A Semantic Analysis of Crime Investigation: The Case of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)

Abstract

The paper examines a semantic analysis of crime investigation using EFCC investigative report. The methodology is a content analysis and a descriptive approach to investigate the semantic components of language use of the EFCC. A sample was taken from the online site of the EFCC and analysis was carried out to explore the semantic features of the language use of the EFCC in their crime investigation, to analyze the types of meaning that is inherent in their investigation report, to identify the lexical items in their report and examine their semantic properties; and to examine the cohesive devices in the language of the investigative report of the EFCC. Findings revealed that under the element of sentential meaning, EFCC investigative reports make use of entailment; presupposition; ambiguity and semantic vagueness, while it is characterized by collocative, thematic and associative types of meaning. Under the cohesive devices, EFCC investigative reports make use of reference, substitution, ellipsis and lexical reiteration to effectively encode the desired meaning and achieve cohesion and coherence.

1.0 Introduction

Linguistics has been defined by Omachonu as “the scientific study of language” (7). The discipline called linguistics has various branches such as: Sociolinguistics, Anthropological linguistics, Phonetics and Phonology, Discourse Analysis, Applied linguistics, Pragmatics, Forensic linguistics, Stylistics, Semantics, etc. and linguistics as a discipline has tried to spread its tentacles to the various fields of human endeavour in order to examine the role of language in human activities with the aim of analyzing human interactions and communications. The later subfield, Semantics, is the branch of linguistics that examines meaning in communication. This study examines the semantics of crime investigations in selected security unit in Nigeria with a focus on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

1.1 Background of the Study

English has long been established as a universal and international language. Some countries use it as their lingua-franca, although such countries have their various local or ethnic languages. The adoption of English in Nigeria and other parts of the world as the official medium of communication has led to an increasing need for literatures that treat very salient areas of the language especially such areas that pose serious challenges to students and other users of the language, in this regard, the area of semantics or meaning. According to Omachonu (13) “Semantics is the area of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning; it examines the ways in which words and sentences of various grammatical constructions are used and understood by speakers of a given language. Semantics therefore, is the science of meaning”.

In every human society, it is very rare to find every one obeying the laws of the land and living peacefully with one another all the time. Some people are bound to disagree, quarrel or fight and some members are likely to commit crimes of different magnitudes. When societal laws are broken, the offenders in most cases would attempt to escape from judgment. When a crime is committed, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police is usually saddled with the difficult and highly technical responsibility of tracing the culprit and convincing the society that the suspect actually committed the crime. In order to achieve this goal, foot prints, finger prints; DNA samples, specimen signature, pictures, taped conversations, hand writing samples and statement, and at times, receipts of goods purchased are usually examined for a clue. Forensic linguistics or Forensic Discourse Analysis readily comes in as a tool of analysis which shows the relationship between discourse and the field of law. However, the police may not be able to meet up with the rising rate of some economic and financial crimes; this is where the need for other security agencies like the EFCC and ICPC come in handy.

From the above role of Forensic Discourse Analysis, language plays a lot of roles in the processes of crime control and crime prevention especially in the areas of speech identification or voice analysis, signatures, recorded conversations, etc., as language features at every stage of the investigation whether from the point of taking statements to the point of interrogating suspects. However, the use of language varies from one field of human endeavour to the other. This brings to mind the ideas of language variation, language use and language in use. The use of language in the legal profession differs considerably from its use in a political or medical professions etc. Also, the meanings attached to lexical items within these various professions may differ considerably even though some of these words may still cut across the various fields.

Security agents in their crime investigations just like legal practitioners, engineers, or any other professions make use of language in such a way that it becomes peculiar to them. Sometimes, the security agents use language which confuses the accused person(s) as they skillfully maneuver certain linguistic expressions to convey their thoughts and intentions of indicting the accused. It is crucial for people to be aware of the type of language used by the EFCC especially the semantics attached to their language use.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

This study aims at studying the semantic analysis of the language of crime investigations of the EFCC. The following objectives will strengthen the study:

i. To explore the semantic features of the language use of the EFCC in their crime investigation.

ii. To analyze the types of meaning that is inherent in their investigation report.

iii. To identify the lexical items in their report and examine their semantic properties.

iv. To examine the cohesive devices in the language of the investigative report of the EFCC.