Participation configuration in a Nigerian university campus
Studies on participation and spatial orientations of college students have examined aspects of university life, as projected through language, from a reportorial or narrative perspective, but hardly any one of these studies has been devoted exclusively to how students’ participation structure, together with the activities participants orient to at the participation space, evokes shared socio-academic backgrounds and cultural constraints, a major way to gain access into the students’ cognitive and pragmatic tendencies. This research, thus, addresses itself to Nigerian college students’ participation configuration, their participant roles, and the illocutionary goals of their encounters within the Goffmanian participation framework and discourse pragmatic parameters. For data, 100 interactions amongst students of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, were taped and scrutinised for participation forms and spatial descriptions. Two types of participation structure are manifest in the interactions, namely, unmarked and marked participations. The unmarked participation structure is the regular frame in which Goffman’s ratification and non-ratification framework is strictly observed. The marked participation configuration, an unexpected interactional frame which bifurcates into accommodated and non-accommodated structures, takes interruptions by unaccredited participants as appropriate or inappropriate. The paper contends that participation configuration and contextual elements prescribe participant roles together with the pragmatic functions assigned to language and actions in the interactions. Thus, the illocutionary goals of participants, rooted in socio-academic matters and enabled by participation structures, spatial orientations and body language manipulations are contextually negotiated.
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