Discourse implications of the use of punctuation in selected inaugural lectures in two universities in Southwest, Nigeria.
This study identified the uses of punctuation marks in the selected inaugural lectures and analyzed the specific punctuation marks deployed in the lectures. This study also discussed the meaning and discourse implications of the use of punctuation marks in the selected lectures. This was with a view to demonstrate the importance of punctuation marks in every written academic discourse, including mature academic writings like inaugural lectures. The study employed both primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary data comprised 10 selected printed copies of inaugural lectures from two southwest universities: Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Ibadan. Five inaugural lectures were selected from five different faculties in each of the institutions – Arts, Sciences, Health Sciences, Education and Law. Inaugural lectures were chosen as the data for this study because they are works of knowledgeable experts in various fields who should be role models in writing that is free from errors or blunders. The secondary data included books, journal articles, and the Internet. The inaugural lectures were analysed using insights from Quirk et al’s categorisation of punctuation marks: specification and separation. The results showed that the use of punctuations in the selected inaugural lectures varies; some were commonly used while some were rarely used. Punctuation marks that were commonly used in all the inaugural lectures are: comma, full stop, quotation mark, hyphen, colon, brackets, apostrophe and bold print; while some marks were not used in all the lectures but used in most of them, these marks are: semi-colon, question mark, slash, ellipsis, exclamation, dash/dashes, italics and capitalization; and the mark that is scarcely used by the selected lecturers is underlining. The study also found that exclamation mark and question mark are marks that are used for specific purpose because they usually indicate the style and mood of the writer. Exclamation mark was used mainly to express emotion and mood of the writer. Also, some marks function to foreground some grammatical items in order to call the attention of readers to such items; these marks are: quotation marks, italics, underlining, bold print and capitalization. The study also showed that some marks were not used where they ought to be used, most especially the omission of full stop, comma and colon at the point in a sentence where their use is important. Also, it was discovered that some lecturers deviated from the conventional usage of ellipsis which is three dots; some lecturers are irregular in their use of the mark by using more than three dots; this is a misuse of the mark. There are instances of misuse of semi-colon too in the selected inaugural lectures. The study concluded that punctuation marks are important in every written discourse and errors in the use of punctuation marks are not restricted to writings of students at primary, secondary and tertiary institutions alone, but can be found in mature academic writings as well.