Discourse, gender identity and gender power relations in fiction: a critical discourse analysis and systemic functional grammar reading of Wamitila’s unaitwa nani?
Mulila-matei, Asumpta K.
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The study sought to investigate how the language used by both male and female interlocutors, as well as the language used to talk about male and female characters in a literary text serves to position men and women as specific types of social actors. Specific focus was on how language is called upon to signify, produce, reproduce and contest asymmetrical gender power relations.The study also sought to unpack the gender ideologies that help sustain unequal gender power relations. Data for the study was obtained from selected representative excerpts from Wamitila’s Unaitwa Nani?. Reference was also made to other literary works by Wamitila, as well as literary works by other Kenyan and non- Kenya literary scholars. The study was hinged on the theoretical underpinnings of Critical Discourse Analysis. Systemic Functional Linguistics was used as an adjunct theory that provided the linguistic tools for analysis. Qualitative research design was employed in this study. A qualitative approach to the analysis of data, using Fairclough’s (1989, 2010) three tier procedure of description, interpretation and explanation was adopted. This means that the study was descriptive in nature, focusing on both micro and macro discourse analysis. At the micro or text level, analysis focused on describing the transitivity patterns, lexical choices, mood and modality structures, and other discourse strategies, interpreting the linguistic features and discourse strategies drawn upon in specific interactions, and at the macro level, explaining as well as assessing the extent to which the choice of transitivity patterns, lexical items, and mood and modality structures position male and female interlocutors in the gender power relations matrix, as well as how it confirms or challenges the dominant gender ideology and social relations of power Ideational, interpersonal, as well as the textual patterning of the selected excerpts revealed that power is discursively negotiated by both men and women in specific communicative events. Participants who occupied positions of power, either in the organizational hierarchy or interactionally, made linguistic choices to signify and reaffirm their status. Discursively, the more powerful participants seemed to claim longer turns in which they managed to constrain their interlocutors’ contribution, hence extensively develop their topics in favour of the kind of gender identity and gender power relations they wanted to communicate to the reader. The study also demonstrated that context invariably affected how power is conceived as well as how it is exercised, by constraining the subject positions a participant can occupy in a certain discursive event. Further, the study suggested that in Unaitwa Nani?, power is more effectively exercised through hegemony where the more powerful and indeed the author uses discursive strategies which position the less powerful and by extension the reader to interpret the world from the world view of the more powerful. The significance of this study lies in the possibilities for future research.The study is pioneering in providing a comprehensive analysis of the transitivity patterns as well as the mood and modality structures that code Wamitila’s world view about gender power relations in Kenya.