A Pragmatic Analysis of Blogs: The Case of Linda Ikeji Blog and Nairaland

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

Preamble

This research is a pragmatic analysis of blogs using Linda Ikeji and Nairaland as case studies. Language as a means of communication plays a vital role in any given human society. The use of language in communication may be within an individual (intra-personal), between two people or groups (inter-personal) or within a group (intra-group) or between groups of people (inter-group). The overall aim is communication in a community that understands the value, culture and the meaning of words and expressions uttered by its members.

The innovation in modern technologies is fast changing the way people interact, work, and learn. A recent addition to the repertoire of computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies is Weblogs. According to Katz (20), “Weblogs also called blogs are web-based journals in which entries are displayed in reverse chronological sequence through which people can socialize online. They contain features that foster both communication and efficient information transmission. Communication using weblogs involves a balance between what the blogger thinks might be relevant to the audience and the reward this audience might obtain.” However, when communication is going on between two parties (speaker and hearer / audience), each of them play a vital role in the communication process and interpretation of meanings. The speaker who is seen as the most active member of the conversation tends to inform, influence and persuade the audience, while the audience in turn tries to derive meaning from what he or she has encoded from the conversation at that given occasion. This is to say that meaning is derived based on a particular situation and context of speech. The study which borders on the use of language in speech community and how meaning is derived
from context is referred to as pragmatics.

Pragmatics in this study, traces the speaker’s (blogger) intentions or locutions when including information in the weblog and the various acts performed by this communication medium. The weblog is used as a blueprint for the actual intended interpretation. With this kind of written communication, the blogger expects to generate interactions when the audience reads it and comments on it. The society we find ourselves, like every other society, has a way of reading meaning to every utterance made by a speaker to his audience. Every utterance is determined by the situation, event or occurrence at a given point in time. This sheds light on the importance of context in the interpretation of pragmatic meaning.

Weblogs like Linda Ikeji Blog (LIB) and Nairaland are public interactive journals—interactive because they facilitate and encourage comments from readers. Linda Ikeji Blog is known as one of the most active blogs in Nigeria with over 85 million registered users across the globe. It was created in 2006 by Linda Ifeoma Ikeji, a 37 year old from Imo State. The blog has grown over the years to become the centerpiece of information and entertainment in Africa. It attracts readers from all over the world, making it the most active blog in Nigeria in terms of community and discussions. Similarly, Nairaland holds a large population of active users who come to read, comment and exchange information with each other. It was created in 2005 by Seun Osewa and currently has over 55 million registered users and more than 16 million unregistered users. Its website is www.nairaland.com. According to Wikipedia, it is ranked the 9th most visited online forum in Nigeria.

Background to the Study

Language is the core of communication; it is a way of expressing views, ideas, wishes and emotions. The use of language has also become deeply entrenched in human culture and apart from being used to communicate and share information; it has social uses such as stratification, grooming, information, entertainment and persuasion. Language has a powerful influence on people and their behaviour. Therefore, the choice of words used in language to convey specific messages or ideas with the intention of influencing people is important.

Communication as a means of transmitting information involves several ways which include both verbal and non-verbal. Communication means giving and getting different amounts of information and various characters and qualities of communicated messages at one time, which is conditioned by many factors such as the time, place and subject matter of what is transmitted from one party to the other in a particular situation. The addressor communicates because he intends not only to exchange information, but he also aims at affecting the behaviour of the addressee. However, when communication is going on between two parties (speaker and hearer); each of them plays a vital role in the interpretations of meaning being communicated. The speaker who is seen as the most active member tends to inform, influence and persuade the listener who in turn tries to derive meaning from what he or she has encoded from what is communicated at that given occasion. For communication to achieve its objectives in whatever vista of life we operate (business, religion, and social, political and economic relationships and others), it should possess certain qualities or attributes of which one of the most important is feedback. Unless a piece of communication receives a response from whom it is addressed or transmitted to, the effect of its reception cannot be ascertained. It is not adequate to simply transmit a message to a person or audience and believe that one has effectively communicated with him or them. The targeted audience may not receive the information or may misunderstand the message. In all cases of communication, some feedback mechanism must be used to ensure that the information communicated has been accurately received. In online communication mediums like the blog, the readers respond to what they read in the form of comments and from their response, we are able to ascertain their interpretation of what the speaker intends. Both speakers and listeners do a lot of things with their words and this is where speech acts come into the picture.
According to Carter and Nash (33), John Langshaw Austin (1962/1975) and John Searle (1979) have presented Speech Act Theory – a viable point in Pragmatics. “Speech acts are uses of language which, either directly or indirectly, commit the user recipient to a particular action”. A speech act consists of “three related acts. There is first a locutionary act, which is the basic act of utterance” Yule (48). This utterance communicates a force of an offer, an invitation or a request etc. which is known as illocutionary effect. This utterance is spoken with some intention which may have effect on the reader; and it is called the perlocutionary effect. The present study intends to pinpoint various acts carried out by users of weblogs in determining their meaning interpretations.

