Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Interpersonal Metafunctions in Bingu Wa Mutharika's Second-Term Political Discourse: A Systemic Functional Grammatical Approach

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Interpersonal Metafunctions in Bingu Wa Mutharika's Second-Term Political Discourse: A Systemic Functional Grammatical Approach

Article excerpt


Modern studies in discourse analysis have witnessed an increasing interest in presidential political speeches. The major argument has been that the presidential speeches are often ideologically loaded. Hence, analyzing such speeches would provide an insight into their hidden ideologies. This study aims at analyzing Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika's inaugural address through the linguistic lens of Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) by focusing on choice of mood, modal auxiliary operators, and personal pronouns. Results of mood choices reveal that the address is information-centered as he opted highly for declarative and used imperative sparsely. Modal auxiliary operators of median scale turns out mostly by favoring will. The personal pronoun we, which is followed in majority by I, implies that the speech is exclusive as Mutharika continuously referred to himself and his administration leaving out the citizens. The analysis shows that Mutharika did not perform well on establishing interpersonal relations with the people during his second term. He created distance between him and the citizens and implied a sense of authority, making the addressee experience a feel that he and his administration were a strong team to initiate and implement any development related endeavor; and that the citizens were merely passive receivers and consumers. The study demonstrates how leaders' political discourses unearth a sort of contradictions between their ideologies at early and later stages of their leadership. It further provides sufficient proof that the grammar of speech is not merely a combinational tool of creating correct constructions, but a method of structuring information and transferring ideology.

Keywords: Bingu wa Mutharika, Political Discourse, Interpersonal Metafunctions, Second Term, Ideologies, Mood, Modal Auxiliaries, Personal Pronouns

1. Introduction

As Wardhaugh (2006) notes, when we use language, we do not just try to get another person understand our thoughts and feelings. We also use language in a subtle way to define our social relationship to one another as such we have to make constant choices of what we say and how we say it. In fact the what and the how are two sides of the same coin. The main argument is that our propositional content (the what) should be reflected in the manner (the how) we deliver it because the two work hand in hand and they remain inseparable in a speech package. This study is undertaken to investigate the political discourse of Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika on how it addresses the question how. The major concern is to linguistically explore how president Bingu wa Mutharika (henceforth 'Mutharika') associates with the audience in his political discourse. As most modern political discourse studies would reveal e.g. (Donella, 2010; Kondowe, 2014a; Green, 2007), the analysis of presidential discourse is a critical component in discovering and understanding particular ideologies which in turn reflects the political ideologies and realities of their nations. Scholars have realized that Presidents stand for their countries and their voice is taken as the voice of the people (Hinckley, 1990). Therefore, it is hoped that the manner in which Mutharika establishes and handles the distance between him and his audience is ideologically triggered and motivated.

2. Literature Review

Modern discourse linguists, in recent times, are gradually shifting their interest from the traditional focus on linguistic text structures to how texts construct reality in the social set-ups (Taiwo, 2007). It has been noted that the understanding of traditional linguistic aspects like syntax, morphology, and phonology of a text does not necessarily lead to the understanding of the true meanings of the text. The conscious or unconscious intents that the text designer injects in the lines of the text are equally essential and must not be ignored. The same can be said about political discourses. …

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