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This chapter is focused on examining the theoretical underpinnings of two approaches which were used in the analysis of data gathered for this research. The approaches are Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Ecology of Language. These two theoretical approaches are used to critically analyse the historical and contemporary sociolinguistic status of Kalanga, Tonga and Shangani within the context of courtroom discourse in the civil courts of Zimbabwe. The analysis of data using these analytical approaches was expected to yield a thorough understanding of the extent to which the delicate issue of linguistic rights for minorities from the point of view of courtroom discourse has been dealt within Zimbabwe. In addition, using CDA and the Ecology of Language as tools of analysis was expected to assist the researcher in interrogating issues surrounding the history of language planning and policy making in Zimbabwe as well as the implementation processes. In this chapter, the examination of CDA entails defining it, outlining its historical development, aims and its key tenets as well as discussing its appropriateness in critically analysing institutional discourse, the subject of this study. The Ecology of Language paradigm is of critical importance in analysing data for this study primarily because of its human rights perspective, approach to multilingualism, advocacy to ensure that people have equal access to information and expression in a language of their choice as well as views on the need to maintain communities‟ languages and cultural heritage.


It has to be made clear at the outset that CDA “has never been and has never attempted to be or to provide one single or specific theory” (Wodak and Meyer, 2008:1). It is rather theoretically and methodologically a heterogeneous approach which is shared by various scholars for the purposes of doing linguistic research (Van Dijk 1993). Breeze (2011:494) says, “…although such an approach exists and occupies a more or less defined area of intellectual landscape, many scholars, particularly those working within this paradigm, feel that it is incorrect to refer to CDA as unitary, homogeneous entity.” Similarly, Wodak (2011:50) says “… there are several identifiable “schools” or groups within CDA.” This implies that CDA is a complex approach to linguistic research which has developed many shades as a result of contributions by various researchers from different perspectives but still guided by the same key objectives of the research paradigm.
To emphasize on the varied nature of CDA Wodak (2006: 2) opines that, “in contrast to “total and closed” theories…CDA has never had the image of a “sect” and does not want to have such an image.” To elaborate on the multiplicity of approaches to CDA, Blommert and Bulcaen (2000:494) say “generally, there is a perception of a „core CDA‟ typically associated with the work of Norman Fairclough, Ruth Wodak and Teun van Dijk…” These three researchers have thus been set apart as the pioneers and major contributors to the development of CDA.
There are other versions of CDA which are closely related to those propounded by the above mentioned researchers, for instance, the discursive social psychology (Michael Billig, Charles Antaki, and Margaret Wetherell). Social semiotics and multimodality in discourse is another approach to CDA and its major proponents include Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen. Other approaches to CDA are systemic-functional linguistics and political discourse analysis and researchers who largely contributed to their development are Lemke and Chilton respectively. Notwithstanding the multiplicity of dimensions CDA has taken over the years, it should be mentioned that the research paradigm has a number of common principles which can be drawn from all the CDA approaches to linguistic analysis. It is these shared broad characteristic features of CDA which are used in the analysis of data for this research. This is expected to assist the researcher in coming up with an in-depth data discussion than could have been done using a single approach to CDA as an analytical tool in linguistic research.


According to Breeze (2011:493), “CDA has now firmly established itself as a field within the humanities and social sciences to the extent that the abbreviation „CDA‟ is widely used to denote a recognisable approach to language study across a range of different groups.” Similarly, Wodak (2011:50) says CDA is an autonomous and identifiable way of studying language or “program”. This implies that CDA has over the years developed into an acceptable and useful approach to linguistic analysis.
CDA has evolved into a procedure of doing linguistic research bearing clear aims, objectives as well as common characteristic features. This, however, is so regardless of the fact that CDA has turned out to be a varied research paradigm with groups of CDA researchers proposing different ways of doing critical discourse analysis (Wodak and Meyer, 2008; Breeze, 2011; Wodak, 2006; Blommaert and Bulcaen, 2000; van Dijk, 1993b). The diverse nature of CDA has not weakened it as an influential and critical tool of doing linguistic research. This is despite the fact that van Dijk (1995:17) one of the key proponents of CDA says that “as is the case for many fields, approaches and sub-disciplines in language and discourse studies, however, it is not easy to precisely delimit the special principles, aims, theories or methods of CDA.” So notwithstanding the diverse nature of approaches to CDA, one can still be in a position to tease out its key tenets for the purposes of carrying out linguistic analyses.
