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This research work appraises the nature of language use in diplomacy especially as it concerns the Nigeria foreign policy as evident in the Nigeria- South Africa diplomatic relations. It traverses into the intricacies of language and diplomacy, highlighting the chain relation that exists therein. By adopting the survey method,the work looks into the sociolinguistic politeness theory as a tool for appraising language use in diplomacy. From the finding of this work, it was discovered that proper language use in diplomacy is germane to the peaceful coexistence between nations. The mucky relationship that existed between Nigeria and South Africa before it was fixed is a product of wrong language use. Hence, it is therefore recommended that politeness strategies more pertinently positive politeness and negative politenesstenets will be better achieved in this case, by applying strictly appropriate language use in diplomacy so as to reinforce a cordial diplomatic relationship between the duo African nations in review. The diplomats should always examine their language before dishing it out in the course of discharging their duties.



1.1       Background to the Study

Language is the vehicle by which human beings effect communication. According to Agbedo (2009), Language is the pivot on which all human activities ranging from the most prosaic to the most profound revolve.  There is no society that has ever existed in isolation of language or without language. Language is the life of any society; therefore, no society can exist without using or having a language. It is the conduit through which most communication activities are done in any given society.

The importance of language in linguistic study cannot be overemphasized, this is because of its centrality in all linguistics sub-fields; be it syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, applied linguistics or sociolinguistics. In sociolinguistics however, the emphasis goes beyond the analysis of structures and theorization to the actual use of language in the society. Several definitions of language have been proposed by several scholars from the earliest times to the present day.

According to Agbedo (2000:1) “Language is a method of communicating ideas, emotions, feelings, and desires by means of a system of vocal and sound symbols”. Bucher (1979), states that language is the development of the basic forms of communication between human beings and the society. According to Nathan (2004), we cannot communicate in real sense without language, other than gesture: we do communicate through some non-verbal forms like the visual-arts-painting and sculpture and through dance, but the culmination of true, articulate, communication is through language. Language is obviously a vital tool. Not only is it a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, but it forges friendships, cultural ties and economic relationship.

The importance of language for effective communication cannot be over emphasized. The primary purpose of language is to enable communication. Communication is a social activity. It makes interaction between humans possible and effective. Language is the vehicle through which thoughts and feelings are expressed and understood. It is the environment of language used that determines the expressional approach through which ideas acquire their meaning and relevance.

Ohaegbu (1992), points out that there is no society without language of which it serves as the medium of communication. He further states that a person’s functional language is that in which he possess a communicative and linguistic competence. Communicative competence means the ability to use the language for actual communication. For expression of one’s thoughts and ideas and for understanding of others who use same language. So, the importance of language in human communication cannot be underestimated.

Wilkins (1982), also states that our entire social structure is mediated through language and that it is inconceivable that we would have constructed so complex a social interaction if we have no spoken and written language at our disposal. Trever (2001:27) observes that “Language is a social activity which demands joint action”. We all aim to speak successfully and while doing so take into consideration the view of others the speaker and listener or the writer and the reader must belong to the same speech community for them to be able to understand, and comprehend the message effectively”.

            Another eminent scholar Sapir (1921) says that “Language is purely human and not instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desire by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols. These are in the first place auditory and they are produced by the organs of speech”. The nature of language in diplomacy has also attracted much attention in the discussion of the language use in diplomacy, thus the insight into what language is. This has brought about a branch of study known as linguistics. Linguistics as the discipline studies language as a means of communication user primarily by human beings. The recognition of language as organic to human beings is also recognized by Chomsky (1968), who sees language as species specific human possession; the human essence and the only being valuable in the context of humans as opposed to animal. Most fundamentality, Chomsky states further that it is the association with thought, concepts of images in mind and the ability both to produce and to interpret such sounds in recurrent patterns that marks the natural language out of the reach of any other species other than man.

            Lawal (1989), believes that it is this power of language to interact with thought, concept or image in the mind that language becomes a double edge sword of facilitator and at the same time a dangerous weapon. Afuba (2004:6) rightly put it “Language is power”. He goes further to say that it is a medium of passing relevant information and knowledge required of the people.

