The focus of this research is to examine to some extent, the similarities and differences between the politeness strategies of the Igbo and the English languages. This will help us to recognize the difficulties a language learner encounters when learning a second language, and be able to proffer some solutions to the problem. As an official language in Nigeria, English language is taught and learnt as a second language in academics and other learning environments. A native Igbo speaker has already developed a measurable amount of communicative competence in his or her native language before encountering the English language. His knowledge of the Igbo language might however affect his learning of English in one way or the other, therefore making him inefficient in the language he is learning. This difficulty is known as interference. This problem of interference however can be reduced if the English language learner can learn some of the pragmatic principles which are necessities for effective communication in every language. Although the politeness principle is a universal principle, each language or culture has developed some idiosyncratic features which differ to some extent. Thus, this research tries to find out the similarities and differences between the politeness strategies employed by both languages, and how they affect the second language learners. The theory of Contrastive analysis was used in this work, and the findings show that politeness strategies in the Igbo language rely heavily on ‘honorifics’ and ‘ titlemania’. This study has implications for language learners, because it will help the language learners understand the unique nature of the English language politeness strategies, and how they differ from their own language which is the Igbo language. It is recommended that second language learners should make effort to study pragmatic principles and the English politeness strategies properly, because this would help reduce the errors that occur in second language learning. This research which is on the Contrastive study of Politeness Strategies of English and Igbo language is divided into five chapters. Chapter one introduces the topic under research and demonstrates the need for a contrastive study of the politeness strategies of English and Igbo language, by looking at the background of the topic and emphasizing its universality. Chapter two which is on literature review, reviews relevant literatures by various researchers, and their contributions to the study of politeness. Chapter three dwell on theories of Contrastive analysis, politeness theories, and research method, showing the procedures used in the work, using secondary sources. In chapter four, the data used in this research are analysed and chapter five presents the summary and conclusion.


Title page
Table of contents

1.1       Background of the Study
1.2       Necessary Conditions for an Utterance of Directives (Request)
1.3       Forms of Politeness
1.4       Statement of the Problem
1.5       Purpose of the Study
1.6       Significance of the Study
1.7       Scope of the Study

2.0       Introduction
2.1       Politeness
2.2       Relevant Studies
2.3       Politeness Strategies
2.4       Post Modern Theories of Politeness
2.5       Summary of Literature Review

3.1       Contrastive Analysis
3.2       Strands of Contrastive Analysis
3.3       The Implication of Contrastive Analysis in the Contrastive Study of English
            and Igbo Language Politeness Strategies
3.4       Research Method
3.5       Area of Study
3.6       Research Population
3.7       Research Design
3.8       Method of Data Collection
3.9       Method of Data Analysis

4.1       Data Presentation
4.2       Similarities between politeness strategies used in both languages
4.3       Showing and Seeking Agreement
4.4       The use of the inclusive ‘we’ to achieve politeness strategies
4.5       The use of differential address
4.6       Differences between English and Igbo language Politeness strategies
4.6.1    Area of differences
4.7       Face in English language culture
4.8       Identifying the differences between both languages’ politeness strategies,
            using specific utterances like the speech act of request
4.8.1    Classifications of utterances
4.8.2    Address forms in the English language

5.1       Summary of findings
5.2       Implication of findings
5.3       Recommendations
5.4       Suggestions for further studies
5.5       Conclusions
Works cited



Language is a necessary tool for effective human interaction. It relates to culture and functions also in the transmission of information as well as norms and rules of the society in which it operates. It concretizes human relationship in their daily life experiences. Ogbodo; et al (2010). In the same light, language has been defined as a system through which man collates, organizes, and relates his thoughts and ideas, and also interacts with fellow men. Corder (1973:5). To be able to relate these thoughts effectively, language has to be acquired through formal acquisition process or learning process. Language acquisition refers to the child’s innate ability to acquire language in his environment, while language learning refers to a situation where conscious efforts are made by both the teacher and learner to help the learner develop communicative skills in a second language.

In Miller’s words, language learning is a conscious process that occurs in formal learning, and it focuses on language form and grammatical competence (1984:72). Language learning according to him, applies to older children and adults developing a second language.

Ogbodo; et al (2010) define a second language as that language that ranks sequentially second in a bi/ multilingual person. It may be a third or fourth language one learns, but it ranks second in the individual’s speech faculty (P. 12). It is often learnt for official purposes and in an official setting.

In Nigeria, English is the second language and therefore an official language, which requires the functional knowledge of the basic skills of the language – this involves listening, speaking, reading and writing. Nweze (2010) Opines that communication is the act of expression of thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions. In the same way, Crystal (1962:72) states that communication is the transmission and receiving of information between a source and a receiver, using a signaling system. In other words, for an effective communication of thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions in English language, a native Igbo speaker has to master the tenets and principles of communication of the language he/she is learning.

This effectiveness could be achieved through the study of the structure of the said language, its phonetics and phonology, semantics, and above all pragmatic principles. This study focuses on politeness as a pragmatic principle, and how the knowledge of the politeness strategies can help a second language learner in proper acquisition and use of a second language.

Pragmatics was introduced into linguistics studies in the late sixties and early seventies (60&70’s), in the work of the American semiotician and behaviorist Charles Morris, in his distinction of the three parts of semiotics: syntactic, semantics and pragmatics. The foundation of pragmatics was laid by ordinary language philosophers and speech – act theorist, such as John Austin (1962), John, R. Searle (1969), and H. Paul Grice (1979). By adopting this new approach to language studies as human action, linguists hoped to overcome the strict confines of language as a closed system to be analyzed in itself and for itself, as advocated in the structuralist traditions of linguistics after Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky. Pragmatics therefore has become the focus of interest, not only in main-stream linguistics, but also in communication studies, discourse analysis, conversation analysis, psychology, the social sciences, artificial intelligence, and the study of language and cognition.

The Wikipedia, non-specialized as it may be, defines pragmatics as a subfield of linguistics and semiotics which studies the ways in which context contributes....

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