A CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS OF NIGERIAN TELEVISION SERIES – JENIFA’S DIARY

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ABSTRACT

Jenifa’s Diary is a film screened as a television program and has been produced to entertain and educate the Nigerian youths most especially. The main character, Jenifa, is known for her hilarious and rib breaking grammatical blunders. However, more importantly, the series draw attention to prevalent social ills with the hope that such attention will assist in encouraging relevant social agencies to mediate, subsequently in alleviating the problems faced by affected people and communities. Most Jenifa’s Diary viewers focus mainly on the main character’s poor linguistic expressions, thereby neglecting the macro level (ideology) implications of the contents of the series. This study however focuses on identifiable social issues and their implications as portrayed in the series. Jenifa, the protagonist, is used as a voice for the oppressed in the advocacy for social justice and communal equity.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents a background to the research work, the statement of the problem, research questions, the aim and objectives and so on. It also gives an insight into the theory that will form the framework of the present research study.
1.1 Background to the Study
Film, also called a movie, is a series of still images that when shown on a screen creates an illusion of motion images. This illusion causes the audience to perceive continuous motion between separate objects viewed rapidly in succession. A film is created by photographing actual scenes with a motion picture camera.Films are cultural artifacts created by specific cultures. They reflect those cultures and in turn, affect them. Film is considered to be an important art form, a source of popular entertainment, and a powerful medium for educating or indoctrinating citizens.
Jenifa’s Diary is a film screened as a television program and has been produced to entertain and educate the Nigerian youths most especially. The main character, Jenifa, is known for her hilarious and rib breaking grammatical blunders. However, more importantly, the series draw attention to prevalent social ills with the hope that such attention will assist in encouraging relevant social agencies to mediate, subsequently in alleviating the problems faced by affected people and communities. Most Jenifa’s Diary viewers focus mainly on the main character’s poor linguistic expressions, thereby neglecting the macro level (ideology) implications of the contents of the series. This study however focuses on identifiable social issues and their implications as portrayed in the series. Jenifa, the protagonist, is used as a voice for the oppressed in the advocacy for social justice and communal equity.
Discourse usually means actual instances of communicative action in the medium of language. Discourses are ideas as well as ways of talking that influence and are influenced by ideas. Discourse is both shaped by and helps to shape human life world or the world as we experience it. In other words, discourse both reflects and creates human beings’ worldviews. People bring worlds into being by talking, writing and signing. DA therefore studies the ways in which language is used in text and context observing everything from audio to written composition. Discourse analysis is a qualitative method of analysis which explores the meanings produced by language use and communication, the contexts and practices caused by these meanings.
Discourse analysis reveals the hidden motivations behind a text or behind the choice of a particular method of research to interpret that text. Every text is conditioned and inscribes itself within a given discourse. Discourse analysis will, thus, not provide absolute answers to a specific problem, but will enable us to understand the conditions behind that problem and make us realize that the essence of that problem and its resolution lies in its assumptions that enable the existence of that problem. By enabling us to make these assumptions explicit, discourse analysis aims at following us to view the problem from a higher stance and to gain comprehensive view of the problem and ourselves in relation to that problem.
Critical discourse analysis “is the uncovering of implicit ideologies in texts. It unveils the underlying ideological prejudices and therefore the exercise of power in texts” (Widdoson, 2000). Critical discourse analysis refers to the use of an ensemble of techniques for the study of textual practice and language use as social and cultural practices (Fairclough, 1992).Fairclough and Wodak (1997: 271-280) summarize the main aim of critical discourse analysis as follows; critical discourse analysis addresses social problems, power relations are discursive, discourse constitutes society and culture, discourse does ideological works, discourse is historical, the link between text and society is mediated, discourse analysis is interpretative and explanatory and discourse is a form of social action.
In the opinion of Van Leewen (1993:193), “critical discourse analysis should be concerned with discourse as the instrument of power and control, as well as with discourse as the instrument of the social construction of reality”. Given the power of the written and spoken word, critical discourse is necessary for describing, interpreting, analysing and critiquing social life reflected in text (Luke, 1997). It tries to illuminate ways in which dominant forces in the society construct versions of reality that favours their interests. By unmasking such practices, critical discourse analysis scholars aim to support the victims of such oppression and encourage them to resist and transform their lives (Foucault, 2000). In all of these, language is integral. Language is a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of social group and participants in its culture express themselves. It also implies the channel through which a person or group of people express thoughts, ideas, emotions and feelings.
