A Pragmatic Analysis Of Selected Cartoons In Vanguard Newspaper

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A Pragmatic Analysis Of Selected Cartoons In Vanguard Newspaper


Artists, especially, cartoonists have made vigorous effort to portray the society by familiarizing people with the on-going events in such society. This work aimed at investigating how pragmatic elements could be deployed to properly interpret the ways in which cartoons and their utterances depict and satirize socio-political realities in Nigeria. In this regard, sixteen “pocket cartoons” were selected from Vanguard editions between June and Sep., 2010 and they were analysed using pragmatic elements such as speech acts, contexts, presupposition world knowledge, implicature, inference and deixis. It was discovered that utterances used in these cartoons were mainly “assertives” and ‘directives’ meaning that they (those utterances) signified the state of socio-political affairs in the country. We also found out that an utterance can have more than one ‘illocution’ and ‘perlocution’ and the perlocutions may vary with regard to the addresses. Indeed, it was noted that context and world knowledge were essential indices of understanding and interpreting cartoons.



Pragmatics is a shift from strict grammatical rules to a situational language use.It is a linguistic theory that studies meaning from the perspectives of language users, communication code and socio-cultural conventions. Hence, Mey (2007:6) asserts that “Pragmatics Studies the use of language in human communication as determined by the conditions of society”.

Cartoons are “Comic strips”. They create humour by portraying “observable characters in a society” (Bitner, 2003:306). Cartoons serve as a medium through which people are informed, educated and entertained by presenting societal happenings in hillarious manner. They are found in newspapers, magazines and newsletters.

Vanguard is a Nigeria Newspaper that centres on politics, education, sports, local and national news etc. It has a section named “pocket cartoon” which portrays socio-political events in the country.

With a view to studying pragmatics, Babatunde and Odepidan (2009) carry out a “Pragama- rhetorical strategies in selected speeches of President Olusegun Obasanjo (Former Nigeria President).Adetunji (2009) also conducts analysis of selected acts. However, they did not focus on non-verbal aspects of language.

This work is therefore, borne out of a desire to study the workings of pragmatics (including non-verbal language) in selected pocket cartoons from editions of Vanguard so as to discover how utterances used in these cartoons reflect Nigerian socio-political realities.


This work aims at examining the role of contexts in the interpretation

of utterances contained in the selected cartoons. It equally wants to investigate how messages are encoded in and can be decoded from cartoons. The functions and effects of utterances in these cartoons will also be accounted for. Finally, the essay also aims at capturing the essence of world knowledge in the interpretation of utterances.


It is no gain-saying that non-linguistic features such as objects, persons and things are very pivotal in generating meaning from linguistic items.In this regard, cartoons exhibit non-linguistic features which pragmatics as a theory takes care of. So, it is believed that this work will be of great benefit to students of English and literature, researchers and linguists that are interested in pragmatics.


Pragmatics is a theory that contains a number of theories. Thus, this project will be restricted to pragmatic theories such as ‘speech acts,’ ‘implicature,’ ‘intention and inference’ and ‘context’ as well as pragmatic elements such as ‘presupposition,’ ‘ world knowledge,’ ‘ deixis,’ ‘ inference’ and ‘non-verbal language.’ Sixteen ‘pocket cartoons’ will be selected from Vanguard’s editions as our data.


This essay will use sixteen “pocket cartoons” (both single panel and panel cartoons) in a Nigerian newspaper- Vanguard published between June and September 2010. Stratified systematic sampling technique is adopted to select the samples because of inconsistency in the pocket cartoons publications. For instance, some editions of the newspaper do not contain pocket cartoons while some (editions) repeat previous “Panels.” As a result of these, four pocket cartons are sourced from each month’s editions of Vanguard. These editions are: vol. 25: No. 61123, vol. 25: No. 61129, vol. 25: No.61130, Vol. 25 No.61135 (June), Vol. 25: No. 61146, Vol. 25: No. 61150, Vol. 25: No. 61158, Vol. 25: No. 61162 (July), Vol. 25: No. 61167, Vol. 25: No. 61174, Vol. 25: No. 61175, Vol. 25: No. 61182, (August), Vol. 25: No. 61189, Vol. 25: No. 61196, Vol. 25:No. 61194, Vol. 25:No. 61204 (September).

The data will be analysed using pragmatic approach. The elements to be explored are:locution, illocution, and perlocution (speech acts), contexts, implicature, presupposition, inference, world knowledge and deixis. Illocutions and perlocutions will be presented in tabular form. Also, non-verbal language as an element will be subsumed under physical context (a sub-element) because the latter houses the features of the former.


A Nigerian newspaper covers local issues politics, business, major events, celebrations and life styles of Nigerians. According to Aina (2002: 244-248) “over one hundred national and local newspaper operate in Nigeria:. While some of them are owned by the State government, some are owned by private bodies.

Aliagan (2006:13-14) discloses that the first printing press came into existence in Nigeria in 1846 through Presbyterian mission. He further notes that “Iwe Iroyin fun Awon Ara Egba ati Yoruba” was the first newspaper in the country and was founded in 1859.This was followed by Robert Campbell’s newspapers in 1863 in Lagos colony. Other newspapers of colonial period are “The Daily Times” (Founded in 1926) “African Messenger” (Founded in 1921), “Lagos Daily News (Founded in 1925) e.t.c.

Newspaper publishing bloomed after independence as both the government and private companies invested more in it. Some of the post colonial newspapers are “The Nation” “The Punch” “Vanguard” “The Guardian” etc.


Vanguard newspaper was established in Nigeria in 1983 but began operation in 1984. It was initially a Sunday newspaper and later became daily newspaper. Vanguard covers “general national news, politics, business, sports and the Niger Delta region (www.vanguardngr.com)”. It is “a famous newspaper” and now has distribution centres in many state capitals in the country. It has its headquarters in Lagos (http://nigeriandailynewspaper.com/vanguard). Cartoons


This chapter has given a general introduction to the topic of this essay.  Cartoons The purpose and significance of the work were also discussed followed by its scope and limitation.  Cartoons Method of data collection and analysis were also disclosed and brief notes were given on Nigerian newpapers and Nigerian Vanguard. In the next chapter, we shall review the relevant literature to this topic. Cartoons.

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