if the readers would use both semantics and pragmatics in the interpretations. As it emerged, the teachers were only giving the literal meaning and did not consider the pragmatic use of the lexical items.
In explaining the meaning of the lexical item arrow, four of the respondents stated that it is a weapon and went on to describe how it is used while one respondent gave the meaning as destroyed. This made the researcher conclude that they gave the meaning that is commonly known and used by them but not from the pragmatic point of view. Achebe has used this lexical item pragmatically because he uses it to refer to a man who becomes an arrow for the deity to shoot the people with. The pragmatic use of this lexical item in the text is societal. This is why a reader needs to get the meaning from the linguistic context in order to comprehend the meaning.
In the usage of the lexical item at home, all the respondents interpreted it semantically from the meaning of the preposition and the noun. This may be because such a value does not exist in their society and so it does not occur to them that the writer may have had a different meaning as dictated by his society.
The respondents also gave the meaning of backward as uncivilized or primitive. It is closely related to what the writer wanted to imply in the usage of the lexical item in the text because he was guided by the situation context. In assigning this lexical item for use by the whites, he has a message to give to the readers about the goings on in Igbo land and this is a historical phenomenon.
In giving the meaning of the lexical item compound people, the respondents gave varying answers whereby two of them suggested that it was the people who man a compound while two suggested that it meant the owners of the place or the people around that place. One of them explained that it meant the grounds men. None of the explanations is close to Achebe’s usage to the lexical item. This is because these respondents come from a different society from that of Achebe and may not have heard of the usage of this lexical item in the way Achebe has used it.
In interpreting the meaning of the lexical item crier, the respondents gave the idea of a person wailing or mourning. One respondent did not give any explanation at all. Their interpretation is general and not contextual since it is guided by the usage of the lexeme cry as a dictionary entry. To them, it is enough to understand the dictionary use and then they can apply it to the usage of the lexical item in any linguistic context they come across.
The use of the lexical item cure is given by four of the respondents as to heal or to treat. The fifth respondent has explained that it is to change from weakness. This is the meaning that is commonly used in every day conversation and also in the dictionary. However, there is little consideration of the contextual use of language. This again may be due to the absence of such a belief among members of their community. The lexical item may be well known but the writer has used it according to the interpretation of his society.
The lexical item deity has been given as a god by three respondents. The fourth says that it means nutrition or food while the fifth has not explained anything. This shows the complex nature of meaning especially in relation to the written lexical items. It is left at the mercy of the reader to interpret the intended meaning because the writer may not have had a wide range of readers in mind when writing the literary work.
The respondents have interpreted the meaning of the lexical item doze to show sleep or slumber. This is in line with the meaning of the writer but the pragmatic use of the lexical item is the one needed by the reader of the literary work. This is because there are certain phenomena which are central to the society he comes from and which form part of the meaning of the lexical items.
All the respondents have given the meaning of the lexical item hold as referring to catch or to arrest. This is in line with the way the lexical item is used in the dictionary or the etymology of the lexical item and this means that they have used it out of context without giving a thought to pragmatic use. The use is therefore different from what the writer implies in using the lexical item in his text.
The lexical item gun has been defined by all the respondents as a weapon for shooting. It is the usage that is common and semantic. This however is not usage according to the context because the functions of the artifact referred as a gun by Achebe is quite different. It means that the lexical item, if interpreted within the contextual use may yield deeper understanding of the phenomena in the society.
The meaning of the lexical item priest has been given by all the respondents as a clergy or a person who performs religious duties. This is the correct meaning according to the etymology of the word and the common usage semantically. It is clear that the respondents understand the duties of a priest to be performed in reverence to god and to be good. It however emerges that the duties may not be performed for the benefit of the people because in the text, a priest does harm to the people.
To purify is to clean according to all the five respondents. This is mostly in relation to water which people use to drink. The idea of purifying a person, land or people may not be occurring to the prospective reader and this mode of purifying is different from that done to water or other edible item. This is a practice which may only be understood by those who have witnessed it or are part of the said community.
The respondents identify the meaning of the lexical item raw as uncooked. They do not take into consideration any contextual feature as they just define the lexical item as it is usually used. However, the contextual use may not differ greatly with the meaning given by the respondents and although the referents may be different, the meaning may be closely related.
The above analysis exemplifies the way readers assign meanings to lexical items when they encounter them in texts. This is the out of context interpretation of any reader of a work of Art, Achebe’s Arrow of God included.
According to the literary theory (Sil, 2005), the methods that readers and critics use in understanding a text may lead to the correct interpretation or the wrong one. When interpreting a message in a text, the reader needs to consider factors such as context and the communicative event. Context, whether person or situation may be necessary because there certain situations when a writer can use a lexical item and not others. Chomsky’s view that conventions may not be applicable in all situations is highly considered in this analysis because the way language is used conventionally may be different when the sociolinguistic context is considered.
Similarities in the Semantic and Pragmatic use of Lexical items
Lexical items can only make sense if they are assigned the correct meaning. There are two types of meaning, the semantic and the pragmatic meaning. The semantic use is the general meaning of the lexical items without considering the context in which it is used. It is also referred to as the denotative meaning and this meaning can be arrived at even without the linguistic context of a lexical item. The pragmatic use is the use according to context. Context can be the person, the situation or the place which dictates the use of the lexical item in a text. Pragmatic use is also referred to as the implied meaning, contextual meaning or the connotative meaning (Giglioli, 1972).
