Speech act analysis of Igbo utterances in funeral rites

  • Martha Chidimma Egenti
  • Benjamin I. Mmadike


This paper attempts to classify speech acts in Igbo funeral rites in some towns in Awka South and Aguata local government areas in Anambra State. Paying the last respect to the dead is a common practice in Africa. In Igbo land, it is obligatory to bury the dead following the funeral rites practised by the various communities. In a funeral, there are utterances addressed to God, to the deceased, to the relatives of the deceased and to in-laws, friends and well-wishers. These utterances are meant to soothe the feelings of the mourners, to show solidarity and condole with the bereaved by encouraging them, to pay the last respect to the deceased, to express appreciation for the legacies of the deceased and to offer prayers for the repose of his/her soul. This study examines these utterances as speech acts using Searle’s (1976) classification of speech acts. The aim is to identify the most common utterance speech forms that are manifested and used in funeral rites. The data were collected from funeral rites held in Igbo speaking areas in Anambra State such as Awka, Amawbia, Uga and Nkpologwu by means of a digital tape recorder. The study reveals that the directive, expressive, representative/ assertive, commissive and declarative speech acts are used in funeral rites, with the expressive speech act utterances having the highest percentage (48.3%), followed by the directive and assertive (17.2%) and the commissive (13.8%). However, the declarative speech act is the least in our data (3.5%). One could conclude from this that the expressive speech act is essentially used to condole with the bereaved.


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eISSN: 1597-474X