A  LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF SELECTED NIGERIAN APPELLATE COURT JUDGEMENTS

A  LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF SELECTED NIGERIAN APPELLATE COURT JUDGEMENTS

ABSTRACT

Scientific study of language and its implication in analysis of court judgement is yet to be given as much scholarly attention as other legal genres. Most of the work that has been done so far on Appellate Court Judgements (ApCJs) focus more on stylistic analysis and do not investigate the import of meta-linguistic meanings. Correspondingly, most studies on power relations in the courtroom dealt with the asymmetrical relations of power. As a result, the language of the courtroom has been rated explicit and asymmetric. Therefore, this study investigated the linguistic and the meta-linguistic features in terms of symmetrical and asymmetrical relations of power in selected Nigerian ApCJs.

The study adopted the propositional and meta-propositional frameworks to analyse six APCJs from the Nigerian Weekly Law Reports (1999-2004).Purposive random sampling technique was employed in selecting two leading Judgements from each of the stratified groupings of the three types of appellate judgements: murder cases, human rights abuses and property crimes. Out of the 1,129 sentences that form the data, 110 sentences selected through nth sampling technique of one of every sentence form the     sample size. Using the Systemic Functional Grammar Theory, the tools of analysis employed were Pragmatic markers (pms), politeness theory, speech act theory and componential analysis, to discover their pragmatic marker types, the face types, lexical components, speech act types and their various implications. These analyses revealed that although ApCJs were linguistic, they were replete with meta-linguistic contents. Utterances in the texts comprised two distinct parts:  propositional contents (the basic messages); and meta-propositional contents (the linguistically encoded clues exploited by the judges in signalling their potential communicative intentions).The meta-propositional contents were signalled by four variants of pragmatic markers: basic, commentary, discourse, and parallel markers. The linguistic politeness findings revealed that ApCJ asymmetrically relate powers in disallowed appeals but symmetrically relate power in allowed appeals. The Componential analysis revealed that appellate judges achieved psychological plausibility of their stances through precise diction. The direct speech acts types were retrodictives, assertives, informatives; direct requestives, performatives assertives and verdictives. These showed that the language of ApCJs functions      directly for: reporting, asserting, informing, requesting and pronouncing verdicts, while it indirectly informs, asserts, concedes, directs, requests, dissents and ultimately judges.

Thus, ApCJs themselves depend extensively on re-contextualized linguistic elements taken primarily from different texts, especially from the lower court judgements. In conclusion, the language of ApCJs was not only propositional, meta-propositional, symmetrical but also asymmetrical (four diagonal intricacies that facilitate    logical appellate adjudication and verdicts).Applied linguists should critically investigate other meta-linguistic meanings in the legalese.

Keywords: Linguistics, Propositional, Meta-propositional, Appellate Court Judgements.