My Ssec Capstone Project CHAPTER ONE 1


1.0 Introduction

This research, Language and Communication Strategies in Non-Native English Social Media Interactions, is an investigation of signification strategies in non-native English textual engagements on social media. Specifically, the research explores how meaning is contrived and negotiated by non-native English users on social media platforms, by analysing their written forms of communication. Focusing on the interactions of Nigerians and Indians on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms, this research explains how non-native English users exploit resources informed by new media technologies as meaning constructs to compensate for not only gaps in their written interpersonal and communicative engagements but also to facilitate them. Essentially, the analysis of non-native English strategic deployments on social media is undertaken following the eclectic theoretical principles of Semiotics as enunciated by Charles Sanders Peirce and Roland Barthes; Speech Acts by John Austin and John Searle and Pragmatics by Paul Grice.

The impetus for this research stems from the popularity of the Internet, a mainstream technology that has created new vents and possibilities for meaningful social interactions, with overly perceptible impacts on the dynamics of human communication, especially the written medium. Indeed, the Internet has developed into an effective global communication tool and a vehicle for the actualisation and re-definition of diverse objectives. Its ‘accommodating’ nature affords users of its available interactive outlets the leverage to superimpose vestiges of disparate experiences on any chosen medium of interaction, through the adoption of different strategies. These strategies are accounted for by a systematic construal of the linguistic and non-linguistic interweaving within the communicative events. Actually, the strategies adopted in meaning generation and negotiations by non-native users of English are perceived as rigorous efforts at overcoming the difficulties that pervade the human communication process. Therefore, the underlying assumption of this research is that language users sometimes ‘struggle’ in their bid to communicate meaning effectively, taking into cognizance the limited available linguistic resources at their disposal. However, the situation often appears to be more complicated for non-native users. Acquiescing to this obvious complication, Savignon (1983: 43) argues that because they{non-native users} lack the basic grammar and vocabulary in the target language, their communicative success relies entirely on their ‘ability to communicate within restrictions, using strategies’.

This research effort, therefore, explains linguistic and non-linguistic applications in the generation and negotiation of meaning in non-native English textual interactions as deliberate and creative strategic meaning efforts produced against the backdrop of resources’ limitedness and variegated communicative intentionality. Ultimately, these considerations help the strategies to mutate into a number of systematic language phenomena whose main function is to facilitate communicative efficiency (Dornyei and Scott, 1997:174). The focus of this research is to explain how the two metaphorical faces of language – structure and function- have been integrated into the written interactions of non-native English users and how these influence meaning configuration triggered by the strategies of communication. With particular reference to the communicative affordances and strategies adopted on social media, the thesis of this research is that non-native English written expressive possibilities are actualised in strategic usages.

1.1 Background to the Study
Investigations by language and communication studies’ scholars (Locher, M, A. and B. Bolander, 2015; Androutsopoulos, 2013; Herring, S.C., S. Dieter and V. Tuija 2013; Thurlow, C, K. Mroczek 2011; Crystal, 2006 and Herring, 2007, 1996) in the direction of new media studies situate it as an area worthy of academic consideration. Social media provide a panoply of data on meaningful interactions established through linguistic and non-linguistic convergence as one plausible manifestation of human behaviour. Here, the supposition is that the new face and phase of human social interactivity, accentuated by the increasingly pervasive application of computer-mediated technology in the 21st century, globally, is too phenomenal to be ignored. Computer-mediated technology is re-defining the simple process of communication and consequently, the strategies adopted in assigning meaning to accommodate and align with the new technological revolution are no exception. Mohd,S.G.B., Hamzah, M., Reza G., and Saifuddin K.B.A (2009:75) quoting Biesenback-Lucas and Wisenforth (2001) argue that developments in communication technology are catalysts for the mutability in language and the interesting variations in written language use.

New technologies are broadening the spectra of all sorts of social discourse and the emergence of computers, the Internet and various interactive channels, namely social media are leading scholars to explore the extent to which technology is re-shaping and re-defining social interactions and relationships. Indeed, one prominent example of this re-definition is the advent of Facebook, WhatsApp, Yahoo Chat Rooms and other new media platforms, which have become a ‘marketplace’ for social transactions and interactive assemblage. The expansion in the discursiveness of simple debates in the technologically-driven virtual context is fascinating, hence any discourse analytical effort should attempt to explain the effect of this form of technology on language, on the one hand and the effect of language on the platforms of communication occasioned by the same technology, on the other hand. In this way, language and technology would be assumed to be in a sort of relationship, an interfacing symbiotic one with obvious manifestations captured by the strategies of communication.

Apparently, the corollary of the re-definition on language and communication, galvanised by the Internet, is a system of conflation of usages. Consequently, the Internet becomes, as Ryzhkov (2008:125) puts it, ‘a melting pot of culture and language and a subject for various forms of multi-aspect analyses’. The above notion underscores the twin-based nature of social media interactions by non-native users of English as being both characteristically interpersonal and intercultural. Thus, the electronic medium presents itself as a viable test-tube for evaluating the interplay between language and culture as captured by strategies adopted in meaning negotiations in such social interactions. To this end, therefore, the Internet provides a veritable and functional outlet for exploring the elasticity and fluidity of non-native English communication of its modes, forms and functions, especially in contact situations where different meaning infrastructures are deployed in interactions. The expansion in the functional possibilities of communication fuelled by the Internet demonstrates that language is in a state of flux. This protean nature of language is a direct reflection and consequence of multihued usages influenced by variegated experiences which are ferried through strategies of communication. Evidently, the phenomenon of language change is inextricably linked to technological advancements over the years. However, the wave of language development precipitated by information communication technology (ICT) has leapfrogged human communication and has, as a consequence, occasioned new variations in written language use. Indeed, communication technology is changing things and communication patterns are no exception.

