Noticing 'us' and 'them' constructions: The pedagogical implications of a critical discourse analysis of referring in political discourse

  • Susan Brokensha


In the past decade, there have been a number of discourse analyses of the political in South Africa such as Botha’s (2001) study of deictic expressions in a speech by Thabo Mbeki, Moodley’s (2006) discursive analysis of the South African government’s Information and Communication Technologies, poverty, and development discourse, and Moon’s (2006) investigation into the discursive construction of narratives generated during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, how such studies may be exploited to foster students’ critical thinking about language use in a variety of communicative contexts has not been explored in much detail. Within the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), the aim of this paper is to examine the phenomenon of referring in a political speech by Robert Mugabe, focusing specifically on his use of spatial, temporal, and social indexicals to construct us versus them territories. Next, the constructivist principles that may be adopted to assist second-year Linguistics students in developing an awareness that referring is not a neutral phenomenon are identified.


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Author Biography

Susan Brokensha
Dr Susan Brokensha is a lecturer in the Department of English, University of the Free State. Dr Brokensha’s research focus has always been on discourse analysis and particularly on Critical Discourse Analysis. She has a passion for uncovering the hidden meaning of language, particularly when it comes to exposing the power of language to manipulate or persuade. She has published several articles on institutional discourse.E-mail address: