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Review of  Perspectives in Politics and Discourse

Reviewer: Laura Filardo-Llamas
Book Title: Perspectives in Politics and Discourse
Book Author: Urszula Okulska Piotr Cap
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Book Announcement: 22.2293

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EDITORS: Urszula Okulska and Piotr Cap
TITLE: Perspectives in Politics and Discourse
SERIES TITLE: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 36
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2010

Laura Filardo Llamas, Department of English, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain


This book consists of 20 chapters, which are organized in six parts. In addition
to the introduction and conclusion, where the connection between chapters is
clearly explained, the book revolves around four main topics: ''classification
and naming in political rhetoric'', ''critical insights into political
communication'', ''voices of mediatised politics'', and ''politicizing 'linguistic
human rights'''. This organisation responds to the desire of covering a broad
understanding of the relationship between politics and discourse -- named by the
editors ''Analysis of Political Discourse'' (APD) (3). In this way, aspects
related to both the linguistic construction of political discourse (PD) and the
way in which different languages are used in various political contexts are
covered in the book, hence turning it into a valuable collection of
methodologies which can be used for the study of PD.

The systematizing objective of the book is clearly stated in the editors'
introduction, where they also argue in favour of the new term ''APD''. This is
justified on the grounds of disambiguation from former uses, such as ''Political
Discourse Analysis'' (PDA) (Chilton & Schäffner 1997; Hodges & Nilep 2007),
which, according to the authors could refer to ''ideologically-motivated
enterprises'' (3, fn. 2), or ''Political Linguistics'' (PL) where the focus lies
only on linguistics-based analysis. The APD proposal is consistent with the
organisation and contents of the book, which includes research aimed at
uncovering not only how ideological beliefs are spread through PD, but also the
mutual influence between language variation and politics, particularly in
relation to minority languages.

Part II of the book comprises four chapters whose goal is to connect traditional
understandings of political rhetoric with current cognitive approaches. In
chapter 2, Andreas Musolff looks at the evolution of the ''body politic'' metaphor
throughout history. In this way, he continues to emphasise the importance of
historical baggage in the cognitive grounding of metaphor, an aspect which is
not always attributed a key role in modern approaches to the study of metaphor
(Musolff 2007: 5-7). These two elements are significant in a chapter which not
only provides an interesting diachronic description of the ''body political
metaphor'', but which also advocates for the importance of using integrated
approaches for the study of metaphors. As demonstrated in this chapter, a
combination of Conceptual, Pragmatic and Critical Discourse Analyses can be seen
as a ''promising'' (38) approach to the study of PD.

The notion of the body reappears in chapter 3, where Daniel Skinner and Rosa
Squillacote analyse ''the political implications of metaphors used to frame the
US government's War on Terror'' (43). The authors argue that current body
metaphors are parallel to those used in Hobbes's ''Leviathan'', and they also
establish parallelisms with Sontag's (1990) description of disease metaphors.
Although in those cases body and disease metaphors are manichaeally understood
(that is, in terms of binary oppositions between good and evil), some examples
can also be found in American politics, where these metaphors acquire a broader
meaning that is distanced from binary understandings of politics. Random
reconfigurations of sickness and health metaphors hence show that, even if
traditional conceptualisations have guided the political imagery about the US
during the War on Terror, democracy can also be described by means of a newly
constructed metaphor where health and sickness are embraced.

The War on Terror is used by Jan Chovanec in chapter 4 in order to provide
examples of how categorization -- understood as the creation of mental images of
different social groups -- can be a reliable tool for the analysis of the
legitimizing function of PD. In this way, a connection is established with a
widely researched area within PD studies (Chilton 2004, Cap 2006, Van Leeuwen
2007). Categorization is shown to help in simplifying the number of groups that
are involved in a political action. This, together with a number of related
textual strategies such as the use of foreign words, animal metaphors and their
combination with national stereotypes, serve to explain the negative
representation of French president Jacques Chirac -- and therefore of French
people -- by some British media in the context of the 2003 intervention in Iraq.

The media is significant for the analysis presented in the final chapter of part
II, where Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska shows discursive uses of ''(mis)labelling''
(85-87) in online alerts about American politics found in three web-based media
monitors. The analysis shows that there are three distinct uses of labels in
American politics, which depend on who utters the discourse: the government,
mainstream media or popular media. Lexical choices then range from official
euphemistic ones to offensive insults. This chapter shows how (mis)labelling can
become a manipulative strategy which can background or foreground particular
traits. It is because of this that media monitors have carried out research
aimed at making citizens aware of this type of practice.