The language variation paradigm by Labov (1966) forms the basis for analysis and interpretation of the phenomena observed in spoken and written language. This theory posits that variation exists and correlates with social factors such as race and gender. The paradigm further adds that there are varieties that are bound to be similar or different with respect to certain linguistic characteristics. The language variation paradigm adds that language takes place in context. Variationist studies tend to show that just as social values and practices differ, so does the language used. The lexical items sampled, therefore, may portray lexical items sampled therefore may portray meaning which may vary semantically and pragmatically.
There are some lexical items which are similar in their semantic and pragmatic use. The lexical item doze for example, which means to lie or to rest with closed eyes has been used by Achebe to refer to a state of inactivity in relation to the land. Achebe refers to the land as having been dozing before the rains. This refers to the state where nothing was taking place. However, the meaning is related because semantically, when one is dozing, they are in a state of inactivity. The reader therefore who meets this lexical item may not encounter great difficulties when getting the meaning due to the close relationship between its semantic and pragmatic use.
In the use of the lexical item title, which means importance according to Achebe (1964), there is a similarity here because a title literary represents a name or topic. In the text, title generally refers to a person in authority. Men of title were people with authority in the society. However, Achebe has used it to enhance male dominance because he refers to the men of title. Here he portrays gender disparity and shows that only men can hold titles. Achebe uses this lexical item according to the Igbo worldview. It shows that the Igbo have titles for their men. There is a similarity between the semantic and pragmatic use due to the importance attached to a title. A reader will therefore easily get the meaning even when it is contextual.
The lexical item priest is used to portray an individual who represents a deity. Achebe describes the ordination of a priest as performed through the priest carrying the image of the deity on his head. He has also powers to harm the people. In Arrow of God, a priest could perform rituals that could keep away evil spirits and also bring about healing. The priests were greatly honoured and they determined the time to plant and also told the wishes of their deities.
Semantically, a priest performs religious duties on behalf of the people. In the text, the priesthood is hereditary and cannot be learnt or acquired through books. This lexical item has been used only on one gender. In both, it was supposed to be inherited and the writers portray male characters as the ones entitled to inherit the title. The duties of a priest in both are similar only that pragmatically, Achebe has used the lexical item to show that a priest could also cause harm to the people. There is therefore closeness in meaning because the idea of a supreme being is portrayed in both meanings and a reader may not have difficulty in understanding the use of the lexical item. The writer’s use of this lexical item means it possible for a reader to comprehend and therefore have some idea of the message being conveyed.
The lexical item gun has been used and its contextual meaning may be slightly similar to the literal meaning because it is an implement meant to make a frightening sound. In the text, Achebe uses the word gun to show that the implement could make a deafening sound and scare away evil spirits. However, it was not a weapon as in the literal meaning. In the selection of this lexical item, Achebe has portrayed the Igbo worldview and the semantic and pragmatic meaning is close. In the semantic sense, the gun is a weapon which can shoot to harm.
Achebe has used the lexical item pragmatically to show the idea of shooting evil spirits which is characteristic of the Igbo. However, a reader may not have difficulty because the idea is the same and the kind of sound produced seems to be similar. The gun could have different features just as its use but the similarity lies in the fact that its sound can be heard a distance away. The difference in the use does not make the pragmatic and semantic meaning so distinct that a reader may really not understand the text but can apply the literal meaning to have ideas on the way the writer has used the lexical item.
A similarity also exists in the semantic and pragmatic use of the lexical item purify. The semantic use of purify is to remove dirt, harmful or undesirable substances. This is to make clean and thus admirable. The Igbo hold a feast to purify the land before planting. There seems to be a belief that if the land is not purified, it may not produce a good yield. It follows then that if something is not pure, then it can cause harm. The close relationship then it gives the reader an idea of the intended meaning of the writer. The purification ceremony may differ but the idea is the same because in both, the aim is to make clean for use. A reader who comes across this lexical item will not find it difficult to understand due to the closeness between the semantic and pragmatic meaning.
The lexical item return semantically means to come back to a place. Achebe has used the lexical item in reference to a person’s body that is after getting well, the body returns to him. There is close similarity between the uses of the lexical item because it return of the body is the similar to coming back to the place. Pragmatically, the Igbo compare the body with the natural phenomena because the implication is that the body leaves the person when he gets sick but when he gets well, the body returns. The use of this lexical item therefore may not create a great rift in understanding for the readers from other societies.
Achebe also uses the lexical item crier to refer to a person who plays an Ogene, an instrument which is used to send a certain massage to inform people of a certain occurrence. To cry, semantically is to produce tears or to weep. According to Igbo worldview, the person who uses the instrument to make a sound is compared to one who cries or weeps. This signals a similarity because in both meanings, a sound is produced which can be heard by people.
Achebe also uses the lexical untouched which refers to the state where the woman has not had sexual intercourse with a man. Literary, to touch is to put one’s hands or fingers on something or someone. There is a close relationship between the two meanings because there is the contact involved in both. In the pragmatic meaning, the author refers to two bodies coming into contact or touching intercourse. This means that even a non Igbo reader will get the meaning easily because when it is a woman being untouched, it goes without saying that she is supposed to be ‘touched’ by a man. When Achebe uses this lexical item, he makes it easy for all readers to understand some of the Igbo worldview.
The lexical item raw also displays similarities in the semantic and pragmatic use. Raw, semantically, refers to that which is not cooked but in the natural state. The pragmatic use is that someone who is raw is young and does not know much. This shows a relationship although the semantic use refers to inanimate phenomena while the pragmatic use refers to human. The idea of someone not knowing much or being young is similar to the state of being raw for inanimate objects because it means that nothing has been done to the object. For humans, one who is raw is young hence does not know much.
The use of the lexical item cure also displays similarities between the semantic and pragmatic use. To cure is to make someone healthy again especially after they have been sick. When Achebe uses the lexical item cure, he shows one who has a certain problem being made to improve. Pragmatically, the Igbo relate the curative aspect with that of a body that has problems and is this cured. In the text, a person who has a problem is made better through a punishment such as beating. A reader who comes across this lexical item is likely to get the information though he/she may not get the deeper meaning according to the Igbo worldview.
Semantically, a deity is a supreme being, a god. Human beings revere the deity and often command respect and honour. The semantic implication is that there is only one deity. The pragmatic implication to the same lexical item is that among the Igbo, there were many deities who were in constant collision with one another. The writer refers to the existence of the deities who have different duties in the society. This is the Igbo worldview. The society is therefore presented as having all to do with the deities. However the semantic and pragmatic use of the lexical item tends to be closely related and can bring the reader to an understanding even without having knowledge of the society’s beliefs.
Also the lexical item hold which semantically means to remain secure in position has a close relationship with the pragmatic meaning. Achebe uses the lexical item to refer to the situation whereby the rain has had to hold for sometime for an important person, that is the priest. This assigns an inanimate phenomenon some animate characteristics. Usually, a person holds or waits. However, for rain to hold, that is specific of the Igbo worldview. The semantic and pragmatic use of this lexical item is therefore related though with slight differences which may not be too problematic for a reader.
Achebe uses the lexical item arrow in his text. An arrow semantically refers to thin stick with a pointed end, designed to be shot with a bow. According to the Igbo, an arrow can be a human being who is used by a deity to fight another deity. Achebe portrays a priest called Ezeulu who is used by his deity to fight another deity through punishing the people. In the two uses, the arrow is used to do something harmful or undesirable. A reader can therefore get the meaning of the contextual use of the lexical item after reading the text though remotely because the difference is slightly wide. The arrow however, if understood can give an indication of a warring situation. This makes it possible for the reader to understand the text.
A person who is backward literary is one who makes less than normal progress in any activity. The Igbo considered themselves backward because they compared themselves to the Europeans and their ways. According to the pragmatic use of the lexical item, any non European culture is backward. There is a similarity between the pragmatic and the semantic use in that Achebe portrays the worldview of the Igbo as considering the black people as making abnormal progress as compared to the Europeans. This is triggered by the activities that they were carrying out and the equipment they used.
The writer also uses the lexical item compound people to refer to the extended family. The semantic use of the lexical item compound to refer to an enclosed area where people live shows the similarity in the use of this lexical item. A man is the head of his compound people. The difference lies in the fact that pragmatically, the people need not be within an enclosed area. However, most of the families have a fenced compound which brings in the similarity between the semantic and pragmatic use. The relationship between a compound and people enables the reader to get an idea of the writer’s use of the lexical item and may therefore not find it extremely difficult to understand the text.
Differences in the Semantic and Pragmatic use of Lexical items
Most of the lexical items have a relationship between the semantic and pragmatic use. There are however some lexical items which show differences between the semantic and pragmatic use. This is because Achebe has nativised the lexical items in order to appeal to the Igbo readers. This is different from the semantic use because the referent is supposed to suckle from the mother. The pragmatic and semantic use is different and one may not easily connect the meaning out of context. A reader who comes across this lexical item will not easily understand but may have to refer to the context in which it is used. This may also involve going through whole paragraphs or chapters to get an understanding of this lexical item.
There is also no relationship between the uses of the lexical item at home semantically and pragmatically. The lexeme home refers to a place where one lives. Achebe has used the lexical item at home to refer to a virgin or one who has not been to bed with a man. There is a great difference and a reader who comes across this lexical item will refer to the context to get the meaning or get information from the native speakers. This shows the extent of societal influence upon literary works.
The lexical item station, which in its literal meaning refers to a place where a service is organized portrays a pragmatic difference it its use. Achebe uses the lexical item station to refer to power and authority. This use is purely contextual. This is the way the Igbo view the aspect of importance in society. When Ezeulu is referred to as a person of a certain station, it shows his importance in the society. The non-Igbo reader has therefore to find out the societal use of this lexical item because societies differ in their expression of values.
There are no similarities or differences exhibited by the first language lexical items. This is because of their peculiarity and their use which is society specific. The writer may not have had any synonym or may have opted to make it clear by applying the lexical item in its original form. The writer’s use of first language items may also be for identity or inclusion (Milroy, 1987)
The use of the lexical item Ogene which is a type of instrument which can be sounded for people to be given a certain message is peculiar to the Igbo people. The lexical item has no English equivalent and a reader has to find out its meaning from the context. Achebe may also have the aim of pointing at his society by using this lexical item in its original form. A non-native reader therefore has to understand it by connecting it to the function or refer to native speakers to know the actual meaning. Even though, he/she may just have to get the face value or a rather an idea or what it could be unless one is shown to them.
