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Discourse Analysis of English General Extenders in Nigerian Newspapers Editorials

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A PhD Thesis Proposal Submitted to Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba ondo State Nigeria
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1 Discourse analysis of English General Extenders in Nigerian Newspapers Editorials Thompson Ewata (13 November, 2011) Phd Thesis proposal Since the discovery of language, human beings have attempted to concentrate on communicating effectively among themselves. In such human interactions, how to pass their thoughts clearly has always been the focus; as not communicating enough gives room for misunderstanding and misrepresenting him. In the course of teaching and commenting on human communication - formal or informal, the essence of clear and precise communication has been the norm. In assessing the communication proficiency of a worker in the business environment, the worker’s ability to communicate clearly is rated as one of “the most important factor in making an executive promotable” (Adler & Elmhorst, 2002:5). However, it is of interest to state that in as much as clear and explicit communication is of importance to man, the human language does not, in all cases, state or express simply and clearly.
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Discourse analysis of English General Extenders in Nigerian Newspapers Editorials

Thompson Ewata (13 November, 2011) Phd Thesis proposal

Since the discovery of language, human beings have attempted to concentrate on

communicating effectively among themselves. In such human interactions, how to pass their

thoughts clearly has always been the focus; as not communicating enough gives room for

misunderstanding and misrepresenting him. In the course of teaching and commenting on human

communication - formal or informal, the essence of clear and precise communication has been

the norm.

In assessing the communication proficiency of a worker in the business environment, the

worker’s ability to communicate clearly is rated as one of “the most important factor in making

an executive promotable” (Adler & Elmhorst, 2002:5). However, it is of interest to state that in

as much as clear and explicit communication is of importance to man, the human language does

not, in all cases, state or express simply and clearly.

Man’s inability to express simply and clearly most often is not as a result of deficient

language training or orientation but a natural property of the human language. In communicating

– speaking as well as writing – humans deliberately avoid expressing simply and clearly. When

we do not express simply and clearly, we are accused of being vague – (if something written or

spoken is vague, it does not explain or express things clearly (Collins COBUILD Dictionary,

2006)). However, being vague or inexplicit is considered appropriate in some human situations

and is therefore not as a result of our “woolly thinking” (Thornbury & Slade, 2006: 54). It is

important to note that with the precision in communication man emphasises, being woolly or

imprecise, most times, is more effective than precise ones in conveying the intended meaning of

an utterance (Jucker, Smith, & Ludge, 2003).

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Not expressing ourselves simply and clearly is a deliberate and conscientious effort on

our part as users of language. There are human situations that require the speakers been vague to

pass as members of the civilised society else they would be looked down on as uncultured. It is

not uncommon to hear an English speaker, for example, use lexical elements like “rest room,

john, etc” in the course of interaction instead of “toilet” in order to be acceptable and polite. In

some context in English and other cultures, a command is indirectly issued, in order to be polite.

Whereas in other languages and cultures such manipulations are not appropriates.

The culture-specific meanings and politeness functions conventionally associated with

certain expressions and grammatical constructions in a given language become apparent

through comparison with other languages. At the same time, approaching politeness

contrastively makes it necessary to establish categories which can be compared across

groups. … some cultures appreciate pragmatic clarity while associating directness with

honesty. Indirect requests, on the other hand, not only increase “the interpretive demands

on the hearer” (Blum-Kulka 1987: 133), but can also “make the speaker sound devious

and manipulative” (Pinker 2007:442).

Ogiermann (2009)

This is therefore a direct contradiction of the language training that emphasises

explicitness. Also, in the course of interaction, we notice how the intentional use of some lexical

elements makes meanings inexplicit. This is the reason Gardner (2004) says “... parties in

conversations can achieve coherent, rational, mutually comprehensible interactive talk despite a

preponderance of apparently vague and imprecise language...” as "although in the strict sense the

meaning of utterances is not ‘part of’ the structure of the utterance, but assigned to the utterance

by the language user" (van Dijk, 1977: 2).

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Williamson (1994) makes a case for vagueness through the use of language: ‘‘… ’vague’

is not pejorative. Indeed, vagueness is a desirable feature of natural languages. Vague words

often suffice for the purpose in hand, and too much precision can lead to time wasting and


There are times when a speaker, in an interaction, chooses not to communicate (speak or

write) simply and clearly. This may be a deliberate ploy on the part of the speaker or writer as he

assumes that the listener or reader would understand what he means. When the speaker or writer

does not simply nor clearly state what he means, he does this to “avoid either committing

oneself, or imposing on one’s interlocutors” (Thornbury & Slade, 2006: 54). This buttresses the

fact that human communication is context dependent. van Dijk (2008: 4) sees context as:

… slightly more formal than related concepts, such as “situation,” “circumstances” or

“environment,” we use the notion of “context” whenever we want to indicate that some

phenomenon, event, action or discourse needs to be seen or studied in relationship to its

environment, that is, its “surrounding” conditions and consequences ...

In human interactions, meaning is derived not only from utterances but also by other

‘socially acceptable’ means of understanding. The ‘socially acceptable’ is how we as members of

human community make sense of a collection of relatable terms, texts or objects used in

interactions among people. These items that we relate to are brought to us through language.

