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A Pragmatic Study Of Domestic Violence Stories In Selected Nigerian Newspapers During The Covid 19 Pandemic




As the world battled with the Covid’19 pandemic, there were reported evidence of sharp rise in domestic violence during lockdown and these had life threatening consequences for both women and men. However, the problem of domestic violence was not only affected by the presence of the man, the woman and children, but also by the ever-encroaching presence of the extended family members and the whole community at large. This had affected people in different ways: socially, linguistically and culturally. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the reporting of domestic violence stories in Nigerian Newspapers. The focus is on the pragmatic dimension of the stories. Austin’s Speech Acts theory and the Grice’s principles were used as the theoretical framework. For natural and authentic research, different short stories of domestic violence from Nigerian daily media prints were studied and analyzed. The data comprised newspapers stories and extracts isolated for analysis at the level of pragmatics. In all, fifteen domestic violence stories were purposively selected from Nigerian Guardian and Nation newspapers and were analyzed using qualitative design method. Findings from the study showed that the application of pragmatic analysis in studying language use in the context of domestic violence has revealed that there are various intricate dynamics that need to be understood and addressed for proper understanding of the issues in the context of Nigerian society. The study further revealed that linguistic behaviors should not be overlooked through pragmatic analysis, there is a deeper understanding of how language is used to manipulate, control and silence victims of domestic violence and showed that the examination of linguistic features such as implicature, inference, politeness, speech act and presupposition provides insights into how abusers use language to perpetrate violence and how victims use language to resist, conceal, or seek help. In addition, more findings showed that, pragmatic approaches make contributions to knowledge; they are indispensable as a functional and sociolinguistic element in the analysis of newspaper media in Nigeria. That also, it is imperative that Pragmatic approaches make contributions to knowledge; they are indispensable as functional and sociolinguistic elements in the analysis of newspaper media in Nigeria. This study recommended that, there should be more insight into the language and communication strategies used by journalists in addressing the issue of domestic violence context in Nigerian society. The study further recommended that, there should be a great significance and influence to linguists in the area of functional linguistic and pragmatic, to the lecturers and students in English language. School administrators and stakeholders in education. The study concluded that, the application of pragmatic analysis in the study of language use in context of domestic violence indicted that various intricate dynamic need to be addressed for proper understanding of the issues in context of Nigerian society. In addition, the study concluded that, with the use of pragmatic in analysis, there is a deeper understanding of how language is used to manipulate, control and silence victims of domestic violence and showed that the examination of linguistic features such as implicature, inference, politeness, speech act and presupposition provides insights into how abusers use language to perpetrate violence and how victims use language to resist, conceal, or seek help. This study finally concluded that pragmatic approaches make contributions to knowledge; they are indispensable as a functional and sociolinguistic element in the analysis of newspaper media in Nigeria.

Keywords: Pragmatics, Domestic Violence Stories, Nigerian Newspapers, Systemic Functional Linguistics.


1.1  Background to the Study


Before the advent of Covid-19, women and children all over the world were increasingly facing many harmful traditional practices, which, in one way or the other affected their overall wellbeing, especially their sexual and reproductive health. These abusive and harmful practices are perpetuated mostly by men, religion and culture. In all parts of the world, women and girls suffer a great deal from domestic violence, which are culture bound. The present situation of domestic violence in Nigeria presents itself as roughly a diglossic situation, or one in which partners in a measure use physical, sexual or psychological violence to try to get power or control over the other. Muhammad (2015) gives more emphases on domestic violence as an act on a relationship or marriage in which partners use physical, sexual or psychological violence to try to get power or control over the other or due to losing their temper. This implication is that, it mostly occurs in heterosexual and same sex relationships in all aspects of African communities or countries like Nigerian. This has caused cultural, social and linguistic effect on people both men, women, children and the society.

However, research has shown that domestic violence and relationship are an intensively and dynamic event in which power is not only affected by the presence of the man, the woman and children, but also by the ever-encroaching presence of the extended family members and the whole community at large. Violence actions of the 1960s started during the Colonial era and continued after post-Colonial era. Then, there were no safe places in Nigeria; the violence extended into houses, neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and markets. This affected people in


different ways – socially, linguistically and culturally. However, (Austin (1962) developed comprehensive remedial approaches to salvage communication breakdown in his book entitled, ‘’How to Do Things with Word’’ is functional approach to speech act language as a model of actions. Austin explains what happens as a result of using language intentionally or unintentionally as a ‘’ communicative journey of consequence. He contends that there is a human communication, perlocutionary act which concerns ‘’uptake’’ ‘’perlocutionary object’’ ‘’sequel’’ and ‘’response’’.

