Exploring the Theme of Cultural Identity in the Poem “Song of Lawino”: The Use of Halliday’s Transitivity in Revealing Ideologies

Meissa Larbaoui


The individual’s identity is crucial in his/her life in countless fields, especially the social, political, and economic ones. It is constructed by different cultural elements: ethnicity, history, traditions, language, religion, literature, etc. In the colonial period, the elites tried to erase the cultural identity of the colonized nations and forced the assimilation of their own culture. This image was highly seen in Africa during colonialism. Consequently, in postcolonialism; different Africans were not aware of their real identity and chose to westernize their culture. Literature was one of the ways that myriad African writers used to revive the real cultural identity of black Africans. Okot p’Bitek wrote a song that tackled the differences between the culture of the Africans and that of the Western people. It was about a conflict between a married couple who divorced because the man was deeply affected by Western culture. This paper attempts to analyze the poem by using the linguistic framework of transitivity with a qualitative research method. Halliday introduced the framework in the theory of Systemic Functional Grammar. It is generally used as a strategy in the stylistic approach since it deals with the analysis of the lexical and grammatical structures to interpret the implicit meaning of discourse. The findings revealed that the African and Western people were different in several cultural elements: beauty care, religion, education, politics, dancing, and time value. In other words, the verbs, adjectives, and other linguistic choices that were extracted from the different process types of the transitivity system had distinct and contrasting functions. Thus, the results showed that transitivity facilitated the detection of the linguistic elements used by the writer to describe the cultural identity of the African and Western nations, which helped in getting through the writer’s inner thoughts, feelings, and ideologies. In the end, it was suggested to implement transitivity in the teaching of literature as a strategy to trigger students’ critical thinking and demystify the analysis of literary discourse.


African Literature, Cultural Identity, Experiential Metafunction Functional Grammar Ideology Literary Discourse Transitivity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.10n.6p.20


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