Human language is governed by conventional rules. The rules allow one user of the

language to use an element that is not specific, yet the other user understands what the first user

means. In van Dijk’s (1977:1) view:

… rules are CONVENTIONAL in the sense of being shared by most members of a

linguistic community: they KNOW these rules implicitly and are able to use them such

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that verbal utterances may count as being determined by the particular language system

of the community as it is cognitively acquired by the individual language user.

In every aspect of human endeavour where language is the vehicle of transmission of

thought, been vague or inexplicit is taken or seen as a norm and there is no complaint on the part

of the addressee when an inexplicit utterance is made. The addressee takes the context of

utterance into consideration in deciphering the information of the sender. Thus, “we may also

conclude that ‘contextual’ analysis of discourse goes beyond grammatical, ‘textual’ and

interactional analysis or understanding” (van Dijk 2008:3).

English General Extenders

The need to be nonspecific has for a long time, in the description of human

communication, been seen as undesirable. Though, humans emphasise specificity in

communication, the human language itself has linguistic elements that make communication

inexplicit. In short, human communication is not always exact or specific. This accounts for why

some scholars that studied human interaction (Stubbs 1986, Channell 1994) have now come to

the conclusion that being vague is a deliberate and acceptable way of human communication.

When we speak or write, we are rarely very clear, precise, or explicit about what we

mean—and perhaps could not be—but are, on the contrary, vague, indirect, and unclear

about just what we are committed to. This often appears superficially to be an inadequacy

of human language: but only for those who hold a rather crude view of what is maximally

efficient in communication (Stubbs, 1986).

Channell (1994:1) states:

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People have many beliefs about language. One important one is that ‘good’ usage involves

(among other things) clarity and precision. Hence, it is believed that vagueness, ambiguity,

imprecision, and general woolliness are to be avoided.

We know in our own individual ways of communication that these concepts – “vagueness,

ambiguity, imprecision, and general woolliness” cannot be avoided.

In the same vein, Jucker, Smith, & Ludge (2003) argue that “vague expressions may be

more effective than precise ones in conveying the intended meaning of an utterance. That is, they

may carry more relevant contextual implications than would a precise expression.”

Description and Meaning of General Extenders

There are many linguistic elements or items that the human language contains that exhibit

inexplicitness, vagueness or inexactness. The elements or items “represent a distinct set of

linguistic elements which have received little attention from linguists but are clearly important

for users of language. These expressions, which are pervasive in ordinary conversation, serve a

number of functions which vary according to contexts of use” (Overstreet, 1999:3).

They have been studied variously by scholars and are labeled differently: set marking

tags (Dines 1980, Stubbe & Holmes 1995, Winter & Norrby 1999), utterance final tags (Aijmer

1985), post noun hedges (Meyerhoff 1992), extension particles (Dubois 1992), discourse

extenders (Norrby and Winter 2001), vague language identifiers (Channell 1994), extender tag

(Carroll 2008), discourse variation (Cheshire, 2007), discourse extension (Tagliamonte &

Denis), lexical vagueness (Metsä-Ketelä), discourse markers (Schiffrin 1987, Fraser 1990,

Stubbs 1983), general extenders (Overstreet 1999), discourse connectives (van Dijk, Blackmore

1997), pragmatic devices (Stubbe & Holmes 1995) among others.

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For this study, I shall adopt general extenders as my terminology as used by Overstreet

(1999:3-4) who claims:

I call these expressions "general extenders": "general" because they are nonspecific, and

"extenders" because they extend otherwise grammatically complete utterances. They can

be divided into two sets: those beginning with and (and stuff, and everything), which

will be called "adjunctive general extenders," and those beginning with or (or something,

or anything), which will be called "disjunctive general extenders." An idea of the range

of possible types of expressions that could be classified as general extenders is provided

in the following list.

adjunctive general extendersand stuff (like that)and all (that)and everything (like that)and blah blah blahand thatand the likeand suchand what have youand so onand so forthand whatnotand the restand this and thatand whateverand you name itand the whole kit and caboodleand the whole nine yardsand the whole bit/thingand (all) (this/that)and (all) (this/that) {sort/kind/type} of{crap/thing/jazz/junk/mess/nonsense/shit/stuff}arid {crap/things/junk/shit/stuff} (like this/that)and {business/crap/things/junk/shit} of {this/that}(kind/sort/ilk/narure)et cetera

disjunctive general extendersor something (like that)or anything (like that)or whator whateveror what have youor anyone (like that)or anybody (like that)or someone (like that)or somebody (like that)or someplace (like that)or somewhere (like that)

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Arguments for General Extenders

To Dubois (1992) the linguistic elements in focus are labelled as extension particles

which she defines as: “a word or short formula, ... that occupies a characteristic position in the

sentence and has a typical intonational pattern. Extension particles appear frequently in

discourse.” She listed some of the extension particles as: and all that¸ things like that, the whole

shebang, etc as some examples. The list includes some the same elements Overstreet (1999)

listed as discourse extenders.

Dubois (1992) mentioned that extension particles are in some ways “anaphoric elements,

elements, serving to extrapolate from what has previously been said, but they also function to

indicate the end of a sentence or phrase. Inherent in the use of extension particles is the

existence of specific areas of social knowledge shared by the speaker and listener.”

