Discourse structures of hate discourses in Nigeria


  • Sopuruchi Aboh University of Nigeria, Nsukka
  • Bestman Odeh University of Nigeria, Nsukka




Semantics, Syntax, Hate discourses, Nigeria, Political discourse analysis


By adopting the semantic and syntactic-related structures of van Dijk’s (1997) political discourse analysis, this research paper examines twenty-one (21) hate discourses by selected political actors in Nigeria. The hate discourses were obtained from the Nigerian online newspapers as well as from the Twitter handle of political actors. The first set of analyses examines the semantic-related structures of hate discourses and discovers that they contain implicit and explicit structures where hate speakers make propositions with positive predicates about the hate speakers’ own group rather explicit than implicit. The finding also reveals that the selected hate discourses manifest the semantic structure of local discourse coherence where the negative actions of in-group members are treated as an exception whereas those of out-group are overgeneralised. The findings obtained from the syntactic-related structures of hate discourses reveal that hate speakers use pronouns to emphasise their bad deeds and emphasise our good deeds. The research also discovers that in hate discourses, stereotypical words are topicalised as a way of showing emphasis. These findings suggest that hate discourses in Nigeria conform to the syntactic and semantic aspects of discourse structures as enunciated in van Dijk’s (1997) political discourse analysis. The study also discovers that hate speech hinders Nigeria’s national development because of inter-ethnic tensions caused by doubt, lack of trust and suspicion. Together, these findings provide important insights in the way political actors use hateful tags on each other in order to secure political power.

Author Biographies

Sopuruchi Aboh, University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Sopuruchi Christian Aboh is a Graduate Assistant, Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He bagged B.A. (Linguistics/Igbo) in 2016 and M.A. (Linguistics) in 2019 from the University. Currently, he is a PhD fellow of Discourse Analysis and Pragmatics in the same institution. He has attended both local and international conferences. His current research is: Ideology of post-truth in Nigerian cities: A discourse historical analysis. He is a member of the Pragmatics Association of Nigeria (PrAN). His research interests lie in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and pragmatics.

Bestman Odeh, University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Bestman Esegbuyiota Odeh is a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages. He bagged B.A. (Linguistics) in 2014 and M.A. (Linguistics) in 2019 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Bestman Odeh is a member of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN). He has published in both local and international journals. His research interests lie in morphology and syntax.


Adetayo, Olalekan. 2017. Osinbajo declares hate speech as terrorism. Retrieved from punchng.com/breaking-osinbajo-declares-hate-speech-as-terrorism. Accessed on 27/11/2018.

Adibe, Jideofor. n.d. Ethnicity, hate speech and nation-building. Retrieved from www.gamji.com/adibe/adibe19.htm. Accessed on 27/11/2018.

Alkali, Terfa, Hemen Philip Faga, and Jinatu Mbursa. 2017. “Audience perception of hate speech and foul language in the social media in Nigeria: Implications for morality and law.” Academicus - International Scientific Journal 161-178.

Appadorai, Angadipuram, 1975. The Substance of Politics (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Aristotle. 1932. Politics: With an English Translation by H. Rackham. London: Heinemann.

Ayegba, Monday. 2017. A pragmatic analysis of the use of verbal aggression by Nigerian politicians. A Ph.D Seminar, Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Brown, Penelope and Stephen Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some Universals of Language Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chidozie, Frederick. 2016. Verbal aggression in Nigeria: A case study of the 2015 general elections. M.A. thesis, Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Chilton, Paul. 2004. Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Denton, Robert. Jr. 2000. Political Campaign Ethics: Any Oxymoron? Westport: Praeger.

European Court of Human Rights, 2017. Fact sheet–hate speech. Retrieved from http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/FS_Hate_speech_ENG.pdf. Accessed on 13/05/2018.

Ezeibe, Christian. 2015. Hate speech and electoral violence in Nigeria. Retrieved from http://www.inecnigeria.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07. Accessed on 13/05/2018.

Fairclough, Isabela and Norman Fairclough, 2012. Political Discourse Analysis: A Method for Advanced Students. New York: Routledge.

Gee, John. 1999. An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method. New York: Routledge.

