a discourse analysis of athol fugard’s sizwe bansi is dead

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a discourse analysis of athol fugard’s sizwe bansi is dead




This chapter introduces the background of the research topic and describes its scope in addition, the purpose and justification for the study are also discussed. It concludes by giving the biography of the author of the text.

1.1 Background to the study

Man is the most superior and unique of all the creatures in the entire creation, in terms of his wisdom, action, thought, though some animal or insects have been found to be wiser. Example is ant, man and animal share the same biological functions such as movements, growth etc.

However, what makes man different from animals is language, which is used for communication with members of their species. The animal system of communication are fixed example Dog Barks, Goat bleats etc. Thus, man is the only creatures that uses language intentionally and habitually (Crystal 1997:40).

Language allows interaction between human beings through the means of talking, this “Talk” is termed “Discourse”. Discourse is a verbal interaction. Hence, discourse analysis emerged from such talks whose meanings have to be analysed.

Harris (1952) sees discourse analysis as continuing descriptive linguistics beyond the limit of a single sentence at a time and for correlating culture and language. Discourse analysis came about due to the need of linguists to study the underlying principles of everyday interactions.

Stubbs (1983) defines Discourse analysis as an attempt to study larger linguistic units like conversational exchange or the study of interactive language including how language is used in social context. Discourse analysis studies words and their relation to situation in which they are made so as to facilitate hearer’s response. In Discourse analysis, we study how one can use an utterance or an expression to transform a message through meanings. Its general usage has to do with conversation and holding forth on a subject.

It is believed that the system of communication in speech and writing is language. As a result, human language is said to be communication when language users are able to use appropriate words in an appropriate social context. So, the desire to achieve communicative competence in a language.

In a nutshell, Language communicates meaning and meaning gives information. The intention of any language is to give meaning and the meaning is processed to information. The analysis of discourse is necessarily, the analysis of language in use (Brown and Yule 1983). Discourse analysis is committed to the investigation of the inter-relationship that exists between language and language is use. Discourse analysis no doubt identified those element functions and attempt to analyse them through the use of the discourse techniques which unfold the process of turn-taking, topic change, topic negotiation, presupposition, inference, implicature, participant, message, context etc. are more prominent in drama texts than the other genres of literature, due to the peculiar nature of drama texts. This resourceful elements of discourse will be applied to analyse the play text: Sizwe Bansi is Dead

1.2 Purpose of the study

Since effective communication means the appropriate use of language in the relevant context (Oloruntoba-Oju 1999), this essay will examine the English language used in Sizwe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard using discourse analysis to determine the effectiveness of its language use.

Sizwe Bansi is Dead is a play text and we intend to examine how communication is achieved among the interlocutors. Many researchers have carried out discourse analysis of interview, interactions, newspapers, play texts, and so on but to our knowledge no research on discourse analysis has been carried out on this work Sizwe Bansi is Dead. Hence, the necessity for carrying out a discourse analysis of this work.

By carrying out a discourse analysis of this work, we will find out its discourse elements found in the work Sizwe Bansi is Dead.


Every human being daily engages in conversations because it is difficult to function effectively in a human society without them. But, it is worthy of note that conversations have some underlying features which can only be alighted through research. The choice of a drama text became necessary because it is a literary genre that exhibits the pragma discourse elements in abundance. Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead is specifically appropriate in showcasing these elements and to exemplify them through the process of achieving coherence in a spoken communication can be better explicated.


This essay will focus on the elements of Discourse in the play with the aim of using the elements to bring out the underlying meaning of the text by examine how effective communication is maintained. There are many features of discourse analysis but the researcher will limit the analysis to the conversational features like discourse participants, turn taking, repetition, talk negotiation, ellipsis and substitution, topic change in Sizwe Bansi is Dead


The text is written by Athol Fugard the author who carefully chose the title of the book intends to showcase the political messages without being dogmatic. He choose the play as his medium of speech because he felt that the theater enabled him to reach the largest number of people in Africa. His plays were staged in South Africa. Yet, strong, enough to have an important impact on the audience. He also show in the text the effective indictment of the. In humanity of authoritarian regimes through a compassionate, humorous examination of the every day lives of totally credible people.


Sizwe Bansi is Dead is a play by Athol Fugard written collaboratively with two South African actors, John Kani and Wistom Ntshona, both of whom appeared in the original production, its world premiere occurred on October 8, 1972 at the space theatre, cape-town, South Africa. This play is a direct reaction to Fugard’s work as a law clerk at the native commissioner’s court in Johannesburg where he saw blacks jailed daily for not having their pass-books in proper order. The Island, often produced with Sizwe Bansi is Dead, The Island evaluates the strength of friendship in the face of oppressive regimes and altering circumstances.

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