A LEXICO-SEMANTIC ANALYSIS OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

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Background of the study

The resources of language have always been the medium for the expression of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, ideologies, and other human experiences. Consequently, language has been a fascinating phenomenon to humans all through time. It is this resource with which the individual’s identity is asserted, the resource through which meaning of utterances, in communality with the context is construed. This diverse and fascinating nature of language is what has been employed by writers to relate meaning to their readers through the use of words. It is on this realm of language being able to paint pictures, images, sounds, assert identity and construe meaning that stylistics dwells on.

The study of a writer’s style in text may be geared towards the understanding of the ideology and meaning embedded in the writer’s work that makes his voice stands out from the myriad of voices that populate the field of literature. The writer through literature and language is able to make known his experiences about the world and his thought about happenings in the society, showing that meaning does not just lie on the linguistic codes, alone, but also on the situation surrounding the use of such codes. This is where literature, language and ideology meet.

Understanding the writer’s style is one of the ways in which the reader of a text can fully arrive at the intended meaning of the writer. Looking at the work from the angle through which the story is told, who tells the story, the reason behind the story, the ideology of the story, all through the medium of language go a long way in telling the reader more about the world of the writer. It is at this level that this research will be using Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, to analyse how social meaning and ideology are embedded in language.

War has always plagued the world, and, through time, it seems the human race has become addicted to it, and writers have come to use it as a motivation to depict or portray its effects on the psyche of the common man. This is why Lucien Goldstein observed that

Period of crisis . . . are particularly favourable to the birth of great works of art and literature because of the multiplicity of problems and experiences that they bring to men and of the great widening of affective and intellectual horizon that they provoke ( ‘introduction’2 qtd in Allwell and Ezechi, 2010,p.73).

For the past decades, Africa has been a war torn continent, and the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970 serves as a resource from which most Nigerian writers have drawn inspiration, relating how the war has affected the common man and all those that were either actively involved in the war or not. Nwahunanya asserted that

In every nation’s life, there are normally epochal events, events that are of national significance which keep on recurring in writings… the Nigerian civil war literature is comparable to what is happening along those lines… the nature of the shake-up that resulted from the Nigerian civil war, the nature of the trauma that people went through at the time and the aftermaths…. (1996, p.62)

It is from this pool of inspiration that Adichie has drawn to come up with Half of a Yellow Sun. It should be noted that so many Nigerian writers have explored this subject matter of the civil war in their works. Works such as Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died (1972), John Munonye’s  A Wreath for the Maidens (1973), Elechi Amadi’s Sunset in Biafra (1973), I N.C. Aniebo’s The Anonymity of Sacrifice (1974), Festus Iyayi’s Heroes (1975), Isidore Okpenwho’s Last Duty (1976), Vincent Ike’s Sunset at Dawn (1976), Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra (1981), Flora Nwapa’s Never Again (1984), Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country (2012), etc, were all inspired by the Nigerian civil war.

Adichie’s has also come to join these literary giants with her work Half of a Yellow Sun. As other writers have done, she uses the medium of language to marry history and fiction, to bring to the fore the gory and horrific details of the war on the psychology of the individual and the group involved in the war, and to inform and enlighten the reader about the civil war. Just like other third generation writers, Adichie experiment with language in her work, aesthetically using it in ways that it carries her thoughts and opinion about the war. This study therefore examine A Lexico-Semantic Analysis Of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun

Aims and Objectives of the Study

Most studies on the text have focused mainly on its theme and subject matter; with little attention on its style. However, the objective of this study is to examine Adichie’s employment of language to aesthetically relate her feelings, and ideology about the war in Half of a Yellow Sun. It looks critically at the syntactic, lexico-semantic, phono-graphological features of the text, as well as the ideology that underlie them, and how these features enhance the realization of meaning.

 Significance of the Study

A critical study of a text enables the analyst to see how the writer’s linguistic choices enhance the communicativeness of their works. The significance of this study lies in the demonstration of how the writer’s linguistic choice leads to a better understanding of the social experiences and ideology that underlie the text. It shows how linguistic devices such as mood, transitivity, cohesion, parallel structures, etc, enable us to unearth the ideology behind text construction. The ideology of the text leads us to understand issues of identity and inter-group relations in Adichie’s society.

 Scope of the Study

Studies in stylistics range from discourse stylistics, pedagogical stylistics, literary stylistics, linguistic stylistics, general stylistics, feminist stylistics, to critical stylistics etc. This study will however focus on critical stylistics which looks at how social meaning and ideology manifest through language in text. It will use the features of critical discourse analysis and critical linguistics in analyzing the style in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.

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