Hernandez, Tanya. 2011. Hate speech and the language of racism in Latin America: A lens for reconsidering global hate speech restrictions and legislation models. University of Pennyslvania Journal of International Law 32.3: 805-841.

Hymes, Dell. 1962. The ethnography of speaking. In Thomas Gladwin and William Sturtevant, eds., Anthropology of Human Behavior. Washington DC: Anthropological Society of Washington, Pp. 13-53.

International Foundation for Electoral systems. 2018. Countering Hate Speech in Elections: Strategies for Electoral Management Bodies. Arlington: Author

Iroka, Jovita. 2013. Sociolinguistic profiling of the use of abusive language in Nigeria: A print media perspective. M.A. dissertation, Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Jideofor, Adibe. 2012. Ethnicity, hate speech and National building. Retrieved from saharareporters.com. Accessed on 06/05/2018.

Joel, Jennifer. 2013. Ethnopaulism and ethno- religious hate speech in Nigeria. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236268158. Accessed on 25/04/2018.

Krisagbedo, Ebere and Chris Agbedo. 2018. The ‘other room’ metaphor as a linguistic marker of sexism and gender-based violence. A paper presented at 2018 International Conference/Chinua Achebe Memorial Lecture, Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka on 8 – 13 April, 2018.

Levin, Abigail. 2010. The Cost of Free Speech: Pornography, Hate Speech, and Their Challenge to Liberalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lillian, Donna. 2007. “A thorn by any other name: Sexist discourse as hate speech.” Discourse & Society 18(6), 719-740.

Madiebo, Alexander. 1980. The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers.

Mendel, Toby. 2006. Study on international standards relating to incitement to genocide or racial hatred: For the UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide. Retrieved from http://www.concernedhistorians.org/content_files/file/To/239.pdf. Accessed on 06/05/2018.

Mill, John Stuart. 1978, 1859. On Liberty. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Ogwuonuonu, Frank Eneawaji. 2017. The effect of inciting statement in Nigeria. Retrieved from www.thenewswriterng.com/?p=19605. Accessed on 27/11/18.

Okafor, Virginial and Alabi Olanrewaju. 2017. A speech act analysis of hate speeches in the 2015 general election campaign in Nigeria. IMPACT: International Journal of Research in Humanities, Arts and Literature (IMPACT: IJRHAL), 5(6): 61-72.

Okakwu, Evelyn and Josiah Oluwole. 2017. Lawyers speak on military declaration of IPOB as terrorist group. Retrieved from

www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/243398-lawyers-speak-military-ipob-terrorist-group.html. Accessed on 24/10/2018.

Osaghae, Eghosa and Rotimi Suberu. 2005. “A history of identities, violence, and stability in Nigeria.” CRISE Working Paper, 6: 1-27.

Pailthorpe, Brittany. 2017. Emergent design. Retrieved from

www.researchgate.net/publication/320928488. Accessed on 05/05/2018.

Scheffler, Andrea. 2015. The Inherent Danger of Hate Speech Legislation: A Case Study from Rwanda and Kenya on the Failure of a Preventative Measure. Windhoek: Fesmedia Africa, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Sunstein, Cass. 2003. “Free speech.” In Why Societies Need Dissent edited by Cass Sunstein, 96-110. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tsesis, Alexander. 2002. Destructive Messages: How Hate Speech Paves the Way for Harmful Social Movements. New York: New York University Press.

UNESCO. 2015. Countering Online Hate Speech. France: Author.

van Dijk Teun. 1997. “What is political discourse analysis?” In Political Linguistics edited by Jan Blommaert and Chris Bulcaen, 11-52. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Waya, David and Ogechukwu Nneji. 2013. “A pragmatic analysis of victory and inaugural speeches of President Jonathan: A measure for transformation and good governance in Nigeria.” Innovare Journal of Social Sciences 1(2): 17-21.

Waya, David. 2017. A comparative study of the patterns of hate speeches during the Nigeria 2015 and USA 2016 presidential campaigns. Ph.D seminar, Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages, University of Nigeria, Nsukka




How to Cite

Aboh, S., & Odeh, B. (2021). Discourse structures of hate discourses in Nigeria. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 10(1), 276–304. https://doi.org/10.4314/gjl.v10i1.318