This study is a pragmatic analysis of the use of compliments in selected Nigerian newspapers. Compliments sourced from the feature article sections of the selected newspapers form the data collected for analysis. The selected compliments are analysed highlighting the contexts in which they were used, while applying the Speech Act theory as propounded by Austin (1962)and the Gricean Maxims which are sub-principles of the Cooperative Principle. The analyses of the different types of compliments revealed that the social compliments are more recurrently employed by writers than the other types of compliments. It recorded a 36.20% use as against the gender compliments that have the least occurrence at 10.34%. It is significant to note that the achieved and ascribed compliments recorded 21.65% which was close to the political compliments that recorded 19.83% application. The expressive speech act performance is at 44.06% while the representative and assertive speech acts performed at the almost the same level with both occurring at 13.55% and 11.88% respectively. The compliments performed the declarative speech act at the least level as it occurred at 8.48%. In a related manner, the study revealed that maxims are sometimes flouted for a number of reasons. The analysis of the data shows that the maxim of quality had the highest incidence of violation at 21.51% while the maxim of relation was not violated at all.It is observed that the maxim of quality was violated more than the others due to the fact that some expressions are not truthful while in other cases the use of metaphors also contributed to the violation of quality. The use of ambiguous expressions is one of the reasons why the maxim of manner was violated. This can be attributed to the fact that some writers were too eager to portray their subjects in a positive light and are consequently inclined to be effusive in their choice of words. It is noteworthy that 69.62% of the compliments adhere to the maxims, although a few are flouted on some occasions. The study concludes that the use of compliments in Nigerian newspaper feature articles have pragmatic implications as they communicate more than what is said. This is largely due to the context within which the compliments are used. Some compliments are better interpreted when the context of their use are known. The compliment, “Adekanye has to his credit a harvest of books” would have been vague without the context just as the compliment, “referred to as the elegant stallion, Onyeka…” would have been ambiguous without context. The study recommends that writers of newspaper feature articles should consider the social and linguistic background of readers when writing in order to avoid controversies that may likely arise.


TITLE PAGE – – – – – – – – – i
DECLARATION – – – – – – – – – ii
CERTIFICATION – – – – – – – – – iii
DEDICATION – – – – – – – – – iv
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS – – – – – – – – v
ABSTRACT – – – – – – – – – – vii
TABLE OF CONTENTS – – – – – – – – viii


1.0 Background to the Study – – – – – – – – 1
1.1 Statement of the Problem – – – – – – – – 3
1.2 Aim and Objectives of the Study – – – – – – – 4
1.3 Scope of the Study – – – – – – 4
1.4 Significance/Justification of the Study – – – – – – 5


2.0 Preamble – – – – – – – – – – 7
2.1 Language andContext – – – – – – – – 7
2.2 Language, Culture and Compliments – – – – – – 11


2.3 Compliments: Types and Functions – – – – – – 15
2.4.0 Mass Media in Nigeria – – – – – – – – 26
2.4.1 The Language of Newspaper Writing – – – – – – 33
2.5.0Functional Approach to the Study of Language – – – – – 34
2.5.1 Pragmatics – – – – – – – – 36
2.5.2 Speech Act Theory – – – – – – – 39 Indirect Speech Act, Compliments and Metaphors – – – 45
2.5.3 Cooperative Principle – – – – – – – 47
2.5.4 Deixis – – – – – – – – – 49
2.5.5 Presupposition and Implicature – – – – – 52
2.6Review of Previous Studies — – – – 54
2.7 Theoretical Framework – – – – – – 58


3.0 Preamble – – – – – – – – – – 61
3.1 Sources of Data – – – – – – – – 61
3.2 Sampling Technique – – – – – – – – 62
3.3 Method of Data Collection – – – – – – – 63
3.4 Method of Data Analysis – – – – – – – – 63

