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This study investigates the sociolinguistic profiling of the use of abusive language in Nigeria. Its primary focus is on the print media perspective. The main objective for embarking on this study is to explore the level of prominence in the use of abusive language in four different national daily newspapers namely: The Nation, Daily Sun, Daily Trust and Guardian Newspapers. The research design used in this study is content analysis. The population of the study consists of all online newspaper readers which is estimated at 864,000. This population was distributed among the selected newspapers in percentages and frequencies of readers. The theories used are ethnography of speaking ( Hymes 1972) and politeness theory known as Face Threatening Act’s of Brown and Levinson (1987). The method of data collection is primary source data collection based on issues sampled in online newspapers. The comments of some online readers of the newspapers mentioned above were gathered, and later grouped according to how related they were to the contexts, which are: corruption and insecurity in Nigeria. From the content analysis of the online readers’ comments, this study reveals that when most individuals are confronted by unfavorable and unpleasant situations, they resort to abusive language as an escape or reprisal routes. It is also observed that every utterance carries with it the potential positive or negative threat to the speaker’s /hearer’s face. Based on these findings, this study recommends that the media should be used as tools for educating readers on better ways of approaching issues of public interests and that it is better to make use of constructive criticisms aimed at correcting wrongs, rather than words that aim at destroying others’ reputation.


Title Page

1.0       Background to the study
1.1       Statement of the problem
1.2       Purpose of the Study
1.3       Research Questions
1.4       Significance of the study
1.5       Scope and Delimitation of the Study
1.6       Limitations of the Study

2.1       Theoretical Framework
2.1.1    Ethnography of communication
2.1.2    Politeness theory/Face threatening Act’s
2.2       Theoretical Studies
2.3       Empirical Studies
2.4       Conceptual Framework
2.4.1    The Concept of Speech Community: An Overview
2.4.2    Sociolinguistic Profiling: A Brief Definition
2.4.3    Abusive Language: A Definition
2.5       Summary of Literature Review

3.0       Introduction
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Population of the Study
3.3       Sampling and Sampling Techniques
3.4       Selection of Respondents
3.5.      Research Instrument
3.6.      Method of Data Collection
3.7       Procedure for Data Analysis

4.1       Data Presentation and Analysis
4.2       Discussions on the Findings
4.2.1    Research Question 1
4.2.2    Research Question 2
4.2.3    Research Question 3
4.2.4    Research Question 4
4.2.5    Research Question 5

5.1       Summary
5.2       Conclusion
5.3       Recommendations



1.0       Background to the study
The world cannot do without language because language is an indispensable tool through which human beings share their opinions and ideas. Language, as a tool of communication is used to convey intended meaning. According to Agbedo (2009), language is the pivot on which all human activities ranging from the most prosaic to the most profound revolve. It provides the unique medium through which the belief system, world view, moral values, and virtually all the basic ingredients of any given society, are passed on from generation to generation.

Amadi, Anyanwu and Izuagba (2001) describe language simply as a complex and arbitrary system of vocal sounds used by man for communication in a given community. Hence, De Saussure, in Hartzaler (1965) notes that communication is the essential thread that runs through all the activities of human beings. For him, language is a natural ability; it is common to every normal human being. In other words, all normal human beings are naturally disposed to the use of language for the purpose of communication.

In the light of the foregoing, language cannot be used in isolation. It is always within a community that language has meaning. Thus, language is affected by the norms and values of the members of the community where it is used.

This means, therefore, that the cultural background of a society determines how words are used in order not to deviate from the societal beliefs. What is permissible in a particular culture may not be permissible in another culture. Since language is very vital in communication in every society it is understandable that the duty of a sociolinguist include seeing how language is related to society, observing how language is specifically being used in particular contexts and thus contributing towards the improvement of the roles which language plays in their societies.

Sociolinguistics on the other hand, as defined by Hudson (1980), is the study of language in relation to society. What it really suggests is that sociolinguistics takes into account the social aspects of language as a means of human communication. This, according to Agbedo (2000) is in contradistinction to the asocial orientation of theoretical linguistics which seeks to explain and analyze only the structure that is to work out the rules operating in a language to the exclusion of the social contexts in which it is learned and used.

The role of sociolinguistics and sociolinguists therefore requires a consistence analysis of the use of language to ensure that this tool which is meant for positive communication of meanings and ideas is not used as a tool for abusing others’ when the latter is the situation, one talk about abusive language.

According to Shawn (2011) human beings in every culture make use of profanity when they get upset. Fellow (2004) is of the view that people use abusive languages when they are angry, while Ruchira (2004) notes that people use abuse languages to get noticed, because if bad language is not used, no one will know that one is angry over something. Nemaniaboskov (2010) reports that abusive language and swearing is basically used when people have nothing better to say, when their mind lack the right disposition to unfavourable conditions people will often automatically jump to abusive language and swearing so as to fill the void. Thus, language used in public life is seen as a frequent target for ridicule, whether by parliamentary sketch writers making fun of minister’s speeches or in fictional works such as the television Yes minister.

Yet, the content of the language used by government and public bodies is important. It directly affects people’s lives. Language is used by those in government and those who want to be in government to explain clearly what the basis for a policy is, or to provide guidance on getting access to the range of public services. Language, therefore, determines how politicians and public servants relate to the people they are serving

In Nigeria, the use of abusive language in daily news is more on two basic issues- viz the menace of corruption, and insecurity which have bedeviled the country for a long time. People often use a tirade of abusive words to register their disgust. Even President Goodluck Jonathan is not exempted from abuse.

The Guardian Newspaper of 28th August, 2012 carried a story that affirms the president as the most abused president. This indicates that the people’s reaction to the problem.....

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