Note that, domestic violence can be caused out of consequences or as a misunderstanding in interactional or conversational acts, in a situation. However, based on the African or traditional culture, religion, and societal belief, a woman is always submissive being under the man. The man will be in a higher control, authority and dominant over the woman, this makes them relatively unaffected by their relationship as they walk side by side without affecting each other, though the woman suffers the pains without complain. This has been seen as a serious problem that challenges the society at every level, and it has two sides effects. Hornby (2015: 1148) opined that violent behavior is an intended act to hurt or kill somebody, that it could be crimes, acts and threats. Hornby concluded that domestic violence is concerned with the physical and emotional act, which affects the people’s life in any society, or has to do with violence between members of the same family. It could be between husband and wife or the children (Hornby 2015: 433).

Studies such as that of Levinsion (1983), Leech (1883) and Peter (2000) have shown that the speech act theory arose as a challenge a restrictive view of a Philosophical doctrine called logical positivism that centered on the truth conditional analysis of sentence meaning. For logical

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positivists, a sentence is only meaningful when it can be verified as being either true or false. As contained in Austin (1962).

Technically speaking, the divergent perceptions of language and pragmatics should be encouraged in various attempts on definitions of the subjects or domestic violence. However, many Linguists have carried out researches on pragmatics but this study discovered that only little researches have been done relating to Covid’19 pandemic domestic violence stories on how the media on how journalists use words in their discourse narrations in newspaper prints during the Covid’19 pandemics in Nigeria.

In linguistic, Language accounts for the attitudes towards and belief about all the domains in our society, which are governed by specific norms, rules and conventions by which they all abide. Language is used to reveal, manipulate, influence, and establish the means, forms, functions and motives of the construction of texts and genres within their dependent contexts, to raise language users’ awareness of the interaction of power, desire for power, and the use of language to achieve personal, institutional, commercial or political aims. De Saussure (1916) on his description of language pointed out that, Language is an important tool for social behavior and the relationship between language and social events influence social behavior and could be how cultural contacts influence language and state the relationship between language and power. The world is an interactional space, this interaction is necessary for progress and human thriving. Besides interpersonal interaction involving individuals, cultures also interact. When two people or culture interact, we say that there is social communication. While, the early linguists as well tried to shape pragmatics and set standards for it, According to Yule (2006: pp. 118), pragmatics is not everything is expressed explicitly; during the communication we often must ‘read between the lines’. Politeness is a good example. The direct command Close the window! Can be replaced by Oh, it is


so cold here, don’t you think? This is an indirect expression and still it is obvious that the other person is supposed to close the window. Such an expression is linguistically called ‘indirect speech act’, which means that the syntactic structure does not directly correspond to the function of the sentence.

Haugh (2014) noted that an implicature is commonly conceptualized in pragmatics as a form of speaker-intended meaning that arises in a principled way from the cooperative principle and conversational maxims through feasible inferences. With the above, it is clear that conversational implicature refers to the covert and indirectly expressed meaning that is passed across to one’s interlocutors in a communicative encounter by intentionally not obeying the cooperative principles. Here, the speaker might not have obeyed the cooperative principles, but the listener or the interlocutor assumes that the speaker’s contribution is truthful, informative, relevant and clear.

Cudden (1999) on the other hand, sees pragmatics as a learned discussion, either spoken or written, on a philosophical, political, literary or religious topic. He contends that in modern linguistics, discourse denotes a ‘stretch of language’ larger than a sentence. The term, has acquired much wider meanings and implications that are basically understood as an utterance and involves subjects who speak and write, which presupposes that there are listeners and readers who, in a sense, are ‘objects’. The order and goals of pragmatics are important in language analysis. Pragmatics seeks to explain how utterances convey meaning in context, how meaning is decoded from utterances in context and particular situation, how speakers and hearers perceive utterances as conveying the intended meaning in a particular context and how speakers can say one thing and mean something else Osinanwo (2003:57).

In Nigerian cultures, which are inimical to women’s, wellbeing, domestic violence include wife beating, female circumcision, child marriage, widowhood practices, son preference,


rape, sexual assault and cultural taboos (Kalu 2020: p.20) Eghafona and Oluwabamide (2003: p.245). In addition, Mary (2001: p.4) also maintained that the women are subjected to violent practices right from childhood, the girl is regarded as a bad investment and less emphasis and attention is placed on her education and health. Sometimes she may be married off at an early age without her consent. Consequently, she faces the risk of female genital mutilation, wife assault and beating, widowhood practices, witchcraft accusations, divorce, forced sexual relationship and stereotype.