Social media technologies assume different forms. Kaplan and Haenlein in 2010 applied a set of theories in the fields of media research and social processes and created a classification scheme for the various social media types. For them, there are six different types of social media, namely: Collaborative Project (e.g. the Wikipedia), Blogs and Microblogs (e.g. Twitter), Content Communities (e.g. YouTube), Social Networking Sites (e.g. Facebook and WhatsApp), Virtual Game Worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and Virtual Game Worlds (e.g. Second Life). They also differentiated social media from industrial or traditional ones, such as the newspaper, television and film, stressing that social media are relatively inexpensive and accessible to anyone for publishing or information retrieval. Interestingly, however, one characteristic shared by both social media and the industrial media is the capacity to reach small or large audiences. They share reach, accessibility, usability, immediacy and permanence in common.

While the advent of the Internet is traced to the military and the academia in the 1950s, its permeating force has traversed professional, institutional and intercultural frontiers and has revolutionalised human communication in many ways. In the aspect of global influence, McPhail, (2006: 290) asserts that ‘the Internet is to the Information Age what the automobile was to the Industrial Age.’ The Internet is the information highway for global connectivity and one of the world’s largest computer networks which link millions of people together, Muniandy (2003: 46). This research explores the meaning strategies evident in the written interactions of non-native English users on social media platforms with a view to classifying, analysing and explicating how they are generated and negotiated and the possible implications of such strategic deployments on their interactions.

1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the last three decades, considering the fact that the first Internet-based studies were conducted in the mid-1990s, the Internet has actuated a boom in research on textual interactions mediated by networked computer technology in chat rooms and instant messaging virtual environments. Scholars such as Locher, M. A. and B. Bolander, (2015); Androutsopoulos, (2013); Crystal, (2011, 2006); Herring, (2007) and several others have made efforts to understand the nature of computer-mediated communication and the specific strategies adopted in the depiction of meaning in a context that leaves a textual trace and makes interactions more complex; yet, accessible to scrutiny and reflection than is the case in transient spoken communication. Following Selinker’s (1972) seminal work on ‘Inter-language’, which focuses on spoken communication, a number of other studies with taxonomical models have emerged in the area of communication strategies (henceforth referred to as CS). However, the models concentrated on oral communication and were integrated into other spheres of language pedagogy to enable empirical research in furtherance of the crystallisation of social phenomena in the spoken medium (Maleki, 2010; Aliakbari and Allvar, 2009; Zhang, 2007). Although the relevance of the concept of CS with written language has been well-affirmed theoretically, few studies have been devoted to the empirical investigation of this concept in the written medium (Xhaferi, 2012:121), much less on computer-mediated platforms with inherently nuanced complexities.

While the research area that has gained theoretical and empirical prominence has focused on CS deployed by non-native English users in the spoken form, the written medium has not been adequately explored (Manchon, 2000:13). Aliakbari and Allvar (2009:4) attest to it that few studies have directly touched upon the concept of CS in writing. In this research, the issue of communicative efforts foregrounded by paralinguistic elements and context cues that aid face-to-face interpersonal interactions are juxtaposed with a situation marked by these ‘absences’. As a consequence, how to identify, classify and describe non-native English written CS remains a significant, unaddressed area of social media research. Therefore, the gap filled by this research has been to identify, classify and analyse communication or signification strategies in the written social media interactions of Nigerians and Indians on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms as non-native English users.

1.3 The Aim of the Study
The aim of this research is to analyse the written interactions of non-native users of English on social media outlets, namely Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms in order to account for their strategies of communication. Therefore, four objectives are used to expand the aim of this study.

1.4 The Objectives are to:
i. Identify and describe the strategies of communication adopted by non-native users of English on social media outlets, using Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms as paradigms;
ii. Classify the communication strategies of non-native English users on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms social media platforms;
iii. Explicate the functions and effectiveness of CS on social media platforms in terms of how they are deployed in meaning generation and negotiation on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms; and
iv. To demonstrate that Semiotics, Speech Acts and Pragmatics encapsulate adequate analytical tools for explicating language deployments and CS in non-native English social media interactions.

1.5 Significance of the Study
This research is significant in the following ways:
i. From an academic viewpoint, language and new media researchers will benefit from this effort because it brings to the fore the importance of a detailed synchronic account that explores, describes and interprets on-going human social interactions that define the everyday experiences of people across different cultural divides on social media.
ii. This research is also significant from a theoretical standpoint. It provides a strong motivation for the adoption of eclectic theoretical approaches in the explication of data where one theory does not provide adequate qualitative analytical coverage. The application of Semiotics, Speech Acts and Pragmatics to data provides a clearer understanding of how linguistic theories can be synthesized to explicate meaning potential in interactions that straddle visual and textual concerns.
iii. This research will be of benefit to curriculum planners and policy makers on education. The impact of the Internet on the written communication of non-native English users will provide new concerns for the inclusion of Internet Linguistics to the English Language syllabus at the tertiary level of education and encourage further research in this area.
iv. Non-native English users, communication strategists and new media researchers who engage in interactions on social media platforms will understand and appreciate how their creative responsiveness to the complex dynamics of the virtual context has opened up new vistas for language development and cultural revitalisation, as viable resources for scholarly investigation into social phenomena in second language situations.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study
This research focuses on the written interactions of Nigerians and Indians on social media platforms. The data for this research are their interactive wall posts, chats and comments on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms whose demonstrable fusion of elements of their first languages, actuated by socio-cultural experiences, helps to situate the cross-cultural nature of their interactions on social media. Specifically, this research investigates both the pictorial and textual constituents of their interactions as they reflect the major areas of linguistic and non-linguistic foci. However, this research did not investigate other new media outlets such as Twitter, E-mail and mobile telephony. Twitter, as on online social network, was perceived to be close to Facebook though it is a more restrictive informal communication platform. Originally, messages on Twitter were restricted to one hundred and forty (140) characters, but on November 17, 2017, the limit was doubled to two hundred and eighty (280) characters. As of the time the chapters of this thesis were being written, the initial restriction was still in effect. E-mail was not considered because of its level of formality and perceived unnaturalness which emanates from the need to maintain standards of editing and acceptability, irrespective of its asynchronous nature. Mobile telephony (SMS) was not investigated because of its naturally restrictive configuration of one hundred and sixty (160) letters/characters per message page.