Meribe (1980) also states that the importance of language in human communication cannot be underestimated, more so, it’s use in diplomacy. He further says that the objective of communication rests mainly on the bedrock of language and the whole of communication is rooted in language. Again, that the fundamental basis of any communication depends wholly on the language used. It is important to note that communication relies heavily on linguistics, in that linguistic concepts provide a fundamental basis for language analysis which helps towards effective communication. Without language, there will be no communication and social integration becomes impossible.

Hall (1973:153) states, while communication is the process or art; “Language is the medium of the process”. This therefore, suggests that general issues of communication can only be fully appreciated in the context of understanding the logical structure of language. As Bridge (1980:16), rightly points out, “It is only ridiculous to under estimate the importance of language is human communication. More so, is its use in diplomacy”. He argues that most development messages in the developing countries have failed because they were not communicated through the right code (language).

Thus, language is basically the symbols we use in order to communicate with one another and rules that govern how we use them. More so, language is succinctly a human system of communication that uses arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures or written symbols. It is pertinent to note that over the years, scholars have been paying attention to the various aspects of language with a view to analyze the systems and conventions inherent in language use. The study of language has over time been undertaken in two different orientations, namely - the asocial orientation and the social orientation. Since those aspects of language study which belong to theoretical linguistics like phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics have been explored by renowned scholars whose views centres on the asocial orientation of language analysis, the need for other aspect of language study, which accounts for how we use language in context to the society that is ‘language use in social context’ or the social orientation (sociolinguistics), becomes necessary especially in the area of diplomacy.

To make the social orientation of language study (sociolinguistics) clearer, scholars like Fowler (1974:213) define sociolinguistics as the study of variation in the form of language in the light of non-linguistic dimensions of social structure; in particular, the correlation between grammatical choices and societal functions and situations; the correlation between the repertoire of language varieties available to an individual and the roles he performs in society; and the values a culture ascribes to its language(s) or its languages and to the varieties of its language(s). He goes further to say that sociolinguistics includes the study of the ways language behaviour determines other kinds of social behaviour.

Malmkjaer (1991: 415) in his own opinion says that “many sociolinguistic studies are concerned with the way in which language varies according to the social group to which a user belongs. He says that the aim of sociolinguistics is to describe this variation and to show how it reflects social structures. Wardhaugh (2006) says that sociolinguistics is concerned with investigating the relationship between language and society with the goal being a better understanding of the structures of language and how languages function in communication; the equivalent goal in the social structure can be better understood through the study of language. He opines that the approach to sociolinguistics encompasses everything like considering- who speak or write what language to whom, when and to what end.

Akindele and Adegbite (1999) aver that sociolinguistics examines the interaction between the use of language and the social organization behaviour. They explain that sociolinguistics focuses upon the entire gamut of topics related to the social organization of language behaviour, including not only language use per say but also language attitudes and overt behaviour towards language users.

Hudson (1980) asserts that sociolinguistics is the study of language in relation to the society. He further says that sociolinguistics is partly empirical and partly theoretical- partly a matter of going out and amassing bodies of fact and partly sitting back and thinking. In line with Hudson’s view, Agbedo (2000:169) says “sociolinguistics takes into account the social aspect of language as a means of human communication”. Finch (2000) in his own view believes that sociolinguistics is interested in real speech within and among speech communities; its concern is with the way in which language varies according to the social context in which it is used and the social group to which it belongs to.

Tagliamonte (2006:3) says “sociolinguistics argues that language exists in context, dependent on the speaker who is using it and dependent on where it is being used and why”. He goes further to say that speakers mark their personal history and identity in their speech as well as their socio-cultural, economic and geographical coordinates in time and space. He notes that some researchers would argue that, since speech is obviously social, to study it without reference to society would be like studying courtship behaviour without relating the behaviour of one partner to that of the other.

