Exploring the Textual Metafunction in a Biblical-Fictional Parable in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Devil on the Cross

Yémalo C. Amoussou


This paper explores the textual metafunctional patterns in two fictional versions of a Biblical Parable in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s novel Devil on the Cross (1982) in order to find the similarities and differences between their compositional features. It critically draws on the theory of systemic functional linguistics expounded by specialists like Halliday (1994), Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) and Eggins (2004) to overview the theoretical background to the study, with focus on the grammar of textual meaning, proposes a new Theme classification and uses it to analyze the Thematic structure and taxis system of the two extracts. The researcher has come to the conclusion that, though they are initially spoken, these texts show such interesting textual-meaning properties as the density of ellipsis, of circumstantial and interpersonal thematization, of taxis and rank shift that they should be qualified to belong to both spoken and written mode of discourse.



Textual metafunction, Theme, ellipsis, foregrounding, parataxis, hypotaxis

Full Text:



Amoussou, C. Y. (2011). “Characterisation, Focalisation and Discourse in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Novels: A Functional Structuralist Approach.’’ Unpublished Ph. D-Dissertation, UAC.

Amoussou, C. Y. (Feb.2016). “Systemic-Linguistic Features of the Internally-Focalized Discourse in Ngũgĩ’s Matigari” in IJJLR, N° 1, Jan. 2016; pp.132 -149; European-American Journals: UK. (in press).

Amoussou, C. Y. (Sept. 2015). “Mood, Interpersonal and Ideological Meaning Patterns in the ‘Abiku’ Poems (J.P.Clark; W. Soyinka); in International Journal of Language and Linguistics, Vol.2, N° 3, Sept. 2015; pp.129 -138; ISSN 2374-8850(print), 2374 – 8869 (online); Center for Promoting Ideas: USA.

Brown, G. & Yule, G. (1988). Discourse Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bahktin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trs. Caryl Emerson &Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Eggins, S. (2004): An Introduction to Systemic-Functional Linguistics (2nd Ed). London: Bloomsbury.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1967). ‘Notes on Transitivity and Theme in English: Part 2’, Journal of Linguistics 3: 199-244.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1974). Interview with M.A.K. Halliday. In H. Parret (ed.) Discussing Language. The Hague: Mouton, pp.81-120.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd edition). London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C.M.I.M(2004).An Introduction to Functional Grammar (3rd edition). London: Hodder Headline Group.

Hasan, R. & Fries, P. H. (eds.) (1995).On Subject and Theme: A Discourse Functional Perspective. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, P.A.: Benjamins.

Koussouhon, A. L. & Amoussou, C. Y. (2015). “Facets and Functions of Linguistic Displacement in Ngũgĩ’s Petals of Blood: A Functional Structuralist Perspective,” Revue du CAMES, Ouagadougou, juillet 2015.

Koussouhon, A. L. & Amoussou, C. Y. (2015). “Characterisation, Authority and Ideology in Ngũgĩ’s Devil on the Cross,” The Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(4), 2039-9349.

Lyons, J. (1981). Language, Meaning & Context. Fontana Paperbacks.

Martin, J.R. (1992). English Text: System and Structure. Philadelphia and Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Matthiessen, C.M.I.M (1995). Lexico-Grammatical Cartography: English Systems. Tokyo: International Language Sciences Publishers.

Matthiessen, C.M.I.M, Teruya, K. & Lam, M. (2010). Key Terms in Systemic Functional Linguistics. New York: Continuum.

Ngara, E. (1985). Art and Ideology in the African Novel. London: Heinemann.

Ngũgĩ wa Th. (1977). Petals of Blood. London, Bedford, Ibadan, Nairobi: Heinemann Educational Books.

Ngũgĩ wa Th. (1982). Devil on the Cross. Heinemann: African Writers Series.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S. Leech, G. & Svartvik, J. (1972). A Contemporary Grammar of English. London: Longman.

Walsh, J. M. & Walsh, A.K. (1966). Plain English Handbook (5th Ed.). Cincinnati, Ohio: McCormick-Mathers Publishing Company, Inc.

Wang, Y. (2010). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Barrack Obama’s Speeches. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 1(3),254-261.

Lawrence, S. et al. (2001). Persistence of Web References in Scientific Research. Computer. 34, 26-31. doi:10.1109/2.901164, http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/2.901164.

Smith, J. (1999). One of Volvo's core values. [Online] Available: http://www.volvo.com/environment/index.htm (July 7, 1999).

Strunk, W., J., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style. (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan, (Chapter 4).

Van der Geer, J., Hanraads, J. A. J., & Lupton R. A. (2000). The art of writing a scientific article. Journal of Scientific Communications, 163, 51-59.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.5n.5p.215


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.