South African Journal of African Languages

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The communicative functions of post-2000 Shona popular songs: A typological analysis

Mickias Musiyiwa, Marianna W. Visser


This article proposes a typology of Shona popular songs employing a systemic functional linguistics (SFL) informed genre theory, which distinguishes texts on the basis of their textual patterns and the meanings they intend to convey. The increasing and wide appropriation of songs as communicative media by political parties, groups and individuals has been one of the fascinating phenomena of post-2000 Zimbabwe. Although some studies have been carried out on these songs in the context of popular music, none have attempted a linguistically-grounded analysis of the songs and in particular their classification for easier study. In order to get to grips with the communicative functions of the songs, categorising them according to what they communicate is therefore crucial. Consequently, this article explores the linguistic strategies adopted in the songs in order to establish the linguistic patterns which determine their rhetorical purposes. The communicative purpose of each song will form the criterion for naming it as a distinct sub-genre. Our argument is that the typology is relevant in extending the construction of theories to help understand the fascinating, though complex, correlation between popular songs and society, particularly as it relates to communication.

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