Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice

Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice

Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice

Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice


This is an essential read for anyone interested in the way language is used in the world of politics. Based on Aristotle's premise that we are all political animals, able to use language to pursue our own ends, the book uses the theoretical framework of linguistics to explore the ways in which we think and behave politically. Contemporary and high profile case studies of politicians and other speakers are used, including an examination of the dangerous influence of a politician's words on the defendants in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial.International in its perspective, Analysing Political Discourse also considers the changing landscape of political language post-September 11, including the increasing use of religious imagery in the political discourse of, amongst others, George Bush.Written in a lively and engaging style, this book provides an essential introduction to political discourse analysis.


Remember that politics, colonialism, imperialism and war also originate in the human brain

Vilayanur S. Rmachandran

The analysis of political discourse is scarcely new. The western classical tradition of rhetoric was in its various guises a means of codifying the way public orators used language for persuasive and other purposes. The Greco-Roman tradition regarded humans as both creatures who are defined by the ability to speak and creatures defined by their habit of living together in groups. For writers like Cicero the cultivation of the power of speech was the essence of the citizen's duty. For others it was the essence of deception and distortion. In eighteenth-century Europe, the new scientific minds began to distrust deeply the things language could do. Rhetoric as the study of the forms of verbal persuasion and expression declined. But of course orators, politicians, preachers and hucksters of all sorts continued to use their natural rhetorical talents as before. Rhetorical practice, in the form of public relations and 'spin', fuelled by the mediaexplosion, is now more centre stage than ever.

In the last half of the twentieth century, linguistics took enormous strides, largely through the realisation that language must be seen as an innate part of all human minds. Chomsky's influence is undoubted, as is the impact of the generative model of language with which he is associated. The research questions were essentially scientific. This is not to say that linguists in this tradition have not raised their voices in matters of domestic and foreign politics, both in the United States and Europe, but their research agenda was not directed towards theorising any relationship there might be between the human language faculty and the social nature of humans. The language faculty was largely identified with syntax and viewed as sealed off from other mental capacities.

Scholarly interest in the public uses of language was another matter, pursued by other scholars, mainly in Europe. The Frankfurt School and proponents of

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