Olubukola (2021:8) also, reported on the cases of domestic violence victims that the lockdown directive came as a huge paradox, as their choices of being safe are electing between the dangerous virus outside and the dangerous spouse inside the home. Therefore, coupled with the issues of isolation and fear of the virus, a violent abuser’s trigger will be escalated during the isolation, as he/she will be faced with the ripple effects of depression, financial uncertainty, boredom, lack of control, all of which, may lead to increase or aggravated occurrences of domestic abuse. Some scholarly research work here proved that in all parts of the world, women and girls suffer a great deal from domestic violence, which are culture bound especially during Covid’19 Pandemic lockdown.

A Pandemic is a disease that spreads over a whole country or the whole world (Hornby, 2015: 1061), while Covid’19 is a deadly coronavirus that emanated from Wuhan in china. It is a pandemic disease that attacks the respiratory track and it spreads through contact with an infected person through body fluid. The Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) was publicly announced a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30th January, 2020, and a pandemic on the 11th of March, 2020. Since its onset in December 2019, more than 50, 414, 235 people have been infected across the globe and more


than 1, 255, 831 people have died, of which about 0.1 90 of deaths occurred in Nigeria as of 10th November, 2020 (Ilesanmi et al 2020). From the above observation, this study is in support of the position of Ilesanmi (2020) which believes that to mitigate further transmission of Covid’19 in Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the presidential Task Force on Covid’19, should declare a nationwide lockdown. With the closure of schools, places of worship, markets, government and private establishments, land, sea and air borders, necessitating everyone to stay at home by limiting human contract, and allowing time to implement effective control measures.

According to some Nigerian dailies: Guardian, Sun, Nation, Punch and Vanguard newspapers, a directive to stay at home was issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly corona virus (Covid’19) in the country. The effort by the FGN to save lives during this pandemic inadvertently put some vulnerable group at risk (victim of domestic violence living with their abusers). Consequently, statistics have shown that reports of domestic abuse increased during the Covid’19 lockdown period. Victims are now on a full time basis stuck in the same house and home with their abusers. The directive has taken away respite in the form of office, church, market or family visits to escape for a while and avoid the abuser. The circumstance is worse for victims of domestic abuse, living in isolation with an abusive husband, wife, parents or friends. Imagine living in fear of the person who shares your home and every day is a nightmare of criticism, name-calling, and control, emotional and physical violence while the world is struggling with an ongoing pandemic. Thus, for those already in unsafe situations under the shadow of domestic violence, isolation could be fatal. Victims, mainly women and children who live with domestic violence might not have an escape from their abusers during this Pandemic period (Daily Sun, 2020: p.40; The Nation, 2020: p.45; Guardian, 2020: p.45 and The Punch, 2020: p.46).

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In another related development, reports on domestic violence have escalated during this Pandemic and calls for self-isolation. Experience from other countries like China shows a corresponding rise in the number of women reporting increased incidents from the economic impact of the lockdown such as reduced income and financial difficulties, which are contributory to the violence. In India, the child line India helpline received more than 92,000 calls between 20th March 2020 and 31st March 2020, the start of India’s lockdown asking for protection from abuse and violence (Olubukola 2021). The Gender and Covid’19 working Group which is a network of interdisciplinary stakeholders interested in advancing research and practice related to Covid-19 in its report on Pandemic and Violence against women and Children in Australia stated that 400 frontline workers reported 40 percent increase in calls help. In the United Kingdom, Edinburgh live news on 6th of April, 2020 reported that Refuge, a charity concerned with domestic violence have recorded 25% increase on its National Domestic Abuse helpline since the restrictions began, a few days, later Refuge reported a 700 percent increase in calls in a single day (Olubukola, 2021: p.10)

Roseline (2020: p.20) in Georgia State in the Unites State of American hospital noted that there is a 15% increase of domestic violence cases in their facilities, local media and hospitals. Ogunlayo (2020: p.51) also stated that, in Lagos State, the Coordinator of the Lagos state Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team revealed that the state had reported and recorded an increase in cases of abuse since the lockdown started. According to her, before the outbreak of Covid’19, the state recorded an average of eight cases daily, which has increased to about 50 percent, and this has made the state to introduce more helpline and advantage on technology to assist victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence during the lockdown.


