LINGUISTIC STUDY OF SELECTED NIGERIAN CHILDREN’S POETRY IN OSSIE ENEKWE’S GENTLE BIRDS COME TO ME AND IKEOGU OKE’S SONG OF SUCCESS AND OTHER POEMS FOR CHILDREN
Poetic language is the language in which the words are artfully selected and combined in their best order in order to convey thoughts meaningfully. Children’s poetic language is not left out. Children’s poets are more careful in selecting sounds and words in order to achieve a desired effect on the reader. Consequently, the thrust of this study is to highlight the linguistic constituents of Nigerian children’s poetry with a view to revealing its characteristic features that lead to its aesthetics and meaning. To achieve this aim, two collections of children’s poetry books with a total of thirty – three different poems were selected. While twenty nine poems out of the thirty three were selected for analysis. The method of data collection and analysis adopted in the study was direct lifting, examination and analysis of words, phrases and sentences that strikingly illustrate the linguistic features investigated, where description of those features were made in order to ascertain their effects and functions in the poems. The theories guiding the study were descriptive linguistics and Michael Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, while the aspects of language used were phonological, syntactical and semantic. The results of the findings from the two texts were conflated and the summary is that children’s poetry dip amply into the phonology of the language in order to communicate the subject matter of the poems. Thus, sounds of the language play a very crucial role in children’s poetry. They contribute to the aesthetics and musicality of the poems. Also, the uniformity of the word arrangements in the lines of the poems enhances the free flow of the rhythm and the euphony of the lines, while end rhyme predominates other types of rhyme in the poems. The poetry contained more of descriptive and concrete words that appear specific and clearer to a child, which the child is well acquainted with. Complexity, however, is not the feature of the poetry. At the syntactical level, the study revealed that the poets employ, mostly, simple sentences in which the lines are mostly short and the patterning, similar. Consequently, there are syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships of grammatical items in the poems. In the case of clause structure sentences, fronting of adjuncts predominates. The poets front the message which they intend to lay more emphasises on. When it comes to semantics, children’s poets play with language as well. Different devices of language such as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, simile, euphemism, hyperbole etc are found in the poems. Thus, imagery is found to be an important feature of children’s poetry, which helps to awaken the child’s imaginative ability and to picture the idea the poet is trying to communicate.