Intrinsic opposition in the debate on New Caledonian independence: a critical discourse analysis

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This paper analyses part of the discourse of the ongoing independence debate between France and New Caledonia by combining Systemic Functional Linguistics and Pragma-Dialectics. It is shown how two politicians, as representatives of a more dominant social group, attempt to influence and change the social representations of the Kanak minority in order to obtain a preferred outcome by persuasively arguing their case through the use of both shared and inferred knowledge. It will become clear that tacit knowledge seems to be taken for granted by the French protagonists and that the negotiation process does not appear to constitute a cooperative dialogue. The paper aims to clarify this process in order to demonstrate how highly incongruent goals and values on both sides can create an intrinsic opposition. A quantitative systemic functional analysis is integrated as linguistic evidence into a qualitative Critical Discourse Analysis to reconstruct and critically evaluate the arguments of three political actors, as representatives of the most significant discourse communities involved in the debate: independence leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and nickel magnate Jacques Lafleur. Shared knowledge appears to be wielded as a rhetorical ploy by the latter two to achieve free association with France.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-231
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of world languages
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Systemic functional linguistics
  • Pragma-Dialectics
  • Argumentation theory
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Rhetorics


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