Lexico-Semantic Features and Characterisation in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun And Purple Hibiscus

Lexico-Semantic Features and Characterisation in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun And Purple Hibiscus



1.1 Background to the Study

Literature is a social discourse in which the writer operates on the linguistic and communicative presupposition in the social context. In this way, the writer’s language, in form, functions and meaning, derives from the same source as the social -political and cultural situations informing the urge to write (Babatunde, 1997). Halliday (1976) asserts that the particular form taken by the grammatical system of language is closely related to the social and personal need that language is required to serve, Babatunde (1997: 175) observes that: Literature is like language, interaction between People.

To regard it as social discourse is to stress its personal institutional dimensions, concentrating on those parts of textual structure which reflect and influence reaction with society. Apart from linguistic function, literature also; widen our mental horizon, perform psycho-theraptic or palliative function, performs historical function, educates, entertains, helps in preservation of cultural events, and serves as a mirror of life (Adedeji, 1999). It should therefore also be noted that literature plays an immeasurable role in the growing, up keeping, developing and assisting the society to face its problem and burning issues by suggesting alternatives, as a means of reflection on the human condition and urging social cohesion (Oladipupo, 2004).

Creativity, the expression of a writer’s imagination, is drawn from the totality of the writer’s experiences. Writers use language, the common middle-ground and the writer’s communication tool, to convey or express their experiences (as in the case of Yellow-Yellow) as well as their cultures and backgrounds which they may or may not share with their readers. A people’s culture certainly includes their language (Bodley 2008).

This implies that language in use cannot be excluded from the society in which it is used. Moreover, context is a major determinant of any act of language behaviour while choice of words and meaning derivations are a factor of context or environment (Bright 2006). Firth’s (1957:173) view of language as “occurring in a culturally determined context of situation” is, therefore, apposite. Eggins (2004:8) states that “our ability to deduce context from text is one way in which language and context are interrelated”

 In Nigeria, English Language serves as a second language. This language makes possible social interaction across nations, tribes and countries. It is, in fact, the primary language of literacy for many African and especially Nigerian people. English language also commands the pride of place as main language of literary writing. To this end, the English language is not only a means of expression; it is also a tool and medium of literary artistry for literary writers in Anglo-phone Africa.

Although the English language could be said to be alien to Africa, Africans have domesticated the language to suit their milieu. Language is an aspect as well as a mirror of culture. Therefore, the English Language spoken and written in Africa is indicative of the African cultural identity and the Nigerian experience. The language is unique in such a way that it is functional and able to carry the burden of its users’ experience. Achebe’s artistry, for instance, demonstrates this Nigerian peculiarity.

The language of African literature sparked off a long-standing debate among critics of African literature over the relation between African authors and the colonial linguistic legacy. This debate which has dominated African literature in the past fifty years (Osundare, 2004), stems from the recognition, by African scholars/writers, the status of language to literature, and the close connection between political independence and cultural emancipation.

As literary works are cultural artefacts, the basic philosophy is that, the use of colonial languages in African literature is a willing perpetuation of imperialism. Significantly, there has been a sustained polarity of opinion about the appropriate attitude the African writer should adopt towards this phenomenon. These range from the fervidly nationalist to the stridently compromising. Osundare (2004) identifies three “attitudes” viz: (i) accomodationist, (ii) gradualist, and (iii) radicalist.

Lexico-Semantic Features and Characterisation in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun And Purple Hibiscus

According to this scholar, the first group (i.e. accommodationist), which has as its chief promoter, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, favours an outright use of imperialist languages; hile the “gradualists” are “the dwellers of the middle of the road”, prominent among whom is Ali Mazrui who advocates a de-Anglicization and re- Africanization of the English language, to authentically convey Africa’s literary sensibilities.

The third group, on the other hand, is the “radicalist” composed of writers who call for an immediate adoption of indigenous African languages as the media of literary expression. Obi Wali and Ngugi Wa Thiongo are proponents and exponents of this attitude. Instructively, majority of African writers belong to the “gradualist” group identified above (i.e. indigenizing the colonial language).Gabriel Okara, Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola, Elechi Amadi, J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, Kofi Awoonor, etc. all fall into this category. In the main, this linguistic constraint would have informed the device of “transliteration” adopted in Okara’s The Voice.

In every literary work be it prose, drama or poem they must be a character to portray the writer’s mind and thought to the reader. Characterization is the description of a character’s physical traits (how a character looks), point of view, personality, private thoughts, and actions. There are two types of characterization in fiction writing: Indirect characterization and direct characterization, both indirect characterization and direct characterization work together to create a complete picture of your character for the reader. Remember that characters, like people, are imperfect. They don’t need to be likable, but they must be interesting.

