A Pragmatic Analysis Of Nigerian Proverbs In Wole Soyinka’s The Lion And The Jewel

Communication in the society happens chiefly by means of language. However, the users of language, as social beings, communicate and use language within the context as society; society controls their access to the linguistic and communicative means. Language, being the most important means of communication, interaction and social integration among individuals in the society, needs to be preserved, sustained,  and properly developed. Language, by definition, is said to be the human vocal noise or the arbitrary graphic representation of the noise, used systematically and conventionally by members of a speech community for the purpose of communication. (Osisanwo 2003:1)
As evident in the Nigerian context, when using language to communicate, some expressions are not considered rich except such expressions are buttressed with proverbs. These proverbs are rich with words of wisdom and they are passed across from generation to generation. Proverbs can be said to be succinct and pithy sayings in general use, expressing commonly held ideas and beliefs. (Encyclopeadia Britannica, 2010).
Pragmatics can be seen as a branch of study concerned with the ability of language users to pair sentence with context in which they would be appropriate. (Levinson, 1983:24). The pragmatics of English can be said to be one of the linguistic features of Nigerian English. This study will discuss at length pragmatics along side with proverbs in our subsequent discussion.

The purpose of this study is to examine how meaning is generated from the use of proverbs and beyond the level of general conversational meaning. Also, this study aims to survey the importance of proverbs in Nigerian culture. This study also aims at showcasing Wole Soyinka as a competent writer whose work is relevant to the Nigerian society.

This will be limited to the identification and analysis of Nigerian proverbs in The Lion and the Jewel. All Nigerian proverbs found in the chosen text will constitute the body of data for the research work. This work shall not examine proverbs outside the chosen text. Pragmatic theory will be used in the course of the study.

This study is being embarked upon because no study of this nature, to the knowledge of the researcher has focused on the pragmatics of Soyinka’s proverbs in The Lion and the Jewel. In this research work, the researcher came across such works as Alabi (2009), which focuses on the syntactic structures of proverbs in Achebe’s and Adimora-Ezegbo’s trilogies, Adedimeji (2009), which focuses on a universal pragmatic analysis of Nigerian proverbs in Ola Rotimi’s Kurunmi, Arimi (2009), which concentrates on the contexted wisdom on Indonesian and Japanese proverbs, and Adeleke (2009) that focuses on the aspect of Yoruba history in the proverbs.
In the above works, the researchers focused on proverbs in different aspects. This work will be different from the above as the researcher will analyze the Nigerian proverbs using the  pragmatic framework. This study will go a long way in helping people to know the importance of proverbs in our society.
In this research work, all Nigerian proverbs in the chosen text will constitute the body of data. However, to achieve comprehensibility and better understanding, various elements of pragmatics are not only pertinent but also required. Therefore, the data will be analysed using the elements suitable such as speech act, context, presupposition, implicature, intention, inference and mutual contextual belief (MCB).
Wole Soyinka was born on 13th July 1934 at Abeokuta, Ogun State. After preparatory University studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds. During the six years spent in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London 1958-1959. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller bursary and returned to Nigeria to study African Drama. At the same time, he taught drama and literature at various Universities in Ibadan, Lagos, and Ife, where, since 1975 he was appointed professor of comparative literature. In 1960, he founded the theatre group, “The 1960 Masks” and in 1964, the “Orisun Theatre Company” through which he produced his own plays and performed as an actor. He has periodically been a visiting professor to the Universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yule.
During the civil war in Nigeria, Soyinka appealed in an article for cease-fire. For this he
was arrested in 1967, accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels, and was held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969. Soyinka has published about 20 works: drama, prose and poetry. His writing is based on the methodology of his own tribe- the Yoruba- with Ogun, the god of iron and war, at the centre. He wrote his first plays during his time in London, The Stomp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel (a night comedy), which were performed at Ibadan in 1958 and1959 and were published in 1963.
The play, The Lion and the Jewel is set in the village of Ilujinle. Lakunle catches a glimpse of Sidi carrying a pail on her head, and rushes out of the classroom to seize the pail. He tries to emulate European notion of courtesy by relieving Sidi of her burden, though carrying water is traditionally a woman’s task. When Lakunle proposes to Sidi, he is quoting words he has read in popular English books about marriage, with his pretentious metaphors being answered by Sidi’s pithy proverbs.
The heightened when Sidi says she wants a bride-price. She insists on this because of the tradition which will prove her value in the eyes of the village. The girls come to tell Sidi about the magazine which contains her images and that of Baroka, the Bale of Ilujinle. Photographs of Sidi have pride of place, on the cover and centre spread, whilst the village bale, has only a small corner inside. Sidi realizes the power of her beauty, placing her above the leader of her people.
Baroka was once a powerful warrior. He has lived a long life and acquired many concubines. Now he wants Sidi and sends his head wife, Sadiku, to propose to her. This is common in many cultures for men to use elderly women as intermediary to solicit a new bride. Sidi is not interested since he is an old man, and with arrogance of youthful pride, rebukes his advances. But Baroka is a wily old fox, not so easily brushed aside. He is determined to have Sidi, and hatches a plan to seduce her. Sidi falls for Baroka’s seduction and finally gets married to Baroka.

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Ugwu, A. (2018). A Pragmatic Analysis Of Nigerian Proverbs In Wole Soyinka’s The Lion And The Jewel. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/a-pragmatic-analysis-of-nigerian-proverbs-in-wole-soyinka-rsquo-s-the-lion-and-the-jewel-7075

MLA 8th

Ugwu, Anderson "A Pragmatic Analysis Of Nigerian Proverbs In Wole Soyinka’s The Lion And The Jewel" Afribary. Afribary, 29 Jan. 2018, https://afribary.com/works/a-pragmatic-analysis-of-nigerian-proverbs-in-wole-soyinka-rsquo-s-the-lion-and-the-jewel-7075. Accessed 12 Jul. 2024.


Ugwu, Anderson . "A Pragmatic Analysis Of Nigerian Proverbs In Wole Soyinka’s The Lion And The Jewel". Afribary, Afribary, 29 Jan. 2018. Web. 12 Jul. 2024. < https://afribary.com/works/a-pragmatic-analysis-of-nigerian-proverbs-in-wole-soyinka-rsquo-s-the-lion-and-the-jewel-7075 >.


Ugwu, Anderson . "A Pragmatic Analysis Of Nigerian Proverbs In Wole Soyinka’s The Lion And The Jewel" Afribary (2018). Accessed July 12, 2024. https://afribary.com/works/a-pragmatic-analysis-of-nigerian-proverbs-in-wole-soyinka-rsquo-s-the-lion-and-the-jewel-7075