According to Huckin, Andrus and Clary-Lemon (2012: 107), “critical discourse analysis is an interdisciplinary approach to textual study that aims to explicate abuses of power promoted by those texts, by analysing linguistic/semiotic details in light of the larger social and political contexts in which they circulate.” Some of the disciplines which have contributed to the development of CDA have been mentioned by Wodak and Meyer (2008: 1) who say that “the manifold roots of CDA lie in Rhetoric, Text linguistics, Anthropology, Philosophy, Socio-Psychology, Cognitive Science, Literary Studies, Sociolinguistics, as well as in Applied Linguistics and Pragmatics”. All these areas of study converge at a point in which they treat language as their subject matter though they use it for different purposes, an issue which is not dealt with in this study.
Though a number of researchers (Kress, 1997; Kress and Leeuwen, 1996; Slembrouck, 1995; Blommaert and Bulcaen, 2000; Murray, 2015) have gone beyond written and conversational interaction as the subject matter of CDA to include semiotic dimensions, van Dijk (1995), however, still maintains that the general bias in CDA is toward linguistically defined concepts. Thus written and spoken discourse continues to be the major phenomenon that is of critical importance in contexts where researchers use CDA as an analytical tool.
In the present study, focus is on textual analysis in which case written material containing the language policies guiding language use in the courts of Zimbabwe with a bias towards the civil courts is put under thorough examination. In addition, this research analyses data obtained through verbal interaction involving speakers of Kalanga, Shangani and Tonga within the context of civil courts. Furthermore, data gathered from interviews with native speakers of the above mentioned languages, as well as civic society with interests in minority language issues and court interpreters are put under scrutiny. Thus data bordering on semiotics are not part of the present research.
According to Wang (2010: 254), “CDA is a type of discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context.” It is rather a dissident approach to linguistic research which, for van Dijk (1993) is interested in making its stance clear as the researcher makes an effort to comprehend, uncover as well as take appropriate action against social inequality. This implies that researchers using CDA as an analytical tool should be challenging and interrogating the social order with a clear focus on the role of language in the establishment of the status quo.
The issue of the social and political context in which texts are produced and used is of paramount importance in CDA research. CDA research should in other words never ignore the socio-political environment in which language is used. The social setting thus plays a crucial role since it provides fertile ground from which CDA researchers can unearth, analyse and reveal social inequalities manifested through language use in society. A thorough understanding of the social and political realities foregrounding language use assists researchers in getting better informed about the historical circumstances influencing the manipulation of language use by the powerful in society in order to maintain their dominance over other groupings. It is in this regard that data analysis in this study does not turn a blind eye to the historical circumstances in which language planning and policy formulation has come about in both pre-independence and post-independence Zimbabwe. Policy formulation in general and language policy making in particular should not in other words be interrogated in a vacuum but the political and social environment should come in handy in any attempts to get an in depth understanding of language policy formulation, language use in the courts and the statuses of different languages in their respective speech communities.
Wodak (2011) also added her voice on attempts to define CDA and she describes the research approach as a critical procedure actually meant to investigate social inequalities which are illustrated in social interactions and are legitimised by language use. Wodak and Meyer (2008:10) have also defined CDA as “… being fundamentally interested in analysing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language.” From these definitions, an inference can be made that from language use in society in different domains, critical discourse analysts can unravel hidden unevenness in social relations between different groups of people. It is from this perspective that this study critically examines the sociolinguistic status of Kalanga, Shangani and Tonga in civil courtroom procedure in order to reveal whether linguistic rights for the speakers of these languages are being upheld in public institutions. By so doing the researcher analyses whether language use in the courts by speech communities under study is not discriminatory in a way that leads to unfairness and injustice to speakers of the languages in question. Some of the social inequalities may not necessarily be hidden but CDA can still be used to reveal the background meaning as well as implications of those relations so that a critical and deeper appreciation of those relations can be done.
CDA researchers work with the assumption that social relations are punctuated by issues of dominance between groups of people. Those occupying dominant statuses in society manipulate language in discourse in order to perpetuate their dominance over other people. They use language in ways that express, constitute and legitimize social inequality (Huckin, Andrus and Clary-Lemon 2012). Language is also manipulated by the powerful in society for the purposes of maintaining their dominance over groups that are weak. It is in this sense that Wodak and Meyer (2008:10) argue that “language provides a finely articulated vehicle for differences in power in hierarchical social structures.” It is in this sense that one can argue that language is a powerful means of ensuring that certain sections of society are made to suffer or have their rights violated by those that have power. It is in the light of these key principles of CDA that a thorough analysis of the power behind language policy formulation which has historically given different statuses to languages in Zimbabwe should be examined. Thus the reasons behind policy stipulations on language use in society in general and the civil courts of Zimbabwe in particular are investigated in order to understand the trajectory of language usage in civil courtroom discourse in Zimbabwe.