African writers who use English as their creative medium do so in the consciousness of the fact that they are presenting a Nigerian experience, and most of them reveal in their works a specific mode of imagination which derives from the Nigerian background (Taiwo, 1979). This is particularly true since these writers grew up within the Nigerian environment and acquired a Nigerian indigenous language in which they also think. The very fact that these writers now write in English, either because they cannot write in Igbo or to reach a wider readership, does not make them English.

Things Fall Apart is composed in English language and is representative of the African/Igbo heritage. The proverbs in the text are a vehicle for social activities. As users of the English language, it is important to be aware of the efficacy of proverbs and how to use them well. This research therefore intends to carry out lexico-semantic features and characterisation in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus and to determine the way characters in the text present utterance acts.

Lexico-Semantic Features and Characterisation in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun And Purple Hibiscus

1.2 Statement of the Problem 

Over the years, the reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works of art has become more cumbersome due to the inability of readers to understand the meanings that are induce in her sentences as expressed by characters. This has made readers of her work all over the globe to have difficulties in proper understanding of most of her work.

However, a great deal of research efforts has been dedicated to many aspects of the language used in Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. Some of these efforts to characterize Adichie‟s art include: Jegede (2010),Osunbade (2013), Edokpayi (2014),Chukwu and Igbokwe (2015), Gajir (2016) and Adagbonyin and Aluya (2017), among others. First, Jegede (2010) explores Adichie‟s Half Of A Yellow Sun from a lexical semantic perspective, the purpose being to determine how the novelist‟s lexical semantic creation confirms her idiosyncrasies as a writer.

The study indicates that collocation, noun reference, a blend of simple, compound and complex sentences, among others were deployed to project the novelist’s unique artistic vision. Adichie draws greatly on these lexical semantic devices in order to communicate her thematic foci to the readers. Her creative manipulation of these devices establishes her linguistic thumb print. Osunbade (2013) carried out a pragmatic investigation of the implicates of domestic discourse on Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus.

The study, which adopts the Grecian pragmatic theory, aims at identifying the implicatural dimensions that emerge in the novels and determining how they facilitate access to Adichie’s thematic concerns. The study is germane because it reveals the writer’s utilisation of pragmatic tools in espousing the domestic experiences of Nigerians and Africans as portrayed in the novels.

Equally, Edokpayi (2014) examines aspects of lexical style in Adichie‟s HYS. The analysis examines the significance of literature and literary artist to national security and provides a detailed description of how the resources of language are deployed in a unique style to convey the thematic preoccupations of the novel. Similarly, Chukwu and Igbokwe (2015) investigate how Adichie uses naming to expand and limit the actions of her characters in Half Of A Yellow Sun.

 For example in Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, so many expressions have been made by characters in a bid to portray their minds to the readers which are embedded in the novel and this has been posting problem to the reader even from time immemorial.it is on this backdrop that this research work seeks to examine lexico-semantic features and characterisation in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus.

1.3 Aim and objectives of the study

The aim of this study is to examine lexico-semantic features in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus and how they aid the presentation of the characters as Nigerians. The specific objectives are to:

  1. determine the themes in the selected novels;
  2. examine the contexts of lexico-semantic features in the novels;
  3. explicate the classes and roles of the characters in the selected novels;
  4. categorise and relate the found lexico-semantic features to the character types in the novels;
  5. critically appraise the implications of the lexico-semantic features for character development in the selected novels.

1.4 Research Questions

This research attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the themes in the selected novels?
  2. what are the contexts of lexico-semantic features in the novels?
  3. what are the roles of the characters in the selected novels?
  4. what are the related categorise of the lexico-semantic features found on the character types in the novels?

1.5 Significance of the Study

These studies will be of immense significant in the following ways:

  1. the study will serve as a source of literature to other researchers who will want to undertake further study that is related to the topic
  2. the study will also help the readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work to have a vivid understanding of her work of art
  3. the study will also help language students and scholars to have a full understanding of the sentences and expressions that are in in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus.
  4. the study will also help the masses to truly appreciate the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s even with the dozens of his ambiguous sentences and expressions


1.6 Scope and Limitations

Language study can be carried out from different perspectives: grammar, phonetics phonology, and semantics. Each has its own parameters of study and analysis. But this research is a textual analysis. This therefore means that spoken language has not been considered. This is due to the fact that written language can reach readers who have never been to a certain place and they may understand the linguistic features of that society from the language used by a writer. The research will therefore analyse sentences and expressions as they are used in Senegal.

The study begins from the lexical level of linguistics. It, therefore, does not include phonetics and phonology nor does it pay serious attention to grammar. By analyzing the sentences and expressions, that is, their literal and implied meanings, this gives the reader ideas of the worldview of the society from where the writer comes. Some of these sentences and expressions are peculiar only to the Nigerians as depicted in this study.  As you ‘journey’ in the text, the true picture of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s sentences and expressions appears and encapsulates the reader. For this reason, the text contains sufficient data needed for this research.

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