Anagbogu, Mbah and Eme (2010) claim that sociolinguistic investigation deals with the study of the way language attempts to adapt itself to the needs of the society. They hold that sociolinguistics studies try to investigate such problems as the causes and effects of the differences that exist among various dialects of the same language. Nwala (2004) believes that sociolinguistics is the relationship between 1anuage and the society. He goes further to say that it is the part of linguistics which investigates the field of language and society and has close connection with social science especially psychology, anthropology, human geography and sociology.

Trudgil (1974b) in Agbedo (2003) is of the opinion that the term sociolinguistics is problematic because it means different things to different people. To him, though everybody agrees that sociolinguistics has something to do with language & society it is clearly not concerned with everything that could be considered language and society because the problem lies in drawing the line between language and society and sociolinguistics.

Olaoye (2007) opines that sociolinguistics tends to be seen by people in different ways because of its parentage in sociology and linguistics. He goes further to say that some defined sociolinguistics as the study of language in relation to the society where emphasis is on the language: others defined it as the study of society and how it operates with its multifarious languages which is from sociology of language perspective. That is to say that the outlook depends on two basic concepts that is the investigators interest whether he is concerned in language or the society.

Radford, Atkinson, Britain, Clahsen & Spencer (2009:14) affirm that “sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between language use and the structure of society; it takes into account such factors as the social backgrounds of both the speaker and the addressee the relationship between speaker, the context and manner of the interaction maintaining that they are crucial to an understanding of both the structure and function of the language used in a situation”. This is why the academia in humanities and social sciences has come to identify with the fact that language use in most sectors of the society is unique and plausible, especially in the area of diplomacy.

According to Nick (2002) diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations, and skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility. Reaching back into antiquity, diplomacy involved mediation, or managing an entity or an individual's relationships with another. It was only with the development of the modern state system, dating from the 16th century that diplomacy took on its more narrow current contemporary meaning: managing the foreign affairs of states at the governmental level. Today, both scholars and practitioners suggest this narrow interpretation has lost its utility. The ability to practice diplomacy is one of the defining elements of a state, and diplomacy has been practiced since the formation of the first city-states. Originally diplomats were sent only for specific negotiations, and would return immediately after their mission concluded. Diplomats were usually relatives of the ruling family or of very high rank in order to give them legitimacy when they sought to negotiate with the other state.

According to Kurizaki (2011), traditional diplomacy has been most importantly concerned with the transition from a state of peace to a state of war, and vice versa; in other words, dealing with the interface of conflict and peace-making. And while this is a central aspect of diplomatic activities in the past and present, it should also be noted that it is today only one, important, aspect. Diplomacy has become something very much more than the diplomacy of states and governments. Though it is still true that the legal formalities based on the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations acknowledge only the diplomacy of states, on the ground, it is impossible to ignore the diplomacy of the global economic system, from the activities of TNCs (transnational corporations) to the intervention of the global economic IGOs (intergovernmental organizations), particularly the World Trade Organization. These, in turn, have diplomatic webs which operate both within and outside the traditional diplomatic system. The same is true of another vast area of diplomatic activity, the diplomacy of civil society organizations. Moreover, the saga of failed and failing states, civil conflict, and international terrorism has in reality created a radically new global world of urgent communications between states and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), between NGOs and IGOs, and amongst NGOs themselves.

Thus, diplomacy is the means by which States throughout the world conduct their affairs in ways to ensure peaceful relations. The main task of individual diplomatic services is to safeguard the interests of their respective countries abroad. This concerns as much the promotion of political, economic, cultural or scientific relations as it does international commitment to defend human rights or the peaceful settlement of disputes.

To be diplomatic, however, has long involved astute skills of tactful conciliation and negotiation. Diplomacy has always included the notion of communication, as well. Added to those meanings in recent decades have been persuasion, conflict resolution, and a whole host of managerial activities centred on economic development and nation-building, such as economic aid and Peace Corps activities. These tasks have required organizational structures that many nations are now being forced to adjust to significantly changed circumstances.

Diplomacy takes place in both bilateral and multilateral contexts. Bilateral diplomacy is the term used for communication between two States, while multilateral diplomacy involves contacts between several States often within the institutionalised setting of an international organisation. Negotiation is the one of most important means of conducting diplomacy, and in many cases results in the conclusion of treaties between States and the codification of international law. The aim of such international treaties is primarily to strike a balance between State interests.

