Remaking a Nation:
A Critical Analysis of the Singapore National Day Rally Speech 2002

Carl Ng Jon Way

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2003


Widely regarded as the most important speech in the sociopolitical life of Singapore, the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech each year articulates the chief concerns of the polity, and elucidates the government's position and direction in response to these challenges, in an attempt to mobilize the Singapore citizenry to respond in ways deemed by the state to be most apposite. It is in this vein that this academic inquiry focuses on the language of the speech, exclusively that of the 2002 edition, as an instantiation of the discursive practice of political-speechmaking in Singapore, and the sociopolitical context of its production, in order to unveil the government's ideological construction of 'reality' for the people of Singapore. Framed within the sociopolitical matrix of the nation-state, the critical study broadly adheres to the linguistic paradigm of Critical Discourse Analysis, and utilizes the tools of Hallidayan transitivity analysis, and intertextual analysis to probe into the lexicogrammatical and discursive structures of the speech. By doing so, the academic exercise aims to contribute to a more thorough understanding of the discursive construction of Singapore society and the nature of power relations between the state and people. The analysis detects on the one hand the imbrication of linguistic and discursive structures which indicate the existence of an asymmetrical power structure, while on the other, discursive strategies which attenuate this sense of social stratification, suggesting a complex and dynamic negotiation of power in and through discourse. This is traced to the changing sociopolitical landscape of Singapore, most evidently represented by a shift in the people's attitudes and orientation towards political governance and their role in it.