The Ikenga, which is a fetish, cannot give any similarities because the artifact is only specific to the Igbo. The writer cannot use any other lexical item because it cannot be compared to any English artifact known to the writer. A reader who comes across it therefore has to content with the remote ideas got from the larger structures.
Figure 1: Similarities and differences in the use of lexical items
The sampled lexical items were divided according to the degree of similarity and difference in the pragmatic and semantic usage. The divisions were arrived at by getting the number of lexical items which were different or similar divided by the total number of lexical items multiplied by three hundred and sixty. Some lexical items could not be determined because they were in Igbo. This is represented in the pie chart above. The lexical items whose semantic and pragmatic use is similar are far more than those whose use is different. The relationship between the semantic and pragmatic use of the sampled lexical items therefore is very close.
In conclusion, there are glaring similarities between the semantic and pragmatic use of lexical items in Achebes’s Arrow of God. The differences existing are minimal and so for a reader; there is certainty that even though the sampled lexical items are contextualized, they can still be understood even by non-Igbo speakers. The reader therefore does not need to have the full knowledge of the Ibo worldview in order to understand the text.
Features of Context
For many people, language is not just the medium of culture but also part of culture. It is not uncommon to find refugees, immigrants and foreigners in a certain country carrying on with their customs and still using their first language even in a foreign country. Lexical items may vary in their contextual use from one social setting to another. Their application in different situations also depends on the user. Also, social groups may use an English lexical item differently but may achieve the same objective. The young, for example, may use a lexical item differently from the old.
Contextual features are important in identifying the worldview of a speech community. Whorf and Sapir argue that ‘we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages’. This is because we first of all think in our native languages and then interpret to English. The hypothesis further argues that our thoughts which may be expressed in speech or writing to a large extent reflect the societies from where we come. Achebe is no exception. In Arrow of God, the context comes out due to the lexical items and other larger structures which he uses.
The theory of language variation also applies to this analysis because one of its tenets is that linguistic variables are entrenched within the socio-cultural setting. Another tenet in this theory is that variation exists in speech communities and can be brought out by social factors such as gender, education and ethnicity. This analysis therefore considers features of context which reveal the society’s worldview.
Depending on the social structure of the society, Achebe has used the lexical items which show the Igbo social norms. The lexical item title shows that among the Igbo, there are a few privileged and acknowledged men who have a greater say in the affairs of the community than others. It shows that the men in the society are not equal even when they are of the same age. This is the social set up among the Igbo. It also shows that there are different titles among the men. The use of this lexical item by the writer contextualizes it because a title is supposed to be a topic or name but here it is used in relation to senior men in the society (ff.Appendix 3).
This is meaning is due to the social structure of the Igbo society. Achebe hereby portrays the Igbo society where men had titles and were respected and given priorities. In the text, men of the title were supposed to discuss important matters of the society. Achebe shows that men who had no title were not involved in making important decisions among the Igbo.
Also the lexical item station refers to a person of power and authority among the Igbo. In the society therefore, one will draw respect due to their station. The station in this context is not clear because it seems as if there are those with higher stations than others. A reader should therefore contextualize this lexical item in order to understand the literary work. The social setting seems to allow for different stations that are distinct.
A priest is also a man who wields great power among the Igbo because he speaks on behalf of his deity. The priest has also the power to punish members of the society. He can also perform rituals at will. A reader who comes across this lexical item is supposed to contextualize it and get its meaning from the social setting. Among the Igbo, the priest seems to be a person of societal influence and he is the centre of societal activities. This is characteristic of the Igbo society.
The language used every day reflects the social setting. It shows the relationship, values and belief systems of a certain social group. This is supported by Littlejohn (2002) while advocating for the social language theory. Arimi (2006) found that individuals will use language differently depending on the social context. The lexical items discussed above then depict their use according to the social setting. The interpretation of their meaning is pragmatic and they portray phenomena peculiar to the Igbo. The lexical items are assigned the meaning according to the event taking place, the referent and the situation. This concurs with the assumption that certain lexical items portray the worldview of the Igbo.
Achebe has portrayed a great deal of gender inequality in his contextualization of lexical items. This is due to the nature of the worldview of the Igbo. In the choice of the lexical item untouched, Achebe has shown that the sexual act is solely limited to the males and females are only supposed to be touched or used by men to fulfill their desires. A woman is at the disposal of the man, to touch or not to touch.
Also, the lexical item at home meaning a virgin is clearly indicating that women were under many societal checks and they could not do much on their own. If one was not a virgin, her husband could not be happy and therefore could not send a gift to her mother hence the whole society would know that she had profaned her purity. This society has no particular checks on men and so it shows that even if the men make the women not to be ‘at home’, the still get away with it. This use of the two lexical items (untouched and at home) portrays gender bias because the men are considered far more superior as far as roles are concerned.