Overstreet (1999) deviates from Dubois (1992), Jefferson (1990), Lerner (1994), Dines

(1980), Ward and Birner (1993) and (Channell 1994), in the area of function that these elements

serve. She deviates by saying “that general extenders are best viewed as multifunctional forms

which do not serve a predominantly referential function, but rather have a much more

interpersonally defined role. She accepts Dubois (1992) claim that “... the use of extension

particles is the existence of specific areas of social knowledge shared by the speaker and

listener” but rejected her and others claim of list completion. “Rather than having list completion

or set-marking as their primary function, these expressions are used by speakers to indicate

assumptions of shared knowledge and experience, or to mark an attitude toward the message

expressed, or toward the hearer.”

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Carroll (2008) tracing the use of the elements from written English history labelled the

elements as extender tags. She claimed that the different names given to the elements was as a

result of the scholars “working from varying perspectives”, and as such, “using varied

terminology and sometimes quite different definitions.” She admits with Overstreet (1999: 3)

that “extender tags consist of a coordinating conjunction (and or or) followed by a noun phrase

which typically includes a semantically empty head (thing) and/or a modifier which extends the

denotation of the noun (other).”

Winter & Norrby (1999) looking at the phenomenon among English and Swedish youths

(though they claimed they were not being comparative on previous studies on youth language)

agree on the label set-making tags with previous studies and also agree on the functions set-

making tags perform. They support the idea that set marking tags “can be seen as carrying core

content meanings (in contrast to meanings of addressee/ addressor relationships) and primarily

cue the listener to interpret the preceding element as an illustrative example of some more

general case” (Dines 1980:22, Stubbe & Holmes (1995) and Meyerhoff (1992)). They also

agreed with the previous studies that “it is the prior discourse and the possibility for constructing

a set that leads to the occurrences of SMTs, i.e. SMTs are sensitive to sequential constraints and

display discourse linking through its function of alerting Hearers to that possibility).

Aijmer (2002) on the other hand maintains that “discourse particles are placed with great

precision at different places in the discourse and give important clues to how discourse is

segmented and processed.” This is a sharp contrast to Dubois (1992) that argued that “the

extension particle is not mobile within the sentence.” Aijmer (2002)’s position on the particles is

that “particles are very often highly idiosyncratic: ‘untranslatable’ in the sense that no exact

equivalents can be found in other languages. They are ubiquitous, and their frequency in ordinary

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speech is particularly high.” Quoting from Wierzbicka (1991: 341), Aijmer (2002) comments:

“if learners of a language failed to master the meaning of its particles, their communicative

competence would be drastically impaired.” This emphasizes that pragmatic/discourse markers,

general extenders, extension particles or any other label they are given are part of the repertoire

of human language.

Overstreet (1999:5) listed situations that the elements are found as diverse:

general extenders can occur [1] in a spoken narrative, [2] in a newspaper article, [3] in the

lyrics of a song, [4] at an airline check-in counter, [5] in a stand-up comedy routine, [6]

during a space walk, [7] in a telephone answering machine message, [8] in an interview,

[9] in an emergency (911) phone call, or [10] on news radio.

She used an English prose work “Jane Austen's Persuasion (1818)” to show that

general extenders have a long history in English language. From the studies on the


Overstreet (1999) compares general extenders to discourse markers

(Schiffrin (1987):

Given their apparent discourse function, it might be possible to

describe general extenders as types of "discourse markers" related

functionally to expressions such as you know and I mean, as described

in Schiffrin (1987). In fact, the close co-occurrence of you know … and

I mean … with general extenders suggests that there is some

connection or shared function among these forms.

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She however distinguished her study from Schiffrin (1987) by stating obvious

differences between both items:

Whereas discourse markers represent a disparate list of items, belonging to

different word classes (Schiffrin 1987: 40), general extenders are a relatively

homogeneous set of forms consisting of a conjunction (and or or} plus a noun

phrase. Unlike discourse markers, which function parenthetically and are

independent of sentence structure, general extenders are syntactically

conjoined to utterances and thus part of sentence structure. Finally, whereas

several discourse markers (you know, I mean, oh, like) "can occur quite freely

within a sentence at locations which are very difficult to define syntactically"

goes further than the other studies as she by talking about the elements

generally and giving attention to (Schiffrin 1987: 32), general extenders

typically occur in clause-final position. (There appears to be some

evidence, however, that certain forms, such as and stuff, may be in the

process of becoming more flexible with regard to position … (12- 13).

Whatever label one uses, we are looking at a set of items used in human communication,

although, our emphasis here is solely on the English language. This study though foregrounded

in Overstreet (1999) general extenders shall deviate from it, as contrary to Overstreet (1999) that

was “primarily on forms found in one corpus of American English data, which consists of

informal, spoken interactions among familiars” (1999:9) will be on formal, written

communication “where the interactions are usually asynchronous, where writers and readers

interact over a period of different, non-immediate timeframe…” Arndt, Nuttall and Harvey


Discourse Relevance Theory

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The theory of discourse that this study will be based on will be the Sperber and Wilson

(1985/6), Discourse Relevance Theory.

The classical model of communication is structured in a way that a person who has

something to say or communicate to another person (sender) packages the thought he/she wants

to pass to the other person in such a way that the other person will understand it (encodes). The

sender sends or transmits the thought or idea (message) to the other person though some means

(channel(s). When the message gets to the other person (receiver), the receiver does the reversal

of the sender’s action. That is, he/she uses some means (channel(s) to break down the thought.

