Open Access Peer-reviewed Research Article

A pragmalinguistic analysis of Im/Politeness in selected Nigerian Open Letters

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Rasaq Atanda Ajadi corresponding author
Faosat Biola Olagunju


This study examines the pragmatic and linguistic aspects of politeness and impoliteness in Nigerian open letters. Its objectives are to: examine how linguistic choices indicate [im]politeness and investigate how common ground influences the expression of im/politeness in the selected open letters. The study employed the qualitative research method while it deployed the purposive sampling technique to select three open letters written to two sitting presidents in the Fourth Republic between 1999 and 2015. The letters are Wole Soyinka’s ‘You're Rambo on the loose’, Umar Abubakar Dangiwa’s ‘The Devil Is It’ and Olusegun Obasanjo’s Before it is Too Late’. The recipients of the letters were Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Only the letters that centred on political matters and the state of the nation were considered in this study. The study uses the pragmalinguistic framework of Geoffrey Leech (2014) to analyse how im/politeness is grammticalised in the selected open letters. The analysis showed that iterative lexemes such as ‘never’, more, many and routine iterative lexemes are deployed to activate face threatening acts to attack the recipient’s face. From the analysis, it was revealed that the use of the iterative verb ‘repeat’ presupposes the writers’ misalignments with the recipient’s allegation of breaching the maxim of quality, i.e., fabricating lies; the adverb ‘more’ reveals a determination to debunk the allegation of mediocrity, etc. The study concludes that the open letters grammaticalise im/politeness in such a way that an understanding of the political narrative background prompting the writing of the letters is indispensable.

open letter, pragmalinguistics, IM/Politeness, iterative, ironic principle

Article Details

Author Biography

Faosat Biola Olagunju, Department of Languages (English Unit), Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Nigeria

Olagunju, F. B. is a lecturer in the English Unit of the Department of Language, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Currently, she is on her Ph.D. at the University of Ilorin. She is interested in Pragmatics and Critical Discourse Analysis.

How to Cite
Ajadi, R. A., & Olagunju, F. (2024). A pragmalinguistic analysis of Im/Politeness in selected Nigerian Open Letters. International Journal of Arts and Humanities, 5(1), 203-215.


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