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Poetic language is the language in which the words are artfully selected and combined in their best order in order to convey thoughts meaningfully. Children’s poetic language is not left out. Children’s poets are more careful in selecting sounds and words in order to achieve a desired effect on the reader. Consequently, the thrust of this study is to highlight the linguistic constituents of Nigerian children’s poetry with a view to revealing its characteristic features that lead to its aesthetics and meaning. To achieve this aim, two collections of children’s poetry books with a total of thirty - three different poems were selected. While twenty nine poems out of the thirty three were selected for analysis. The method of data collection and analysis adopted in the study was direct lifting, examination and analysis of words, phrases and sentences that strikingly illustrate the linguistic features investigated, where description of those features were made in order to ascertain their effects and functions in the poems. The theories guiding the study were descriptive linguistics and Michael Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, while the aspects of language used were phonological, syntactical and semantic. The results of the findings from the two texts were conflated and the summary is that children’s poetry dip amply into the phonology of the language in order to communicate the subject matter of the poems. Thus, sounds of the language play a very crucial role in children’s poetry. They contribute to the aesthetics and musicality of the poems. Also, the uniformity of the word arrangements in the lines of the poems enhances the free flow of the rhythm and the euphony of the lines, while end rhyme predominates other types of rhyme in the poems. The poetry contained more of descriptive and concrete words that appear specific and clearer to a child, which the child is well acquainted with. Complexity, however, is not the feature of the poetry. At the syntactical level, the study revealed that the poets employ, mostly, simple sentences in which the lines are mostly short and the patterning, similar. Consequently, there are syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships of grammatical items in the poems. In the case of clause structure sentences, fronting of adjuncts predominates. The poets front the message which they intend to lay more emphasises on. When it comes to semantics, children’s poets play with language as well. Different devices of language such as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, simile, euphemism, hyperbole etc are found in the poems. Thus, imagery is found to be an important feature of children’s poetry, which helps to awaken the child’s imaginative ability and to picture the idea the poet is trying to communicate.


Title page
Table of Contents

1.1       Background of the Study
1.1.0    Background of the Poets
1.1.1    Biography of Onuora Ossie Enekwe
1.1.2    Biography of Ikeogu Oke
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Purpose of the Study
1.4       Significance of the Study
1.5       Scope of the Study
1.6       Limitations to the Study

2.1       Conceptual Studies
2.1.1    Linguistics and Levels of its Analysis
2.1.2    The Beginning and Nature of Poetry
2.1.3    History of Children’s Literature
2.1.4    Relevance of Children’s Literature in Nigeria
2.1.5    Language and Literature
2.2       Empirical Studies
2.2.1    Literature Review on Onuora Ossie Enekwe’s Gentle Birds Come to me
2.2.2    Literature Review on Ikeogu Oke’s Song of Success and Other Poems for Children
2.3       Summary of Literature Review

3.1       Theoretical Framework
3.2       Research methodology
3.2.1    Data Collection
3.2.2    Method of Data Presentation and Analysis Phonological Features Syntactic Features Semantic Features

4.1       Phonological Analysis of the Poems
4.2       Syntactic Analysis of the Poems
4.3       Semantic Analysis of the Poems

5.1       Summary
5.2       Conclusion
5.3       Recommendations

6.0       Works Cited



1.1 Background of the Study

One striking characteristic of human beings is our ability to use language and to use it

creatively. The relevance of language to man is inestimable. It is a vital medium through which

human beings are able to communicate their desires, thoughts, and emotions. Therefore, it stands

as the only means through which people in a community, successfully, interact and disseminate

information. Ideas forming in human minds are generated in language and transmitted through

language in an organized pattern. It is in the light of this that Chomsky, quoted in Akmajian et

al., asserts that:

language is a mirror of mind in a deep and significant sense. It is a product of intelligence created anew in each individual by operations that lie far beyond the reach of will or consciousness (9).

Language is a mirror of mind in that it reflects what is in the mind. It is through language

that a person’s thought is laid bare. Akmajian et al., go further to state that the study of

language is ultimately the study of the human mind and that as we come to understand more

about human language, we will correspondingly understand more about the processes of

human thought and may as well discover abstract principles that govern its structure and use

which when put together helps to convey ones thoughts and feelings to others.

Similarly, Finch writing on the language as an instrument of thought contends that:

a common view of language is that it is merely a tool of thought, that we have ideas forming in our minds for which we need to find the appropriate words: the words are the ideas because our ideas are generated in language (34).
He goes further to state that “most people feel that they have not really understood something until they have been able to express it in language”. Language does not just express thought, it also creates it. Akwanya quoted in Nsolibe also gives the definition of language as:

a means of conveying information about social reality, about human nature, about the states of consciousness of the writer, and their personal visions of life or information about values and practices relevant for everyday life in a community (46).

These definitions of language, given by some scholars, centre on language as a means of conveying information about the contents of the mind. Thus, through language, the mind of a writer is x – rayed to the readers in an ordered and artistic form to communicate messages about the society in which we live and the nature of people that live in it.
Literary writing is an art that uses language as its basic tool to convey thoughts that already exist in human mind to society for the purpose of education, correction, pleasure, entertainment etc. In other words, it is through language that poets, authors and playwrights are able to communicate their thoughts meaningfully to their readers. Therefore, one has to understand the language use in a text in order to make meaning of what is read. Language and literary creation are inextricable. One hardly talks of understanding literary work without first understanding the language in which it is created. Thus, the raw material of literature is language, in other words, we can say that literature is language which comprises certain specialized forms, selection and collections of linguistic elements unto a point of convergence.

Literature as a creative art achieves its aims through the manipulative use of language. One may then ask: What is literature?

According to Onuigbo “Literature is apparently the mirror of the society with the reflections of the image of this society captured and given flesh through language”(41).....

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