Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies

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Divorce as Conflict: Representation of Participants in Selected Nigerian Newspaper Reports on Divorce Cases

Ayo Osisanwo, Victor Oluwayemi


A number of studies have been carried out on divorce from sociological, psychological and religious standpoints. Studies on divorce from linguistic perspective in Nigeria are hard to come by. Therefore, this paper conceives divorce as a conflict site and examines representations of participants in selected Nigerian newspaper reports on divorce cases. Data for the study were drawn from fifteen divorce reports, five from each of The Punch, The Guardian and The Nigerian Tribune newspapers published electronically between 2016 and 2018. The data were analysed using Halliday's transitivity aspect of the systemic functional linguistics and Fetzer's macro concept of context. Five processes (material, verbal, mental, relational and existential) are used in presenting both negative and positive representational strategies. Following Fetzer's categorisations, three context types (linguistic, social and socio-cultural) helped in projecting twelve representational strategies. While ten of the strategies are for negative other-representations, including husband as killer or beater, ritualist, adulterer, uncaring, less than a man, and pretender or liar, and wife as diabolical or wicked, adulteress, uncaring or unsupportive, and dangerous or violent; two of the strategies are for positive self-representations, including husband as caring and wife as loving. The paper concludes that conflicting couples represent themselves as good while they present their partner as bad to achieve their desired goals.

Keywords: Nigerian newspaper reports divorce cases, marital conflict, representation of participants,

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