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The use of language by the African National Congress in its 1999-2009 national election manifestos

Bojabotseha, Teboho Pankratius (2014-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: There is more to language than just its formal structural properties and, similarly, more to language function than just its communicative and naming function. Language does not exist independent of society. As a part of society, it is used in a diversity of functions: it influences thought processes, constitutes what people perceive as reality, and produces, reproduces and denies prejudices. It is in pursuit of its ideological function that language plays a significant role in the establishment and maintenance of systematically asymmetrical power relations. This study focuses on the role that language plays in efforts to position the African National Congress (ANC) as more fit to govern than other political parties in South Africa. Adopting a qualitative research strategy, the study provides an analysis of the discourse that is constructed in the ANC’s 1999, 2004 and 2009 national election manifestos. The analysis is presented within the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and is performed in terms of linguistic devices, techniques and strategies such as genre and its sequential structure, pronouns, contrasting expressions, intertextuality, grounding and elision, statistics and numerical figures, and discourse. It is demonstrated that the three election manifestos are situated within a specific socio-economic and political context defined by poverty, unemployment and inequality, which are rooted in the South African history of colonialism and race-based capitalism. The texts draw from resources of the genre of manifesto and show common structural features. It is shown that ambiguous pronouns are used to build up affinities between the ANC and the reader/listener with respect to the achievements of the ANC-led government, what work still needs to be done, and to position the ANC’s vision as one that is generally shared by the people. Contrasting expressions are used to disparage the apartheid system and to extol the post-1994 democratic system. In all three texts the ANC is foregrounded as the organization which not only brought freedom to South Africa, but which in fact led the struggle for freedom and change. At the same time, there is an omission of other political organizations and the role they played in this struggle. It is also demonstrated that the three texts constituted by elements of other texts such as the Freedom Charter (1955), the Reconstruction and Development Programme (1994) and the Constitution (1996) use statistics and figures to bestow the ANC with a systematic and scientific gravitas. Lastly, the three manifestos reflect a discourse of “complete” or “total” freedom, which is inclusive of the social, economic and political aspects of the reality of South Africans’ lives. It is argued that these linguistic devices, techniques and strategies are used in the 1999, 2004 and 2009 national election manifestos to position the ANC as more fit to govern South Africa than other political parties.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Taal behels meer as net formele strukturele eienskappe, en die funksies van taal behels eweneens meer as net benaming en kommunikasie. Taal bestaan nie onafhanklik van die gemeenskap nie. As ’n deel van die gemeenskap, word taal in ’n verskeidenheid funksies gebruik: dit beïnvloed denkprosesse, bepaal wat mense beskou as die werklikheid, en dien om vooroordele te skep, te verhoog en te ontken. Dit is in die uitoefening van sy ideologiese funksie dat taal ’n beduidende rol speel in die vestiging en handhawing van sistematies asimmetriese magsverhoudings. Hierdie studie fokus op die rol wat taal speel in pogings om die African National Congress (ANC) te posisioneer as meer geskik om te regeer as ander politieke partye in Suid-Afrika. Met ’n kwalitatiewe navorsingstrategie as uitgangspunt, bied die studie ’n analise van die diskoers wat gekonstrueer word in die ANC se onderskeie manifeste vir die 1999, 2004 en 2009 nasionale verkiesings. Die analise word aangebied binne die raamwerk van Kritiese Diskoersanalise (“Critical Discourse Analysis”) en word uitgevoer in terme van taalkundige meganismes, tegnieke en strategieë soos genre and sy sekwensiële struktuur, voornaamwoorde, teenstellende uitdrukkings, intertekstualiteit, opstelling en weglating (“grounding and elision”), statistieke en getalle, en diskoers. Daar word aangetoon dat die drie verkiesingsmanifeste ingebed is in ’n spesifieke sosio-ekonomiese en politieke konteks van armoede, werkloosheid en ongelykheid, wat gegrond is in die Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis van kolonialisme en rasgebaseerde kapitalisme. Die tekste benut die middele van die manifes-genre en vertoon gemeenskaplike strukturele kenmerke. Daar word aangetoon hoe dubbelsinnige voornaam-woorde gebruik word om ’n affiniteit tussen die ANC en die leser/hoorder tot stand te bring ten opsigte van die ANC-regering se prestasies, die werk wat nog gedoen moet word, en ook om die ANC se visie voor te hou as een wat algemeen deur die mense gedeel word. Teenstellende uitdrukkings word gebruik om die apartheidstelsel te verdoem en die post-1994 demokratiese stelsel op te hemel. In al drie tekste word die ANC vooropgestel as die organisasie wat nie net vryheid na Suid-Afrika gebring het nie, maar wat in feite die stryd om vryheid en verandering gelei het. Terselfdertyd word geen melding gemaak van ander politieke organisasies en die rol wat hulle in dié stryd gespeel het nie. Daar word ook aangetoon dat die drie tekste wat verskeie elemente insluit van ander tekste soos die Freedom Charter (1955), die Heropbou- en Ontwikkelingsprogram (“Reconstruction and Development Programme”, 1994) en die Grondwet (1996) gebruik maak van statistieke en getalle om die ANC te bedeel met ’n sistematiese en wetenskaplike gravitas. Die drie manifeste vertoon, laastens, ’n diskoers van “totale” of “volledige” vryheid, wat die sosiale, ekonomiese en politieke aspekte van die werklikheid van Suid-Afrikaners se lewens omvat Daar word geargumenteer dat dié taalkundige meganismes, tegnieke en strategieë in die 1999, 2004 en 2009 verkiesingsmanifeste gebruik word om die ANC te posisioneer as meer geskik om te regeer as ander politieke partye.

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