The receiver decodes the encoded (message) of the sender through some channel(s). If the

encoded thought he/she decodes makes sense to the receiver, we say he/she has received the

thought of the sender the receiver in return send back another code (feedback) to the initial

sender who now becomes a receiver and subsequently decodes the message.

This entails why scholars who defined communication from the classical model see it as

involving “both the giving out of messages from one person and receiving and understanding of

those messages by another or others. If a message has been given out by one person but not

received or understood by another, then communication has not taken place (Torrington and Hall

1991:132). In this model (classical) of communication, there is a constant processing of the

utterance or communicative intent of the sender by the receiver “through the use of strict coding

and decoding” (Wikipedia, 2011d).

On the other hand, Sperber and Wilson (1985/6), proposed a theory of communication

processing that puts the classical model of communication aside. The theory holds a two-way

processing approach. In their model of processing information, Sperber and Wilson proposed

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that the receiver only listens or reads the massage of the sender as it is important to them, once

the required (relevant) information is got, the receiver stops processing.

Relevance theory is a proposal by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson that seeks to explain

the second method of communication: one that takes into account implicit inferences. It argues

that the hearer/reader/audience will search for meaning in any given communication situation

and having found meaning that fits their expectation of relevance, will stop processing

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relevance_theory). As stated earlier, in this model of

communication, the receiver (audience) is concerned with the part of the communication that

corroborates what they want to hear/read/see (that is what is relevant to them).

In this approach the speaker/author encodes their thoughts and transmits them to their

audience. The audience receives the encoded message and decodes it to arrive at the

meaning the speaker/author intended. This can be visualized as follows:

Speaker's thought/intention   ⇒   encoded   ⇒   transmitted   ⇒   decoded   ⇒  

intention/thought understood.

This is usually referred to as the code model or the conduit metaphor of communication.


According to Sperber and Wilson, “relevance theory is based on a definition of relevance

and two principles of relevance: a Cognitive Principle (that human cognition is geared to the

maximisation of relevance), and a Communicative Principle (that utterances create expectations

of optimal relevance).” They claim their theory is only re-echoing Grice (1989)’s argument “that

an essential feature of most human communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is the expression

and recognition of intentions”.

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The second way of conceiving how thoughts are communicated is by the author/speaker

only conveying as much information as is needed in any given context, so that the

audience can recover their intended meaning from what was said/written as well as from

the context and implications. In this conceptual model, the author takes into account the

context of the communication and the mutual cognitive environment between the author

and the audience. (That is what the author/speaker thinks that audience already knows).

They then say just enough to communicate what they intend - relying on the audience to

fill in the details that they did not explicitly communicate. This can be visualized as


Speaker's thought/intention ± context-mediated information   ⇒   encoded   ⇒  

transmitted   ⇒   decoded ± context-mediated information   ⇒   thought/intention

understood by hearer (an interpretive resemblance to the speaker's intention).


Whatever the model of processing (whether classical or relevance theory), it is important

to state that communication entails two modes – the stated and the implied. Carson (n.d) affirms

that “it is widely accepted that there is a distinction to be made between the explicit content and

the implicit import of an utterance.”

Pietarinen (n.d.) argues that Sperber and Wilson’s Relevance theory fits into the

framework of Peirce (1839 - 1914) theory of “pragmatic theory of meaning”. Peirce “took

pragmatic meaning as a rule of logic embodied in the Pragmatic Maxim (PM)”. Pierce pragmatic

meaning, in considering the logicality of a thought, the practical consequences of that thought is

taken into account. The consequences of such “do not have to be actually acted out, but one has

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to consider them and take them to be conceivable if any thought was to be complete at all.”

(Pietarinen (n.d.).

Wilson and Sperber (2004) claim their theory should be seen as “an attempt to work out

in detail one of Grice’s central claims: that an essential feature of most human communication,

both verbal and non-verbal, is the expression and recognition of intentions”. They claim this is

an inferential way of arriving at the meaning of a communicative intent.

According to the code model, a communicator encodes her intended message into a

signal, which is decoded by the audience using an identical copy of the code. According

to the inferential model, a communicator provides evidence of her intention to convey a

certain meaning, which is inferred by the audience on the basis of the evidence provided.

An utterance is, of course, a linguistically coded piece of evidence, so that verbal

comprehension involves an element of decoding. However, the linguistic meaning

recovered by decoding is just one of the inputs to a non-demonstrative inference process

which yields an interpretation of the speaker's meaning (Wilson and Sperber, 2004).

In human communication, inference plays a key role as it is through inference that we

arrive at most of our meaning in the communicative intents of and with others. The speaker(s) do

not always say exactly or fully what they mean. It is our duty as receivers to work out what the

speakers have left unsaid from what they have said through inference. We infer the meaning of

the communicative intent of the other person(s) through what we already know through previous

experiences. When we infer, we “come to a conclusion or form an opinion about something on

the basis of evidence or reasoning” (Encarta Dictionary, 2009). The process of inference, which

is an aspect of inductive logic, entails the “process of drawing a conclusion about an object or

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event that has yet to be observed or occur, on the basis of previous observations of similar

objects or events” (Genoveva, 2008).

