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The Pragmatics of Tiv Verbal Insultsdocx

By Institute Of African Studies, University Of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Summary


Insults exist in every culture and serve a variety of purposes. They may shock, entertain, or amuse. They are a perennial product and indicator of human conflict. Like other forms of speech, insults are a product of the society in which they are constructed and used. Thus, they serve as a rich resource for understanding the complexities of the social

contexts in which their speakers construct and use language. This paper addresses the pragmatic import of Tiv verbal insults. It takes the view that often, what hurts is not the lexicalization or mere verbalization of the expression that is termed insulting. Rather, it is the societal stigmatization of the expression, along with the speaker‟s and the victim‟s psychological orientation to it, that puts the bite in the insult. The paper agrees with Garrioch (1987:104) that “words spoken in private may be acceptable, whereas the same words used between the same people, but publicly, become insulting.” In other words, the social context of performance is a crucial factor in evaluating insults. The main argument then is that, given the lexical meaning of most Tiv verbal insults, it is clear that what makes them insults is not their lexical or semantic import per se, but their pragmatic force, which force is occasioned by the performance of the insults. It examines three main types of insults in Tiv. These are performative insults, assertive insults, and evaluative insults. Some of these are extant, and others are contemporary. These classifications are only meant to serve as a guide in the analysis, they are not meant to be discrete paradigms. The essay is based on data collected mainly at two locations at Zaki-Biam in Benue State over a period of three months in 2004. The sites are the Zaki-Biam main Motor Park, and a popular pub in the same town.
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Abstract


Insults exist in every culture and serve a variety of purposes. They may shock, entertain, or amuse. They are a perennial product and indicator of human conflict. Like other forms of speech, insults are a product of the society in which they are constructed and used. Thus, they serve as  a  rich   resource  for  understanding  the   complexities  of   the   social
 
contexts in which their speakers construct and use language.  This paper addresses the pragmatic import of Tiv verbal insults. It takes the view that often, what hurts is not the lexicalization or mere verbalization of the expression that is termed insulting. Rather, it is the societal stigmatization of the expression, along with the speaker‟s and the victim‟s psychological orientation to it, that puts the bite in the insult. The paper agrees with Garrioch (1987:104) that “words spoken in private may be acceptable, whereas the same words  used between the same people, but publicly, become insulting.” In other words, the social context of performance is a crucial factor in evaluating insults. The main argument then is that, given the lexical meaning of most Tiv verbal insults, it is clear that what makes them insults is not their lexical or semantic import per se, but their pragmatic force, which force is occasioned by the performance of the insults. It examines three main types of insults in Tiv. These are performative insults, assertive insults, and evaluative insults. Some of these are extant, and others are contemporary. These classifications are only meant to serve as a guide in the analysis, they are not meant to be discrete paradigms. The essay is based on data collected mainly at two locations at Zaki-Biam in Benue State over a period of three months in 2004. The sites are the Zaki-Biam main Motor Park, and a popular pub in the same town.

About the Author

Institute Of African Studies, University Of Nigeria, Nsukka.

http://www.unn.edu.ng/academics/institute/institute-of-african-studies-2/
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