Five chapters are included in part III of the book, where different examples of
manipulative, ideologically-determined and persuasive uses of language in
political or institutional contexts are presented. In compiling this section,
the editors have tried to show how critical approaches to the study of PD -- the
word ''critical'' having a broad sense, not merely pointing at Critical Discourse
Analysis (CDA) -- can be based on different methodological tools. They can be
applied both quantitatively and qualitatively, and diachronically and

In chapter 6, Ibrahim El-Hussari tries to prove the usefulness of political
language for winning the support of the public and lawmakers. George W. Bush's
''Address to the nation on US policy in Iraq'' on January 2007 is presented as an
example of this. Textual and lexical features such as topicalization, choices
related to keywords, word frequency and repetition, or sentence constructions
not only construct a cohesive text, but they also foreground several aspects
which can help in justifying American policy on Iraq. Issues which are
explicitly mentioned in the analysed speech are considered, as well as the
exclusion of certain arguments -- such as Weapons of Mass Destruction, or the
number of casualties -- is also acknowledged. In this way the author very
interestingly demonstrates the value of CDA to debunk hidden ideological
meanings in Bush's speech.

Even if it is not mentioned as such, El-Hussari's chapter is closely related to
the legitimising function of PD. How legitimisation can be achieved by means of
proximization (Cap 2006, 2008) is explained in chapter 7, written by Piotr Cap.
Taking Discourse Space Theory (Chilton 2004, 2005) as the point of departure,
Cap defines proximization as ''a pragmatic-cognitive strategy that relies upon
the speaker's ability to present events on the discourse stage as directly
affecting the addressee, usually in a negative or threatening way'' (119). Events
can be constructed around three axes whose effects are cumulative: spatial,
temporal and axiological. In this chapter, Cap argues in favour of the
axiological dimension -- which mainly depends on the construal of ideological
beliefs and values -- as a complementary framework to the one provided by space
and time. This proves to be necessary when legitimising political actions which
do not depend that much on geopolitical circumstances but on the validity of
ideological premises.

In chapter 8, Tony Bastow argues in favour of an integration of Corpus
Linguistics and CDA. This is justified by looking at the different rhetorical
effects of similar grammatical structures in a special corpus -- which in this
case is a compilation of 269 geopolitical speeches coming from the USA
Department of Defense -- and a reference corpus -- such as Collins Cobuild 'Bank
of English'. Three binomial phrases, made up of two words which are
syntactically symmetrical, were compared: ''men and women'', ''friends and allies'',
and ''allies and friends''. The analysis shows that binomials may result in a
discursive blurring of differences, which could have political effects.

Ideological traces can not only be found in PD, but also in other types of
institutional discourses, such as corporate discourse. This idea is further
developed by Elena Magistro in chapter 9, and it is closely linked to other
studies on the same topic (Koller 2004, 2007). This chapter proves how, in an
attempt to encourage greater practical and emotional involvement in European
integration, official EU discourse has suffered a process of ''marketization''
(Fairclough 1993), hence becoming more conversational and informal. The analysis
follows Fairclough's (1989) model, which is based on three levels: the analysis
of textual features, their relation with discourse practices (or genres), and
their effect on the broader social context.

In the final chapter in part III, Urszula Okulska presents an analysis of PD
based on a diachronic perspective. She looks at Late Middle English (LME) and
Early Modern English (EMnE) political correspondence, and how this was
determined by the political orientation of 15th and 17th-century institutions in
England. The parallelism between three constitutive dimensions of LME/EMnE
political culture -- polity, policy and politics -- and the three body parts of
directive epistles -- enablement, command, and legitimization -- reflects the
importance of the socio-cultural context in genre construction (cf. Bhatia
2002). Okulska's chapter is, thus, a fascinating reflection on how the early
English political world is discursively reproduced and textually enacted.

All the chapters included in part IV consider the impact that the mass media
have in the configuration of PD. In chapter 11, Bruce Fraser looks at how
politicians' uttering of discourse in the context of press conferences is
determined by the need to answer challenging questions. Thus, Bush's use of
''hedging''-- as a rhetorical strategy which can attenuate the value of an
utterance -- in 2007 press conferences has been analysed. However, the findings
differ from the attenuating use which was expected, inasmuch as Bush does not
rely on this linguistic strategy in order to evade questions, but rather refuses
to answer them.