Women and men have experienced gender-based violence; the majority of victims are women and girls. In this view, the United Nations has recently raised an alarm regarding the increase in reported cases of domestic and gender-based violence directly attributed to forced proximity occasioned by lockdowns. Even before Covid’19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12months, their partner has intimidated 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world (Phumzile 2020: p.50)

As the Covid’19 Pandemic continuous, this number is likely to grow with multiple impacts on women’s wellbeing, their sexual and reproductive health, their mental health, and their ability to participate and lead in the recovery of our faulty society and economy. A study Commissioned by Nigeria’s ministry of women affairs and social development and the United Nations. Population Fund (UNPFA) Nigeria with support from the Norwegian Government found that 28 percent of Nigerian women aged 25-29 have experienced some form of physical violence since age 15. The study also reported that 15 percent of women experienced physical violence within 12months, while 25 percent of married women or those living with their spouses have experienced violence. However, the most common acts of violence against women in Nigeria include sexual harassment, physical violence, harmful traditional practices, emotional and psychological violence, socio-economic violence and violence against non-combatant women in conflict situations (Afalabi, 2020, Premium Times, 2020: p.30).

Based on this, the study addresses issues concerning linguistics. Gender-based violence is not only contemporary but also global. In view of this, Nigerian daily newspapers particularly the Guardian, Nation, Sun. Vanguard and Punch were not left out in this call for change. There is tension as some negative gender based-violence and practices are spotted as traumatizing gender relations. The attempt by women to agitate for a change has given birth to organizations, groups


and movement especially feminism. Women have devised so many avenues to bring their pitiable condition to limelight and today there is committed effort to bringing all traditional harmful practices against women in society to an end or be reduced to a minimum level (Agee, 2000: 25).

In response to the plight of women and girls globally especially during Covid’19 lockdowns, so many measures have been put forward to curb the impact of domestic violence before, during and after Covid’19. To mitigate the effort of domestic violence, the society or community sees violence against women as encompassing thus: as a physical, sexual and psychological Violence, occurring in the families. They include battering, sexual abuse of female Children in the household, dowry-related Violence, marital rape, female genital Mutilation and other traditional Practices harmful to women, none Spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; physical sexual and Psychological violence occurring within the general community (Eme, 2005)

From the foregoing, it is clear that the effects of domestic violence against women during Covid’19 lockdowns were a reality and the need of the moment is how to reduce all forms of domestic’s violence against women both at home and in work places. With the Covid’19 pandemic serving to highlight the depth of the problem, amid alarming increases in violence against women, Federal, State, Local government and women’s civil society organization have made important strides to address gender-based domestics violence against women before and during the Covid’19 lockdowns.

There is a need to address the issues concerning reports of domestic violence in Nigeria by looking at the linguistics/pragmatics analysis of selected Nigerian Newspaper prints/reports in Nigeria. In view of this, the research is limited on few selected Nigerian Newspaper media prints


from the Guardian and Nation dailies particularly during Covid’19 period of lockdown. In this research, there is also a need to address the Journalists/reporters use of words on domestic violence cases daily, the pragmatics use of words for reporting cultures are inimical to women and other aspects which would be identified, the subjection of women and girls to domestic violence and other harmful traditional practices there is legendary to Nigerians. Here, the study pragmatically analyzed how reports on domestic violence have become a long time issue to the community for both man, woman and children right from childhood. These inhuman, discriminatory and sometimes dangerous practices span the female life cycle ranging from childhood, adolescence stage, and marriage and to old age unabated. Based on this, the research would focus on linguistic Pragmatic analysis of domestic violence stories discourse in selected Nigerian Newspaper Journalism reports during Cocid’19 Pandemic lockdown period in Nigeria.

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1.2  Statement of the Problem


As the world battles with the Covid’19 pandemics, emerging evidence indicates a sharp rise in gender-based violence, especially, reported cases of violence against women and girls during the lockdown. The rising reports of domestic violence in Nigeria during the Covid’19 crisis have life threatening consequences for women and girls and a life trajectory. These impacts have had ripple effects across communities and the whole country. Nigeria has begun to recover from the detrimental economic and health impacts of the Crisis.

In recent times, a lot of research work has been carried out on gender-based violence issues in various aspects as a matter of important discussion in order to eradicate or put a stop on domestic violence across all Nation. Globally, some cultural restrictions keep women in perpetual suffering and debased states. Consequently, victims of these incidents face additional


challenges with the lack of structural social service systems in place in Nigeria. The lockdown itself has become the trigger of domestic violence having seen the statistics of the Covid’19 spread across the world.