4.0 Preamble – – – – – – – – – – 64
4.1 Presentation of Data – – – – – – – – 64
4.2 Analysis of Data – – – – – – – – – 64
4.2.1 Analysis of Types and Number of Compliments – – – 65
4.2.2 Analysis of Speech Acts Theory and Cooperative Maxims – – – 67
4.3 General Discussion – – – – – – 115


5.0 Preamble – – – – – – – – – – 118
5.1 Summary – – – – – – – – – – 118
5.2 Findings – – – – – – – – – 119
5.3 Conclusion – – – – – – – – – 123
REFERENCES – – – – – – – – – 125
Appendix 1 – – – – – – – – – – 129
Appendix 2 – – – – – – – – – –



1.0 Background to the Study

The act of complimenting is a social value that is found in almost every society. It has been described as a speech act which involves taking into account the feelings of others in order to make them feel comfortable. Complimenting is one of the ways of expressing politeness and takes into consideration factors like context or relationship between participants. Complimenting as a speech act falls into the categories of those that remark on appearance and the ones that comment on ability.

Finch (1998) asserts that language enables man to do many things thereby serving different functions. He describes these functions as micro and meta functions. Jacobson in Sebeok (1960:350-377), however, distinguishes six communication functions which are: the referential, aesthetic/poetic, emotive, cognitive, phatic and the metalinguistic.He further suggests that of these functions, one is always dominant in any given text or context.The importance of language in any given speech community cannot be denied; thus language does not only communicate information but also serves as a means of establishing and maintaining relationships with other people. Humans are social beings who need to communicate and in order to communicate effectively, should of necessity rely on the Cooperative Principle of Grice (1975), who expounded how people ought to interact with one another. The study sets out to investigate how compliments are used in some of those settings; more specifically, how some newspapers employ these compliments and the effects compliments have on readers.

Holmes (1988:446) defines a compliment, which is the language feature this study focuses on, as “a speech act which explicitly or implicitly attributes credit to someone other than the speaker, usually the person addressed, for some good (possession, characteristic, skill, etc.) which is positively valued by the speaker and the hearer.”Similarly, compliments can also be described as expressions that accord esteem, respect, affection, or respectful recognition to people.The analysis of compliments in this research is from the perspective of pragmatics as an approach in Discourse Analysis. Pragmatics studies the ways context contributes to meaning and how the transmission of meaning depends not only on the linguistic knowledge, but also on the context of the utterance. Pragmatics is the study of language from the viewpoint of users: the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in social interactions and the effect on the participants in communicative encounter. According to Cheyney (1992) cited in Babalola (2002):

A newspaper is the textbook that provides up-to-date information on local, state/provincial, national and world affairs; the most current analysis, the most criticism on executive and legislative decision; the latest in music, theatre, television, and the fine arts and even columns and comics to make people laugh.

Newspapers form the major vehicle of communication systems that have helped the society change for the better over the years and have, also, single-handedly defended the rights of citizens when under threat. Readers sometimes come across compliments when reading feature articles in newspapers and may consider it worthwhile to read about the subjects because the complimented people have been accorded honour, respect and recognition. It is accepted that compliments are given in order to make people feel good, but it is also observed that some compliments do not achieve this purpose mainly because some expressions are not appropriately used or are deliberately misused.

Since the medium of communication in these newspapers is the English language, which serves as the official language in Nigeria, it has become necessary to investigate the use of language in them, and this study is specifically investigating where and how compliments have been employed by the writers of feature articles.

1.1 Statement of the Research Problem

In any given speech community where language is used as a means of communication, interactions are inevitable. The problem this research seeks to interrogate is based on the observation that the use and interpretation of compliments in newspaper feature articles create a lot of misinterpretations and controversy that may result in communication breakdown. The historic exchange between President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida is an example of how the use and interpretation of compliments in newspaper feature articles can create misinterpretations and controversy that engender communication failure. The Nation of 19th, August 2011 page 22 reported that the Media Aide to Babangida, Kassim Afegbua, described Obasanjo in the following words: “Calling IBB a fool at 70 especially by a man reportedly and allegedly accused by his own son of incest is at best a compliment. The fact is that the statement is not a compliment even if the writer appears to consider it so because, according to him, being a fool is better than being accused of incest.

