Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Discourse Analysis of General Muhammadu Buhari's Official Acceptance Speech: A Systemic Functional Perspective

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Discourse Analysis of General Muhammadu Buhari's Official Acceptance Speech: A Systemic Functional Perspective

Article excerpt


This paper attempts to analyze the acceptance speech of the Nigerian President-elect, General Buhari, through the framework of discourse analysis. Assuming that the aim of the President is to inform and convince his audience, the article adopts the systemic functional linguistic model to inquire into the language of the speech. Specifically, aspects of experiential meaning, realized through the transitivity patterns which focus on the different processes, participants and circumstances, and the interpersonal meaning, realized through modality, which includes modalization and modulation have been studied. The findings reveal that these linguistic features have made it easy to highlight not only Buhari's experience of the events he has described, but also his ideology, that is, his attitudes and judgments that are expressed to reinforce the persuasive strategies used in his speech.

Keywords: Discourse analysis, ideology, systemic functional linguistics, modality, political speech, transitivity

1. Introduction

Discourse analysis, a modern approach to text analysis, is a method for studying the ways that specific features of language contribute to the interpretation of texts in their various contexts (Barton, 2006). It facilitates the understanding of organization and functions of language in texts. In fact, texts analyses with a linguistic theory are the main concerns of Neo-Firthian linguists such as Halliday (1978; 1985; 2002) and Hasan (1985/1989). They have attempted to put together the linguistic interpretation of texts and discourse of various genres with the multiplicity of literary, sociopolitical and ideological perspectives that are loosely integrated under the name of semiotics (Halliday, 2002). As observed by Bloor and Bloor (2004), in order to explain how language works, contemporary linguists are often interested in the aspect of the language also referred to as discourse, considering that text is the data used as the object of the study.

The present work draws upon the discourse theory of systemic functional linguistics to analyze the political speech of the President-elect Buhari. Indeed, political speech is a special speech delivered by a politician on a particular occasion. It aims at convincing the audience regarding a political or social situation which is prevailing at a given period. Feng & Liu (2010) say: "political speech is a kind of public speech given by authorities with political purposes that tries to influence a certain group of people" (p. 1). So, political speech is an aspect of political discourse, i.e., a discourse which is itself political, concerned with formal/informal political contexts and political actors and with politicians, political institutions, governments, political media, and political supporters operating in political environments to achieve political goals (Schiffrin, Tannen, & Hamilton, 2001). The choice of this speech as corpus is prompted by the fact that it is delivered by the Nigerian President-elect, General Buhari, who defeated the outgoing President, Goodluck Jonathan, in the presidential election held on March 28th, 2015. This election has made history because it is the first time that a candidate of an opposition party has won the presidential election in Nigeria. Given that various crises (political, economic, and social) marked the end of President Jonathan government, the new Head of State appears, to most Nigerians, as an agent of hope restoration. As it is expected that the President-elect should address the people after being issued with his Certificate of Return, the one given to winners of elections in Nigeria (Elekwa, Eme, & Uchechukwu, 2014), by the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari has addressed Nigerians who are hungry for change, through an official acceptance speech. The importance of this speech, we think, can have a positive impact on them. Therefore, a study of the language of the speech from the linguistic point of view proves to be important. …

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