The linguistic construction of heroes and villains in the English-language press of Malawi : from totalitarianism to democracy, 1964-2012
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Using the conceptual metaphors of ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, the study argues that identities of Malawian presidents are not objective socio-constructs but dependent on political systems and newspaper ideology. Anchored theoretically in Critical Discourse Analysis and using analytical tools from Hallidayan Grammar and Text Grammar, the study investigated how lexical, syntactical and textual devices were used in the news to construct the identities of three former Malawian Presidents: Dr. H.K. Banda, Dr. B. E. Muluzi, and Dr. B. Mutharika. News articles from two political systems were selected: (1) the totalitarian system of government, with only state controlled newspapers available; (2) the democratic system of government, with a pluralistic and independent press. Linguistic forms used in the totalitarian era indicate covert strategies of censorship which restrain the construction of the President as a villain. Hence, the identity of the President is solid and stable. In the democratic era linguistic forms previously absent in the construction of the President’s identity such as descriptivisation using wh-clauses are used to emphasize heroism or villainy depending on newspapers’ political affiliations. Identities are multifaceted and fluid. However, the relationship between forms amenable to ideological manipulation and meaning is not fixed and linguistic choices are not only governed by political ideologies. Evidence on Theme/Rheme choices and topicalisation indicates that linguistic choices are systematic but complex in nature. The role of the Critical Discourse Analysts thus has to evolve from mere tagging of fixed functions on forms to an open and more holistic approach, in which genre, style, and context are important ingredients to the interpretation of discourse.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2021-12-20
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 20th December 2021
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