1.7 Research Questions
In line with the research objectives, the research questions are:
i. What strategies of communication are evident in non-native English interactions on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms and how can these be described?
ii. What delineative criteria can be used to classify non-native English CS on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms social media platform?
iii. What are the functions of non-native English CS and how effective are they in terms of their meaning generation and negotiation on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms?
iv. How can the principles of Semiotics, Speech Acts and Pragmatics be used to explicate language deployments and CS in non-native English interactions on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms?

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
Certain terms need elucidation in relation to specific usages and their relevance to the research. The key terms are:
Communication Strategies: Language users’ ability to effectively harness available linguistic and non-linguistic resources in order to operationalise and facilitate communicative efforts.
Interactions: The communicative exchanges between people in a virtual space on any given issue of significance that defines their personal stances and relationship with other people.
Language: This refers to any written forms of communication and meaning-creation on an electronically-mediated context.
Memes: Internet generated and transmitted humorous ideas built around images and words which are susceptible to remixes and used to project social issues.
Non-Native English Users: Individuals who had gained some competence in a first language before coming in contact with English, which they learnt over time as children or adults.
Pragmatics: The interpretation of language use in human communication and the possible contextual factors that condition how it is effectuated on social media.
Semiotics: The deployment of linguistic principles in the interpretation of both written expressions and imagistic representations in texts with a view to providing a better understanding of the functional dynamics of the process of signification at the explicit and implicit levels.
Social Media: The interactive outlets of the Internet which have developed under the growing influences of new media where different forms of text-based and pictorial representations are deployed in communication. Here, the emphasis is on Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo Chat Rooms.
1.9 Theoretical Framework

Peircean and Barthesian Semiotics provide the theoretical underpinning for this research with Austinian and Searlean Speech Acts and Gricean Pragmatics as ancillary analytical tools. This eclectic theoretical approach was adopted based on the assumption that it would enhance the explication and interpretation of the strategies of signification in the data for this research.

1.9.1 Semiotics: A General Perspective
The main theoretical paradigm deployed in this research is Semiotics as enunciated by the American pragmatist and philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce alongside the French semiotician, Roland Barthes. Generally, Semiotics is concerned with the functional dynamics of signs as part of social life. As an analytical tool, it is viewed as an all-inclusive, over-arching approach of evaluating any signifying means of meaning creation, ascription, negotiation and transmission across interpersonal, social and cultural borderlines. Semiotics is contiguous in nature, touching various disciplines in the pure sciences, humanities, social and behavioural sciences. It investigates the nature of signs and the laws governing them (Bouzida, 2014:1001; Al-Sharafi, 2004:81; Sebeok, 2001:16), and this investigation is carried out through language, which Levi-Strauss (1972: 48) regards as ‘the semiotic system par excellence, which cannot but signify, and exists only through signification’. Similarly, Blommaert’s (2005:3) view underscores the point that language is the main tool of semiotic analysis, but notes that language is just one of the semiotic elements in a myriad of possible semiotic choices when he says: “What is traditionally understood by language is but one manifestation of it; all kinds of semiotic ‘flagging’ performed by means of objects, attributes or activities…{which} constitute the action part of language- in-action.” In Blommaert’s submission, the traditional understanding of language as one manifestation of a semiotic system defines its ineluctable nature as a tool of communication. Semiotics is considered significant as the primary analytical construct here based on the relevance of its argument: the interpretation of the sign as a dynamic element and force of signification and an essential property of analysing language and imagery as powerful signifying systems.

Lotmam (2009: 42) identifies two critical issues that should generally concern the descriptions of any semiotic system as (i) that factor which relates to the extra-terrestrial system (the world which lies beyond its borders), and that of its static, dynamic and internal relations. He reveals that the relationship between the external world and the system of the internal reality and their mutual impenetrability had been a subject of serious preoccupation in the days of Kant. Bouzida (2014: 1001) submits that:
As semiology is concerned with the general properties of sign language and other signal forms, it would be obvious to say that Semiotics is the science of signs that allow{s} the proliferation of a number of perspectives and pave{s} the way to other cultural phenomena that raised the study of signs through its denotative and connotative meanings.

The point raised in the submission above is that Semiotics has centrifugal analytical trajectories that have immensely influenced other domains and contributed to their development by providing the interpretative tools for accounting for the workings of different phenomena in such domains. While considering the relationship between linguistic and semiotic approaches to meaning interpretation, Cruse (2000) notes that:
Semioticians view language as one sign system amongst many, and seek out those features which render it so successful. They are also likely to give emphasis to marginal aspects of linguistic signification. The recent strong interest in iconicity in language represents a significant overlap between the linguistic and semiotic approaches to meaning (24).