The lexical item title also promotes gender inequality because Achebe refers to men of title. Women therefore could not have titles among the Igbo. This portrays a society that is male dominated where all the decisions are made by men and women are there to obey or to follow. Milroy (1987), who concerned herself with the study of language in the social context, found that communicative patterns have social meanings. She also identified emerging patterns which show differences in male and female roles, hence different lexical items. Males may not access female language and vice versa. Gender values are upheld in most African societies and the language used reflects the characteristics of the society as far as male/female relationships are concerned.
The Power of the Deities
Religion and religious observances were the order of the day among the Igbo. Many activities centered on the religious practices. Achebe, being a member of this society has also given this prominence in his choice of lexical items.
The lexical term Ikenga which represents a person’s ancestors is given prominence so that when it is broken, it I tantamount to killing a person. In referring to the breaking of the Ikenga, he writes ‘Yes, the gap where his Ikenga, the strength of his right arm had stood stared back at him’. The Ikenga was kept in a special shrine in a man’s house and was said to have protective powers over the man. This is the Igbo belief and features the society in its social setting. This is specific to the Igbo worldview because in other societies, maybe no such fetish existed.
Also, the lexical term arrow, which portrays a person being used by his deity to fight another deity, portrays how the numbers of deities led to rivalry and violence. A priest of one deity becomes an arrow which is used o fight another deity. Achebe uses this lexical item in context because it is the Igbo belief in such deities and how they function. This is society specific and the way the lexical item is used here may be totally different from the way a writer from and here society may use it. Apparently, the belief in the deities is prevalent in communities. The nature of the power wielded by the deities, however, varies from one community to another. This concurs with Chambers (1995) who observed that language portrays the relationship between language, society and culture. The belief that deities have power to interfere with the lives of people is a cultural phenomenon.
Many activities centre on the family unit which is quite large among the Igbo. It is the unit where the power of the males if felt mot. The family is polygamous as shown by Achebe’s use of the lexical item compound people. This means a group of people in the same compound and under one head, the father. This lexical item portrays the extent of the family relations among the Igbo. This is purely contextual because this may be only among the Igbo where the extended families share a compound under one head. The lexical item tends to show that one compound had many occupants and the father was in charge. It shows also that the extended nature of families could include other relatives who are not close family members.
The use of the lexical term suckling child to refer to anyone shows how the lives of the people are centered on this unit. Anyone even the very youngest could have knowledge. It is through the family unit that many arts are acquired. When Achebe uses this term to show the least in the society, he portrays the suckling child as being the least important or the least useful member of the family. One who is ignorant and does not have much knowledge. This is the Igbo social structure and therefore this lexical item can only be understood in context.
The family is the basic social unit in the community. Language develops from this social unit to the rest of the society. The way Achebe has used lexical items concurs with the finding of Wango (2000) who concluded that language is a social fact. These findings reveal that Achebe has been influenced by the social structure of his society and uses lexical items to portray the structure, duties and the intricate relationships in the family unit.
Achebe uses the lexical term Ogene in its original Igbo form. This shows that there is not English equivalent of this lexical item. The practice of sounding the Ogene in order to give a message to the people is purely Igbo. The Ogene could refer to an instrument which can produce sound. The lexical item is purely contextual and unless one has knowledge of Igbo practices, the can only guess what it is by referring to other words or phrases in the structure. This lexical item therefore portrays a practice which is particular to the Igbo.
The lexical item cure is used to mean to punish someone especially through beating. A person who portrays bad behavior is supposed to be cured of it. This is a practice which is purely Igbo. The Igbo belief that once one is severely punished, then they’re cured of the mistake hence they reform. This may only be understood in context because not all societies use this lexical item in the same way.
The use of gun to scare away evil spirits from a sick person is purely societal. The term gun may be different from the literal one and may not perform the same function. He also uses the term return to show what happens when a person has been sick and he recovers. His body returns to him. Societal practices play a great role in enhancing language use. This concurs with the views of Davidson et al (1996) who acknowledges that language use varies from society to society. The pragmatic use also reveals aspects of culture.
The influence of colonization has led the writer to use some lexical items that portray the race of the people in the society. The use of the lexical item backward shows the class and the race distinction. When Achebe compares the whites and the Igbo, he looks at the Igbo as backward. This is the contextual and shows the relationship which existed between the Igbo and the whites in the same society.
A reader should therefore use this lexical item to identify the class and the race aspect in the Igbo society. He shows that what is for the white is normal and acceptable but what is Igbo is abnormal hence backward. By using this lexical item, Achebe shows the extent of the negative comparison used by the educated people in the Igbo society. He uses the lexical item in the negative to promote the class and the race distinction. Language identifies members of a society in terms of who they are in the society. Trudgill (1984) found that language portrays a people’s class by the way lexical items are assigned to referents. For people in the lower class, there may be no lexical items for such referents as cars. Achebe has used lexical items to distinguish between the whites and blacks. The arrival of the white people promotes the use of the lexical item backward in reference to the blacks.
First Language Lexical items.
Some lexical items used in the text are in the first language though the text is in English. The use of the first language lexical items has the implication that there is no English linguistic equivalent of the same and so the author is left with no choice than to use the lexical item as it is. The lexical term Ikenga, which is a fetish, may not have an English equivalent because such a practice may not be found among the first language speakers of English. The use of this lexical item shows some features of the Igbo society because the idea of having a fetish in a shrine in one’s house is probably not in other societies. It is a pointer of a practice which is specific to that society.
