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A Lexical Pragmatic Analysis Of Proverbs In Femi Osofisan’s Midnight Hotel.

1561 words - 7 pages

1.3 SOCIO-POLITICAL ANOMALY
Alatise’s misfortune at the poll is reflected in the proverb:
(vi) It is when the wind blows that you see the anus of a fowl. (28)
Alatise is a headmaster cum politician. This suggests that he must have leaving comfortably before venturing into politics. In the above proverb, the constituents which deserves meaning modulation are: wind, anus, and fowl.
wind = movement of air across the Earth’s surface (literal meaning)
wind* = times of challenges (expanded meaning)
wind** = the Nigerian election (contextual meaning)
anus = the opening a t the end of the alimentary canal, through which feaces are expelled from the body (literal meaning)
anus* = the secretive part of humans (expanded meaning)
anus** = Alatise’s sudden wretchedness (contextual meaning)
fowl = a chicken (literal meaning)
fowl* = the oppressors in the society (expanded meaning)
fowl** = Alatise’s former status, politicians (contextual meaning)
The above semantic modifications show that election in Nigeria is a very sensitive aspect of the politicans’ career. This is because it can make or mar them. Having this in mind, it implies that the Nigerian politicians can go to any length to avoid losing at the poll, so as not to find themselves in Alatise’s humiliating position. Thus through the above proverb, Osofisan frowns at the do-or-die nature of elections in Nigeria.
Alatise finally encounters Bicycle whom he initially mistakes for the receptionist. He engages Bicycle on an irrelevant account of his defeat at the poll. He asks if the poor boy is aware of his electoral escapades, and Bicycle replies ‘no’. This amuses him, hence the proverb:
(vii) A dog may be well fed on rice and garri, eti ro-o! but bones are still its favourite food. (29)
The lexical constituents- dog, rice and garri, and bones are ad hoc constructions. The reader has to negotiate their meanings around the literal to the modulated meaning in order to arrive at the contextual meaning, thus:
dog = a four legged animal (literal meaning)
dog* = a mentally retarded yes-man (expanded meaning)
dog** = Bicycle (contextual meaning 1)
dog*** = the poor unimformed rural masses (contextual meaning 2)
dog** refers to the context of the play, while dog*** refers to the Nigerian context.
rice and beans = food for humans (literal meaning)
rice and beans* = education/information (contextual meaning)
The reader is able to modulate the above constituent because he knows that Osofisan is not referring to the physical food.
bone = food meant for animals (literal meaning)
bone* = illiteracy; ignorance (contextual meaning)
The reader is also able to arrive at bones* because he knows that Osofisan does not refer to Bicycle as a cannibal. Moreover, no literal animal has been mentioned in the context. Thus, with the help of lexical pragmatics the reader infers that the playwright juxtaposes these constituents to register his displeasure with the oppressed who have refused to get themselves informed, and...

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