Pragmatic Acts and Functions of Proverbs in Igbo Novels on Conflict

Ebuka Igwebuika, Ifeoma Nweze


This paper examines how proverbs drafted from body parts and animals are
deployed in literary discourse in a war/conflict context to perform specific acts
and functions. Drawing insights from Mey’s (2001) Pragmatic Acts, the paper
argues that proverbs used in conflict context are ideological and perform
specific pragmatic acts and functions. Using purposively sampled proverbs from
Tony Ubesie’stwo novels which focus on the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967 –
1970: namely, JuoObinna and Isi Akwu Dara N’ala, the findings show that the
proverbs perform five pragmatic functions of advising, warning, inciting,
criticizing and harmonizing for peace. While the animal-based proverbs
perform directive acts of warning, criticizing and inciting violence, the body
parts-related proverbs perform representational acts of advising and
harmonizing for peace. All acts perform two-fold functions of escalating and
deescalating the tensed conflict situation. The study concludes that proverbs
used in conflicts need to be carefully deployed to aid peaceful resolutions of

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