English Language & Literature

The Pragmatics of the Nkporo Proverb: The Nkporo Example

The Pragmatics of the Nkporo Proverb


Proverbs form part of the linguistic repertoire of a people, just as language itself embodies a people’s culture. Pragmatics, on the other hand, is a theory that investigates, in practical terms, what language does in the hands of its users. But language use is far beyond just passing across information; it is most importantly the ability to achieve the desired goal. This work, therefore, sets out to study the Nkporo proverb and how the Nkporo people use proverbs to achieve the communicative profundity and make their language dense with meaning. It is at this level of communication that the authenticity of a Nkporo indigene is established.

This work also corroborates the fact that the English language is not able to capture, adequately, the native sensibilities, as the proverbs, used for analysis in this work, either lose or shed off certain semantic density when translated into English. But that is not the major concern here.

Meanwhile, this work has been divided into five chapters. The first chapter contains the introduction and explanation of certain terms relevant to this work. Chapter two is the review of other works that have been carried out in this area while chapter three is replete with practical analysis of contexts of performance of Nkporo proverbs. Chapter four examines the stylistic nuances and realization of the image in Nkporo proverbs while the last chapter summarizes as well as concludes the whole discourse. This is followed by the works cited.

Chapter One


1.0. Backgrounds

To properly situate this study, certain phenomena relevant to its direction need to be given a considerable explanation at this point. These include the socio-political and geographical entity known as Nkporo, the subject of this study, and the concept of the proverb. A proper examination of these phenomena is important because the entire work is hinged on them.

1.1. Nkporo: A Socio-historical and Cultural Survey

The geographical area known as Nkporo occupies an area in the present-day Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State of Nigeria. Upon the creation of Abia State by the military government of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in 1991, Nkporo became the northernmost town in Abia State. It is bound in the north by the Akaeze clan and the Oso Ẹdda village, in the South by Ẹbiriba, in the Southwest by Ohafia, and in the West by Item. According to Obasi Igwe in his Nkporo: The History of an Igbo City-State from Antiquity to the Present, “Nkporo, after Ohafia, was, according to the census figures, the most populated community in the then Arochukwu/Ohafia Local Government Area” (4).

According to both oral and written sources, the Nkporo people migrated from parts of the area that make up the present-day Akwa Ibom State. More than 900 years ago, the people we know today as Nkporo lived with another group of people who later became the present-day Efiks, in an area that can be identified as today‟s Nkana/Ikot and Ikoro Ngon/ “Ikpe” zone in Akwa Ibom State. The people of Nkporo claim a three hundred years long movement from their original places of abode in Ibibio land to the current place of settlement. This migration took them through many other towns like Arochukwu, Ohafia, and Ẹbiriba where they settled for specified periods before their eventual arrival at the area now called Nkporo.

At present, Nkporo is made up of eight villages – Etitiama, Amurie, Obuofia, Elughu, Nde Nko, Okwoko, Agbaja, and Ukwa.

1.1.1. System of Government in the Nkporo Traditional Society

Like many other Igbo traditional societies, leadership in Nkporo revolves around the age-grade system, which performs the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government. In the case of Nkporo, the age-grades are supported in their leadership responsibilities by a system of village and sectional representation, the elements of the civil society, such as the title and „lawful‟ secret societies, special interest and grade groups like families, lineages and professionals.

This is of course not to say that the royal or chieftaincy institution has not existed. But the monarchies remain more or less an indicator of a link with tradition or the past. In conformity with the popular parlance about the leadership system of the Igbo, “Igbo enwe eze” (the Igbo has no king), the Nkporo society de-emphasizes heredity monarchs while emphasizing hereditary statuses. According to J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada, “Political power in Igboland has never been exercised from a central place, the Igbo being a stateless polity” (The Igbo Proverb, xix).


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Adedimeji, Mahfouz A. “The Semantics and Pragmatics of Nigerian Proverbs in Chinua Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart and Ola Rotimi‟s The Gods Are Not to Blame.

Akmajian, Adrian et.al. Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall, 2008.

Akwanya, A. N. Language and Habits of Thought. Nsukka: Afro Orbit Publishers, 1999.

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Briggs, Charles L. “The Pragmatics of Proverb Performances in New Mexican Spanish.” JSTOR: American Anthropologist. New Series, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Dec. 1985): 793 – 810.

Di Yanna, Robert. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Egudu, R. N. “Proverb and Riddle in Igbo Traditional Verse.” Ikenga, Vol. 1 (Jan. 1972): 101 – 115.

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