Exploring Ideational Metafunction in Helon Habila’s Oil on Water: A re-evaluation and redefinition of African Women’s Personality and Identity through Literature

Léonard A. Koussouhon, Ashani M. Dossoumou


This article aims at applying some of the principles guiding Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) to Helon Habila’s Oil On Water (2011). One of the major principles of Systemic Linguistics is that the exploration of the Transitivity properties (processes, participants, and circumstances) in/of a text can give a full insight into how the writer encodes experiential meaning therein (Koussouhon & Allagbe, 2013 and Koussouhon & Dossoumou, 2014). This implies that the analysis in/of a text can reveal how its language is organized to express the speaker’s or narrator’s personal experience, views, etc., thereby contributing to the meaning of personal and interpersonal interaction. Given the importance of social role played by language in any societal situation, the experiential meaning of a structural choice is not determined only by Lexico-grammar, but also by contextual factors (Gledhill, 2011). By applying the theory of the grammar of experiential meaning to Helon Habila’s Oil On Water (2011), this article attempts to auscultate African society’s emerging perception of gender identity as it affects and re-presents women. By borrowing the way the writer encodes his experience (or fictional reality) via the medium of language to affirm male writers’ support to the trend, this article is proving the propriety and relevance of womanist theory by re-evaluating and re-defining African women’s identity and personality through the novel under study.    



Systemic functional grammar (SFG), experiential meaning, re-evaluation, redefinition, Womanism, women’s identity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.4n.5p.129


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