Jenifa’s Diary is didactic in nature. It seeks to teach the public morals and to also inform them of some ills in the society. First, a social problem is a social condition (such as poverty) or a pattern of behaviour (such as violence against women) that people believe warrants public concern and collective action to bring about change. Social conditions or certain patterns of behaviour are defined as social problems when they systematically disadvantage or harm a significant number of people or when they are seen as harmful by many of the people who wield power, wealth and influence in a group or society.An examination of social problems focuses primarily on issues that affect an entire society.Some social problems such as violence and crime are commonly viewed as conditions that affect all members of a population.
The terms ‘majority group and minority group’ are used in the society today to refer to power differentials among groups. A majority (or dominant) group is one that is advantaged and has superior resources and rights in a society (Feagin and Feagin, 1999). Majority groups often are determined on the basis of racialized factors or ethnicity, but they can be determined on the basis of gender, sexual orientation (homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality), age, or physical abilities. A minority (or subordinate) group is one whose members, because of physical or cultural characteristics are disadvantaged and subjected to negative discriminatory treatment by the majority group and regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination (Wirth, 1945). In Nigeria, the poor, women and children, people with disabilities tend to be considered minority group members regardless of their proportion in the country’s population.
Racism is also one of the social problems that the television series pinpoints. Racism is a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices used to justify the superior treatment of one racialized or ethnic group and the inferior treatment of another racialized or ethnic group. People of colour pay a direct, heavy and immediately painful price for racism, while the white discriminators pay an indirect and seldom recognized price.
Prejudice is a negative attitude about people based on such characteristics as racialization, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation (Allport, 1958). If we think of prejudice as a set of negative attitudes toward members of another group, we realize that all people have prejudices, whether or not they acknowledge them. Prejudice is rooted in ethnocentrism- the assumption that one’s group and way of life are superior to all others. Singing the national anthem is a form of positive ethnocentrism. However, negative ethnocentrism can result if individuals come to believe, because of constant emphasis on the superiority of their own group or nation, that other groups or nations are inferior and should be treated accordingly (Feagin and Feagin, 1999). Negative ethnocentrism is manifested in stereotypes that adversely affect many people. Stereotypes are overgeneralizations about the appearance, behaviour or other characteristics of all members of a group.
Similar to the ways that racialized ethnic group members experience discrimination based on supposed innate characteristics, women experience discrimination based on their sex. Gender refers to the culturally and socially constructed differences between females and males based on meanings, beliefs and practices that a group or society associates with feminity or masculinity. For many people, being masculine means being aggressive, independent and not showing emotions and being feminine means the opposite- being passive, dependent and emotional. Males are supposed to be aggressive and independent not because they have male sex organs but because that is how people in the society think males should act.
The social basis for gender roles is known as the gender belief system or gender ideology- ideas of masculinity and femininity that are held to be valid in a given society at a specific historical time (Lorber, 1994). Gender ideology is reflected in gendered division of labour- the process whereby productive tasks are separated on the basis of gender. How do people determine what constitutes “women’s work” or “men’s work”. In poor agricultural societies, for example, women work in the fields and tend to their families’ daily needs; men typically produce and market cash crops but spend no time on household work. Across cultures, women’s domain is viewed as private and domestic while men’s domain is viewed as the public, economic and political.
According to feminist scholars such as Hooks (2006:26) and (Rogers 1999:11), gender inequality is maintained and reinforced through individual and institutionalized sexism. The term ‘individual sexism’ refers to individuals’ beliefs and actions that are rooted in anti-female prejudice and stereotypical beliefs. ‘Institutionalized sexism’ refers to the power that men have to engage in sex discrimination at the organizational and institutional levels of the society. This pattern of male domination and female subordination is known as patriarchy – a hierarchical system of social organization in which cultural, political and economic structures are controlled by men. Consequently, the location of women in the work force and on economic pyramid is evidence of patriarchy (Epstein, 1988).
Crime is a significant social problem because it endangers people’s lives, properties and sense of well-being. Crime is a behaviour that violates criminal law and is punishable by fine, jail term, or other negative sanctions. There are two components of every crime: the act itself and the criminal’s intent. An individual’s intent in committing a crime may range from wilful conduct to an unintentional act of negligence that is defined as a crime. An example of crime is sexual assault. It is an act of violence in which sex is used as a weapon against a powerless victim (Vito and Holmes, 1994).
Having defined and given examples of social problems that are rampant in the society and of course featured in the television series, this research work intends to analyse the social problems using language as the tool for analysis. The research work will analyse the languages used to express the thoughts of each character concerning the social ills, the languages of the characters that are major accomplices of these social ills and the languages of the characters that are victims of social oppression.