Similarly, the lexical item Ogene which is an instrument that can produce his sound may not be matched with any English lexical item due to the non-existence of a similar instrument or practice among the English. There being no option and
driven by the practice, Achebe has no choice but to lift the lexical items the way they are to make the concept understood. The presence of these lexical items in the text concur with what Yule (1985) posits. He explains that there are different worldviews for different languages. This is because of the existence of different physical features and artifacts. The fact that there is no English equivalent of these lexical items brings foreword the peculiarity of the Igbo society. The people use the lexical items as they are in their lexicon but they are not found in English. They also reveal an important aspect of the Igbo worldview and could not be left out in the text.
Summary of Findings, Implications and Recommendations
In this session, a summary of the findings, implications and recommendations of the study are given, followed by suggestions for further research. Finally, the conclusions of the research are given.
Summary of Findings
The research was carried out with the purpose of determining whether lexical items in written discourse, from a certain contextual setting, can portray the worldview of the society from where the writer comes. The study specifically focused on one literary work, Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe.
The objectives of the study were: to identify the lexical items which reflect the society’s worldview in Arrow of God; to find out the similarities and differences in the semantic and pragmatic use of certain lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God and to explain the features of context brought out by the use of lexical items in Arrow of God.
The study makes three assumptions: that certain lexical items used by Achebe in Arrow of God reflect the worldview of his community; that there are similarities and differences in the semantic and pragmatic use of certain lexical items by Achebe and that certain features of context are brought out by the use of lexical items by Achebe in Arrow of God. These assumptions were to guide the researcher on the outcomes of the study which seemed to the researcher to be forthcoming since African writers may carry their cultural backgrounds into their written works even when they write in English.
The researcher purposively selected lexical items from the literary work that brought the reader into contact with the society. Randomly selected chapters had some lexical items that could portray the worldview of the society. These lexical items were subjected to qualitative analysis to find out the way they have been used to portray some aspects of the Igbo society.
One major finding is that Achebe uses certain English lexical items as dictated by the beliefs and practices of the Igbo (cf 4.2). This is clearly brought out by the selected lexical items because they seem to be an English translation of the Igbo spoken language. These are the lexical items which point to the worldview of the Igbo and show a reader the societal values, practices and the general social setting. When he uses the lexical item raw to refer to one who is inexperienced, then this is dictated by the translation of the lexical item as used in the Igbo spoken language. It is the way the Igbo view the young people in relation to the elderly.
This finding concurs with the Whorfian Hypothesis (Gumperz and Hymes, 1986) which explains that language provides a screen to filter reality; it determines how speakers organize and perceive the world around them. There are the lexical items which the reader should take note of as their use is dictated by the context. When Achebe, for example, says that the body returned to him, this is purely an Igbo belief and a reader should note this lexical item and find out the meaning as per the context.
The lexical items contextualized by Achebe, however, are not all that consists of the worldview of the Igbo. Other Igbo writers may contextualize other lexical items not depicted in Arrow of God. This may be guided by the message which they intent to communicate and the general events taking place in the society. Therefore, it may not be conclusive to state that only these lexical items portray the Igbo worldview.
Another finding is that the pragmatic and the semantic meanings are closely related and only differ slightly, (cf 4.6). Great differences are, however, noted in a few lexical items depicted in Arrow of God whose pragmatic and semantic meaning may differ greatly. It, therefore, means that if the prospective readers come across a literary work which contains huge chunks of information, they may most likely get the pragmatic use of the lexical items. The way, for example, Achebe has used the lexical item purify may be inferred from the linguistic context. The use of the lexical item backward to mean uncivilized by Achebe shows the extent of colonial mentality that the Igbo had. A backward person is one who does not have ideas that are current and are being practiced by others. According to Achebe, the Igbo are backward due to their beliefs and practices while the Europeans are the civilized group. This seems to be what was held by the educated Nigerians at that time.
This finding concurs with the tenets of the social language theory which postulates that social interactions determine the linguistic items to be used. The phenomena the Igbo interact with dictates the meaning assigned to English lexical items as used in the text. The pragmatic meaning is assigned to the linguistic items in Arrow of God as per the events taking place among the Igbo.
Similarities may exist in the semantic and pragmatic use of lexical items but they are not pure similarities. The research has found out that there are similarities and differences in the use of particular lexical items by Achebe. The lexical item priest for example is used to show a representative of a deity but who also causes harm. The pragmatic and semantic use of this lexical item is related. However, in most cases, the differences are minimal and the underlying meaning in most cases is similar. This concurs with the semantic theory which defines meaning as a truth condition. This meaning cannot interfere with communication.
Another finding is that in Arrow of God, Achebe has brought out several features of context (cf 4.8).These are the societal aspects that are portrayed by the lexical items that Achebe has selected. These are class and race, gender, societal practices, the family and the power of the deities. The use of the lexical item at home, for example, to imply a woman who is a virgin is a contextual feature which is gender related and the use of this lexical item is peculiar to the Igbo.
