Macquarie University
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Power and ideology in the New Caledonian independence debate: a pragma-functional approach to critical discourse analysis

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posted on 2022-03-28, 18:24 authored by Lecompte-Van Poucke
This thesis critically analyses the discourse employed by eight representatives of the main stakeholder groups in the debate on New Caledonian independence to reveal the impact of historically formed power relations and the continuing ideological incongruence of perspectives on the participants’ lexicogrammatical selections and argumentative moves. By performing a contextual systemic functional and pragma-dialectical analysis of a set of French discourse samples, represented as an intercollective plurilogue between various protagonists and their heterogeneous audience and encompassing a variety of genres and registers, I clarify the interlocutors’ imagined realities and the negotiation process that could determine the Pacific nation’s future forever, and this stands as my original contribution to knowledge. A contrastive mixed-methods pragma-functional approach to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was undertaken, combining Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and Pragma-Dialectics (PD) and informed by postcolonialism and poststructuralism. The study showed that the French and Caldoche or European-originated interactants constructed New Caledonia’s future and identity as closely intertwined with France and its Republican values, as opposed to the Kanak interlocutors, who perceived the nation as self-governing according to the Melanesian Way. The former also represented themselves as more powerful Agents in the decolonisation process. It was revealed that the dominant French and Caldoche powers employed a fallacious rhetoric of multiethnicity and postcolonial pluralism to convince the other groups of the superiority of a co-existence solution through opting for a continued association with France, whereas the Kanak indigenous interactants asserted in vain that their preferred political pathway was to obtain full independence. An investigation of some of the recent social and ideological practices of the French and Caldoche participants provided evidence of covert postcolonial racism in the form of significant discrepancies in social and economic development between the two extremes of New Caledonia’s population. French neo-colonialism and the conjunction of Caldoche and Kanak nationalisms were found to infuse the representatives’ conflictual discourse, leading to an inevitable discord in viewpoints on the independence issue, which could materialise in a form of independence that is forced into existence by the most powerful French collective argument. Without doubt, however, the local indigenous counter-discourse will persist in defending the Kanak’s inalienable rights to self-determination and cultural recognition, since the indigenous voice has not been properly heard.


Table of Contents

Chapter One. Background to the research -- Chapter Two. Critical discourse analysis and its epistemological underpinnings -- Chapter Three. A pragma-functional analysis of the ontological praxis of power and ideology in the New Caledonian independence debate -- Chapter Four. The construction of New Caledonian identity and the negotiation of power and ideology by the interactants through the systems of transitivity and modality -- Chapter Five. Argumentative reconstruction and evaluation of the discourse samples -- Chapter Six. Discussion of the ideological adherences and practices of the participants in the independence debate -- Chapter Seven. Insights and recommendations for future research -- References -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 273-302.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

David Butt


Copyright Margo Lecompte-Van Poucke 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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