Indeed, language is not just one of the sign systems but the most developed system of signification whose position is not on the fringes of semiotic analysis, but of inherent centrality. The success of Semiotics as an analytical tool is evident in its encapsulation of apt constructs than can be used in the crystallisation and interpretation of the palpable and even the vestigial forms of imagery and meaning-bearing communicative elements.

Saussure’s (1983:15-16) took an early stance on the connection between language and Semiotics when he stated that: ‘The laws which semiology (his term for Semiotics) will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics, and linguistics will thus be assigned a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge.’ Aware or not of the impact of his stance, Saussure’s statement announced the advent of a new discipline (linguistics) and the endorsement of its conceivable, scholarly relevance in the future. Implicitly, language is foregrounded as the main operational tool of any signification process, owing to its immanence. As noted by Saussure, any scholarly preoccupation with regard to Semiotics should be to identify the underlying rules and the principles that govern the process of signification.
Signs and signification had for centuries taken centre-stage in the history and scholarship of philosophy, and a concept that was debated in ancient Athenian society (Al-Sharafi, 2000:81). Aristotle and Plato investigated the relationship between signs and the world. By the time Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) and the Stoic philosophers had become prominent, the study of signs had shifted to areas that were not in the domain of the non-medicals. The triadic nature of signs was first mentioned by Aristotle who defined the sign as consisting of three dimensions: the physical part of the sign itself (e.g. the sounds that make up a word); the referent to which it calls attention and its evocation of a meaning (what the referent entails psychologically and socially). The interest of St. Augustine of Hippo’s (354-430) was in the configuration of signs as defined within the context of a conventional system. He identified two kinds of signs, namely signa naturalia (natural signs which bear direct references to something e.g. dark cloud signifies rain) and sign data (conventional and arbitrary signs), thus establishing the dual nature of signs, (Sebeok, 2001:16). St. Augustine’s taxonomical approach of signs was foundational to the later emergence of the semiotic concepts of indexicality- signa naturalia and symbolism- signa data.
Different disciplines and disparate approaches from ancient times to this present time have resulted in a plethora of definitions for the term ‘Semiotics’, especially from the canonical and methodical fronts. From a canonical viewpoint, Semiotics is perceived as a way of evaluating anything as signs and signifying systems. Here, it focuses on everything that signifies as its object since signs pervade all spheres of human existence. That everything is the object of Semiotics implies that nothing is its specific object since everything can be taken as a sign (Eco, 1986: 5; 1978:7).
The methodical definition of Semiotics emphasises its practical applicability to objects other than natural language. To this end, Semiotics is viewed as an interpretative approach which offers extensive analytical accounts of anything centrifugal to language. Nwagbara (2001:136) views Semiotics as the systematic study of signs as communicative instruments whose interest is the interpretation of signs, sign systems, their meanings, how they are encoded in languages and in communication across interpersonal and intercultural divides. He further argues that: ‘Semiotics deals essentially with the nature, form and structure of all possible signs and their role in the establishment, conceptualisation and crystallisation of meaning in language.’ Other scholars who share the above-held view include Newton (1997:171), who stresses that the sign is central to Semiotics which investigates any shared meaning configuration to which there is a conventionalised response. Davies and Schleifer (1998:144) hold that the process of configuring linguistic structures in a culture to produce meaning and the conditions that make possible such phenomena of meanings is the concern of Semiotics. The above statements underscore the point that Semiotics is an account of signification or representation or any meaning configuration to which there is a cultural attachment. As observed by Beard (2004:55), along the Semiotic plane, ‘representation is an important term in the study of communication since it helps to distinguish between what is ‘real’ and how such a ‘reality’ is presented and labelled.’ This espousal of representation, as a key aspect of communicating realities; which is the basic concern of Semiotics, signposts language as an arbitrary system of communication.
Modern Semiotics, as an academic field, owes a great deal to the works of the American philosopher and linguist, Charles Sanders Peirce (1838-1914) and the Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1915). The contributions of these scholars brought innovative insights into linguistic inquiry. Saussure conceptualises Semiotics from a dyadic perspective while Peirce views Semiotics from a triadic angle. These scholars were both concerned with accounting for a science that studies the life of signs within society, (Eco, 1985:4) and this science came under such labels as ‘Semiotics’ and ‘semiology’ terms coined by C.S Peirce and Saussure respectively.
Semiotics is both a science, with its own corpus of findings and its theories, and a technique for studying anything that produces signs, Sebeok (2001:5). Perhaps this is why Peirce defines Semiotics as the ‘doctrine of signs’ (Peirce, 1955: 228). The term ‘doctrine’ is used to reference the technique or the systematic principles that undergird both the generation and interpretation of signs. Elam (2002:1) claims that the ‘best’ definition of Semiotics is that it is ‘a science dedicated to the production of meaning in society.’ He adds that it also probes the processes of signification with those of communication i.e. the means whereby meaning is both generated and transmitted across societies and cultures. Al-Sharafi (2000:82) observes that Semiotics has ‘thick’ descriptive power because it allows for a deep treatment of data and examines any data from a multi-dimensional perspective. He claims that Semiotics suffers from a lack of agreement as to its ‘scientificity’. He reasons that it has descriptive power which lacks corresponding predicative power, which is the basic principle of scientific inquiry. Indeed, the inability of Semiotics to predict the future of any signifying element is a product of the fact that the process of signification is predicated on many factors which are difficult to control. Semiotics does help to provide explanation by relating objects and actions to their underlying norms of social and cultural systems. Linguistic Semiotics reveals the reason for the sequence that a linguistic form and meaning takes by aligning it to the system of language (Culler, 1986:73). According to Ullmann (1962:15), Morris divided Semiotics into three areas:
(i) Semantics: the meaning of signs (the relationship of signs to what they stand for).
(ii) Syntactics: the relations between signs.
(iii) Pragmatics: the ways in which signs are used and interpreted in a given context.
This classification is very much influenced by linguistics, and the levels of description here lie within the purview of linguistic studies. However, the significant difference between the classification of data in Linguistics and Semiotics is that the former begins with the material or the substance and then progresses to the form. In Semiotics, only form exists because the substance is presumably not important, since the systematisation of this substance is considered of greater importance, (Al- Sharafi, 2000:4).
The relationship between Semiotics and Linguistics is quite special because among all systems of communication, or rather of signification, language is the most developed, systematised and conventionalised. Hawkes (2003: 124) avers that the main thrust of Semiotics is to study communication and by so doing, it overlaps with structuralism presumably because their interests are not fundamentally separate. Hawkes (17) defines structuralism as ‘a way of thinking about the world which is predominantly concerned with the perception and description of structures’. He further makes the prediction that the future will witness a unification of Semiotics and Structuralism under one heading called ‘Communication’ (124).
Through the lens of Semiotics, everything is perceived as textual if it is composed of signs, governed by meaning conventions and ordered in patterns by means of various relationships (O’Neill, 2006; Van Leeuwen, 2005:1; Blommaert, 2005:172; Hodge and Kress, 1988:18). A semiotically-motivated textual analysis allows the analyst to exploit the analytical affordances of a robust theory that emerges from the text itself to imbue the data with animation. Semiotics is based on the assumption of multiple interpretations and this assumption is part and parcel of an illuminating textual analysis.
1.9.2 The Nature of Signification
Crystal (1992: 353) defines the word ‘sign’ as the same as symbol, a characteristic of language or behaviour which carries with it some meaning attachment which is conventionally permissible within a social system where communication is carried out in speech, writing, gesture and dance. Apparently, a sign can sometimes be used interchangeably with a symbol to denote ‘something’ which meaningfully stands for, or serves as a referent to something else (Wales, 2011: 416). For Peirce, a sign is ‘something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity’ (Peirce, 1955:228). Morris (1938) asserts that:
Something is a sign only because it is interpreted as a sign of something by some interpreter. Semiotics, then, is not concerned with the study of a particular kind of phenomenon, but with ordinary phenomena insofar (and only insofar) as they participate in semiosis (20).