Relevance theory falls under the purview of inferential pragmatics whose goal “is to

explain how the hearer infers the speaker’s meaning on the basis of the evidence provided”

(Wilson & Sperber, 2004). This notion of inferring or arriving at meaning(s) of an utterance is

not new in the pragmatic of meaning circle as Grice had earlier made this claim that “utterances

automatically create expectations which guide the hearer towards the speaker’s meaning.”

Grice described these expectations in terms of a Co-operative Principle and maxims of

Quality (truthfulness), Quantity (informativeness), Relation (relevance) and Manner

(clarity) which speakers are expected to observe (Grice 1961, 1989: 368 - 72): the

interpretation a rational hearer should choose is the one that best satisfies those

expectations. Relevance theorists share Grice’s intuition that utterances raise expectations

of relevance, but question several other aspects of his account, including the need for a

Co-operative Principle and maxims, the focus on pragmatic processes which contribute to

implicatures rather than to explicit, truth-conditional content, the role of deliberate

maxim violation in utterance interpretation, and the treatment of figurative utterances as

deviations from a maxim or convention of truthfulness (Wilson and Sperber, 2004).

We can therefore conclude that (Wilson and Sperber, 1985/6) relevance theory is a theory

based on earlier ones made in pragmatics Peirce (1839 - 1914) Pragmatic Maxim and Grice

(1989) co-operative principles and maxims.

This theory, though, has acceptability among scholars in accounting for utterance

meaning like the ones before it – Pierce’s pragmatic meaning and Grice’s co-operative principles

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and maxims; has also generated a lot of reactions, too. Some scholars have argued against its use

in arriving at utterance meaning.

Carston argues that relevance theory does not take care of explicit/implicit dichotomy

“made within relevance theory and it plainly does not coincide with the distinction between

linguistically decoded meaning (“semantics”) and pragmatically inferred meaning.”

Blackmore (2001), on the other hand, argues that relevance theory does not account for

discourse meaning or study discourse at all as the “the concern in relevance theory is with

something internal to the human mind” while to her, from the definitional stance of Zelling

Harris the originator of the term discourse analysis and Chomsky’s (1986) “externalized

language (or E-language)”, which is analogous to discourse, discourse is “a structural

phenomenon or a social phenomenon.”

Giora (1997) argues that “relevance cannot be the only principle that governs human

communication … can by no means replace current accounts of discourse coherence … since it

is neither necessary nor sufficient for text well-formedness.”

Despite this stance by scholars that oppose the idea of relevance to discourse, they have

not, in any way, set aside the claims made by relevance theory that we process an utterance

based on its relevance to us as humans. Though we may say subjective processing could becloud

our processing, yet, we cannot totally say that relevance is not necessary to utterance processing.

Scope of Study

My intention in this work is to prove that human interaction is not in all cases explicit.

That, most times, humans intentionally prefer inexplicitness in their communication without

worrying about the effect of such communication on their intended receivers as they have taken

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it for granted that their receivers understand them. To prove this, I shall examine the Nigerian

newspaper editorials published in English demonstrate that human communication is not, at all

time, explicit.

Objectives of the Study

The objectives I hope to achieve in this study are:

1. Identify general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials

2. Determine the total number of general extenders use in the Nigerian newspaper editorials

3. Examine, with statistical evidence, preponderance or otherwise of general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials

4. Classify general extenders into typology

5. Analyse the identified general extenders in the Nigerian newspapers editorials

6. Explain the functions of general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials

7. Analyse the usage of general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials

8. Show in the Nigerian newspapers editorial that formal communication can inexplicit through the use of general extenders

9. Add more objective from suggestions from this august body and my further readings


To carry out this task, I intend to use the Nigerian newspapers (in English) editorials.

The choice of newspaper editorials is borne out of the fact that the (newspaper) editorials form

part of the formal communicative events (in writing) of Nigeria. Since language is the vehicle

through which the messages of the editorials are passed, it gives us ample room to examine

language in a true life situation. Seen from the perspective of Schiffrin (1987:3):

1) Language always occurs in a context.

2) Language is context sensitive

3) Language is always communicative

4) Language is designed for communication

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Currently, there are about seventy – two (72) different types of newspapers (or papers)

spread across Nigerian, please, see (http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/nigeria.htm) which

houses online editions. To be classified as a paper for this work, Wikipedia advises that the paper

must meet these “four” criteria, namely:

i. publicity: Its contents are reasonably accessible to the public.

ii. periodicity: It is published at regular intervals.

iii. currency: Its information is up to date.

iv. universality: It covers a range of topics”


At the same time, the newspaper must fall into the following classification:

a) national: contain some national and internal news, but focus on news relating to relating to a specific area of the country.

b) regional: contain national and international news, but focus on fairly local news topics in details. Usually based around towns, cities or groups of villages.

c) local: a newspaper which covers news across the whole country, together with international news.

d) tabloid: the largest type of newspaper! Cover all national and international news, often in a serious or formal way.

e) broadsheet: cover all national and international news. often contain a certain amount of more 'gossipy' or scandalous news items, or more personal stories


To carry out this study, I intend to use the “stratified sampling technique” to pick the

newspaper editorials to be used for the work. This will be done by listing all the newspapers in

alphabetical order then assigning them numbers (1 – 72) in that order; the papers will then be

grouped into groups of four. The fourth item on each group will be picked as a representative of

the group. Based on the above, my sample design shall include a 25% (which translates to 18

newspapers). Anything more than 25% population of the census of papers in Nigeria will be too

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large while a lesser number will be too small to adequately cover what I want to achieve with the

study. My choice of 25% population of the Nigerian newspapers has also taken into

consideration “economy, timeliness, size, inaccessibility to some of the population, accuracy”

(Kothari, 2004) among others factors.

