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Critical And Political Discourse Analysis Strategies

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Language is an important means of communication. Human beings tend to express their feelings using their words and expressions which are an intermediate for the understanding between the speaker and the listener. In addition to that, the use of speech serves as a tool to communicate feelings, thoughts and ideology, especially in political and social contexts.

South Africa’s Prime Minister Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a speech concerning the issue of Xenophobia, mainly tackling the discriminatory attitude of citizens towards foreigners in South Africa. The aim of the Prime Minister’s speech was to raise awareness and encourage citizens to reduce racist attitudes and practices. He did so by emphasizing the dangers of Xenophobia whether emotional or physical. The crime rate related to Xenophobia in South Africa has been gradually increasing and several people are dying due to xenophobic attacks resulting from these discriminatory attitudes. Xenophobia in Africa might be due to deprivation and competition and to the superior attitude towards Africans in general. This kind of discrimination and ideology might lead to physical violence and higher crime rates; therefore, this social issue must be dealt with.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the Prime Minister’s speech and expose his resistance to Xenophobia. Both political discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis will be employed to discuss xenophobic discrimination attitudes revealed in the Prime Minister’s speech. The critical discourse analysis strategies are applied and related to linguistic levels throughout the study.

Literature review

Xenophobic discrimination remains one of the most urgent social issues worldwide, especially in the Western culture. The issue of immigration in the United States has been a life-long dilemma and has been shown to elevate in the reign of the President Donald Trump who banned Muslims to visit the United States of America. Knowblock (2017) employed critical discourse analysis on Trump’s speeches and Facebook posts to analyze verbal aggressions and xenophobic discourse. The use of Critical Discourse Analysis’ strategies was effective in depicting the prejudice among Muslim minorities in the US. Data in this study represented posts by Trump on Facebook or replies on other posts on the media. According to Knowblock (2017), the employment of discourse such as “danger”, “morally deficient”, “Muslim sympathizer”, “and epidemic disease” and much more proves that the President perceives Muslims in America as incompatible yet inacceptable in the American society. Moreover, the linguistic structure used shows inferiority and exclusion of the entity group from the US community. Critical discourse analysis was also employed in a study entitled “Xenophobic and Homophobic Attitudes in Online News Portal Comments in Malta” to reveal the prevalence of Xenophobia in online discourse. With the emergence of hate incidence in Malta, Assimakopoulos and Muskat (2018) aimed to investigate the prevalence of xenophobic online discourse by adopting analytical and critical discourse analysis approaches. The researchers collected articles which could trigger xenophobic attitudes and immigrant minorities’ discrimination in the public comments sections using the key words ‘hate/speech”, “immigrants” and “minorities”. The analytical analysis using Van Dijk (2001) strategies revealed that degrading and inferior comments were used by the public whenever referring to immigrants, describing them as “others”, “refugees”, “Blacks”, “seekers” and “Muslims”. In addition to that, interviews were conducted to analyze speech and understand the reasons behind such xenophobic attitudes. The researchers discovered that xenophobic ideologies mostly targeted Muslims. Malta citizens believe that Muslims will change their country and impact it in a negative manner; they also perceive Muslims as a threat to their community. This is concluded by the linguistics employed by participants such as “these Muslims”, “They start building Mosques next to our churches”, “their shores” and “these people”. This strongly shows objection and refusal of the presence of Muslims and other minorities in Malta and that the latter’s citizens have abusive discriminatory attitudes and Xenophobia (Assimakopoulos and Muskat, 2018). In order to investigate the exclusion ideologies among Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa, the examination of 575 selected articles was conducted (Banda, 2014). Critical discourse analysis strategies were employed to reveal attitudes and ideologies towards Zimbabwean immigrants. Media headlines and stories using the online SAM databases were studied to analyze exclusion throughout discourse. Articles were selected based on specific keywords such as “immigrants” and “foreigners”. The findings of the study revealed that South Africans consider the immigrants as an economic threat since they get paid less and have higher chances of being employed. They also believe Zimbabweans are hindering their rights to healthcare in Hospitals. Such conclusions were drawn by the critical analysis of discourse found in the selected articles such as “our country”, “our own”, “economic refugees”. Some articles expressed their attitudes in a more overt manner stating that: “They come here to compete with our people for jobs, the over-stretched state healthcare system and probably social grants” (The Sunday Times, 8 June 2009). Consequently, South Africans believe that high numbers of immigrants can be a threat on economic levels, healthcare quality, employment rates, crime rates and national identity preservation.

Theoretical framework

Critical Discourse Analysis is a methodology employed in order to assess the meaning of language, or discourse, in order to describe, explain, and analyze its meaning. Moreover, critical discourse analysis is mainly used to tackle sociological and political inequalities (Toolan, 2007). According to Van Dijk (2004) “Critical Discourse analysis is a type of discourse analysis research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in social and political contexts”. As previously mentioned, Critical Discourse Analysis tackles social issues such as discrimination, racism, sexism and other forms of social inequality. It also focuses on group relations problems such as dominance and power, while exploiting abusive behaviors of that power. It aims at analyzing and exposing hidden ideologies within these socio-cultural problems in an analytical and explanatory manner. Consequently, discourse is highly related to society and culture and the link between them constitutes a tool to fight these societal issues.