In essence, in a semiotic process, signs assume the mediatory role between messages and signals or even between thought and expression. Signs are units vested with meaning ranging from words, images, sounds, gestures or objects. Semiosis is the process any unit of meaning undergoes to qualify it as a sign, being composed of a physical form with a particular referent in the sign system of a language. As captured by Shorts (2004:235), a sign must signify something other than its own entity and it must be conventionalised in the sense that it must be recognised by the users of the code as doing so.
It is worth mentioning in this connection that Saussure’s view of both the signifier and the signified is a mentalistic one because he excludes reference to any object in the world. He asserts that ‘the linguistic sign is a two sided psychological entity’ (Saussure 1983:66). Moreover, Saussure points out that ‘a sign is the combination of a concept and a sound pattern’. Saussure, it appears, is not concerned with the relationship of Peirce’s object or external meaning, and as such referent or object is not featured in his semiology.
1.9.3 Semiotics: Peirce’s Perspective
Peirce’s Sign Theory, or Semiotics, can be seen as an effort that accounts for signification, representation, reference and meaning. Although sign theories have a long history, Peirce’s accounts provide a distinctively innovative dimension to it for its breadth and complexity, and for capturing the importance of interpretation to signification (Standford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2010). Peirce’s exploration into a theory of signs can be termed an enterprise that is both philosophical and intellectual which examines the concept of signs as a unit of understanding, knowledge and interpretation. His interest in formulating an analytical model is to establish a link between the source of signification and what is signified. The importance of Semiotics for Peirce is wide ranging. As he himself said,
“…. it has never been in my power to study anything, mathematics, ethics, metaphysics, gravitation, thermodynamics, optics, chemistry, comparative, anatomy, astronomy, psychology, phonetics, economics, the history of science, whist, men and women, wine, metrology, except as a study of semiotic”. (85–6).
Linguistic signs for Peirce constitute only a fraction of the system of signs that are visible in nature. While Saussure emphasises the importance of the sign being composed of a linguistic expression in order to qualify as a sign. For Peirce, any element in nature that has the capacity for the generation of knowledge that in the same vein leads to the interpretation of such knowledge holds the possibility of a sign.
1.9.4 Peircean Triadic Constructs of Semiotics
Following the tradition of Peirce, the semiotic trichotonomies are viewed along the following paradigms: triadic relation of performance, (signification, signifier and signified); triadic relations of representation, (icon, index and symbol); triadic relation of comparison, (qualisign, sinsign and legisign) and triadic relation of thought (rheme, dicent and argument) (Littlejohn and Foss, 2005:101; Hawkes, 2003:105). Peirce’s constructs of representation, namely icon, index and symbol are the conceptual tools of analysis for this research, and are considered relevant for their breadth of coverage of signification elements in the data. Peircean Semiotics goes beyond the concept of sign as symbol to include sign as index and sign as icon. His classification is based on the relationship between a sign and its object; a classification based on the mode of representation or signification. According to this conception, signs have three modes of signification: Iconic signification, a relationship between the signifier and the signified or between the sign and its object that is predicated on similarity or some physical resemblance to the referent; Indexical signification, a relationship between the signifier and the signified or the sign and its object that is based on causality i.e. the principle of cause and effect, in the sense that the signifier causes the signified or the object of the sign and Symbolic signification, the relationship between the signifier and the signified, or between the sign and its object is symbolic if the relationship is arbitrary or conventional in nature (Adedemeji, 2003: 118; Hawkes, 2003:105; Cuddon, 2000:858). For Peirce, any signification construct should encapsulate a sign-vehicle, an object and interpretant. Moreover, the object should determine the sign by placing certain conditions or constraints which the sign must meet for it to signify the object. Consequently, the sign becomes a signifier of its object only by virtue of some of its possessed features. Additionally, the sign determines an interpretant or its interpretation by focusing our attention on certain features of the signifying relation between the sign and its object. This enables the understanding the object of the sign better.