Computational Linguistics

Man is ever trying to improve his life through the invention and improvements on already

invented items. In the course of making his life better, man invented clothing, housing,

transportation and the rest. In trying to make his life comfortable, he improved on some of his

invented items and developed new ones. The car, bus, ship, train, aeroplane, submarine and

metro train are some of the improved modes of transportation. In the same way, he invented

writing and the press to compliment how to record and preserve his written materials. To further

make his life easier, man invented electricity; and other household and office gadgets followed

the invention of electricity. The computer is one of the gadgets that followed the invention of

electricity and has been put to use in almost, if not all, aspects of man. From sports and

entertainment, medicine, warfare, information processing and retrieval, transportation,

agriculture, education to mention a few, man has put the computer to use. In the field of

education, the computer has been of immense importance to learning and teaching and it is

therefore not surprising to see it used in the field of linguistics.

In the area of language, the computer has been of great value to man as it is used to

create, improve, edit, generate, store, manage, and search for text documents, which are all language

based operation and the need to manage these language documents prompted the development of a

computer system or operation (software) that can help further ease man’s use of language. It is in the

course of man looking for ways to improve his life that computational linguistics came into being.

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Computational linguistics is the study of computer systems for understanding and

generating natural language (Grishman, 1986: 1). It is a linguistic study that combines the

knowledge of language and computer. Thus, it “is the scientific study of language from a

computational perspective” (http://www.soehn.net/work/icl/intro.pdf).

From another perspective comes the view that computational linguistics “might be

considered as a synonym of automatic processing of natural language, since the main task of

computational linguistics is just the construction of computer programs to process words and

texts in natural language” (Bolshakov and Gelbukh (2004:16). They however went on to say

Computational linguistics is “more linguistic than computational” because: it is “mainly interested in

the formal description of language relevant to automatic language processing, rather than in purely

algorithmic issues”. And that contrary to expectation, “in addition to some purely computational issues,

we also touch upon the issues related to computer science only in an indirect manner”...

To Uszkoreit (2000):

Computational linguistics (CL) is a discipline between linguistics and computer science

which is concerned with the computational aspects of the human language faculty. It

belongs to the cognitive sciences and overlaps with the field of artificial intelligence

(AI), a branch of computer science aiming at computational models of human cognition.

Computational linguistics has applied and theoretical components.


The concept of computational linguistics started in the 1950s in the US when scholars

attempted translating texts from Russian scientific journals into English and translators of the

texts could not cope with the demand of the scholars that required the translated texts. The

scholars therefore thought of using “computers to automatically translate texts from foreign

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languages, particularly Russian scientific journals, into English”

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_linguistics). The idea to use computer to

automatically translate text was based on the premise that:

since computers can make arithmetic calculations much faster and more accurately than

humans, it was thought to be only a short matter of time before the technical details could

be taken care of that would allow them the same remarkable capacity to process language


On the other hand, Bolshakov and Gelbukh (2004:16) argue:

The necessity for intelligent automatic text processing arises mainly from the following

two circumstances, both being connected with the quantity of the texts produced and used

nowadays in the world:

Millions and millions of persons dealing with texts throughout the world do not have

enough knowledge and education, or just time and a wish, to meet the modern standards

of document processing…

In many cases, to make a well-informed decision or to find information, one needs to

read, understand, and take into consideration a quantity of texts thousands times larger

than one person is physically able to read in a lifetime….

However, the idea to use the computer to translate language known as “machine

translation or mechanical translation” envisaged by the scholars in the US did not materialise.

This led the scholars and computer programmers to realise that “automated processing of human

languages was recognized as far more complex than had originally been assumed”. It was the

failure of the computer or “machine” to translate language as expected that led to the emergence

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of computational linguistics “as the name of the new field of study devoted to developing

algorithms and software for intelligently processing language data” (Wikipedia).

Though computational linguistics is seen as an offshoot or subfield of “artificial

intelligence, we need to understand that computational linguistics “predates artificial

intelligence, a field under which it is often grouped” (Wikipedia).

The products of Computational linguistics includes, but not limited to, : “classification of

applied linguistic systems, automatic hyphenation, spell checking, grammar checking, style

checking, references to words and word combinations, information retrieval, topical

summarization, automatic translation, natural language interface, extraction of factual data from

texts, text generation, systems of language understanding” (Bolshakov and Gelbukh, 2004 ).

There are two approaches in Computational linguistics:

1. Rule-Based Systems: “explicit encoding of linguistic knowledge, usually

consisting of a set of hand-crafted, grammatical rules, easy to test and debug,

require considerable human effort, often based on limited inspection of the data

with an emphasis on prototypical examples, often fail to reach sufficient domain

coverage, often lack sufficient robustness when input data are noisy).

