Language and the Economic Freedom Party: An Evaluative Approach

Author: Anna Maritz (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
Speaker: Anna Maritz
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The (SCOPUS / ISI) GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


When it comes to the type of language the South African political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) uses, it has been described with words such as “emotive” and “fiery” (Lagardien 2023; Hunter 2018). It seems clear that evaluative language plays a central role in how the EFF politically positions itself. And yet, only a few formal studies have been conducted on the language associated with the EFF’s discourse of which none has focussed on its evaluative nature. The existing studies often rather take a critical discourse analytical approach or focus specifically on the controversial Shoot the Boer song sung by the EFF’s leader, Mr Julius Malema (Cupido, 2015; Mabela, Mann & Ditsele, 2020).
Evaluative language refers to language which clearly indicates something of the language users’ stance towards a person or an action (Thompson and Hunston 2001:6). In this paper, I will therefore focus on the evaluative language as used by the EFF’s leader, Mr Julius Malema, in eight full length speeches as transcribed from YouTube video recordings. The texts will be systematically analysed by using the adjusted parameter-based framework of evaluation called the New theory of evaluation (Bednarek 2009:41-64).
This study will take the form of a qualitative textual analysis. The data will first be analysed by hand using tags as set up according to each of the relevant parameters. After the tagging process, concordances will be drawn up with the help of the language software program WordSmith Tools 8.0.
With the EFF being a medium sized but seemingly powerful political party in South Africa, tending to this linguistic landscape seems to become all the more important.

Resource list

Bednarek, M. 2009. Evaluation in media discourse: Analysis of a newspaper corpus. Bloomsbury publishing.

Gunner, L. 2015. Song, identity and the state: Julius Malema’s Dubul’ibhunu song as catalyst. Journal of African Cultural Studies. 27(3): 326-341.

Hunter, Q. 2018. Malema delivers fiery speech at Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral. TimesLive. Date of access: 23 March 2023.

Lagardien, I. 2023. The EFF, violence and the national shutdown – echoes of Mussolini’s March on Rome. Daily Maverick. Date of access: 23 March 2023.

Mabela, L., Mann, C. and Ditsele, T. 2020. Language and discourse in contemporary South African politics: a critical discourse analysis. Language Matters. 51(3): 108-129.

Thompson, G. & Hunston, S. 2001. Evaluation: An introduction. (In Hunston, S. & Thompson, G. (eds.) Evaluation in text: Authorial stance and the construction of discourse.) Oxford University Press.

Keywords: political language, EFF, Economic Freedom Party, Julius Malema, discourse analysis, textual analysis, political discourse