This finding proves the principles of the variationist theories true since language varies across gender. Male characters in this literary work have been assigned language that tends to suppress women and put them at their mercy. The lexical item title which is only used for men further substantiates this claim. There is also variation in language depending on the societal roles, (cf 4.8.2)
A reader of Arrow of God may understand several features of context among the Igbo by considering the way Achebe has used the lexical items. However, at certain instances, they may not get the contextual features from the words as they are used in the text but may need to refer to the language’s dictionary or to the native speakers.
Implications of the Study
The study has several implications on the society. One is that language that is used to suit the social needs of the people can be both spoken and written. As Yule (1985) explains, different language groups have different worldviews as reflected in their languages. Members of a society are usually free to express their worldview using the lexical items that are within their language. This provides for aspects of a rich linguistic culture.
Lexical items can be used to enrich the metaphorical aspects in languages. This is because the lexical items have meaning assigned to them based on their use in the society which is rich in metaphor. Crystal (1987) asserts that what a writer intends to convey is for those who belong to that particular society. Each society uses lexical items for conveying social information which is society specific. This study has brought out the use of lexical items to convey some Igbo specific phenomena. This is an aspect that is characteristic of many societies and readers can view the society using the lexical items used by the writer.
Scholars of language and literature can use the findings to understand the close relationship between lexical items and their use. It will act as a basis of assigning meaning to lexical items from different societies by referring to their pragmatic use. The disciplines of sociolinguistics, language and culture, and language variation which all touch on the social use of language can be understood by scholars. This is because of the lexical items which are purely societal. Stephen (2006) in his paper on cultural referents states that different cultures use different names for different events. This makes it easier to understand the lexical items in the learning process.
The findings show that writers may use lexical items as dictated by their society but use of many lexical items pragmatically may affect meaning. Giglioli (1972) suggests that knowledge of what kind of situations and to what kind of people one is communicating is needed. Authors need to understand the needs and type of audience that they write for and so they should select lexical items whose pragmatic use may not be too different from the semantic use. In this way, they will appeal to readers from many backgrounds.
The idea of comparing the semantic and pragmatic use of lexical items may not be necessary. The findings reveal that a reader can understand a lexical item from the wider linguistic context. This is because the aim is to get the general message which is communicated without considering the context. If a writer wants to portray his/her society appropriately, then the language he/she uses should not be measured against the Standard English because of the differences in experiences. Readers can read and understand texts without isolating lexical items and studying their pragmatic use.
Context of a person or speaker influences the language use as shown by the findings in this study. Linguistic varieties can be formal or informal depending on the context. Contexts differ and it has emerged that there are contexts of people, places and situations. Differences in context can produce rather considerable grammatical and lexical variation (Trudgill, 1984). Readers should, therefore, understand the context in order to understand the pragmatic use of the lexical items in Arrow of God. This will make it easier for a reader to get the meaning of the lexical item and hence the worldview of the Igbo society.
Suggestions for Further Research
This research focused on the worldview of the Igbo as depicted by the literary work, Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe. Only lexical items were considered. A study focusing on syntactic items in the text can also reveal some societal aspects portrayed by the structures greater than a word.
The study was based on a written work. A study on the spoken language would also be fruitful because there is so much spoken language that goes unwritten. Spoken language is also spontaneous and can have many more aspects of society than the written language which might be ‘sifted’ to suit the writer’s interests.
The issues that are affecting modern society have been in existence for years. Writers have however not been keen in giving them prominence in their works. An example is gender issues as it emerged strongly in this study. A study based on the use of lexical items to portray gender issues can bring light on this societal issue.
These is evidence that certain lexical items which are particular to a certain group of people may not be translatable and may hence carry their social meaning and will remain the property of the particular linguistic group. Contextualization gives a particular language its social values which may differentiate it from other languages. Chomsky’s argument for the I-language or the internal language of persons comes into play because the internal language influences the speakers’ and writers’ external language.
Social meaning of lexical items seems to be parasitic upon language. The use of the lexical items in Arrow of God, semantically and pragmatically, depends on the Igbo society from where the writer comes. This is why English lexical items may vary their use from one social setting to another. The contextualization of these lexical items may also be found within a single group in the same society for example, the young people or the lower class. This is concurs with the variationist theory by Labov (1966). Writers will differ in the way they represent phenomena in their literary works as dictated by their society’s worldview.
In written language, the reader understands the values, practices and aspirations from the lexical items encountered and what they are used to mean in that particular language. A reader therefore should interpret a literary work in the light of the society and get a better understanding of the text. It has however emerged that readers need not be familiar with a certain society in order to read a work of art from that society because the semantic and pragmatic use of lexical items is closely related and cannot hinder understanding of the greater percentage of the literary work.
Achebe, C. (1964) Arrow of God. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers
Arimi, M.P. (2006) Syntactic Variations in Written English. Nairobi: Unpublished Thesis.
Biber, D. (1988) Variation across Speech and Writing. New York: Blackwell
Chambers, J.K.(1995) Sociolinguistic Theory. Linguistic Variation and its Social Significance. Cambridge: Blackwell
Chomsky, N. (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge: MIT Press
Collie and Slatter (1992) Literature in the Language Classroom. A Resource Book of Ideas and Activities. Glasgow: Bell and Bairn Limited
Cruse, D. A. (1989) Lexical semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.