Sutherland (2015) revealed that little is known about the structures of the materials in the media and what the structure has to do with acceptance or rejection of information. The structure of the materials that can explain how and why readers of materials are influenced by what they see read or hear in the media. Media influences on its audience belief system of how and why (Sutherland et al, Easteal, Holland, and Jude 2015) argued that unquestionably, the way information is structured can increase public understanding of violence against women and, more importantly, challenges its place in society.

Egen et al. (2020) looked at sexual violence narratives in traditional print media (newspapers) and the characteristics of sexual violence articles in national and regional traditional media outlets, by region, in the United States between 2014 and 2017. A higher percentage of articles in the United States national outlets than in the regional outlets used sex scandals and included calls for prevention in their reports. Smith, Ajayi, and Smith (2021) recently reported a content analysis of Nigerian Newspaper reports (on a total of 478 rape cases) that were published between January and September 2020 with a record spike of 130 reported cases in June. Based on the previous study, insufficient attention has been paid to linguistic pragmatics analysis of domestic violence stories discourse. How this may be realized spurred the researcher’s interest in embarking on this investigation to ascertain the linguistics pragmatics characteristics or features, functions and meanings of language used in social context, particularly of selected Nigerian newspaper report on domestic violence stories during the Covid’19 Pandemic lockdown period. In this regard, the study seeks to examine the use of


language by Journalists in reporting the cases of domestic violence stories in the media the Covd’19 pandemic 2020 in Nigeria.

1.3          Aims and Objectives

The general objective to this study is to examine the domestic violence stories in selected Nigerian newspapers during the Covd’19 Pandemic lockdown period through linguistic a pragmatics study. To this end, the study specifically seeks to:

  1. Find out how language is used in context and how Nigerian media print use language to report domestic violence stories during Covid’19 lockdown.
  2. Ascertain whether the selected newspapers give prominence to the pragmatic use of language in reporting domestic violence stories before and during Covid’19 lockdown in Nigeria.
  • To identify the characteristics of linguistic features used to report domestic violence stories in the newspapers stories analyzed.
  1. Ascertain how the context meaning is communicated and interpreted by the writer to the reader.

The outcome of this research will demystify and streamline some unknown facts regarding pragmatics in a written text in a social context by identifying the various meanings either the literary, the assumption, the intentional or the additional meanings attached to text or oral conversation in different events.

1.5  Scope and Delimitation of the Study


This study focuses on analyzing the pragmatic use of language in reporting domestic violence stories in selected Nigerian newspapers during the Covid‘19 pandemics in Nigeria. It also


describes the various characteristics or features, functions and meanings of language in social context communication and interaction of pragmatics in domestic violence discourse. The dates are taken from two Nigerian newspapers; Guardian, Nation.

1.6  Research Questions


The following research questions were raised in the study and shall act as a guide to the research.

  1. How does the language use in social context used in reporting domestic violence stories on Nigerian media print during Covid’19 lockdown?
  2. Would the selected newspapers give the prominence pragmatic use of language in reported domestic violence stories before and during Covid’19 lockdown in Nigeria?
  • What are the characteristics and features of linguistic used to report domestic violence stories in the newspapers stories analyzed?
  1. How does the language use in context communicate and interpret meaning from the writer to the reader?

1.7  Significance of the Study


The findings of the study will be of benefit to linguists in the area of Functional linguistics and pragmatics, lecturers in English Language, school administrators and stakeholders in education. The literature of the study will serve as guide to lecturers in English Language on how to instill pragmatic analysis principles on students.

The critical pragmatic analysis of domestic violence of this study on media print stories will provide insights into the analysis of the use of language in social context and prominence to the pragmatic use of language in report.


The critical study of language use in domestic violence reports in this study can help to provide a deeper understanding of the language in context on Nigerian media prints.

The critical analysis of this study can help to reveal how pragmatic is used to manipulate meaning in a social context, the techniques and linguistic strategies employed by the Journalists to help the linguists and readers have more understanding of the context in use.

This study will advance scholarship on academic pragmatics analysis as the concrete application of critical discourse analysis techniques that can provide a resource for scholarship and researchers in linguistic, pragmatics and related fields.

The analysis of this will not only contribute to academic scholarship but also has the potential to effect positive change in Sociolinguistics, landscape of Nigeria and beyond.

Pages:  200

Category: Dissertation

Format:  Word & PDF               

Chapters: 1-5                                          

Source: Imsuinfo                            

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.


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