2. Data-Driven Systems: implicit encoding of linguistic knowledge, often using

statistical methods or machine learning methods, require less human effort, are

data-driven and require large-scale data sources, achieve coverage directly

proportional to the richness of the data source, are more adaptive to noisy data

(Richter 2005/6).

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While the areas of application of Computational linguistics include: machine translation,

speech recognition, speech synthesis, man-machine interfaces, intelligent word processing:

spelling correction, grammar correction, document management: find relevant documents in

collections, establish authorship of documents, catch plagiarism, extract information from

documents, classify documents, summarize documents, summarize document collections

(Richter 2005/6).

For the purpose of this study, Computational linguistics is important as we shall be

looking at the issue of frequency, mode, percentage, average, position, mean, median among

other variables of occurrence of some linguistic items. This is important as:

Work in computational linguistics is in some cases motivated from a scientific

perspective in that one is trying to provide a computational explanation for a particular

linguistic or psycholinguistic phenomenon; and in other cases the motivation may be

more purely technological in that one wants to provide a working component of a speech

or natural language system.


Since its establishment, computational linguistics goes with diverse names:

1. Computational linguistics

2. Natural language processing

3. Human language technology

4. Language engineering

Data Analysis Technique

Since this study dwells on the analysis of text based materials and will rely on

computational linguistics in highlighting the linguistic elements of the texts it focuses on, it is

appropriate for it to adopt the Content analysis technique for its data analysis.

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Of all the research techniques prevalent in the social sciences, content analysis is one of

the “most important.” The uniqueness of context analysis to social sciences research is shown in

the way it:

... views data as representations not of physical events but of texts, images, and

expressions that are created to be seen, read, interpreted, and acted on for their meanings,

and must therefore be analyzed with such uses in mind. Analyzing texts in the contexts of

their uses distinguishes content analysis from other methods of inquiry … content

analysis is not the only research method that takes meanings seriously, but it is a method

that is both powerful and unobtrusive. It makes sense of what is mediated between

people-textual matter, symbols, messages, information, mass-media content, and

technology supported social interactions-without perturbing or affecting those who

handle that textual matter.

(Krippendorff, 2004:xiii).

Human operate in environment and as such their behaviours are content-dependent. The

way a man behaves with his friends, family, colleagues at work, neighbours, mere acquaintances,

subordinates and superiors will be determined by the context in which the interaction takes place.

In the course of analysing human interactions or behaviours, we must take into consideration the

context. Since man’s environment or context determines his behaviour, we must also study him

with the context of his operation. Social scientists have reduced context to “anything that can be

structured or described.” This could be: “words, images, video, tools or applications, features,

services, physical items, signage” (Fox, 2008).

The focus of this study is to analysis newspaper editorials in the Nigerian context. It is

object of description is written words (text). The texts in the context of the Nigerian newspaper

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editorials are words written by the editor(s) or the editorial board of the newspapers to have

effect(s) on the readers of the newspapers. Krippendorff, (2004:19) comments on the importance

of text and its relationship to context analysis:

The crucial distinction between text and what other research methods take as their

starting point is that a text means something to someone, it is produced by someone to

have meanings for someone else, and these meanings therefore must not be ignored and

must not violate why the text exists in the first place. Text – the reading of text, the use of

text within a social context, and the analysis of text-serves as a convenient metaphor in

content analysis.

Context Analysis

Like everything in the world, context analysis has been defined variously by scholars

who have used and studied its operations. “Content analysis is a research technique for making

replicable and valid inferences from texts (or other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their

use.” (Krippendorff, 2004:18). Since any research work that needs to qualify as being scientific

must be one that can be done by other researchers and would yield the same result (replicable),

content analysis answers to this as it is a method of research that its method of operation can be

used by other researchers and would yield the same result(s).

In the same vein, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) quoting Weber

(1990 and Krippendorff, (1980) says: “it is a systematic, research method for analyzing textual

information in a standardized way that allows evaluators to make inferences about that


Context analysis involves the classification of text through the process called “coding”.

This “consists of marking text passages with short alphanumeric codes. This creates “categorical

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variables” that represent the original, verbal information and. that can then be analyzed by

standard statistical methods. in classifying a text, the researcher

identifies its themes, issues, topics, and so on. The result might be a simple list of the

topics in a series oi meeting notes. Content analysis can go further if the evaluator counts

the frequency of statements, detects subtle differences in their intensity, or examines

issues over time, in different situations, or from different groups


Due to its versatility, Content analysis is used in many field of knowledge where analysis

of text or text based materials is needed. The Colorado State University (2011) comments that:

Perhaps due to the fact that it can be applied to examine any piece of writing or

occurrence of recorded communication, content analysis is currently used in a dizzying

array of fields, ranging from marketing and media studies, to literature and rhetoric,

ethnography and cultural studies, gender and age issues, sociology and political science,

psychology and cognitive science, and many other fields of inquiry. Additionally, content

analysis reflects a close relationship with socio- and psycholinguistics, and is playing an

integral role in the development of artificial intelligence...

