Language and the Economic Freedom Party: An Evaluative Approach

Author: Anna Maritz (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
Speaker: Ansie Maritz
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Up to this point, the South African political language landscape has not sufficiently received formal attention from the field of linguistics. Also, the main analytical framework used for textual analyses, is often critical discourse analysis.

During this presentation, I will therefore firstly provide a short overview of an earlier research focus regarding how nouns function in propaganda as analysed in texts thematically pertaining former South African president Jacob Zuma. During his term, Mr Zuma was implied in, among other, two controversial South African cases, namely Nkandla and state capture. Some of the salient findings include the propaganda text group contains more subjective nouns than the non-propaganda text group. This high number of evaluative terms can be understood with the interpersonal metafunction of Systemic Functional Linguistics in mind.

Evaluative language refers to language which indicates something of the language users’ stance towards a person or an action (Thompson and Hunston 2001:6). The theory regarding evaluative language can be seen as an extension of the larger Systemic Functional Linguistics framework. I will therefore shift my focus during this presentation to my current study which entails the evaluative language as used by the EFF’s leader, Mr Julius Malema, in his full-length speech as delivered at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral as an example. This text was analysed by using the adjusted parameter-based framework of evaluation called the New theory of evaluation (Bednarek 2009:41-64).

When it comes to the type of language the South African political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) uses, it has been described with words such as “emotive” and “fiery” (Lagardien 2023; Hunter 2018). It seems clear that evaluative language plays a central role in how the EFF politically positions itself. And yet, only a few formal studies have been conducted on aspects of the language associated with the EFF’s discourse of which none has focussed on its evaluative nature (e.g. Cupido, 2015; Hunter, 2018; Mabela, Mann & Ditsele, 2020).

With the EFF being a medium sized but seemingly powerful political party in South Africa, tending to this linguistic landscape seems to become all the more important.


Bednarek, M. 2009. Evaluation in media discourse: Analysis of a newspaper corpus. Bloomsbury publishing.
Cupido, C. 2015. Shoot the Boer: A discourse analysis of online posts and related texts. MA-degree as completed at the University of the Western Cape.
Gunner, L. 2015. Song, identity and the state: Julius Malema’s Dubul’ibhunu song as catalyst. Journal of African Cultural Studies. 27(3): 326-341.
Hunter, Q. 2018. Malema delivers fiery speech at Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral. TimesLive. Date of access: 23 March 2023.
Lagardien, I. 2023. The EFF, violence and the national shutdown – echoes of Mussolini’s March on Rome. Daily Maverick. Date of access: 23 March 2023.
Mabela, L., Mann, C. and Ditsele, T. 2020. Language and discourse in contemporary South African politics: a critical discourse analysis. Language Matters. 51(3): 108-129.
Thompson, G. & Hunston, S. 2001. Evaluation: An introduction. (In Hunston, S. & Thompson, G. (eds.) Evaluation in text: Authorial stance and the construction of discourse.) Oxford University Press.

Keywords: political language, EFF, Economic Freedom Party, Julius Malema, discourse analysis, textual analysis, political discourse