Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Descriptions as a Functional Semantic Tool in Ike's Our Children Are Coming

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Descriptions as a Functional Semantic Tool in Ike's Our Children Are Coming

Article excerpt


This paper discusses the manner in which Ike, the author of Our Children are Coming uses character-descriptions as a tool for message projection in his novel. It adopts the systemic linguistic approach to the study of texts which bothers much about functionality. It relies on the model designed by Adejare (1992) and Jolayemi (2000) in which texts are bifurcated into First Order and Second Order. In Second Order texts, they assert, there exists a message which is projected through three different levels of meaning projection. Descriptions of characters constitute one of the features used in meaning projection at their third meta-level of interpretation of meaning. The paper discusses the different ways in which characters such as Chu Nwoke, Justice Okpetum, Mrs Edo, Chief Olabisi, Apolonia and Archdeacon Obi were described by the author to project the message of human apostasy in the text, the fact that humans are a combination of good and evil as exhibited in the Nigerian elitist materialism.

Key words: Descriptions; Apostasy; Systemic Text-linguistics; Semiotic variation and Message projection


This paper adopts the systemic linguistic approach to the study of texts. It is one of the many approaches to text study, such as those of stylistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, semiotics, among others, which is much interested in the sociological aspect of language (Halliday 1961). This great concern for the sociological aspect of language is what informed the choice of this approach in this study. This concern, to Halliday (1994), Eggins (2004), Jibrin (2012a), leads systemicists to be sharply interested in the description of language and its varieties so as to reveal the ways in which language forms can be related to its social functions and which, to Berry (1975), has relevance for text study.

The paper relies heavily on the framework of systemic text-linguistics developed by systemic linguists such as Adejare (1992) and Jolayemi (2000) for text analysis in which it is argued that there are two different kinds of texts: first order and second order. First order texts are non-literary texts while second order texts are literary texts. In every second order text, they assert, there exists a message which the text producer tries to project using different linguistic apparatuses, which are categorized into three different levels of interpretation, namely: primitive level, second order level and prime order level. Each of these levels constitutes in itself a cluster of analytical components.

This paper aims to discuss the ways in which descriptions of characters have been marshaled by the text producer for message projection in Our Children are Coming. It takes into account the fact of semiotic variation as a crucial factor in the interpretation of texts by second language users. This is based on Adejare (1992, p.9)'s position that the same form of a language may generate meanings in a second language variety that are strikingly different from the ones that it can generate in the mother tongue variety. This, according to him, is owing to variation in experience.

Descriptions of characters constitute an aspect of prime order level, which is the third level of meaning generation in second order texts (See Adejare 1992 and Jolayemi 2000 op cit). The other elements of interpretation at this level, according to them, are metaphors and imagery. Characters are considered special metaphors. This is owing to the fact that they are considered as semiotic signs that are representatives of the ideas, through which the message of the text in which they occur is projected. This is premised upon the truism that characters have no objective reality. As a result, distortions of reality according to Adejare (1992, p.9) are regarded as part of the author's idiolect, and to qualify as features for discussion, such features have to be repeated in several episodes in the text. In view of this, characters were selected for discussion on the basis of the emphasis given to their descriptions by the author with recognition of their contributions to the projection of the overall message of the text (Jibrin 2012b, p. …

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