Graduate School
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Dr Merit Kabugo

Home country: Uganda

PANGeA partner: Makerere University

Year of enrolment: 2011

Graduation date: March 2013

Department:  African Languages

Supervisor: Prof Marianna Visser

Co-Supervisor: Prof Shaun Viljoen

Dissertation title: Participation and decision making in Luganda: An appraisal and genre-theoretic investigation of spoken discourse at community development project meetings


If they don't come out clearly to show us the true picture of different areas, it means that some areas that do not get the weather forecast cannot profit from their farming activities. This pushes our country into more poverty. If an agency can be identified and charged with the responsibility to disseminate the forecast to the various parts of the country, it would greatly help the farmers and Uganda as a country to develop. These are the words of a participant at one of fifteen Ugandan farmer group meetings that were convened and asked to discuss a tape-recorded seasonal weather forecast, following their own rules of procedure. The audio recordings and transcriptions of these meetings, which are in Luganda, form the object of inquiry for this study. Using a multi-perspective approach to spoken discourse analysis, this study investigates manifestations and patterns of participation and decision-making as they emerge through evaluation and appraisal in the context of participatory community development processes. Taking the discourse of farmer group meetings as a genre of business meetings, where the public is included in decision-making interactions between government and citizens, the study invokes the appraisal theory, genre analysis theory, citizenship talk analysis model, and the business-meeting negotiation approach to explore how participants use Luganda to express assessment and make decisions during interactive discourse. The study identifies three main styles of making decisions, which demonstrate a culturally constructed concept of participation in Luganda. Whereas subtle decision-making involves spontaneous group positions that are not formally announced as a decision, explicit decision-making manifests positions that are overtly announced by a participant. Virtual decision-making involves intermittent moves towards a group position. While some meetings have moderators, several others have the role of moderator performed by various participants. Indeed, in several cases participants take turns to speak in a spontaneous way, without having to seek the permission of the moderator. Despite the difference in styles of decision-making, the overarching goal of participation in this genre of Luganda discourse is to reach consensus and to demonstrate a collective identity. This goal however does not take away the right and freedom of participants to reason critically, negotiate for a position, express conflict, and to question authority. This study breaks the ground for further research into areas of evaluation, intercultural communication, forensic linguistics, professional discourse, and other fields of applied linguistics in Ugandan languages, as well as in other African languages.

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Click here to access Dr Merit Kabugo's research outputs ​