A Corpus-Based Investigation of “Herdsmen” in Selected Nigerian Newspapers
This is a corpus-based investigation of herdsmen in the Nigerian media over a period of ten years. The objectives were to determine the kinds of ews frequently associated with herdsmen; trace the history of herdsmen's prominence in the media; determine the extent of government's actions on herdsmen; and determine the kind of semantic prosody associated with herdsmen in the Nigerian media. Three comparative periods of four years each were examined. For each, a 1.5 million-word corpus was built (4.5 million altogether) using texts of news, editorials and opinions from three major online Nigerian newspapers. The analytical procedures included comparative frequency and collocation analyses of “herdsmen”; concordance-based environment of occurrence analysis of “herdsmen”; and determination of “herdsmen” semantic prosody. The results showed that “herdsmen” were largely negatively represented in the corpus. They were projected as Fulani cattle herders, prominent in the news for attacks, kidnaps and killings. “Herdsmen” showed very high semantic preference for unfavourable words in the corpus and therefore has negative semantic prosody. Negative news about herdsmen started in 2011 with few reported cases. Such reports continued to rise exponentially to reach their statistical and dangerous peak in 2019, but with very little evidence of government actions. It is concluded that herdsmen were increasingly prominent for negative activities but with very little attention and intervention from government as shown in the corpus. It is thus recommended that government should accord priorities and adequate intervention to herdsmen's increased violence in the interest of national peace and security.
Keywords: Media discourse, corpus, herdsmen, collocation, semantic prosody