Language and power in the courts of Tanzania

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This is a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) study of 30 written land case judgements, originating from Tanzania's District Courts via the High Court to the Court of Appeal, dating from 1974 till 2005. The study seeks to determine the extent to which the ideological affiliations of magistrates and judges may result in empowerment or disempowerment. CDA is used to clarify the ideological affiliations reflected in the language of the 30 written land case judgethents. A set of 10 guiding questions proposed by Norman Fairclough (2001b:92-93) are deployed, modified to gain further insights by drawing on Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004). This resulted in the elicitation of detailed lexical, syntactic and intersexual manipulations assumed to have informed the productions of those 30 judgements as texts. Based on the elicited lexical, syntactic and intersexual manipulations the experiential, relational and expressive values of the magistrates' and judges' language were established. The findings of the study suggest that on the one hand the magistrates and judges seek to demonstrate their affiliation to the common law notion of impartiality by employing lexicon that is abstract, formal and metaphorical. They also seek to project impartiality by deploying syntactic manipulations of detachment such as passivation, nominalization, dummy Subjects and relational and expressive modality. However, the magistrates and judges did also exploit meaning choices, such as the use of I think, I feel, that on strategic occasions in the course of text production required projection of a sense of involvement and humane commitment specifically with regard to interpretation of points of law. It is noted in conclusion that when cases are appealed they become more and more about abstract points of law, and the interpretation of those points, couched in formal and abstract legal English. It is suggested that this may be a source of possible disempowerment especially to those not familiar with common law notions of justice as well as English.
Available in print copy at East Africana, Dr Wilbert K. Chagula library
language, power, court
Griken, A.M.V.(2008) Language and power in the courts of Tanzania, Doctoral dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam.