Research Article

Igbo endearment terms: In-group identity construction in selected novels by Achebe and Adichie

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 41, issue 2, 2021 , pages: 123–130
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2021.1948211
Author(s): Romanus Aboh, Nigeria, Esther Igwanyi, Nigeria


The continuing and increasing interest in the study of identities in the humanities and the social sciences since the turn of the twenty-first century points to the significance of the subject matter in human evolution. Against such a significant backdrop, we scrutinise the symbolic parallel between the use of endearment terms and the construction of identities in the works of two prominent Nigerian novelists – Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Despite studies on their respective novels, extensive studies on how these Nigerian novelists deploy linguistic resources to enunciate in-group identity are still inadequate. Using social constructionism and literary pragmatics as our theoretical point of reference, we contend that these novelists’ use of Igbo endearment terms function as a linguistic means by which in-group identities are constructed, drawing our data from four of the authors’ novels: Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Anthills of the Savannah and Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. Our critical and textual analysis reveals that the use of Igbo endearment terms are strategies for illuminating how literary characters use language in socio-discursive encounters to enact and re-enact as well as maintain their belonging to or membership of a group.

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