Monday, June 8, 2015

Should All 'Presidential Candidates' in Tanzania Read Mwalimu Lwaitama's PhD Dissertation Now?

Maggid Mjengwa and many other fellow Tanzanians are lamenting the (ongoing) state of speechmaking among CCM's presidential hopefuls. Such lamentations have reminded me of Mwalimu Azaveli Lwaitama's PhD Dissertation on A Critical Language Study of Tanzanian Presidential Kiswahili Political Oratory that is accessible at Here are some interesting, albeit diluted, excerpts from the text so you better download it and read them alongside their examples:

"The study encourages one to believe that further research into the lectures and harangues of historically important personalities ...would provide useful insights into the relationship between the use, on the one hand, of a given set of linguistic forms (in this case: prosody, humour, existential and passive structures, predominant use of nouns as opposed to verbs, adjective, adverbs, modal auxiliaries, and pronouns), and success in political persuasion, on the other" - p. 2.

"J K Nyerere tended to be more "bookish" in his oratory even when he adopted a ''harangue" rather than a "lecture" style in his speech delivery while A H Mwinyi tended to be "colloquial" thus giving an impression of being "warm" unlike J K Nyerere who sounded "bombastic" (Saville-Troike 1982:174). In this case the study encourages one to believe that further study of the stylistic differences between J K Nyerere's and A H Mwinyi's oratory may yield interesting results regarding the role "bookishness" plays in "ideology-building" by "philosopher-kings" as well as the role played by "colloquialism" in "ideology-blurring" by "administrator-kings"" - p. 2

"Mr Nyerere tends to use a lot of silent pauses even in scripted oratory...and at the very beginning of unscripted oratory where one would not expect such long speaker silences... Such silences can be interpreted as indicating that the speaker tends to closely monitor his/her speech delivery even when he/she had had time to plan it ahead of delivery. The speaker tends to behave more like a lecturer in a university teaching situation than a political demagogue trying to hurriedly invite a crowd into clapping for everything he/she says" - p. 65

"Mr Mwinyi's examples of filled pauses... consisting as they do of slips of the tongue and similar hesitation phenomena, are quite typical of natural conversation among friends (Tannen 1984). Even where Mr Mwinyi is giving a presidential promise to assist villagers acquire a vehicle...the hesitation features help him to blur the asymmetrical power relationship between him and the villagers by making that part of his speech sound like a transcript of a conversation among interlocutors with equal social status" - p. 65

"Parallel to these findings, it will appear that Mr Mwinyi adopts more of a story telling style in political oratory than Mr Nyerere. For his part, Mr Nyerere adopts more of a reading aloud mode of oratory than Mr Mwinyi...Suffice it to say that Mr Mwinyi is a native speaker of Kiswahili, while Mr Nyerere is a second language speaker of the language. Furthermore, Mr Nyerere has admitted to a difficulty in talking in a conversational mode even when circumstances required it (Mr Nyerere: personal communication). It would not be surprising, therefore, if Mr Nyerere was perceived as 'bookish' (Halliday 1985b:8) in his oratorical style, while Mr Mwinyi was perceived as 'colloquial' (loc cit.:) even in his scripted oratory. All of this tends to suggest that the written versus spoken continuum in the differentiation of spoken or written discourses may be a significant variable in determining the role of language in socio-political processes" - p. 66

