A Social Semiotic Analysis of Birthday Congratulatory Messages in Nigerian Newspapers

Author: Jemimah Ogechi Ekechi (Pan Atlantic University, Nigeria)
Speaker: Jemimah Ogechi Ekechi
Topic: Semiotics and Semiology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


This paper presents a semiotic multimodal analysis of birthday congratulatory messages in selected Nigerian newspapers. Language and images are now integral to the text we read, combining to create meaning in novel ways in contemporary texts. Social semiotics posits that meaning-making is multimodal, involving a variety of modes such as speech and written texts as well as visual components in various discourses. Congratulatory messaging is one of the discourses where multimodal resources are used quite often. Being an age-long universal phenomenon, which forms an integral part of social life, analysis in this study will expound how semiotic resources are manipulated to communicate sociocultural norms, ideologies, and power relations in the context of use. The paper combines the analytical resources of social semiotic theory of multimodality by Kress and van Leeuwen and ethnography of communication by Saville-Troike. The analysis reveals that symbolic elements in the social, religious, cultural, and political spheres carry significant meanings that are critical to message comprehension. This paper aims to make a valuable contribution to the fields of application of the social semiotic framework by presenting data on Nigerian sociocultural norms and interactional patterns. As a result, the following objectives are addressed in this study:
1. To demonstrate how communicative acts in CM mediate specific sociocultural norms, ideologies, and power relations.
2. To demonstrate how verbal texts interact with visual images to improve meaning creation in congratulatory messages.
3. To demonstrate that the addresser’s interest guides the selection of semiotic resources in order to achieve both the goal of interaction and his personal goal.

Keywords: Multimodality, social semiotics, congratulatory messages, ethnography, newspaper, ideology and power relations.