This work examines the politeness features in selected Nigerian newspaper editorials— The Daily Sun, The Nation, and ThisDay newspapers. The study assesses how the various politeness maxims are exploited and violated in the selected editorials. The researcher adopted Geoffrey Leech’s Politeness Principle (1983) model for the study. A text-based descriptive methodology was used to analyze the twelve editorials purposively selected from the three national newspapers, which formed the data for the study. The issues on the selected editorials border basically on politics, democracy, and other national issues in relation to 2015 general elections.
Drawing examples from language use in the editorials, the findings reveal that the editors’ language use violated the politeness maxims such as the approbation maxim, tact maxim, agreement maxim, modesty maxim, and Pollyanna or consideration maxim, although there are instances where the editors’ utterances obeyed the politeness maxims. The study concludes that there were more violations of the maxims than their exploitation; hence, there is a great world of difference between the exploitation and violation of the identified maxims as the language use in the editorials deviated from the principles of politeness maxims. This is consequent upon the editors’ bid to report events the way they are. In the light of the foregoing, the study, therefore, recommends that language users and editorial writers should be encouraged to learn, imbibe, and incorporate polite expressions in disseminating information to society. By so doing, they will be able to uphold the maxims of politeness appropriately, irrespective of the situations confronting them.


Title page
Table of Contents

1.1       Background to the Study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Objectives of the Study
1.4       Research Questions
1.5       Relevance of the Study
1.6       Scope of the Study

2.1       Literature Review
2.2       Summary of Literature Review

3.1       Theoretical Framework
3.2       Research Methodology
3.2.1    Sources of Data
3.2.2    Data Collection
3.2.3    Method of Data Analysis

Section A: Exploitation of the Maxims
4.1       Exploitation of the Approbation Maxim
4.2       Exploitation of Pollyanna Principle or Consideration Maxim
4.3       Exploitation of the Tact Maxim
4.4       Exploitation of the Agreement Maxim
4.5       Exploitation of the Modesty Maxim
            Section B: Violation of the Maxims
4.6       Violation of the Approbation Maxim
4.7       Violation of the Pollyanna or Consideration Maxim
4.8       Violation of the Agreement Maxim
4.9       Violation of the Modesty Maxim
4.10     Violation of the Tact Maxim
4.11     Honorifics

5:1 Summary of Findings
5:2 Conclusion
5:3 Suggestions
Works Cited


1.1       Background to the Study

Whether at creation or during evolution, language has been associated with human beings. It is undoubtedly one of the human traits; and its dynamism as an instrument of communication among human beings cannot be over-emphasized. The creativity of language makes it possible to have novel words and structures. Its being species-specific gives humans the exclusive right to use it according to their wishes. Language as a human phenomenon makes communication possible within the context of social activities like journalism, law, advertising et cetera. A lot of differences exist in the language use of these varieties, though they are all variants of the same language. Each variety is distinct based on the social activities and context of use. In every information flow, language plays a vital role. Information is transmitted by Nigerian print-media chiefly by means of the English language. Although the print-media deals with divergent issues, one of their main tasks under a democratic rule is to ‘monitor the political life of the people and draw the attention of the public through effective use of language on how politicians are fulfilling their responsibilities to the [sic] society’ (Duyile Dayo 110). The public, therefore, need to be kept abreast with events and happenings within and outside their immediate environments.

An editorial is a corporate voice or position of a media organization on any given issue of public interest. The editorial is associated with the leader. Duyile reports that an editorial is the opinion of the newspaper simply written for the understanding of readers in order to guide them in taking decisions on the issues being discussed (120). Moreover, Duyile defines an editorial as ‘a comment or an argument for supporting the information such as a particular policy, an action, or an idea’ (122). It may refer to an argument in a newspaper used to show the logical reasoning with the purpose of persuading the readers to oppose or support an idea, policy or an action based on facts available. Stella Okunna considers an editorial as a ‘critical interpretation or an evaluation of significant issues, usually contemporary events in such a way as to inform, educate, influence and entertain the reader’ (221). Kulmar Bhatia points out that views and opinions of a newspaper are presented in the editorial page; accordingly, the newspaper’s analysis, discussion, opinion or verdict on the issues of the day are commonly considered as the editorial (l13). As a newspaper’s contribution to communication process, it can comment in support of a particular policy or argue against an idea, policy or an action based on the available facts. To the researcher, an editorial is an opinion piece, a critical evaluation, interpretation and analysis of issues, mostly topical issues by a newspaper. Readers turn to editorial (pages) to see the opinion of a newspaper on an issue, either to get information or guidance on the issue. Research indicates that ‘readership of editorials or search for editorial comments on burning issues are highest during the period of election, crisis, and other important developments in the nation’ (Micheal Ukonu 15). Editorials cannot be written in a vacuum; there must be probing issues of public significance and such issues must be intimated to the target audience.

Therefore, the editorial writers, whether analyzing, criticizing, attacking, providing information or reporting news, find themselves communicating with different classes of individuals in society, who can read but may or may not understand properly the language being used. This is because language is so subtle that news-writers’ or editors’ language use can be misconstrued, or can confuse and/or confound the readers. It is expected that the purpose of news writing is to convey news to the public (readers) in a vivid and explicit style and not to confuse or confound them. Therefore, there is the need for a balanced interpretation and understanding of the language use of editorial writers since the relevance of communication can only be achieved or appreciated when the transfer of meaning from one human mind to another is understood (William O’Grady 11). To this end, it is worth to note that the ability to interpret the intention of the speaker’s message or understand the underlying meaning of an individual’s language use or utterance lies within the ambit of pragmatics....

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