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This study, SEMANTIC ANALYSIS OF LITERARY LANGUAGE: A CASE STUDY OF A. IGONI BARRET’S BLACKASS contains concise information that will serve as a framework or guide for your project work. The project study is well-researched for academic purposes and are usually provided in complete chapters with adequate References.





Background to the study

Aims and Objectives

Statement of Problem

Research Questions

Significance of the Study


2.1   Introduction

2.2   Theoretical Review

2.3    Theoretical Framework

2.3.1 Lyon’s theory of meaning Itralinguistic Relations (Sense) Extralinguistic relation (Applicabilty Context

2.3..2.1 Lehrer’s contribution to field theory

2.4 Relevance Of Semantics

2.5 Evaluation of Field Theory


3.1   Introduction

3.2  Type of Research

3.3  Instrument of research

3.4  Source of data

3.5  Techniques of data collection

3.6  Technique of data analysis

3.7 Trustworthiness


4.1   Introduction

4.1.1 About the book Blackass

4.1.2. About the Author

4.1.3 Igoni Barret’s writing style in Blackass

4.2 Semantic analysis of Blackass by A. Igoni Barret

4.3 chapter summary



5.2 Conclusion



Babatunde (1995) submits that ‘semantics’ is coined from a Greek verb which means signify. He further explained semantics to be the study of meaning that seeks to convey and classify human through language. This implies that expressions are used to refer and efforts are made to enable the reader to understand. Semantics is not a single- well integrated discipline, it is not a clearly defined level of linguistics and it is a set of studies of the use of language.

This study is embarked on for the purpose of exploring the message in BLACKASS, to identify the meaning and to show how the writer logically selects his words to narrate the study and the descriptive use to language. It is also intended to bring out the wealth of meaning in BLACKASS.

This study is pre-occupied with the semantic analysis of BLACKASS. The text BLACKASS shall be the data for our analysis with Lyon’s four theories of meaning, and Lehrer contributions to the theory of meaning.

In conclusion, it shall also review some theories of meaning namely, Referential and Image theory of meaning as part of the tools for data analysis


  • Introduction

Literature is a unifying institution of the arts and it makes us understand how people had tamed their past, how they can survive the challenges of the present and thereby plan how future could be won. The word “literature” has different meanings depending on the context of usage. It could be applied broadly to mean any symbolic record, encompassing images, sculptures and letters. In a narrow sense, the term could mean text composed of letters, symbolic written language such as Egyptian hieroglyphs. According to Encyclopedia Britannica (online), the Muslim scholar and philosopher Imam Ja’fa ral Sadiq (702-762 AD) defines literature as “…the garments which one puts on what he says or writes so that it may appear more attractive”.

Also extracted from the Encyclopedia Britannica (online) is another definition given by Panghilito Luigi in which literature is defined as “…a slice of the life that has been given direction and meaning, an artistic interpretation of the world according to the percipient’s point of views”. On the part of Roman Jacobson, a Russian Formalist, literature is defined as “…an organized violence committed on ordinary speech… to be seen in poetry”.

Given all the definitions that have so far been considered, literature in a nutshell could be seen as an aggregation of life. This is because literature is a social creation; a social institution that relies on language as its prime medium. It is a recreation of experiences as every literature has the capability to provide a living account of the world in the circumstances and conditions of its time. That is why literature could sometimes be regarded as a fact of history. Different historical events such as: Nigeria Civil War (1967-1970), Aba Women Riot (1929), the Niger-Delta struggles for emancipation and others have influenced the various writings of Nigerian literature. Early Nigerian works of literature were characterized by overt or covert religious or didactic purpose. Moralizing or prescriptive literature stems from such sources. Literature consists of the prose, poems and drama genre. However, the novel is a form of prose fiction and it is the focus of this essay. E.M. Foster’s Aspects of the Novel (1985) define the novel as,

The third type of narrative fiction common to the literary

circle of today. It is the most favored of all the literary

genres found in literature. Also, it is no overstatement to say

that the genre has recorded tremendous growth from the age

and the growth subsists till date… (16)

The novel can be defined as an extended fictional prose narrative whose subject matter is manned on the situations, events and existential crises in the society. It stands generically for all extended fiction of prose narrative which revolves around human existence. The word “novel” is supposedly applied during the earlier Renaissance period to any new story. The novel as one of the genres of literature is the long flowing, descriptive form of self expression. It has by far come to be the most popularly accepted literary form because of it diversity of interest coupled with its infinite functions. Apart from entertaining the readers, the novel helps to understand life for it mirrors the history of mankind as it has an endless possibility as to its subject matter. As a way of further defining the novel, while also bringing out its essential features and components, Joan Rockwell(1974) says:

A novel equally describes norms and values, and present its

character as actors in the demonstration of such norms and values

… novel must remain true to the norms of the class which creates

its and read it and above all new ones must be constantly created

over and over again (114)

This implies therefore, that the novel is different from any of poetry and drama. This is because the novel is written in language that aims at lucid expression of the self, not through action as found in drama or through picturesque association as seen in poetry. The novel can protest against an established system or eulogizes it. Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy (1973) is a good example of novels which talks about the ideal society which is based on familiar spectacles in human society. The novel is used as an instrument of protest, due to the oppressiveness of the colonial administration in Africa. African writers hide under different pseudonyms to voice out their bitterness against the parasitic nature of the Afro European co-existence and the conflict arising from the clash between the two cultures.

The novel could also be used to educate the world about cultural richness of a particular people. An example of this could be seen in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and fortified by Amos Tutuola in The Palm-Wine Drinkard which is outstanding in the manner it enumerates Africa’s cultural heritage and values. In another vein, the novel could be used as a vehicle of moralization as it always serves as a tool for moral instruction – to teach people, the right and wrongs in the contemporary society as could be seen in Achebe’s Girls at War and Other Short Stories. The novel has also served as a reservoir of information. The Bible can be regarded as a religious hand-book and the greatest work of literature that informs the generations on how to build their moral lives.

The number of words that makes a full novel has not been subjected to so much speculation to the extent that some believe a standard size would not be less than 50,000 words. The novel must tell a story that is largely fictive but highly plausible. For example, the short novel also known as the novelette is expected to have all the essential literary characteristics such as the characters, the theme, plot, settings, mood, and style.

1.2       The African Literature and the Novel

Abiola Irele, in The African Experience in Literature and Ideology, tries to define the African Novel and says that the term “African” appears to correspond to a geographical notion, and the term Africa implies the collective awareness that has been determined by ethnic, historical and sociological factors. He further asserts that all these factors affect and is expressed in African literature. Beyond these areas of reference, the problem of definition of the African novel should as well consider the issue f aesthetics as reflected in the cultural and social structures and some of the expressions of the African people and societies.

In trying to investigate literature and the society that produces it, Chinua Achebe in his note, ‘Thoughts on African Novel Tradition’, opines that:

The African novel has to be about African as a geographical expression and as a metaphysical landscape, African novel should be about the view of the world and all of the cosmos perceived from a particular. (2)

Achebe also added his voice in respect of those who could be qualified as an African novelist. To this, he states:

…. It is a party a matter of passports, of individual volition and particularly of seeing from that perspective…. Being an African, like being a Jew, carries certain penalties… as well as benefits… (2)

The two views above strongly opine among other things that the African novel should have African characters and should be about Africa. They also make us take a second look at the characteristics of the African literature which includes the culture, the crises of identity, slavery and colonialism and therefore see it from a holistic perspective.
In talking about the Africa literature, there is the tendency to forget that the whole of African arts is linked with oral literature that has been the mainstay of both the traditional and the modern Africa. Often times, the African written literature emerges as a transcription, adaptation, translation or exploitation of the people’s oral tradition, irrespective of the language chosen by the writer. Ngugi wa Thiong’O and Obi Wali in their separate writings believe that any work that would claim to be ‘African’ must not be written in foreign language. The two authors do agree that oral traditions are at the heart of African cultures.

The notion ‘African literature’ has received criticism based on the objectivity of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart on the African culture following its publication in 1958. There have been diverse submissions by the whites on Africa and her culture especially by those who claim to have in-depth knowledge of her territories.

However, Achebe captures the thoughts of one ‘Albert Schweitzer’ in ‘Morning Yet on Creation Day’ (1975), on what he termed his immortal dictum in the hey days of colonialism. In his claim, Albert Schweitzer says that African is indeed his own continent’s brother, but its junior or younger one for that matter. Schweitzer and his likes mount the imperial position of a ‘big brother’ from where they have interpreted the African culture to suit their own whims and caprices. This misconception is directly the cause of the emergence of the African literature. It will be wise to bring out numerous positions on the subject. The African novel is faced with such criticism which some see as arising from literate Africa’s arrogation of the essence of its culture on a white dominated world with its authentic and original genre, themes and messages. To a few, the African novel is simply a political document of protests against the assumptions of the black man. It is also believed, in some quarters, that the Africa novel is a mere appendage to the British and French literature since most African writers write in English or French. Achebe in trying not to see anything spectacular in either writing in English or indigenous language, says that “….Let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English for we intend to do the unheard of things with it”.           (7)