Matteucci (2002) avers that, Powers speak to one another through the language of diplomacy. Diplomatic language should thus lead to better understanding between them. Language yields an incomplete sense of the speaker’s meaning as well as of his intent. It is thus legitimate for a diplomat to seek ways to decode the partner’s conscious and subconscious meanings and intentions, or unmask his attempts at deceit—the latter being partly the purview of intelligence gathering. Language also comes with hidden baggage of many shapes and forms: historical and political context, legal precedent, whatever, that shape the words’ content. Understanding the words’ context is thus a germane task of a diplomat.

That's why language use in diplomacy is a variable phenomenon, with an amazing variety of character(s). It encompasses all the aspects of diplomacy including, public diplomacy, economic diplomacy, citizen diplomacy, official diplomacy, virtual diplomacy, military diplomacy, coercive diplomacy, and non-governmental diplomacy; these are the most important instances of diplomacy.

Nick (2002) avers that the phrase "language use in diplomacy" obviously can be interpreted in several ways. First, as tongue ("mother" tongue or an acquired one), the speech "used by one nation, tribe, or other similar large group of people"; 1 in this sense we can say, for example, that French used to be the predominant diplomatic language in the first half of the 20th century. Second, as a special way of expressing the subtle needs of the diplomatic profession; in this way it can be said, for example, that the delegate of such-and-such a country spoke of the given subject in totally non-diplomatic language. Also, the term can refer to the particular form, style, manner or tone of expression; such as the minister formulated his conditions in unusually strong language. It may mean as well the verbal or non-verbal expression of thoughts or feelings: sending the gunships is a language that everybody understands. But in this sense, the use of language in diplomacy is of major importance, since language is not a simple tool, vehicle for transmission of thoughts, or instrument of communication, but often the very essence of the diplomatic vocation, and that has been so from the early beginnings of the profession. That is why from early times the first envoys of the Egyptian pharaohs, Roman legates, mediaeval Dubrovnik consuls, etc., had to be educated and trained people, well-spoken and polyglots. This is to eschew them from wrong language usage.

Considering the important role played by diplomacy as agents of development, conflict resolution and information dissemination, it is expected that in order to play these roles effectively, language should be used properly.

The correct use of language made some scholars like Widdowson (1978) to explain the difference between use and usage of language in the following definitions. According to Widdowson (1978:59) “use is the realization of the language system as meaningful communication behaviour, while usage is “the manifestation of the knowledge of language system. This distinction of “use” and “usage” of language is based on the notion effectiveness for communication”. This means that an utterance with a well-formed grammatical structure may or may not have a sufficient value for communication in a green context.

Diplomacy in itself is formulated out of and is governed by certain particular rules of a given language. The language use forms the justification for positing “language use in diplomacy” and the need to appraise sociolinguistically, the language use in diplomacy using the politeness theory thus arises.

1.1.2    Levels of Analysis in the Study of Language

It is a basic principle of linguistics that we should make a clear distinction between a formal analysis of language and one which is based on sociolinguistic appraisal. A formal analysis is concerned with observable, actually occurring forms of language and the relationship between them, while a sociolinguistic based analysis is concerned with the ways in which the forms are used as a vehicle for communication in the context of the society. A language has a highly complex structure, and it is impossible for the linguist to describe it all at once. The visual procedure is to divide up the subject matter into a number of different but interrelated aspects, and to attend to this one at a time. By this means, linguistics have come to recognize various levels of analysis in the study of language, three of the most commonly discussed levels being those of phonology, syntax and semantics. These units of analysis in the study of language forms the building blocks of sociolinguistic analysis (appraisal) of language use in diplomacy.

 Tomori (1977) explains that: Modern descriptive linguistics is usually studied from the following angles; phonetics and phonology; grammar comprising morphology and syntax; and semantics of all these three levels called levels of linguistic analysis.

