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.
1.1 THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN NIGERIA
The evolution of English language in Nigeria has been traced by Alabi (1994:187) to pre-trans-Atlantic slave trade era, specifically in 1553 when some British were said to have paid a very brief visit to the Nigerian coasts especially the ports of Benin and old Calabar. The first obstacle confronted by the visitors was communication barrier between the native and the English men. There was then a pressing need to dislodge this obstruction, hence, the need to teach the basic English for communication, business transaction, and missionary activities and for other functions At the initial stage, the medium of communication between the English men and the native was an English-based pidgin. Since the traders, missionaries and colonial administrators were not willing to learn the indigenous language(s), English had to be imposed and taught in order to train clerks, interpreters, stewards and messengers to help white men in administrative and domestic activities.
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