He has undoubtedly justified this assertion in both Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God respectively. Another point of controversy surrounding the African novel has to do with the assumption that the language in which the African novel is expressed should be indigenous to the African continent. Achebe is also unflinching in his position on the matter as he says:

I do not see African literature as one unit but as a group of

associated units-in fact, the sum total of all the national and

ethnic literatures of Africa. A national literature is one that

takes the whole nation for its province and has a realized and

potential audience throughout its territory an ethnic group

within the nation. If you take Nigeria for example, the national

literature as I see it, is the literature written in English, and

the ethnic literature are in Hausa, Ibo,Yoruba, Efik, Edo, Ijaw

and so on. (56)

Achebe’s position can be seen as stemming from his acknowledgement of the complexities of the African societies which are consequences of the people’s colonial experience. In Nigeria for instance, the national language is English which is perhaps the last and the most potent of the vestiges of colonialism. Thus, English maintains its pride of place because Nigeria is yet to develop a national language that is indigenous. This is probably why the whites seem to claim that the African literature is, at best, an offshoot of the European literature.

According to Lekan Oyegoke, in An Introduction to African Prose Narratives, ‘European literature and African literature’ do not signify similar things. European literature encompasses in very general terms, such writings as English literature, German literature, French literature, and so on. This is so because the specific literatures listed as ‘European’ are themselves defined by specific languages which inform them: English, French, German; while the term ‘African literature’, refers to the writings of African authors, mostly in the different European languages. The term ‘African’ does not represent any specific language.

Oyegoke goes ahead to make a two broad categorization of literature in black Africa. The first is ‘African literature’ which is the literature written in English, French, or Portuguese. The second is the African literature. It is quite different from the first because the language in which it is expressed is African. Lastly, Oyegoke submits that the literature of the concerned territory has to be in the indigenous languages to get to the grass-root and that ‘it is when the indigenous language literature has attained the primacy of position that the Africa literature could be transformed into African literatures.’

                        African literatures then becomes the general terms

for the literatures defined by specific languages and not

by specific kind of writing in formal languages in

colonialism. (265)

            In exploring the African novel, one of the most fascinating debates ever to take place in the critique of the African literature occurred mainly in the sixties when critics spent much time and energy debating its critical standards. One cannot but imagine what these standards should be and who is the best qualified to apply them. The debate had the novel as its major concern and the question of characterization at its centre. The position of Western critics in this regard is that Africans writers should concentrate much on social issues, especially, those that have to do with identity, rather than concentrating on the development of heroic figures in their works. Francis Ngwaba (1985) sums up the thought of African critic on the matter, saying that:

…traditional African ways are so clearly different from

European ways…an African writer needs to domesticate the

Novel culturally so as to convey the African concept of man

and the universe while at the same time exploring the thematic

issues which ignites its creative sensibility. (6)

In a manner to further repudiate the arguments of Western critics against African literature and to establish in the African writer/person a sense of acceptance and confidence in their literature, Achebe in an interview in New York in 1965 says, among other things, that:

                        I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones set

in the past),did no more than teach their readers that their

past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of


This seems to have summed up the objectives of Chinua Achebe, most especially as he responds to the negative assumptions of the West about Africa. One of such is the position maintained by Joseph Conrad that “Africa is the very heart of darkness and all her practices, a savage brutality”.

The African literature is a product of a tradition just like any other novel tradition elsewhere, all over the world. Thanks to the folklore tradition that has contributed to the making of the African novel. Its wonderful influence is noticeable in the use of imageries, proverbs, local customs and practices, beliefs, magic, witchcraft, social habits etc. In West Africa, the father of Nigerian novel, Amos Tutuola, uses folklore in The Palm-wine Drinkard (1952). Specifically, the text is based on Yoruba folktale tradition. In the Fifties, the novel gained so much momentum at a time of social upheaval in Africa. There were intense nationalist activities challenging the whole idea and practice of colonialism among African intelligentsia, who, to borrow Emmaunel Ngara’s expression, “were products of missionary education”.

To further this study, an examination of the West African political development and the ensuing events as reflected in the literature of the region could be necessary to the understanding of the Nigerian novel tradition.


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