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PROOJECT TOPIC – AMBIGUITY AND POLYSEMY IN IGBO: A CASE STUDY OF NSUKKA DIALECT CLUSTER

PROOJECT TOPIC – AMBIGUITY AND POLYSEMY IN

IGBO: A CASE STUDY OF NSUKKA DIALECT

CLUSTER

 

ABSTRACT

This dissertation extensively looked at the operations of both the lexical and structural features of polysemy and ambiguity. It is a cognitive semantic study of these sense relations as they operate in the Nsukka dialect cluster of Igbo. The analysis made here was based on the use of contextual theory propounded by L. Wittgenstein in 1956. Related literature of other scholars were reviewed to determine the relationships and differences between them and the present work. Data collected were analysed and possible interpretations given. The researcher, to a large extent, used a native-speaker advantage to provide innumerable examples of both polysemy and ambiguity. The findings revealed that ambiguity in metaphorical extensions is a culture-specific phenomenon. It was discovered that „relatedness‟ is a criterion in determining whether a word is polysemous or is homonymous. In this study, we saw that a polysemous word takes a single entry in the dictionary while homographs take different entries. The research also revealed that while the use of ambiguity is sought in some cases, it is despised in others. The study recommended that for effective communication, speakers/writers should use expressions that have the simple meanings as to facilitate speaker/hearer interaction whenever possible

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

Language is one of the greatest endowments of man by nature. It is a phenomenon which singles man out from all other creatures. Language is an indispensable tool in human existence. It plays a major role in the development of any nation. Researchers have in very many ways defined language. Carnie (2007:3) sees language as “…a psychological or cognitive property of humans”. Other authors like Akwanya (2005), Ndimele (1999), Anagbogu, Mba and Eme (2001) and a host of others all see language as a systematic means of communicating ideas and expressing feelings by the use of vocal symbols and conventionalized signs, gestures or marks that are mutually intelligible to the users of the given language. Richards and Schmidt (2002:283) also see language as “the system of human communication which consists of the structured arrangement of sounds (or their written representation) into larger units of morphemes, words, sentences, and utterances”.
The scientific study of language is what is called linguistics. According to Richards and Schmidt (2002:312), Linguistics is: the study of language as a system of human communication. Linguistics includes many different approaches to the study of language and many different areas of investigation, for example sound system (phonetics, phonology) sentence structure (syntax), relationships between language and cognition (cognitive linguistics), meaning systems (semantics, pragmatics, functions of language), as well as language and social factors (sociolinguistics). Several specialized branches of linguistics have also developed in combination with other disciplines, e.g. applied linguistics, anthropological linguistics, psycholinguistics, forensic linguistic.

The foregoing establishes semantics as a branch of linguistic investigation that inquires into meanings of morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, sentences, utterances, as well as discourses. Spencer-Oatey and Zegarac (2002) opine that “… the task of semantics is to describe and explain linguistic meaning, that is, what a given utterance means by virtue of the words used and the ways in which they are put together”. Among scholars, there seems to be a consensus opinion as to the fact that semantics is the study of meaning, where divergent views are seen is in pinning down the meaning of “meaning”. Over the years, the meaning of “meaning” has defiled a common acceptable definition. Ogden and Richards (1923) were able to give not less than sixteen different meanings of meaning (Palmer, 1976:2). Thus, Ogden and Richards assert that the meaning of meaning cannot be unified into one single definition apparently because the words used to represent certain concepts may not have fixed meanings. This may be why Ndimele (2005:2) likened meaning to a chameleon, “changing the colour of its effect with a change of speaker, hearer, context or settings”.

When a word or a group of words is capable of having more than one interpretation, then the word or group of words is said to be ambiguous. If it has to do words, it is categorized under lexical ambiguity, but if it concerns more than one word (e.g. a phrase, a clause, or a sentence), it falls under structural ambiguity. This therefore, means that ambiguity can either be lexical or sentential.

If ambiguity is present in a sentence due to multiple meaning of a particular lexical item, that particular lexical item is said to be polysemous. Agbedo (2000:157) posits that “polysemy refers to a set of different meanings associated with a word, that is, when a given word is amenable to different interpretations”. Ambiguity and polysemy impede communication and we know that the overall function of language is to achieve effective communication.

PROOJECT TOPIC – AMBIGUITY AND POLYSEMY IN

IGBO: A CASE STUDY OF NSUKKA DIALECT

CLUSTER

For communication to take place, there has to be understanding between the speaker and the hearers. Hybels and Weaver (1989:93) opine that “understanding is a two-way process; that is, the speaker is responsible for presenting the idea clearly, and the listener is responsible for trying to understand it accurately”.

If a speaker consciously or unconsciously utters ambiguous expressions, the hearer may give a different interpretation from what the speaker intends to communicate, and this would imply that the speaker has not communicated effectively, therefore, his/her utterance has failed to satisfy the felicity conditions of Austin‟s (1962) Speech Act Theory which requires the speaker to, among other things, fulfill the sincerity condition by providing participants with the requisite thoughts, feelings and intentions, as specified by the procedure (Saeed, 2009: 236)

 

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Language is used basically for communication. It is observed that ambiguity impedes effective communication. If a hearer/listener misconstrues what a speaker intends because the speaker has used an ambiguous expression, it may result in some conditions like chaos, anger, misunderstanding, etc. This situation as it affects the Nsukka dialect has not been given any attention at least as far as the dialect cluster is concerned. The present study is an attempt to fill this gap by investigating the extent to which ambiguity can affect effective communication in our dialect of study. The study, in order to be able to do this will have to identify what constitutes ambiguous structures at both the lexical and phrasal levels. The researcher also will extend the study to polysemous structures in the area of study.

 

PROJECT TOPIC – AMBIGUITY AND POLYSEMY IN

IGBO: A CASE STUDY OF NSUKKA DIALECT

CLUSTER

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