In chapter 12, Anja Janoschka examines how the mass media -- and in particular
weblogs -- have been introduced as an advertising tool in political
communication. The objective of the chapter is to prove that political blogs are
not only political, but they adopt the communication strategies of direct
e-advertising (216). In this way, this chapter is closely linked to Magistro's
research presented in chapter 9, as both of them look at the marketisation and
conversationalisation (Fairclough 1993) of different discourse types. Janoschka
analyses 654 entries in the weblog of John Fritchey, an Illinois American
Democrat, and she concludes that there are parallelisms between political blogs
and e-mailing communication, as both rely on similar linguistic strategies.
Nevertheless, differences can be found in how frequently and in which form these
strategies are applied.

PD can be mediated not only by a politician's use of mass media strategies, but
newspapers also have an important mediating role, mainly because they can help
in promoting an ''opinionation'' trend, as James Moir shows in chapter 13. The
author shows how the media helped in spreading the view that every voter should
have an opinion about political matters, and takes examples from Blair's
departure and Brown's succession as Prime Minister. Some extracts taken from the
BBC news site exemplify how events are understood through the opinion of other.
In this way, the mediating function of opinions in PD is demonstrated, not only
because it stresses the (un)popularity of certain policies, but also because
opinions in themselves can be understood as a new type of PD.

Translation, and the recontextualizing process it involves, can be identified as
another type of mediation in PD. As Christina Schäffner shows in chapter 14,
recontextualization is determined by the policies and ideologies of those
institutions where an instance of discourse is translated. To illustrate this,
Schäffner analyses translations of an interview that Russian President Vladimir
Putin held with journalists from the G8 countries in June, 2007; a joint press
conference by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President George Bush in
July, 2008; and the BBC News' report of a speech by the Iranian President in
October, 2005. Recontextualising strategies can already be seen in formatting
choices related to the length of texts and the arrangement of information.
Additionally, textual clues, such as pronominal choices, syntactic adaptations,
or stylistic changes also determine how a text is understood. This stresses the
importance of translating practices in international political communications,
and the mutual relation that can be established between Translation Studies and

The final approach to mediation can be found in chapter 15, where Natalia
Kovalyova looks at the role that the media has in shaping power. Departing from
the assumption that the news is ideologically gathered, Kovalyova looks at how
Western representations of the Ukranian ''Orange Revolution'' are mediated by a
''revolutionary'' interpretation which results from beliefs grounded on the
opposition between totalitarianism and democracy, and the need to defend the
latter. This paper shows how media practices at this time, and the frames
(Entman 1993) in them, stem from following a set of rules describing
professional journalism (Bennet 1996): orienting the interpretation towards key
players, shifting definitions so as to develop a story based on the conflict
between main characters, and complementing this with a high number of legal
details which were being contested.

In the final part of the book, aspects related to how multilingualism is
understood in political settings are studied. In so doing, the often-forgotten
area of the ''politics of language'' is covered. These chapters help us get some
insight on how policies on language planning have been implemented in certain
areas, and the relationship which can be established between them and the
discrimination of minority languages in some institutional settings.

An introduction to the topic of multilingualism in relation to politics can be
found in chapter 16, where Adrian Blackledge offers an example of how language
rights can be approached from an ethnographic and sociolinguistic perspective.
Blackledge looks at the linguistic situation of the UK, in particular after the
2005 terrorist attacks, and establishes a connection between the commonly-held
belief that the creation of one nation is equivalent to using one single
language, and the ideological beliefs which are entailed when one or more
languages are valued over others. Examples from the field of education, and the
(lack of) adaptation of multilingualism to school settings, are provided.
Findings show how multilingualism is often associated to a family setting,
although children's views about the use of languages are gradually changing, as
they are claiming ''the right to be multilingual in a world dominated by
monolingual ideology'' (322).

The symbolic equation between one language and a nation reappears in Carol
Pfaff's research about multilingualism presented in chapter 17. Even if Germany
is not recognized in its constitution as a monolingual state, Pfaff shows how
the diglossic repertoire of migrants in Germany can be described in a double
way, with German being used in school and formal settings, and their ethnic
languages in informal ones. The problem appears in the lack of integration of
some adults who are not proficient in German. In order to address this, some
measures have been taken, such as the possibility for migrants to take
''integrated courses''; the establishment of ''Europaschulen'', which offer
immersion programmes in a number of different languages; or the use of Turkish
as a language of instruction in some schools. This interest in adopting new
policies aimed at multilingualism shows, according to Pfaff, that language is
considered a key element in the discussion about the integration of migrants in