It will be generally important in this analysis to distinguish between a broader and a narrower aspect of linguistic study, the term “Macrolinguistics” and Microlinguistics. Microlinguistics refers to what may be called the core of language analysis, the areas of phonology, grammar and semantics. Macrolinguistics refers to sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, historical linguistics, speech pathology, lexicography and computational linguistics, communication theory etc. It is a unit of this macrolinguistics known as sociolinguistics that the language analysis of this work is based on.

Based on the above premises, this thesis attempts a sociolinguistic appraisal of language use in diplomacy. Most attempts to appraise the language use in diplomacy have concentrated on finding out formal mistakes committed with a critical view.  These criticisms view language use in diplomacy as a formal system – a grammar. But language can also be seen as functional system – a system in use. It is on the notion of language as a “functional system – a system in use” that the beam-light of this research work centres on, and having its focal point on politeness strategies.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Some language and communication scholars, like Defleur and Kearney, especially sociolinguists akin to McLaughlin (2009), Wardhaugh (2006), Pakzadian (2012) etc. assert that the society in its segmental nature and varied personalities that make it up, have different views in understanding diplomatic communication content, which is expressed through language. It is in this light that Grossberg et al (1998) approaches the problem of diplomatic language use from a different angle. They presented Stuart Hall’s (1993) opinion that communication has to be seen as two distinct processes - encoding and decoding- which do not have any necessary relationship to each other. According to them, readers or audience interpret any communication by transplanting them into their own framework or codes. Thus, the interpretation of a text or a statement becomes a complicated and varied task (that is problematic task). This problem has its hinge on the politeness strategies employed by both the encoder and decoder of the message therein. Thus the problem of wrong language use in diplomacy may ensue if the politeness strategies are wrongly applied. It is in line with above problem, the focal point of this thesis seeks to address the wrong application of the politeness strategies.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

The purpose of this study is to carry out sociolinguistic appraisal of the language use in diplomacy with focus on the Nigeria – South Africa diplomatic communications, using politeness strategies model. In diplomacy, language is used to induce or compel actions and reactions by means of persuasion on the encoder and the decoder of the message. In pursuance of this, we have the following as the objectives of this study:

1.      To find out how language use in diplomacy as a functional system in use, arouses the interest of participating diplomats in a diplomatic discussion or conversation;

2.      To x-ray and reveal the language use present in the Nigeria – South Africa diplomatic communications;

3.      To identify and describe the factors that influence the diplomatic language use between Nigeria and South Africa; and also reveal the intricacies and hidden facts of language use in the Nigeria – South Africa diplomatic communications;

4.      To bring out how best to employ the politeness strategies as an effective tool of language use in diplomacy in resolving conflicts between Nigeria and South Africa; also in turn contribute positively to the national development of Nigeria through this study.

1.4       Research Questions

There are some questions that if at the end of this research, remain unanswered; the objectives of this work will not be achieved. To resolve the problem of this study, answers must be provided for the following research questions:

1.      How do we find out the language use in diplomacy as a functional system in use, and how it arouses the interest of participating diplomats in a diplomatic discussion or conversation?

2.      How do we x-ray and reveal the language use present in the Nigeria – South Africa diplomatic communications?

3.      What are the ways to identify and describe the factors that influence the diplomatic language use between Nigeria and South Africa; also how do we reveal the intricacies and hidden facts of language use in the Nigeria – South Africa diplomatic communications?

4.      What are the best politeness strategies to be employed as effective tools of language use in diplomacy in resolving conflicts between Nigeria and South Africa; also what are the contributions of this study to the national development of Nigeria?

1.5       Significance of the Study 

Different varieties of research have been carried out on language use in diplomacy but much have not been done on the sociolinguistic appraisal of language use in diplomacy, with its focus on our home front, Nigeria; bearing the Nigeria – South Africa Diplomatic communications in mind. This above stated fact is what motivated the researcher to carry out this research. This work will be a very important reference work for sociolinguists, diplomats and the academia in general, because it presents a workable solution that bridges the gap which exists between the contributors of subtle conversations in most cases of language use in diplomacy.

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