Since some of the members of society that are usually victims of dominance by other groups are minorities, CDA becomes a relevant tool of analysis for this research. This is so because the subject of this study is primarily about linguistic rights for minorities in civil courts of Zimbabwe. The use of CDA in this study is expected to clearly highlight how language planning and policies in Zimbabwe have been used to create a situation of dominance in relation to language choice and use by linguistic minorities in courtroom discourse. The focus should in this case be on making a critical examination of how verbal interaction in civil courts have been used to demonstrate that social relationships can be used to enforce inequality.

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According to Wodak and Meyer (2008:2), “… the notions of text and discourse have been subject to a hugely proliferating number of usages in the social sciences.” This implies that researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds have different interpretations of these terms. The German and Central European scholars differentiate between the words text and discourse while the English speaking world use the term discourse to refer to both written and oral texts (Wodak, 2006). Lemke (1995) defines „text‟ as the concrete realisation of abstract forms of knowledge („discourse‟), thus clearly giving a distinction between the terms discourse and text.
The idea of the abstract nature of the notion of discourse is shared by van Dijk (1998) who views „discourse‟ as structured forms of knowledge and the memory of social practices, whereas „text‟ refers to concrete oral utterances or written documents (Reisigl and Wodak, 2001).” From this perspective, discourse is understood as abstract knowledge of the social structure. It is knowledge that is shared about social relations between groups of people within an identifiable social space in which they interact. Situations in which these people interact either verbally or through other forms of communication will produce different types of texts. It is from this standpoint that the data that is examined in this study is constituted by a variety of texts both written and verbal. Data collected through interviews with speakers of minority languages under study, views from representatives of minority language groups, court interpreters as well as language planning and policy documents are analysed in this study.
According to Wodak and Meyer (2008:2), “… discourse means anything from a historical monument, a lieu de me’moire, a policy strategy, narratives in a restricted or broad sense of the term, text, talk, a speech, topic-related conversations, to language per se.” The term discourse can also have its meaning extended to mean different types of what Murray (2015) refers to as „Discourses‟… the sum of the linguistic and other elements within the creation of identity.” It is in this sense that one can talk of discourses including gender inequality, media discourse, political discourse, racist discourse or populist discourse, institutional discourse each of which is characterised by a particular style or register. It is from this perspective that the term discourse is understood in this research since the languages whose use is under investigation are not studied out of context but they are examined as situated in courtroom discourse which is a typical example of institutional discourse. The linguistic representations obtained from courtroom discourse including policy documents, interviews and observations should constitute the text that is analysed for the study.


Despite the varied nature of approaches to CDA, there are common or shared key tenets that can be drawn from most of the ways of doing CDA and it is these characteristic features that are used as a guide to the analysis of data for this research. While some CDA researchers (van Dijk, 1993; Wodak, 1996; Fairclough and Wodak, 1997; Meyer, 2001) have come up with different lists of the general principles of CDA, the list that seems to be referred to extensively is the one developed by Fairclough and Wodak (1997). It is this set of principles that is explained in this research and is most relevant to the focus of this study.
The first principle is that the principal aim of CDA is to deal with social problems. It is in this sense that van Dijk (1995:17) says that “it is problem- or issue-oriented. Any theoretical and methodological approach is appropriate as long as it is able to effectively study relevant social problems.” This means that one of the major objectives of CDA is to explore the role of language in the creation and perpetuation of social inequalities that are normally revealed through social interaction. The historical problem of the marginalisation of indigenous minority languages in public life, for instance, the courts of law in Zimbabwe provides a typical context in which CDA can be used as a tool of linguistic analysis.
According to Wodak and Meyer (2008:20), “… it remains a fact that CDA follows a different and critical approach to problems, since it endeavours to make explicit power relations that are frequently obfuscated and hidden, and then derive results which are also of practical relevance.” This argument cements the problem oriented approach CDA has to social issues that are manifested through language use in society. Thus the existence of social problems lays a foundation for CDA research. In addition, CDA researchers should go beyond analyzing the problem identified but they should strive to proffer practical and relevant solutions to the problem.