Peirce’s basic claim is that signs consist of three inter-related parts: a sign, an object, and an interpretant. The sign is the signifier, for example, a written word, an utterance, smoke as a sign for fire, a dark cloud for rain and several others. The object, on the other hand, is whatever that is signified, for example, the object to which the written or uttered word attaches, or the fire signified by the smoke. The interpretant, the most innovative and distinctive feature of Peirce’s account, is the understanding that we have of the sign/object relation. The importance of the interpretant for Peirce is that signification is not a simple dyadic relationship between sign and object: a sign signifies only in being interpreted. This makes the interpretant central to the content of the sign, in that, the meaning of a sign is manifest in the interpretation that it generates in sign users.
1.9.5 Sign, Object and Interpretant

The constituents of the Peircean Semiotics are the Sign, Object and Interpretant. A sign occupies a significant position in the study of Semiotics. Some of the terms used by Peirce for the signifying element including ‘sign’, ‘representamen’, ‘representation’, and ‘ground’. For him, the sign element responsible for signification is the ‘sign-vehicle’ which does not signify in all respects but has certain components that enable it to signify the object. In the real sense of the word, that signifying element of the sign is the qualified sign (Alabi, 2000: 116).
As far as signification is concerned, every characteristic of the object just as that of the sign is not relevant. For Peirce, the relationship between the object of a sign and the sign that represents it is one of determination: the object determines the sign. The idea is that the object imposes certain constraints that a sign must fall within if it is to represent that object. However, only certain characteristics of an object are relevant to this process of determination.
The interpretant is the understanding we reach of some sign/object relation. It is the meaning of the original sign. The idea is that the interpretant provides an interpretation of the sign, allowing us a more complex understanding of the sign’s object. Indeed, Liszka (1996:50) and Savan (1998:41) both emphasize the need to treat interpretants as translations, with Savan even suggesting that Peirce should have called it the translatant. Again, just as with the sign/object relation, Peirce believes the sign/interpretant relation to be one of determination: the sign determines an interpretant.
1.9.6 Qualisign Sinsign and Legisign
These are the Peircean triadic relations of comparison. To Peirce, a qualisign is a quality which is the same time a sign. It is any sign whose sign-vehicle relies on simple abstracted qualities which Alabi (2000:135) describes as the qualitative peculiarity of a sign. A sinsign is any sign whose sign-vehicle depends on existential association with its object of reality that can constitute a sign (Savan, 1998: 21). A legisign, on its own part, is a sign whose signifying element is basically predicated on laws or conventions surrounding its use.
1.9.7 Rheme, Dicent and Argument
These are the Peircean triadic relations of thought. Rheme is a substance that indicates the potentiality of an object, the subject of possible interpretation. Whenever a sign is understood based on the terms of qualities it possesses, the interpretation that qualifies that sign is that of a Rheme. When the understanding of a sign is determined by its interpretation based on the existential features it deploys in signifying an object, then that sign is a Dicent because it gives information about its object. On the other hand, an argument is a sign intended to regulate or guide. Whenever a sign focuses on some conventional features of its relationship with an object, i.e. enabling the understanding of the sign as part of a system that is rule-governed, the interpretation that qualifies that sign is perceived as an Argument.
1.9.8 The Hierarchy of Categories
According to Peirce, there are three categories which are germane and can adequately account for all of human experience. These categories align numerically with first, second and third and have the specifications as ‘Firstness’, ‘Secondness’, and ‘Thirdness’. Firstness is defined by a quality which includes (qualisign, icon, and rheme) whereas Secondness is determined by an existential fact and it includes (sinsign, index and dicent) and Thirdness is established by conventions, rules and laws and it incudes (legisign, symbol and argument).
Table 1
Qualisign Icon Rheme Quality
Sinsign Index Dicent Existentiality
Legisign Symbol Argument Conventionality
Representamen Object Interpretant
Rheme, Dicent, Argument

Interpretant (
Object Representamen
(Icon, Index, Symbol) (Qualisign, Sinsign, Legisign)
Peircean triadic sign relations
1.9.9. Semiotics: Barthes’ Perspective
Roland Barthes’ (1968) was an influential figure in the French school structuralism Semiotics. He developed his theory along the planes of denotation and connotation in relation to photographic images as systems of signs. He argues that semiology can be applied to modes of signification other than language. For him, every image has two layers which are reflections of the representations of concrete and abstract concepts. His concepts of denotation and connotation have been adopted in this research to complement the Peircean constructs in the elucidation and simplification of the analysis of data. Barthes’ semiology is a qualitative method of meaning interpretation adopted in media research to uncover hidden verbal and non-verbal meanings of visual texts within a given socio-cultural context. His approach considers the explication of concrete sign vehicles, namely texts and images as objects of culture and ideology or myth.

1.9.10 Barthes’ Levels of Signification

Barthes’ triadic principles include denotation, connotation and myth. For him, denotation is the first level of signification; it means the literal, explicit or permanent sense of a word that is devoid of all subjective colorations. Denotation is used to describe the overt meaning of signs- the visual image of what is obvious without recourse to cultural association or ideology. Barthes admits that denotation is primary to signification and bears analogical properties to connotation in the meaning-making process. Denotation concerns itself with the sign as the basic meaning that is independent of context and skewed interpretations.

Conversely, connotation is the associative implication evoked by words or statements and images over what they actually denote. Connotation is a term used by Barthes to explain the way signs work. ‘It describes the interaction that occurs when the sign meets the feelings or emotions of the users and the values of their culture’ (Fiske, 2011). It is, in this sense, influenced by subjective variables that make it more susceptible to diverse interpretations. Barthes stresses that connotation, being itself a system, comprises signifiers, signifieds, and the process which unites the former to the latter in the process of signification (Barthes, 1968). A myth is a message that belongs to the communicative system- a signification mode that refers to idealised conceptions about certain phenomena. Barthes’ approach is applicable to media studies that concentrate upon the analysis of meaning as contained in advertising, cinema, films, video clips, and caricature. In recent years, Barthes’ scholarly influence has served as a catalyst for semioticians in communication and information sciences to investigate different media images with a view to accounting for the symbolic interactions of verbal and non-verbal signs. For the interpretation of data that straddles both imagistic and textual boundaries, the research adopts Barthes’ semiology for its genuine simplification of meaning potential in pictures, an important aspect of the analysis of data for this research.

1.9.11 Pragmatics
A complementary theoretical construct employed in this research is Pragmatics primarily from the perspectives of Austinean Speech Acts and Gricean implicature. These approaches are grounded in the functional dimensions of language as a phenomenon stimulated and circumscribed by contextual influences in the production and negotiation of meaning. Here, the functions performed by language are related to the linguistic elements used to perform those functions. Consequently, functional theorists argue that since language is a tool for meaning creation, it is logical to presume that its structures are best analysed and understood in the context of their functions. Bybee (2001:6), in the usage-based model of language, asserts that language is ‘inexorably mutating under the dynamic forces of language use’. Obviously, a greater linguistic preoccupation as supported by a myriad of studies by language philosophers tends to tilt towards the attempts to explain how we get from what we say to what we mean (Wichmann, 2000:3).

Tracing the term from antiquity, Pragmatics was first used by Charles William Morris in 1938 in his work, The Foundations of the Theory of Signs where he proposed it as an offshoot of Semiotics alongside syntax/ synatactics and semantics. According to him,
Pragmatics tries to understand the relationship between signs and their users while semantics tends to focus on the actual objects or ideas to which a word refers, and syntax (or “syntactics”) examines relationships among signs or symbols. Semantics is the literal meaning of an idea whereas pragmatics is the implied meaning of the given idea.