Crystal, D and Davy, D (1969) Investigating English Style. London: Longman group.
Crystal, D.L. (1987) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Culler, J. (1975) Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism Linguistics and the Study of Literature. London: Routledge.
Davidson, B. et al (eds) (1996) Sociolinguistic Variation .Data theory and Analysis. Standford: CSL Publications.
Giglioli, P. P (1972) Language and Social Contexts . Middlesex: Penguin books.
Gumperz, J. and Hymes, D. (1986) Directions in Sociolinguistics. NewYork: Basil Blackwell.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1978) Language as a Social Semiotic; The Social Interpretation of Language and Meaning. London: Arnold
Huckmann, M. (1987) Social and Functional approaches to language and thought. London: Academic Press Inc
Hudson R.A (1980) Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Http/ www. Sil. org .lg.uk (2005)
Http://www. doceo.co.uk /language codes.html
Kombo, D. and Tromp, D. (2006) Proposal and Thesis writing. Nairobi: Paulines Publications.
Labov, W. (1966) The social stratification of English in New York- City. Washington D.C: Centre for Applied Linguistics
Langat C.A. (2007) Analysing the effectiveness of the Language of sexuality. Nairobi: Unpublished thesis.
Leech, G.(1969) A linguistic guide to English Poetry. London: Longman
Littlejohn, S. (2002). Theories of Human Communication. Albuquerque: Wadsworth.
Mbutu, A.M. (2008) A Lexical Examination of The Collocation Patterns and Degrees of Opacity in Multiword Units. Illustrations from Animal Farm. Nairobi: Unpublished project.
Milroy, L. (1987) Language and social Networks. New York: Basil Blackwell Inc.
Mukherjee J. (2000) Linguistic Stylistic. London: Longman Group.
Mugenda, A. and Mugenda, O.(1999) Research Methods, Qualitative and Quantitative approaches. Nairobi: Acts Press.
Njoroge, M.C. (2006) Linguistics Variation in Spoken English as used by teachers in Kenyan Primary schools. Nairobi: Unpublished Dissertation.
Orodho, A. (2003) Essentials of Educational and Social Sciences Research Methods. Nairobi: Masola Publishers.
Orodho, A. and Kombo, D. (2002) Research Methods. Nairobi: Kenyatta University Institute of Open learning.
Rivers, W. M (1983) Communicating Naturally in a Second Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Romaine, S. (1982) Sociolinguistic variation in Speech Communities. London: Edward Arnold.
Romaine, S. (1994) Language in Society; An introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Cambridge University Press.
Seliger, H. and Shohamy, E. (1989) Second Language Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sinclair, J. (1991) Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stephen, K. (2006) Cultural References. Nairobi: Unpublished project
Trudgill, P. (1974) Sociolinguistics. An Introduction. London: Penguin
Trudgill, P. (1984) Applied Sociolinguistics. London: Academic Press Inc.
Trudgill, P. (1986) Dialects in Contact. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd.
Wango, G.M. (2000) Language, Education and Gender. Nairobi: Unpublished Seminar Paper. Whitney, W.N. (1988) ELT Journal. London: Invicta Press. Yule, G. (1985) The study of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zaja, J.O. (2006) Citing Text, Culture, Context and Pedagogy in Literary Translation. Nairobi: Unpublished Dissertation
ARROW OF GOD
LIST OF LEXICAL ITEMS INVESTIGATED BY THE STUDY
- AT HOME
- COMPOUND PEOPLE
- SUCKLING CHILD
LINGUISTIC CONTEXT OF THE LEXICAL ITEMS
- They are not ashamed to teach their culture to backward races under their charge.
- He was sure that Ulu did it to him in the right mind for purifying the six villages before they put their crops to the ground.
- Ugoye was still cooking supper when the crier’s Ogene sounded.
- The crier’s voice was already becoming faint as he took his message down the main pathway of Umuachala.
- They are well, replied Ezeulu. ‘And your compound people?’
- The gun sounded again.
- When Obika’s bride arrived with her people and he looked upon her again, it surprised him greatly that he had been able to let her go untouched during her last visit.
- Yes, the gap where his Ikenga, the strength of his right arm had stood stared back at him- an empty patch without dust, on the board.
- More likely, the deity of Umuaro had revealed through divination of a grievance that must be speedily removed or else…
- But they had hardly sat down before the other elders and men of title from all the villages of Umuaro began to come into the Nkwo.
- It is not a journey which a man of your station can take alone.
- The weather seemed to hold until they were about halfway between Okperi and Umuaro.
- Ezeulu drank it hot and his body began gradually to return to him.
- Ezeulu was not saying that it was not an offence but it was serious enough for the priest of Idemili to send him an insulting message.
- She could go without shame to salute her husband’s parents because she had been ‘found at home’
- Touch her if you dare and I shall cure you of your madness this night.
- He was no more than an arrow in the bow of his god.
- Once they were in Umuaro, he said, any suckling child could show them Ezeulu’s house.
- He was a boy of about thirteen and he was absolutely raw when I took him.
- The world which had dozed for months was suddenly full of life again.
QUESTIONNAIRE ON READER INTERPRETATION. RESPONDENT 1
The work was adapted from a project work submitted to Kenyatta University, Nairobi Kenya by Hellen B. K. Kailiti