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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Language for reconciliation in religious discourse: A critical discourse analysis of contradictions in sermons explored through the activity theory framework

1Senior lecturer at Taylor's University.

Address for correspondence: Taylor's University Lakeside Campus, No. 1 Jalan Taylor's, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication. Volume 30, Issue 3-4, Pages 391–404, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: 10.1515/mult.2011.019, August 2011

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This paper attempts to shed light on the role of language in keeping religion relevant to the individual and society in present times. In the context of postmodernity, religion has become more of a meaning system to address the existential questions of the individual. Religious institutions have had to accommodate the changes brought about by a detraditionalized, decentralized, and rationalized social climate. Although these wider changes are mediated by language, scholars in the past have tended to place more emphasis on the epistemological status and nature of religious beliefs than on religious language itself. Hence, this study sets out to explore (through the critical discourse analysis framework) how language renews itself with a close analysis of the textual and intertextual linguistic features to capture the ‘zeitgeist’ of the times. Six religious sermons (discourses) from three major faiths in Malaysia were recorded. The recordings were then transcribed verbatim and the data analyzed. Activity theory and its principle of contradictions provide an appropriate theoretical, methodological, and heuristic tool to unpack the role of language in the formation of religious meaning systems. Contradictions related to the clergy, language used in sermons in terms of modes, quotations, vocabulary, and personal narratives; religious meaning systems, norms and values, and the social world at large have been identified. It is believed that this understanding of contradictions will aid in uncovering the role of language in reconciling religious meaning systems with the challenges of a postmodern world.

Keywords:: religious discourse; sermons; critical discourse analysis; activity theory

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