"The combination of pausing, pitch range effect and humorous behaviour (Foot & Chapman 1977; Macghee 1979; Powell & Paton 1988) - both on the part of the speaker and the audience - certainly plays an important role in Tanzanian political oratory. The three are used as face management mechanism in the course of speech delivery. The following two examples... of the use of laughter, pause and pitch range effects as politeness strategies are typical of Mr Nyerere's oratorical style. In both examples, Mr Nyerere was delivering a scripted speech to thousands of delegates at a national congress of the Tanzanian ruling party, CCM, and the topic of his address was praise for Mr Mwinyi who he was recommending to the conference for election as the Chairman of the Party in the wake of Mr Nyerere's own retirement from the post on the same occasion. Mr Mwinyi, who was already the incumbent President of the country, was present as part of the audience for the speech...In...the said speech, Mr Nyerere combines both extra linguistic humorous behaviour like giggling, chuckling and laughing, and paralinguistic features like pausing and pitch range shift, in an attempt to elicit overt approval behaviour - like applause or clapping, giggling and laughing, for parts of his speech which are face threatening. The comment on the advancement in age of President Mwinyi is accompanied with a friendly chuckle which, together with the matter-of-fact falling intonation and the adjective 'little', suggests an attempt to say that the candidate Mr Nyerere was proposing for the Chairmanship was of the right age. That this was so is not obvious if it is taken into account that at 65, the candidate could be said to be at an advanced age given that 65 is the compulsory retirement age in the Tanzanian civil service. Mr Nyerere needed to balance the traditional reverence for advanced age and the modern quest for youthful and thus dynamic leadership. He interrupts his own speech with a short laugh only to go on to say that the candidate's experience in governance is immense. This observation receives unequivocal approval by way of clapping from the audience. This suggests that the observation on the candidate's age could not elicit a similar spontaneous approval rating from the delegates. Mr Nyerere then went on to say that Mr Mwinyi had also lived up to the reputation Mr Nyerere himself had attributed to him in 1985 when proposing Mr Mwinyi as the Party's presidential candidate at that time, that of being a leader who was not pompous and who was accessible to citizens from all walks of life who wished to seek his help in  solving their personal problems. The audience again applauded this part of this speech. But Mr Nyerere then followed up this part of the speech with an account of a story of advice he said he had given Mr Mwinyi sometime later, after his election and assumption of the office of the President of Tanzania. He said he had told Mr Mwinyi to take advice from him similar to the advice that the biblical character Moses is said to have received from his father-in-law...In delivering his story - which is similar to illustrative narratives that Mr Nyerere uses very often in his oratory - a number of paralinguistic and humour features were used which seemed to have the effect of eliciting humorous behaviour on Mr Nyerere's immediate audience...Mr Nyerere uses intonational subordination to 'down-tone' (Quirk & Greenbaum 1973: 218-220) his invitation to his audience to consider it possible that he could recall the Biblical story incorrectly. In a scripted speech, this invitation for the audience to treat this part of the speech as unplanned and unrehearsed must serve as a face management device. Stretches of unplanned discourse in a scripted speech carry with them the cue that they were said on the spur of the moment and they were not what the speaker set out to say. If they offended, the speaker could be forgiven for such slips of the tongue. When accompanied with so many short non-clausal juncture pauses as well as audience and speaker giggles and laughter, such "digressions" were very effective as face-savers (Kane et. al. 1977:13). In the event, Mr Nyerere increases the humour effect of his manner of telling the Biblical story by allowing the audience to interrupt him with the suggestion that the relevant bad quality was one of not being a corrupt leader, which he then dramatically contradicts by insisting that it was rather the quality of detesting wealth acquired in a corrupt manner! This is in spite of his disclaimer at the start of the narration that his account of the Biblical story could be contested. The belated display of certainty in his account of the story suggests that his supposedly unplanned stretches may not have been as unplanned as he had made them sound when heard after the intonationally subordinated disclaimer. In contrast to Mr Nyerere who - as shown above - elicits laughter from the audience by producing intonationally subordinated disclaimers accompanied by the speaker's own self-initiated laughter, Mr Mwinyi's humour and applause elicitation devices are more lexical than phonetic. He tends to use expressions which have humorous associations..." - p. 66-70.

"Very rarely does Mr Mwinyi produce speaker-initiated laughter as a device for prompting audience laughter. Usually he deploys some lexical selection of the kind which is so light-hearted as to prompt some humorous behaviour, however mild, like a smile. Such humour is sometimes overtly expressed by audience applause..." - p. 72

"The role of low key termination in prompting audience applause is a stylistic feature of Tanzanian presidential political oratory which is shared to the same extent by both the President Mwinyi, and the ex-President Nyerere. However few or many the succession of spoken meaning units (ie syllables, full words, tone units), the speaker always signals the topic and/or sub-topic shift in the discourse exchanges with low key termination. The audience, on some occasions, in turn seems to observe a ritual rule which states that the presidential orator must on some occasions be applauded merely by having signalled the end of a chunk of discourse which the speaker signals to be relatively complete in itself" - p. 74

"Finally, on this point concerning the relationship between clapping behaviour and low key termination, there was a tendency for Mr Mwihyi to receive exchange closure (ie low key termination) applauses more than Mr Nyerere, while the latter received more of the humour prompted applause than the former. lt is interesting also that exchange closure applause tended to be more a feature of speeches to assemblies of peers, ie other politicians, in municipal halls than that of speeches to mass rallies. The audiences of mass rallies - consisting as they usually do of non-politicians - tended to produce humour prompted applause more than mere exchange closure clapping, ie tamed ritual applause. Such tamed ritual applause tended to be a charactistic of scripted oratory while the more spontaneous mass rally applause tended to a characteristic of unscripted oratory" - p. 75


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