Sociolinguistic Profiling of the Use of Abusive Language in Nigeria: A Print Media Perspective


 – Sociolinguistic Profiling of the Use of Abusive Language in Nigeria: A Print Media Perspective –

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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.


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.


Agbedo, C.U. (2003). General linguistics: An introductory reader. Nsukka: ACE Resource Konsult.

Agbedo, C.U. (2009). Language and mind: New direction in psycholinguistics. Nsukka: ACE Resources Konsult.

Agbedo, C.U. (2007). Functionalist approach to language teaching: The role of sociolinguistics. In B.N. Anasiudu, G.I. Nwaozuzu & C.N.Okebalama. (Eds). Language and Literature in a Developing Country (pp. 341-351).Onitsha: Africana Publishers.

Amadi, R. Anyanwu, S. & Izuagba, A. (2001). Language Education: Issues and insights.Owerri: Barlos Publishers Limited.

Ambuyo, Indede & Karanja (2011). Face threatening acts and standing orders: “politeness” or “politics” in the question time discussion of the Kenya Parliament. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science vol. 1 No. 9 (Special issue- July 2011)

Anagbogu, P.N., Mbah, B.M. & Eme, C.A. (2010). Introduction to linguistics. Awka: Amaka Dreams.

CSN Team.


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