The idea of putting emphasis on addressing social problems using CDA as a tool of linguistic analysis is also of paramount importance to the present study. This research problematizes the issue of linguistic rights for minorities in courtroom discourse which need to be upheld failure of which may lead to the denial of justice to minority language speakers. Language use is a key element of social interaction hence such an issue could create serious social problems for those people whose linguistic rights are infringed upon especially within the context of highly sensitive circumstances like the courts.
The purpose of using CDA as a tool of linguistic analysis under these circumstances would be to deal with the identified social problem by making “explicit power relations that are frequently obfuscated and hidden, and then derive results which are also of practical relevance” (Wodak and Meyer, 2008:20). Thus the foundation of CDA research is the existence of a problem whose catalyst is language related. Examples of problems or issues that qualify to be the subject matter of CDA include racism, colonialism, and social change and language rights for linguistic minorities as is the case with the present research
The second key principle of CDA is that “discourse is historical” (Fairclough and Wodak 1997:271-80). The explanation to this characteristic feature of CDA is that the study of discourses should not be done in a vacuum but it should be contextualised within identifiable historical circumstances. For a researcher to have a thorough understanding of a phenomenon and be able to adequately describe, reveal, explain and address it, there is a need to have an appreciation of the history behind it. Thus an adequate interpretation of discourses and texts can only be done when a study is situated in its proper historical realm. Thus the sociolinguistic status of Tonga, Shangani and Kalanga in civil courts discourse should be examined and understood from a historical standpoint. This means that the pre-independence and post-independence epochs in Zimbabwe should provide historical benchmarks that could have constrained language planning and policy that have impacted on language use in public discourse in general and the civil courts in particular.
The next principle of CDA is that it is “interpretive and explanatory” (Fairclough and Wodak 1997:271-80). This means that CDA work is not only ceased with giving textual analyses of data but rather goes on to give contextual interpretations and explanations to data. The understanding of the historical circumstances behind discourse helps CDA researchers to come up with appropriate and relevant explanations to data gathered. It is in this respect that the present researcher gathers naturally occurring data from verbal courtroom exchanges involving native speakers of minority languages and that data is closely examined for the purposes of giving an informed interpretation of the role of language in enacting power relations. Subsequently, the researcher will be in a better position to explain the circumstances surrounding the status of the selected minority languages‟ status in courtroom communication within the context of the civil courts of Zimbabwe.
Another key principle is that discourse does ideological work. The meaning of the term ideology according to CDA theorists is different from the common description of an ideology as “… a coherent and relatively stable set of beliefs or values.” (Wodak and Meyer, 2008:8). The conceptualisation of ideology from a CDA standpoint is somehow laden with negative connotations (Knight 2006:625). The type of ideology which is understood from a CDA perspective “… is rather the more hidden and latent type of everyday beliefs, which often appear disguised as conceptual metaphors and analogies, thus attracting linguists‟ attention” (Wodak and Meyer, 2008:8). Normally such beliefs are created and perpetuated by those that have power in society. They usually carefully and slowly instil belief about dominant ideologies which sometimes negatively affect other groups of people in society. Discourse analysts have an interest in the examination of the production of ideologies, their reception by members of society as well as their social effects.
van Dijk (1998:258) conceptualises ideologies “… as the „worldviews‟ that constitute „social cognition‟: schematically organized complexes of representations and attitudes with regard to certain aspects of the social world.” Those perceptions and attitudes that are perpetuated by people having power in society to the extent that they become acceptable to the dominated groups create social inequalities and it becomes the business of CDA practitioners to unearth and challenge them with a view to find a solution. To put this into perspective, this researcher analyses the attitudes of the speakers of the languages whose sociolinguistic status in the civil courts of Zimbabwe is under investigation. This is done in order to reveal the impact of certain ideological standpoints on people‟s language choices and uses in society and how these choices affect the status of the languages in question especially in public life like civil courtroom discourse as is the case with the present study.
Another principle of CDA is that “discourse constitutes society and culture” (Fairclough and Wodak 1997:271-80). There is in other words a close link between discourse, society and culture. There is thus a need to appreciate that discourse plays a significant role in moulding both society and culture while conversely society and culture also influence the nature of discourse that is produced as people interact on a day to day basis. It is in this regard that Fairclough and Wodak (1997:203) say “… that every instance of language use makes its own small contribution to reproducing and/or transforming society and culture, including power relations.” This clearly demonstrates that issues of society and culture are inseparable from discourse hence a thorough examination of discourse must be done within the context of the society and culture in which it is produced. Since society and culture constitute a people‟s way of life, it is important to examine how language behaviour, an aspect of society‟s day to day living is influenced by power relations especially between those in authority and other groups of people in society. Thus the organisation of the social structure should help researchers understand the statuses of different languages in a given speech community. In other words, language choice and usage in civil courtroom discourse, for instance, by native speakers of Kalanga, Tonga and Shangani gives a reflection of the nature of society in terms of power relations between groups of people in society and the continued existence of the status quo can signify the entrenchment and reproduction of those power relations.
