Apology and Linguistic Politeness Strategies in English among Igbo Native Speakers in Nigeria: an Inter-language Study



The study sought to explore the conversational English politeness strategies used by Igbo learners of English in Nigeria. Through a purposive sampling process, a total of 3000 copies of questionnaire in the form of Discourse Completion Task (DCT) consisting of 10 different apology discourse situations positing extent of familiarity, hierarchy and degree of infraction were distributed to undergraduates of Igbo extraction at seven universities systematically selected from the South-East and South-South zones in Nigeria. In all, 2748 copies of questionnaire representing 92 percent were duly completed, returned, coded and analysed using the quantitative tool for analysis of production data. Findings demonstrated that the samples used politeness strategies very significantly in apology discourse. Also, the study revealed that apologies are conversational habits of Igbo bilinguals as the offenders willingly made an apology regardless of social differences and context which were also reflected in their choice of strategies as there was obvious transfer of the nuances of the first/native language/mother tongue to their target language production. The study established that apology realisation in an interlanguage context i.e. Igbo speaking learners of English necessarily bears the burden of native language transfer into target language. In conclusion, this study showed that because of the Igbo understanding that in human interactions, there are possibilities of instances of affront or outrage Igbo bilinguals adopted mainly the positive and negative forms of politeness strategies in apology discourse as the case may be to accomplish a conversational demand. The study found evidence to further dispute the universality of politeness and argued that politeness is culture-specific.