In Morris’ definition, Pragmatics interrogates the relationship between signs and their users, and other contextual variables (physiological, social, cognitive, etc.) capable of influencing the functionality of such signs. While a lot of these variables are today critical areas in psycholinguistics or neurolinguistics, which have their roots in linguistics, they remain key considerations in any pragmatic enterprise (Levinson, 1983).
Pragmatics came as a reaction to structuralism advocated by Ferdinand de Saussure. In many respects, it elaborated on his idea that language has an analysable structure; composed of parts that can be defined in relation to other things, covering a wide area of sub-categories such as speech acts, conversational implicature, cooperative principles, presupposition, relevance, politeness principles, deixis, phatic token and others. It is an analytical approach to empirical research which combines existing constructs in the formulation and exploration of new and complex sets of social phenomena with a view to explicating the meaning-making process. A pragmatic approach to linguistic analysis views meaning-generation as a social process which involves the dynamic interrelation between principles and how people deploy them to achieve different purposes.
Both as a discipline and theory, Pragmatic conflates various dimensions of language, especially with reference to usage and the exploration of the interconnection between language structure and the principles that underlie its use (Dynel, 2011:2; Levinson 1983: 9). Many scholars agree that Pragmatics has a multidisciplinary nature which has been informed by contacts with disciplines outside linguistics (Dynel, 2011; Verschueren, 2009; Mey, 1993). In spite of its multifaceted nature, Pragmatics remains one distinctive aspect of linguistic study that has contributed a theoretical model from which other linguistic models have sprung up and methodologies which other disciplines can benefit from.
In the words of (Crystal, 1987:120), Pragmatics studies the factors that govern people’s choices of language in social interactions and the possible effects of those choices on others. In this definition emphasis is laid on the roles that context and language users play in communication. While context is instrumental in framing language users’ choices of linguistic resources for optimal communicative outcomes, language users are responsible for the awareness of context in which they are to perform certain functions via language in order to fulfil specific objectives by utilising available linguistic means within their capability.
Pragmatics is a systematic way of explaining language use in a given context. It studies those context-dependent aspects of a language which are abstracted away from the construction of content or logical form, or what Yule (2007:127) calls ‘the study of invisible meaning’ which is interpretable even when they are not expressly said or written. Pragmatics is the study of how more gets communicated than is said. Yule stresses that pragmatics is a part of linguistics that probes into those meanings beyond what is literally conveyed in concrete speech events and contexts. In other words, language users are inclined to mean something more by their linguistic behavior more than the communicated message which lies within the purview of pragmatics to figure out.
Verschueren, (2002:7) sees Pragmatics as a general cognitive, social and cultural perspective to investigating linguistic phenomena in relation to their usage in terms of behaviour. This view references pragmatics as an epistemological perspective or theoretical framework of human cognition and an aspect of linguistic adaptation, from which his Linguistic Adaptation Theory was born. Here, people adapt themselves by way of or in terms of how language is used in relation to things. The major concentration of this theory is the study of the factors which govern communicative exchanges between individuals in a given context or the study of linguistic acts and the contexts in which they are performed, (Levinson,1983:21; Leech and Short,1983: 290).
Pragmatics revolves around a discourse entity which represents the referent of a linguistic expression (i.e. the individual, event, property, relations and situations) that the language user has in mind and is saying something about. The relation between the expressions uttered, how they are presented, where they are presented and to whom they are presented and how the presented expressions are interpreted by the receivers present a range of concerns in Pragmatics. In the application of this theory, a certain goal of pragmatics which has been to define the features of context, which help to determine meaning are fully explored. In sum, Pragmatics affords useful linguistic insights that help to explain the complexities that characterise the social world of meaning creation, thereby providing a lucid understanding of the process involved.
The English philosopher J. L. Austin (1962) in his book How to Do Things with Words provides the first advanced and elaborate treatment of speech acts. Austin claims that many utterances are equivalent to actions. He argues that people do things with words and can create new social and psychological realities by their utterances. His thinking centres on the idea of the performative, a type of utterance that performs the very action it describes. Through his Speech Act Theory, he explains utterances as having three parts: locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. A locutionary act is the basic production of a linguistic expression, with a given syntactic formation and a literal meaning. The study of locutionary act belongs to the domain of descriptive linguistics which comprises phonetics and phonology, lexis, syntax and linguistic semantics. An illocutionary act is the intended action performed through the production of the locution and can be said to be a non-linguistic act performed through a linguistic or locutionary act. By producing the utterance, the speaker may be asserting a claim, asking a question, making a promise, threatening, begging, naming an object or even joining a couple. Austin uses the last example to illustrate that through their words, speakers can change reality. Indeed, the performative character of other speech acts may not be as direct or explicit, but this does not diminish their status as acts. Finally, a perlocutionary act is an action accomplished through an utterance that depends for its identity not only on the speaker’s intentions, but rather also on the effect of the utterance on its audience. Therefore, the perlocutionary act is the actual influence that the speaker’s utterance has upon the beliefs, attitudes, or behaviour of the hearer. In other words, utterances must be seen as acts, which perform different tasks in different contexts, based on certain social conditions (Saliu, 2013: 193-194; Dresner and Herring, 2010:1; Mey, 2001:217).
However, Searle (1979) developed further a classification of illocutionary acts in an effort to improve on Austin’s (1962) work. Though Searle set out to refine Austin’s conception, some scholars are of the view that a significant difference exists between them. They argue that while Austin focused on the conventional interpretation of speech acts, Searle emphasised the psychological interpretation predicated on intentionality, ideological stances and several others. Searle classifies the illocutionary acts as ‘representatives’, ‘directives’, ‘expressives’ ‘commissives’ and ‘declaratives’. From a functional perspective, the ‘representatives’ are speech act which describe processes, states, or events, and for which there is commitment to the truth of what has been expressed or asserted. Examples of the representative or assertive act include making an assertion, a claim, a description, a conclusion, a report, a suggestion, a prediction, etc. The ‘directives’ are speech acts which have the function of making the addressee to comply with an instruction or order. This piece of instruction may come in varied ways as direct verbal responses or physical reactions. The directive acts may be accomplished through questioning, commanding, requesting, pleading, inviting, etc. The ‘expressives’, however, are speech acts which are activated when the speaker expresses a psychological state about feelings, emotions and attitudes towards some state of affairs. Examples of this act include: apologizing, congratulating, thanking, appreciating, complaining, condoling, greeting, scolding, etc. The commissives, on the other hand, are those speech acts through which the speaker is committed to some future course of actions. The commissives are effectuated through expressions that are revealed as promising, threatening, offering, guaranteeing, vowing, warning, betting, challenging, etc. The ‘declaratives’ are speech acts which have the potential to alter the state of affairs in a given context immediately the utterance is made. This type of act requires the right person and the appropriate context to ‘set the act in motion’. Examples of this act include: baptizing, passing sentence, arresting, marrying, etc.

The relationship between Pragmatics and Speech Acts lies in the fact that both of them focus on communicative effectiveness. While Speech Acts examine what people say, how they say them and what meaning is attached to what is said, Pragmatics explores the skills adopted in using language appropriately. Speech acts are subsumed under Pragmatics which provides the basic rules of using language for specific reasons or functions.

1.9.12 Implicature
Grice (1975: 24) introduced the term ‘implicature’ using it to denote either the act of meaning or implying one thing by saying something else, or the object of that act. He used the term to emphasise that what is spoken should closely relate to what the sentence means on an occasion. Implicatures can be part of sentence meaning or dependent on the context of conversation. Figures of speech such as metaphors, ironies and understatements provide examples of implicature, which serves a variety of goals beyond communication such as maintaining good social relations through verbal efficiency. Knowledge of common forms of implicature is usually acquired in the course of learning a language as a native speaker.
In this Chapter, an attempt has been made to introduce the research by providing the background to the study. The impetus for the research and the gap in knowledge that the research has filled have also been discussed. The theoretical focus and the concepts that have been adopted in the explication of meaning have been highlighted alongside the implications. It is the belief that by this introduction, the research has been given the required footing for further delineations in the subsequent chapters.