The issue in question is that most times, the compliments used by the writers of feature articles are not intended to compliment; as a result they could create a lot of controversies and misinterpretations.According to the Dictionary.com, a compliment is backhanded or left handed when an insult is disguised as a compliment. Backhanded compliments are sometimes used inadvertently or deliberately to deceive or hurt people. It is in this sense that a compliment may likely generate a lot of controversies. This is possible either because some expressions conveying sarcasm, irony or innuendoes were used in the compliments paid or the compliments were deliberately misinterpreted. In addition, instead of accepting compliments in the spirit in which they have been paid, people focus on the choice of words and thereby make the compliments appear bad. These negative reactions are sometimes prompted by the presence of lexical items that may be considered offensive by the recipient. The problem this study therefore seeks to interrogate is the contention that the adherence to or violation of the Grice co-operative principle largely depends on the types of compliments used in the newspaper feature articles. This is in relation to their frequency of use and the speech acts they perform in the process of communication and social interaction.

1.2 Research Questions

The researcher hopes to provide answers to the following questions:

i. What types and at what frequency are compliments used in the selectedNigeriannewspaper feature articles?

ii. What speech acts are performed by the use of these compliments in these feature articles?

iii. To what extent is the cooperative principle adhered to or violated in the compliments in these feature articles?

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

This study aims at carrying out a pragmatic analysis of the use of compliments in feature articles in five selected Nigerian newspapers. The specific objectives the study hopes to achieve are to:

i. investigate the types and frequency of the use of compliments in the selected Nigerian newspapers.

ii. examine the speech acts performed by the compliments used in these newspaper feature articles.

iii. highlight the adherence to or violation of the cooperative principle in the use of compliments in the newspaper feature articles and their effects on the readers.

1.4 Scope of the Study

This work is focused on the analysis of compliments in feature articles in selected newspapers in Nigeria. The selected newspapers include:The Guardian, Daily Trust,The Sun, This day and The Nation to cover publications spanning a two-year period starting from January 2011 to December 2012.The data are specifically taken from the “feature sections” with particular attention to the compliments used in these articles. A total of 50 editions that is, ten editions from each of the selected publications comprise the data for analysis. The newspapers were selected because they are observed to enjoy a wide readership as a result of the geographical spread and are written in English language which is also the language of administration, commerce and instruction. A pragmatic framework was adopted with particular reference to the Speech Act Theory as proposed by Austin (1962) and Searle (1969) and the Cooperative Principle as proposed by Grice (1975). The researcher categorised the data according to the different types of compliments (social, political, achieved and ascribed, gender and honorific compliments) for data analysis.

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study is designed basically to examine how the use of compliments affects social interactions and also to highlight the need to use appropriate compliments in the right context by writers, most especially those of the journalistic slant. Various scholars have shown great concern on how language is employed; hence, a lot of studies ranging from the syntax, to the semantics of language have always engaged their attention. In the field of pragmatics, a number of studies have been carried out: Ibileye (2002)analysed the Pragmatic interpretation of modal verbs in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Abaya (2008)carried out a pragmatic analysis of coup announcements in Nigeria; Akodu (2009) was on a pragmatic analysis of ambiguity in political discourse; Amodu (2011)which was also from a pragmatic perspective analysed the language of advertisement.

The major significance of this study, given its pragmatic approach, is that there could be more to compliments than their ordinary communication and significance, which this study sets out to reveal and analyse. Compliments employ metaphors which are literary devices that help to compare different realities and as a result perform different speech acts as well as indirect speech acts and, so, can adequately communicate more than is said. It is hoped that the study will assist readers of newspapers to better appreciate the linguistic embellishments offered by the use of compliments.The researcher hopes the research on the use of compliments and the findings from this work will enable writers to be circumspect in their use of compliments by adhering to the cooperative principle. It is also hoped that the findings of this study will be considered as the researcher‟s contribution to the field of Pragmatics.


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