Sentence Pattern and Usage in Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Debate

Roseline Abonego Adejare


This study of sentence pattern and usage in Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Debate identifies and accounts for all occurring major and minor sentences, classifies the major sentences into simple, compound and complex subtypes, determines their typological and thematic distribution, and demonstrates how they were strategically employed to articulate each debater’s points. The data comprises 1876 sentences and was analysed using an improved version of the systemic grammatical model. Results show that major and minor sentences represent 92 and 8 per cent respectively and that while the simple sentence accounted for 77 per cent, compound and complex sentences make up 10 and 13 per cent respectively. Mean length of sentence was 13.6 words and clause density in respect of compound and complex sentences was 1.6 and 2.22 per sentence. Of the seventeen variants of the simple sentence isolated 21 per cent had their elements of structure realised by rankshifted clauses while 20 per cent were affected by multiplicity, mobility and inversion. Though the rest 59 per cent were kernel sentences of the basic SPCA structural pattern, it was not uncommon to find structurally complex groups as elements of clause structure. What determined which of alpha or beta was clause-initially was the focus of the message conveyed. So thematic fronting is not limited to the single clause sentence. Sentence length and type, positioning of clauses or parts thereof, and decisions on conjunctions and finite or non-finite clauses, were greatly governed by theme and the speaker’s mediate goals and grammatical sophistication. These are proofs of the strategic use of the sentence by politicians.


Sentence Pattern, Major Sentence, Minor Sentence, Simple Sentence, Compound Sentence, Complex Sentence, Clause Structure, Rankshifted Clause

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