Also, power relations are discursive. This means that CDA focuses on the analysis of the role of discourse in the exercise and negotiation of social relations of power. In other words the asymmetrical power relations obtaining in society have to be understood through a rigorous analysis of discourse. This implies that a systematic analysis of courtroom verbal exchanges involving minority language speakers in the civil courts of Zimbabwe is meant to reveal the nature of social relations of power between the complainants and accused people on the one hand and courtroom staff on the other hand. In addition, the discursive nature of power relations is interrogated through a rigorous analysis of policy documents informing language use in courtroom communication in general and the civil courts of Zimbabwe in particular.
The other CDA principle is that the link between text and society is mediated. This implies that the relationship between the social structure and text is not direct but it has to be facilitated by the medium of discourse. There are certain orders of discourse that need to be followed. This means that social groups that have power exercise control on discourse practices in ways that determine the relationship between text and society.
The last principle of CDA from the point of view of Fairclough and Wodak (1997) is that discourse is a form of social action. This should mean that there is a relationship between discourse and action. Thus there is a close relationship between what people write and say and what they do. Whenever people use language, they do so for the purposes of accomplishing certain interpersonal goals in specific interactional contexts hence discourse is a form of social practice.
According to Breeze (2011:512), “one of the fundamental tenets of CDA is that discourse is socially embedded: It is once socially constructed, and also plays a role in constructing and perpetuating (“reproducing”) social structures and relations.” Language in this sense is perceived to be inseparable from the social framework. In other words the manner in which language is used in society has its origins in the way in which society is organised. Thus the existing social relations between groups of people have a role in determining their social interaction through language. Conversely, the organisation of groups of people in society and its continuity depends on how language is used.
To further give enlightenment on the idea of discourse as social practice, Wodak (2006:3) says that the notion implies “… a dialectical relationship between a particular discursive event and the situation(s), institution(s) and social structure(s), which frame it: The discursive event is shaped by them, but it also shapes them.” In this sense, discourse plays a constitutive role since it determines situations in which people interact as well as those people‟s social identities and relationships. The same relationships also condition the nature of discourse which is expected to be in operation between groups of people. In addition, discourse contributes to the sustenance, reproduction and transformation of the social structure. This implies that the allocation of roles to languages in society has serious implications on the organisation of social structure. The marginalisation of some languages in society can be a determinant factor regarding perceptions some people may have about speakers of those languages. In addition, to marginalise a language is tantamount to marginalising the speakers of that very language such that relations between the marginalised and the rest of the community may be strained as a result of relations of power and dominance between different societal groups based on language differences. It is in this regard that this study interrogates the issue of the sociolinguistic status of Tonga, Kalanga and Shangani in civil courtroom discourse with a view to understand how the status of these languages impact on the language attitudes of minority language speakers and eventual relations with speakers of majority languages.
The fact that CDA takes language as social practice (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997) means that “… it takes into account the context of language use to be of crucial importance” (Wodak, 2000; Benke, 2000). The aspect of context is complex and it is constituted by a number of elements. Context is a sum total “… of such categories as the overall definition of the situation, setting (time, place), ongoing actions (including discourses and discourse genres), participants in various communicative, social or institutional roles (van Dijk, 1993:356). An analysis of all these aspects especially the setting and institutional roles of minority language speakers whose language use is under investigation within the context of courtroom discourse is expected to reveal the linguistic challenges minorities encounter in the courts.
As already mentioned in the prologue of this section of the chapter CDA researchers have come up with a multiplicity of principles that inform CDA practitioners in their research endeavours. However, not all principles may be used in the process of conducting one linguistic research. For this reason, the set of principles which guide the present research is the one propounded by Fairclough and Wodak (1997). Considering the fact that this study focuses on an examination of the historical and contemporary sociolinguistic status of Kalanga, Tonga and Shangani in courtroom communication in civil courts, there is a need to critically interrogate courtroom discourse in Zimbabwe from a historical perspective in order to understand the history of the problem under investigation.

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