Argumentation and Appraisal in Divergent Zimbabwean Parliamentary Debates

Argumentation and Appraisal in Divergent Zimbabwean Parliamentary Debates

Ernest Jakaza (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe & Stellenbosch University, South Africa) and Marianna W. Visser (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe & Stellenbosch University, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0081-0.ch007
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The chapter makes a critical exploration of the Zimbabwean divergent parliamentary debates held after the ‘controversial' March 2008 election and June 2008 run-off. Considering the impact of the deliberations in the parliament, not much discourse- linguistic research occurs on Zimbabwean and African parliamentary discourse yet research on language use in the context of the European, Asian and American parliaments is enormous. It is the focus of this chapter to examine the nature of strategic manoeuvering realized in Zimbabwean divergent parliamentary debates. Strategic manoeuvering is evident in divergent debates as interlocutors advance their positions in an effort to resolve a difference of opinion. The researchers argue that participants in divergent debates employ valid and fallacious strategic moves in an effort to clear the difference of opinion and have the debate resolved in their favor.
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Introduction And Background To The Study

The study is a critical analysis of the notion of argumentation and appraisal in divergent political debates. It is a discourse- linguistic study of various argumentative practices and appraisal forms realized in parliamentarians’ speeches advancing their standpoints in an effort to resolve the difference of opinion. The researchers argue that argumentation and appraisal forms and strategies are evident in divergent political debates and that these forms and strategies realized in the debate are complementary. The study makes an analysis of the divergent political debate that was tabled in the house of parliament after the violent and disputed election of 2008 in Zimbabwe. We, however, first give a background to this study. The background is set to contextualize the study. As a discourse- analytic study, one has to understand the context in which the analysis is being carried out. After this contextualization of the study, the aims and methods are presented. This section is then followed by brief explorations of the theories that informed the study. The analysis of the data from the divergent political debate in the Zimbabwean parliament follows thereof.

Appraisal and argumentation in parliamentary discourse is the focus of this study. Parliamentary discourse is a genre and also a sub- genre of political discourse. As a genre, parliamentary discourse (talk) has its own distinctive and recognizable patterns and norms of organisation and structure that have particular and distinctive communicative functions (Richards & Schmidt, 2002). According to Ilie (2006), the etymology of the term parliament derives from the Old French parlement which is originally from parler, meaning to speak. However, the term has come to refer to both the activity and the building that holds such an activity. In this building it is the duty of parliamentarians to engage in debates, discussing issues that will directly or indirectly affect the general populace. Ilie (2003a) argues that an incentive for actively participating in these debates occurs as it is an opportunity to promote one’s image in a performance- oriented institutional interaction. This incentive will definitely call upon parliamentarians to employ varied linguistic resources at their disposal when advancing and defending their standpoints.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators1, as elected members from different constituencies, are obliged not only to raise their ethos but also to know that as ‘trustees’ and/ or ‘holders of a mandate’ they have a duty to perform, as a result, “the MPs’ interaction in parliament is a competition for power and leadership roles” (Ilie, 2003b, p. 30) as well as for fame and popularity. The Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators are very aware that these debates and speeches will be publicised in the Hansard, the official report of the proceedings of the Zimbabwean parliament. According to the Zimbabwean parliament website (, the Hansard is published the following day in the afternoon after every parliament sitting. As with other parliaments, such as the United Kingdom, Swedish Riksdag and Greek, the Hansard reporters sit in their gallery and take down every word that is said in the chamber. However, some editing of the debates and speeches before they are published occurs. Ilie (2006, p. 190) points out that this editing is “meant to do away with some of the formal shortcomings of any oral delivery”. The researchers in this study had access only to the Zimbabwean Hansard and were unable to access the tape recordings of the proceedings. No video recordings yet and the Hansard is the only public document for the proceedings in the Zimbabwean parliament. However, this aspect will not be of significant impact for the research conducted on Zimbabwean parliamentary discourse in this study.

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