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BY 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2018

Wordplay as a means of post-colonial resistance

From the book Cultures and Traditions of Wordplay and Wordplay Research

  • Gesa Schole


In post-colonial Mozambique, writers aim to develop a literary tradition of their own, separate from that inherited from its former mother country Portugal. One means of achieving this goal is through the language that the writers use in their works. Living in a linguistically hybrid context, they have the freedom of choice between several languages or varieties. The main research question at hand is by what linguistic means the Mozambican writer Mia Couto supports the new, post-colonial identity of the Mozambican people - an aim that he has set himself. The basis for this analysis is the language that he applies in his novel A varanda do frangipani (‘Under the frangipani’) and which is representative of his style. His literary language reflects colloquial Mozambican Portuguese, which deviates from European Portuguese in some respects. In his works, he functionalizes these deviations and thereby creates wordplays in the broader sense. This act represents a form of linguistic self-mimicry and is the opposite of earlier colonial mimicry. The positions of colonized and colonizer are reversed, the influence of the indigenous people is accentuated and dignified. In this way, wordplay acts as a means of post-colonial resistance supporting the ex-colonies’ true independence and their own specific identity. Apart from that, wordplays in the narrow sense in the form of lexical blends as Couto uses them may be taken as metaphors for the hybrid character of post-colonial spaces, and some may even represent the Mozambicans’ new hybrid identity. Thus, the research question involves the subcategorization of wordplay phenomena and its linkage to postcolonial concepts. In general, the wordplays that Couto creates are predominantly wordplays in absentia whose playfulness is increased by their formal complexity (medial overlapping and contour blends), structural transgression (illicit ways of compounding and violation of linear ordering rules), and the absence of a naming function as there are conventional ways of encoding the same thing.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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