n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - The pragmatics of obituary notices in Malawian newspapers

Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



This paper examines the linguistic pragmatic rules that govern obituary notices in Malawian newspapers and how these notices are grounded in the cultural milieu of Malawian society. The guiding principle of this analysis is the notion that discourse should always be contextualized in particular circumstances of social life. A total of 63 obituary notices, sampled from two popular newspapers, were analyzed for both communicative and linguistic / sociolinguistic aspects. Using Gasparov's (1977) typology of discourses, the paper notes that Malawian obituary notices negotiate both public and private domains. The obituary is a predominantly private affair, which, however, uses a public forum for its consummation. Unlike obituary notices in other countries, the Malawian obituary notices are primarily addressed to the deceased rather than the reading public. The notices also incorporate features from African oral traditions, Christian traditions, and Western traditions, reflecting the multiple sources of the modern Malawian's experiences.

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