Gay intolerance in the language of Stellenbosch students : a critical discourse analysis of Campus News Media

Mongie, Lauren (2008-03)

Thesis (MPhil (General Linguistics))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


This thesis has been written in partial fulfillment of the requirements of a masters programme in intercultural communication. The study focuses on aspects of linguistic communication, specifically in media discourse, where “cultural boundaries” are determined by sexual difference and where much misunderstanding appears to be founded in different conceptions of homosexuality. I have investigated the theoretical frameworks within which discursive reflection on homosexuality can be studied from an interdisciplinary perspective. The research examines reports in a student newspaper that topicalise homosexuality; it also considers reports that are part of a discourse in which communication takes place between a heterosexual majority and a homosexual minority. Reports that were published across a period of five years were examined, in order to determine whether there has been any development in the discourse. This investigation of a particular kind of intercultural media discourse has been augmented by investigating attitudes towards the minority group by means of a questionnaire, designed by Kite and Deaux (1986: 137). This questionnaire was distributed among 240 students in an attempt to determine whether their reported attitudes coincide with those reported in the media. Despite the fact that homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) more than 30 years ago, reports of homophobic violence and attitudes in news media reveal that a significant percentage of the population still views homosexuality as an illness, a psychological disorder or as sin. The aim of this thesis was to examine the possible (re)enforcement of such homophobic ideologies in news media, as well as the possible (re)enforcement of increasingly tolerant ideologies, by making use of frameworks developed within Critical Discourse Analysis, by van Dijk (1998) and Gelber (2002). While the results of the media analysis indicate a growing acceptance of homosexuality, the survey results reveal that the majority of the heterosexual students surveyed still maintain homophobic attitudes. Furthermore, discrepancies in the survey results reveal the complex nature of such attitudes.

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