The site goes on, citing Berelson (1952), to list the other possible uses to which it could

be put to as:

1. Reveal international differences in communication content

2. Detect the existence of propaganda

3. Identify the intentions, focus or communication trends of an individual, group or


4. Describe attitudinal and behavioural responses to communications

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5. Determine psychological or emotional state of persons or groups


The advantages of context analysis include:

a) It can be unobstructive

b) It can deal with large volumes of materials

c) It is systematic

d) It can corroborate other evaluative methods

Context analysis however has the following drawbacks. The drawbacks are still the

advantages as every of the advantage can become a problem in the cause of further analysis.

Because it can be unobstructive, sufficient human resources must be committed to it. This means

it will not be a cost effective method of analysis. "Moreover, while content analysis has

safeguards against distortion of the evidence, evaluators must use judgment in coding the data if

the potential users of the results will be uneasy about the judgment-making process, content

analysis may not be advisable."

Research Questions

The following research questions shall answered

1. Are there general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials?

2. What is the total number of general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials?

3. What is the frequency of occurrence of general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials?

4. What is the typology of general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials?

5. Can the function(s) of general extenders be determined in the Nigerian newspapers editorials?

6. Are there functions that general extenders serve in the Nigerian newspaper editorials?

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7. Can general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials be analysed?

8. Do general extenders in the Nigerian newspaper editorials make the editorials explicit?

The Scope of the Study

Most of the earlier studies done on discourse extenders have been in the area of spoken,

informal and phatic communication. My attention shall focus on written, formal and

communicative communication.

The study shall centre mainly on newspaper editorial only and not the general news

covered by the papers. At the same time, it shall be limited to newspaper written in English in

Nigeria solely.

The theoretical framework

The theoretical framework on which the work would hinge would be


Discourse analysis has a history that dates back to more than 2000 years and is related to

classical rhetoric (Van Dijk, 1985). The historical evolution of discourse analysis can be seen

from two angles: “when the term discourse analysis came into being and second will be when

analysis started.”

Discourse analysis came into being when Zelling Harris (October 23, 1909 – May 22,

1992) a renowned American linguist, mathematical syntactician, and methodologist of science

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zellig_Harris)) employed the term in 1952 for a method for the

analysis of connected speech (or writing), that is, “for continuing descriptive linguistic beyond

the limits of a single sentence at a time, and for correlating ‘culture’ and language” (The

Linguistic Encyclopaedia, 2002).

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The second angle does not use the term discourse analysis. It involved the theological

practice whereby certain religious orders restricted their clerics to monasteries and nunneries

even as they engaged in series of writings which were later referred to as discourses, today.

Depending on the angle from which one views it, discourse analysis is a vague and

ambiguous term. The vagueness is as a result of two factors: people’s inability to clearly answer

the questions: “what constitutes a discourse?” and “how are discourses organized?” (Dooley and

Levinsohn, 2000).

The ambiguity on the other hand stems from the definition of the term. This can be

noticed from the definition given to discourse analysis in Stubbs (1983:1) from where three

different views are put forward as the meaning of discourse analysis:

a) concerned with language use beyond the boundaries of a sentence/utterance,

b) concerned with the interrelationships between language and society and

c) concerned with the interactive or dialogic properties of everyday communication.

However to clarify the three stances put forward by Stubbs will be to refer to discourse

analysis mainly as the linguistic analysis of “naturally occurring connected speech or written

discourse”. This refers to attempts to study the organisation of language above the sentence or

above the clause, and therefore to study “larger linguistic units”, such as conversational

exchanges or written texts. It follows that discourse analysis is also concerned with “language

use in social contexts”, and in particular with “interaction” or dialogue between speakers


Discourse analysis does not just pay attention to words or linguistic items but dwells on

the fact that words do not occur in isolation of the context in which they occur – both linguistic

and extra linguistic. To Cook (1990: ix): “Discourse analysis examines how stretches of

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language considered in their full textual, social, and psychological context, become meaningful

and unified for their users.”

Van Dijk (1981) claims that discourse analysis is a multi-disciplinary analytical tool that

transcends different disciplines and fields of knowledge. It is “an inter-multidisciplinary study. It

has its root in … linguistics, literary study and anthropology and it is being practiced presently

virtually in the humanities and social sciences…”

A tentative Table of Content and list of References to consult are attached.


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Arndt, V., Nuttall, J. & Harvey, H. (2000) . Alive to language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blackmore, D. (2001). "Discourse and Relevance Theory". In Schiffrin, D., Tannen, D. & Hamilton, H. E. (Eds.) The handbook of discourse analysis. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bolshakov, I. A. and Gelbukh, A. (2004). Computational linguistics: Models, resources, applications (1st ed,). Retrieved October 08, 2011 from:. http://www.gelbukh.com/clbook.

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Fox, C. (2008). Content Analysis: The Hows & Whys to Understanding Your Content. Retrieved October 11, 2011 from: http://chiaraogan.com/euroia_cfox08.pdf

Gardner, R. (2004). Conversation analysis. In Davies, A. & Elder, C. (Eds.). The handbook of applied linguistics. Malden, MA, Oxford & Victoria: Blackwell Publishing. 262 - 284

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Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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Stubbs, M. (1986). “A matter of prolonged fieldwork: notes towards a modal grammar of English”. Applied Linguistics 7 (1), 1–25.

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United States General Accounting Office (Program Evaluation & Methodology Division) (1996). Context analysis: A methodology for structuring and analysing written material. Retrieved October 08, 2011 from: www.gao.gov/product/PEMD- 10.3.1

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