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Brothers in arms? : a linguistic analysis of four documents from the UDW "fees crisis" of May 2000.

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This dissertation is a sociolinguistic study that applies the methods of Critical Discourse Analysis and Systemic Functional Grammar to written discourse generated in the context of student unrest at a South African tertiary educational institution in May 2000. The unrest was triggered by management's de-registration of students for non-payment of fees due, and hence the local press dubbed it the "fees crisis". Four one-page texts, each representing a major participant in the events of the "fees crisis", were selected for detailed analysis. The principal finding from the four analyzed texts is that they exhibit widely divergent discoursal styles that vividly express equally divergent ideologies and attitudes. Some of these ideological schisms are caused by the immediate situational context, where the groupings are competing for access to and control of resources, or to gain strategic advantages in a power struggle. The four texts are divided equally into two discoursal types: two employ the hegemonic, 'schooled' literacy; the other two use the marginalized, topic associative, oral literacy based style. This illustrates the radically different contexts of culture that inform the ideologies of the four participant groupings. Power struggle is inherent in all discoursal exchanges, but it is an element made especially prominent in discourse by the uncertainties associated with social transition such as that taking place currently in postapartheid South Africa. The frequency of the word "community" and its shifting semantic load in the four texts has been clearly demonstrated to encapsulate the vacillations in the groups' self-identities and inter-group relations already suggested by the broader stylistic variations between the four discourses. Uncertainty breeds fear, and like other primates, hominids display the greatest aggression when afraid. Discoursal analysis of the four "fees crisis" texts uncovers the reasons for the intense affect which characterized the events of the May 2000 "fees crisis".


Thesis (M.A.) - University of Natal, Durban, 2002.


Discourse analysis., Students--KwaZulu-Natal--Attitudes., Theses--Linguistics.