British Journal of English Linguistics (BJEL)

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The Performative Aspect of Spontaneous Prayers in Cameroon: A Study in Evasive Media in Interactions


Studies on prayers have focussed mainly on their vertical interactive dimension between the faithful and the deity. As a result, notably with spontaneous prayers, prayers have hardly been seen as a form of horizontal communication, or as ‘evasively’ having a communicative value with the faithful, who constitute their immediate audience. This study therefore considers the horizontal effect spontaneous prayers have on the audience that listens to, or overhears, them. Our analyses show that spontaneous prayers, which turn out to be a medium of communication in its own right, can facilitate complex conversational events as they can be used for self-endearment; for control of the behaviour of the audience; as a pre-emptive measure to ward off blame; as a mild way of being insolent; to dish out criticisms or disapprove of someone’s behaviour with little retort; to give praise and advice without sounding suspicious. Given that spontaneous prayers enable speakers to better communicate sensitive information, we classify them as a medium of tact and a diplomatic weapon that helps in repairing Face Threatening Acts (FTAs) in conversation.

Keywords: Cameroon English, Speech Acts., evasive media, religious register, spontaneous prayers

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