Publication details [#60850]

Publication type
Article in book
Publication language


Interactivity is a universal of the human species and world cultures, but the linguistic and discursive means of achieving it are sometimes specific to particular speech communities. For example, while most cultures have formulae for greeting, appreciating and complimenting, the way these are executed varies by societal expectations, preferences and realities. Oft, people’s interactive orientation to societal values is coordinated by their dynamic and or pragmatic selection of linguistic or non-linguistic resources. In high-context cultures, it strictly defines the cultural identity of the people, and determines their interactive associations. Ọmọlúàbí, a Yoruba high-context cultural concept, encapsulates the idea of a good Yorùbá person, and is thus impactful in determining Yorùbá social, cultural, economic and political identity. It rests on the principles of good behaviour, social harmony and integrity (cfr.Awoniyi 1975), which form the approximate size of the notion of politeness. Ọmọlúàbí is grounded in the linguistic expression of respect and social warmth, which is manifested in greetings, morally-induced encounters and socially-ingrained exchanges. These qualities are interpreted as indices of love, hospitality, communality and good upbringing among the Yorùbá in all areas of life. The term, “ọmọlúàbí”, has three conceptual origins and both describes the character of and the person with the character. Ọmọlúàbí is essentially an upbringing-dependent attribute. The concept of ọmọlúàbí essentially exhibits two discourse forms, namely, marking social bonds and marking high moral standards. The ọmọlúàbí character, displayed in terms of establishing social bonds, is demonstrated largely in greetings, expression of appreciation and response to questions. Greetings, a major way by which the Yorùbá express respect and consequently achieve bonding, constitute an integral cultural practice among the people. Fafunwa (2008) submits that the Yoruba have the most elaborate forms of greetings in the world. The following form and types of greetings are operationally preferred in this article: the ẹ kú/kú/a kú greeting forms, profession-based greetings, casual/routine greetings and seasonal greetings. Expression of appreciation for every favour reveived and acknowledgment of this expression by the recipient. is built into the Yorùbá socialisation process. Another Ọmọlúàbí quality acquired through socialisation is the mode of response or reaction to questions. Age and status come eminently into play here. Idowu (1962) identifies eleven moral values, upheld by most researchers working on Ọmọlúàbí (cf.Faleti 2009; Yoloye 2009): These values have been operationally categorised into three in this paper, namely, integrity (truth and rectitude, dependability in keeping covenants and bonds, straight-forwardness and avoidance of hypocrisy), considerateness (chastity in sexual matters, selflessness, hospitality, kindness and generosity, avoidance of wickedness, and protection of women as weaker sex) and deference (due respect to parents, elders and people in authority). Two levels of pragmatic roles are manifest: orienting to unmarked discursive cues and orienting to marked discursive cues. though orientation to marked circumstances is normally an index of impoliteness, quite paradoxically, face threats and ad hoc impoliteness are sometimes deployed to pragmatically negotiate ọmọlúàbí. The ọmọlúàbí concept is closely related to experiences from the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean high-context cultures. In terms of using directive language, ọmọlúàbí operates pragmatically. Like Chinese politeness, only a fraction of the society, especially the elderly, the older participant or the powerful interactants can give “the others commands, requests, suggestions, advices [sic], warnings, threatens [sic]” (Zhu and Bao, 2010, 850). Finally, one distinctive feature of ọmọlúàbí, almost unshared with any other culture (African or Western) is the right to proverb usage. The social and political realities in the Yorùbá speech community in present-day Nigeria and in the national scope has reduced the ọmọlúàbí values more to mere cultural points of reference than a practically implemented way of life. While much of the greeting forms, appreciation and acknowledgements is still in force and is considered a sine qua non for the Yorùbá identity, the dominance of English in the domestic and educational space has eroded a number of the linguistic resources for expressing the values. This accounts for unintended rudeness among the younger generation. Thus, the incursion of Western values sometimes brings this younger generation into conflict with the older generation. Ultimately, what the scenario foregrounds is the meeting of individual and communal positive face in the orientation to the ọmọlúàbí act.