Chuka Ononye (University of Nigeria)
The (mis)management of rapport amongst groups in Niger Delta (ND) communities has become a significant issue, which Ahmed Yerima’s Hard Ground (HG) depicts as having the capacity to aid or control the conflicts in the region. Linguistic studies on Yerima’s drama from the perspective of pragmatics have tended to use pragmatic acts to identify the discourse value of proverbs and functions of characters’ utterances but have not accounted for the politeness strategies utilised for rapport management, especially in conflict situations. This article, drawing on a rapport-management model of politeness and aspects of speech act discourse, identifies the face, sociality rights, and interactional goals that characterise the conflict-motivated dialogues sampled in HG, and reveals the rapport-management (RM) strategies through which these are managed in the text. Three conflict situations can be observed as prompting different RM strategies: cause-effect identification (CEI), militancy support (MSP), and disagreement (DSG) situations. CEI is marked by incriminating (involving eliciting and informing acts) and exonerating (including complimenting and acknowledging acts) strategies; MSP is indexed by strategies of persuasion (realised with face-enhancing/threatening acts), whereas DSG is typified by requesting (featuring explicit head acts and alerters) and blaming strategies (including insulting and threatening, aggravating moves). Generally, the requesting, blaming, and exonerating strategies are largely used by the ND youth in HG to probe, threaten, or disagree on specific issues, while the incriminating and persuasion strategies are mainly employed by the women to indict, influence, and predict future actions. The study of RM in the conflict situations depicted in the play sheds light on the often neglected cause of conflicts in contemporary Africa.