Aim and Objectives of the Study

This study aims at a pragmatic analysis of the language of weblogs. The following objectives will strengthen the study:

i. to describe the pragmatic features of the language of bloggers

ii. to discuss the various acts performed by the language use of bloggers

iii. to identify the pragmatic contents and sentence structures featured in the blog using speech acts

iv. to analyze the above features in relation to the contexts in which they are used

v. to determine how the identified features project the messages in the blog posts

vi. to examine the perlocutionary effect of the blog messages on the readers.

Significance of the Study

The research is a major contribution to the pragmatic analysis of computer mediated communication (CMC). The study will also contribute to scholarship as much work has been done in the general analysis of weblogs, but none, to the best of this researcher’s knowledge, has been done on the speech act pragmatic analyses of blogs in relations to modern communication. This work shall analyse the posts from Nigerian Blogs – Linda Ikeji’s Blog and Nairaland by identifying several pragmatic features using different theoretical frameworks. This study is also significant in expanding the terrain of research on the present day use of technology for information dissemination in Nigeria and the world at large. Lastly, it will be a source material for students, lecturers and future researchers that may want to carry out a similar study in the future.

Statement of the Problem

This research on the pragmatic study of weblogs in Nigeria seeks to satisfy some of the stated research problems as:

(i) What aspect of linguistics is dominant in this study?

(ii) What is the relevance of pragmatics in the modern weblog phenomenon?

(iii) What is the importance of the feedback element in the communication process?

(iv) What knowledge can be mined from comments/reactions and the discussions taking place within them?

(v) What acts are performed by the language users of Nigerian blogs?

(vi) What perlocutionary effect does the posts of the Nigerian blog have on the audience?

Research Methodology

Research Design

A survey design is considered appropriate for this research because it is designed to create a forum for selecting a representative sample derived from a large target population which permits inference and generalization to be made on populations that could be too large and extensive to study as a whole at any given time (Olaofe, 2010).

The relevance and application of the survey research method in this investigation is emphasized by Olaofe (2010) as he says that in survey research, representative samples of small population are studied in order to determine the character of the whole population, which may be of interest to the researcher. This study, therefore, adopts the survey design in sampling selected utterances of the language use in Linda Ikeji Blog and Nairaland. This is because the researcher cannot exhaust the entire online posts and comments of the selected blogs.

Population of the Study

The population of the study is made up of all the posts and comments on Linda Ikeji Blog and Nairaland respectively.

Sample Size and Sampling Procedures

For the purpose of obtaining meaningful, relevant, reliable and valid generalization on the selected data within the limited time, and for cost and conveniences, a purposive random sampling was used for the online posts and comments on Linda Ikeji Blog and Nairaland. Out of the entire posts and comments available to this researcher on the selected blogs, twenty utterances as posts and their respective comments were randomly sampled. The sampling procedures involve visiting the blogs’ sites and reading the posts and comments available. Only the ones that appeal to this researcher based on the issues they treat such as politics, religion, celebrity life styles, sports, etc. This enabled the researcher to conduct a thorough research within the limited time. Also, due to the distribution or dispersion of the elements of population, total coverage became a constraint.

Instrument for Data Collection

Since the study was aimed at examining the pragmatics of the language use of weblogs, online posts and comments on Linda Ikeji Blog and Nairaland respectively that proved useful for this study were used in gathering the required data.

Validity and Reliability of Instrument

The researcher finds this online instrument useful because it makes it convenient to gain access to a large portion of posts and comments of the under-studied bloggers and also makes it possible for the researcher to scrutinize the data that best suits the interest of this study. Also, the responses of the audience in the form of comments were made accessible for interpreting the perlocutionary effect of the language of weblogs.

Method of Data Analysis

For the research work to be effective, the data obtained from the blogs was copied out and pasted or retyped where necessary and the pragmatic features of the language was described using J.L Austin’s and John Searle’s speech act theory as well as Sperber and Wilson’s Relevance Theory model. The selected utterances (posts) and comments were numbered for easy identification and analysis. Each sentence (utterance) tagged ‘sample’ was analysed pragmatically by stating the direct illocutionary act(s) it performs and the indirect, where applicable. Also, the context/competencies were deployed to identify and understand presuppositions, implicatures and Mutual Contextual Beliefs (MCBs) through inference.

The linguistic approach adopted for the study is pragmatics based on the linguistic framework of Speech Acts theory of Austin (1962) and Searle (1969) with the aim of identifying the speech acts and the sentence structures found in the data collected. This study will be descriptive and analytic. The data is drawn from posts on the most popular news blogs in Nigeria– Linda Ikeji’s blog (https://www.lindaikejisblog.com/) and Nairaland (https://www.nairaland.com/) with selection using a purposive random sampling technique. The instruments to be used in carrying out this research work include Web materials, textbooks, journals and handbooks.

Scope and Delimitation

This study will be limited to the identification and analysis of speech acts in blog posts from Nigerian blogs – Linda Ikeji Blog and Nairaland respectively. All blog posts found in the chosen weblog will constitute the body of data for the research work. This work shall not examine data outside the chosen blogs. Pragmatic theory will be used in the course of the study for analyses and this is limited to speech acts analysis.

Significance of Study