Subsequently, this research analyses language use at various levels of linguistic analysis. Excerpts from the series are used to show some elements of these social ideologies embedded in the everyday use of the language. In addition, we give meaning to the expressions used and also shed light to each speaker’s intended meaning of the languages used.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Studies on Jenifa’s Diary have examined the grammatical aspects of the main character’s grammar which have been the most fascinating aspect of the series and has, however, being the center of attraction and entertainment for its viewers and have noted that scholars on this field have neglected the macro level of analyzing films on the basis that discourse does ideological work, discourse constitutes society and culture (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997).However the present study concentrates on the social problems the series has tried to portray which has eaten deep into the Nigerian system and crumbling its social, political and economic development. This is because while Olosunde (2017) studied the linguistic analysis of Jenifa’s English and Johnson (2017) also used this data in the sociological field to examine how the screen is a mirror to the society; the present research is concerned with the analysis of the linguistic portrayal of power and ideologies in the series. This is expected to provide more insight into the degradation of the Nigerian society as a result of power differences.
1.3 Research Questions

  1. What are the dominant thematic preoccupations in Jenifa’s Diary?
  2. What is the Nigerian linguistic situation in relation to Jenifa’s linguistic situation?
  3. What are the ideological depictions central to the thematic focus of the series and how is language deployed as a tool for the realization?
  4. What are the implications of these realizations on the Nigerian society?
    1.4 Aim and Objectives
    The aim of this study is to do a critical discourse analysis of Nigerian television series Jenifa’s Diary. The specific objectives of the study are to:
  5. identify the thematic focus of the selected series;
    2.discuss the peculiar linguistic situation identifiable in the data
  6. examine the linguistic portrayal of identities, power and ideologies in the discourse in the series; and,
  7. relate the thematic preoccupations and linguistic portrayals to contextual Nigerian social realities.
    1.5 Methodology
    This study adopts a close-text analysis in its application of the tenets of Critical Discourse Analysis to twenty (20) episodes of the Nigerian television series –Jenifa’s Diary. Two (2) episodes each, out of thirteen (13) episodes per season were purposively selected from the available ten (10) seasons. The primal guiding criterion was the thematic foci identifiable in the episodes. Textual excerpts from the episodes are used in the data presentation, analysis and discussion. It is expected that this will provide empirical basis for the findings and subsequent discussions. The realisations are further complemented by contextual realities particularly from the Nigerian environment.
    1.6 Theoretical Framework
    Teun Van Dijk’s approach to critical discourse analysis will be adopted for this study. Van Dijk is one of the leading figures and pioneers of research in the domain of critical discourse analysis. In doing critical discourse analysis, Van Dijk offers some practical principles, guidelines and asserts that he has no special school or approach.
    Discourse, Cognition and Society
    Van Dijk believes that there is no direct relationship between social structures and discourse structures and almost always they are connected to each other through personal and social cognition. This cognition is the lost segment of many critical linguistic studies and critical discourse analysis; therefore he offers a triangle of society.
    SOCIETY
    COGNITION DISCOURSE
    In Van Dijk’s triangle, in a broad sense, discourse is a communicative event that includes oral interactions, written texts, body movements, pictures and other semiotic signifiers.Cognition here refers to personal and social cognition, beliefs, goals, values, emotions and other mental structures.
    Society includes micro structures, political, social and universal macro structures which are identified in terms of groups and how they are defined in terms of groups and how they are related such as dominance and inequality.In explaining the context of discourse, here, context is of two types – macro and micro. Micro context refers to language use, discourse, verbal interaction and communicationwhile macro context refers to power, dominance and inequality between social groups in which a communicative event occurs.
    1.7 Significance of the Study
    This research work is significant in that it shifts away from the sociological aspect a bit and focuses more on how language is used to express feelings of problems faced in the society by each member of the society. Language, here, helps the individual to project their thoughts to the limelight, thereby making language a tool for analysis.
    1.8 Contribution to Knowledge
    This research work will help to pinpoint the social ills being faced by Nigerian youths and it will contribute to the body of knowledge by informing the public of the social issues raised and also will educate them on solutions to the problems.
    1.9 Delimitation
    This study will focus on the social issues raised in the series and the implications it has on the Nigerian context. It will also focus on the linguistic portrayals of these issues.
    1.10 Outline of the Study
    This research is structured in five chapters. The first chapter is a generalintroductionto the concerns of the study. It highlights the statement of problem, research questions, aim and objectives, theoretical framework, significance of the study, contribution to knowledge and so on. The second chapter focuses on literature reviews that are relevant to the study. It also presents the theoretical framework for the study which is Critical Discourse Analysis based on Teun Van Dijk’s sociocognitive theory. Chapter three gives a detailed methodology for the study towards fulfilling the aim and objectives of the study. Chapter four gives the presentation and discussion of findings. Chapter five summarizes and gives recommendation to issues that were raised in the course of the research.

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