Constructing knowledge across cultures
: how the discourse of history 'works' in the Malaysian context

  • Peter Francis Cullip

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    This investigation attempts to describe and explain how the discourse of history 'works' in the context of Malaysian junior secondary education. Using the tools of systemic functional linguistics, and extending previous studies conducted largely in the Australian context, the study deconstructs a representative selection of texts from authorised textbooks. By focusing on the intimate relationship between ideology, context and text, characteristic purposes and their generic, discourse and lexicogrammatical realisations are identified, described and interpreted, and comparisons made with the results of Australian studies.

    The study concludes that the common internationalised disciplinary purposes of generalisation and interpretation are realised through similar genre selections and patterns to those operating in the Australian context. Also, the technology of grammatical metaphor plays a similar role in constructing abstraction and scaffolding text in both cultures. However, significant differences are also apparent. The Malaysian discourse shies away from the mature argumentative exposition and high levels of abstraction needed to support the work of generalisation and interpretation, and exhibits internal generic instability. It is posited that such differences are motivated by Malaysian ideological and contextual demands. It is argued that by making the workings of the discourse explicit, important contributions can be made to the teaching and learning process. In addition, an understanding of the semiotic relationship between ideology, context and the nature of the discourse can contribute to ongoing debates on curriculum, and more general educational and social reform in Malaysia.
    Date of AwardJan 1996
    Original languageEnglish

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