Several strategic functions for Critical Discourse Analysis exist such as: coercion, legitimization, de-legitimization, resistance, opposition, protest and dissimulation. Coercion is the unethical application of force, or false promises serving to enforce a certain action. Legitimization is applied by establishing certain acts, processes and ideologies that are suitable to the community and society’s norms. De-legitimization is based on the exclusion of individual groups in society and representing them as the weaker social group. Resistance, opposition, and protest are performed by the oppressed group towards the dominant one in order to defend their rights. Dissimulation involves limiting or falsifying the flow of public information.

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In this Research, Critical and Political Discourse Analysis will be employed in order to unravel the social hidden messages behind President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on Xenophobia in South Africa. The research will be based on analytical and qualitative approach, using Van Dijk’s (2001) strategies. The aim of this analysis is to analyze the speech concentrating the issues tackled in their social context. This will be performed by applying some of the strategic functions of Critical Discourse Analysis which are: Coercion, Legitimization and delegitimization. By applying these strategies, the social aspects of linguistics will be revealed and analyzed throughout the speech.


In his speech, President Ramaphosa used the coercive strategy to express his refusal to xenophobic attitudes in South Africa. The speaker uses the pronoun “we” and “our” in order to prove his inclusiveness and involvement in the social issue. The use of these pronouns also show support towards the minority groups and that he is on their side, refusing the acts against minority groups and refugees. He also uses the words “home” and “live side by side” as metaphors to express acceptance and tolerance for such groups. The speaker also employs expressions in the imperative form such as “we have to make sure” and “we have to find ways” showing his willingness to contribute to solving the issue. The commands used in this strategy push South-Africans to change behavior and understand the social consequences resulting from violent and racist behavior.


This strategy is used by the President to legitimize South-Africans in general, and to establish the ideology of acceptance and tolerance. He proves so by strongly refusing the behavior of the attackers and stating that it does not comply with South-Africa’s norms. This is shown by the lexical choice of the speaker such as “our beautiful country “and “taking action against people of other nations is not justified and should never be allowed”, referring to cultural norms and values. The President strongly disagrees with the behavior of the attackers and expresses this refusal by de-legitimizing the other group. He also claims addressing such issues in the future in order to empower and legitimize his position and express his support to the minorities.


The use of negative expressions such as “should never be allowed”, “criminality” and “attacks” is a strategic tool to delegitimize the other group. Furthermore, using pronouns such as “their” shows that these attackers do not belong to South-Africans’ side or to the President’s side. Hence, the use of two adverse pronouns “We” and “their” while negatively representing the other group is used to exclude attackers and represent them as the weaker and refused group. He emphasizes on this refusal by stating that South-Africa does not at all tolerate such criminality and does not allow people to take the law by their own hands. In addition to that, the President insists on his injustification of the other group’s behavior by stating the following: “We are also facing another huge challenge of number of people who are taking the law in their own hand”. Referring to the other group as challenging “people” strongly reflects their de-legitimization and highlights the comparison between the two groups.


Finally, the last strategic function of Critical Discourse Analysis used in the Speech is dissimulation. The speaker used this strategy to hide or deny the attitude of South-Africans towards refugees and people fleeing from other countries. Expressing that South-Africans are aware of the number of refugees and have to live by their sides, and knowing from the Literature review the intolerant attitude of South-Africans towards refugees, the President employs dissimulation to falsify the reality of discrimination prevalent in South-Africa.


By using Critical and Political Discourse Analysis strategies, the speech against xenophobic attacks was analyzed. Hence, the political and social ideologies behind this speech were revealed and explained in relation to the linguistics and discourse used. The speech was analyzed using Critical Discourse Analysis strategies which are coercion, legitimization and de-legitimization. The social and political messages behind this speech reflected on the opposition of the South-African President to the xenophobic attacks against minorities in South-Africa. the president also aimed at ensuring law-abiding behavior to limit and reduce xenophobic attacks in South-Africa.


  1. Assimakopoulos, S., & Mouskat, R. (2018). Xenophobic and Homophobic Attitudes in Online News Portal Comments in Malta. Science Journal of the Malta Chamber of Scientists. Retrieved from
  2. Banda, Felix & Mawadza, Aquilina. (2014). ‘Foreigners are stealing our birth right’: Moral panics and the discursive construction of Zimbabwean immigrants in South African media. Discourse & Communication. 9. 47-64. 10.1177/1750481314555263.
  3. Knoblock, Natalia. (2017). Xenophobic Trumpeters: A corpus-assisted discourse study of Donald Trump’s Facebook conversations. Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict. 5. 295-322. 10.1075/jlac.5.2.07kno.
  4. Van Dijk, T. A. (2001). Critical discourse analysis. In D. Tannen, D. Schiffrin, & H. Hamilton (Eds.), Handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 352-371).

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Critical And Political Discourse Analysis Strategies. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“Critical And Political Discourse Analysis Strategies.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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