The use of minority languages in American schools is analysed by Bruce
Johnson-Beykont and Zeynep F. Beykont in chapter 18. In this context there seems
to be a failure in responding to the educational and linguistic needs of
migrants. Taking Puerto Rican students as an example, the authors offer a report
on the behaviour of ''La Casa'', a Spanish-English bilingual program designed
specifically for Puerto Rican children living in the USA. Some insight is
provided about the theoretical premises upon which the use of language and the
design of the curriculum have been based, and in both cases we find a strong
emphasis on addressing children's needs for overcoming the general pattern of
Puerto Rican academic failure. ''La Casa'' exemplifies how academic success can
stem from the involvement of both teachers and parents, and their efforts
towards fostering a sense of pride in a cultural heritage which is often despised.

Chapter 19, as the final chapter in part V, is written by Michał Bilewicz and
Agnieszka Bocheńska. They argue in favour of the hypothesis of linguistic
relativity (Whorf 1956) as a unique theoretical framework for studies about the
attitudes, cognitions and emotions of foreign language learners. This theory,
together with Speech Accommodation Theory (Giles et al. 1991), is used to
explain code-switching in bilinguals and its relation to the notion of
prejudice. Through the results of a questionnaire given to French bilingual
students, the authors demonstrate that linguistic accommodation can be explained
as a form of cognitive suppression, and it is frequently the consequence of
negative emotions.

The book is concluded by Urszula Okulska and Piotr Cap, in a chapter where they
summarise the proposals for doing APD which can be found in this volume. Taking
into account that most of the contributions focus on the role of the media --
which reflects current mediatised societies -- in political communication, some
conclusions are offered about this, particularly in relation to the prominent
role of data coming from mediatised contexts of political communication, and
this being the consequence of a need for increased political impact. In arguing
in favour of further research being carried out about mediatised political
communication, the editors stress the need to consider its 'ethical dimension'
and possible distortions coming from this.


This book is a good resource for researchers interested in the relationship
between politics and discourse. Because it covers a wide area of research, which
is looked at from many different angles, it can be considered a useful
sourcebook both for those who are already studying PD and those entering this
realm for the first time. The inclusion of four of the most important issues in
PD research -- political rhetoric, critical insights, mediatised politics, and
linguistic human rights -- justifies the editors' proposal for renaming
''Political Discourse Analysis'' (PDA) as ''Analysis of Political Discourse'' (APD).
However, whether this new terminology is adopted remains to be seen, something
which could be difficult taking into account that the former term is widely used
(Chilton 2004; Chilton & Schäffner 1997). What this new term does highlight, and
what it should be given credit for, is the need for broad understandings of the
term 'politics' in a society which is highly politicised, and where this term is
often restricted to uses of language by politicians, instead of uses of language
which could have a political impact (Van Dijk 1997). This awareness about the
widespread influence of political life validates in itself the compilation of
chapters presented in this edited volume.

The careful thematic organization and the selection of topics included in it
contribute to stressing the usefulness of the book. Nevertheless, this
collection would have been improved if minor formatting elements had been taking
into account. There are a few cases where quotation systems differ among
chapters, hence stressing an apparent lack of relationship between them. In
addition, the topic and methodological relationships between chapters is often
downplayed because of a lack of internal cross-references. An example of this
can be seen in both Elena Magistro and Anja Janoschka (155-171; 215-236)
applying Fairclough's notion of ''marketisation'' (1993) in different contexts,
and with diverse methodological interests. Even if the connection between both
chapters is clear, the reader could certainly benefit from this being made

All in all, ''Perspectives in Politics and Discourse'' is an interesting book
which includes wide-ranging approaches to the study of PD focused on a number of
different contexts -- as varied as the War on Terror or the Ukrainian Orange
Revolution. Because of its multidisciplinary nature and its varied contents,
this ample collection is essential for anyone interested in looking at the
connection between politics and discourse.


Andreas Musolff. 2007. Is there such a Thing as Discourse History? The Case of
Metaphor. In Christopher Hart and Dominik Lukěs (ed.), Cognitive Linguistics in
Critical Discourse Analysis: Application and Theory. Newcastle: Cambridge
Scholars. 1-27.

Bennet, W. Lance. 1996. An Introduction to Journalism Norms and Representations
of Politics. Political Communication 13. 373-384.

Bhatia, Vijay K. 2002. Applied Genre Analysis: A Multi-perspective Model.
Ibérica 4. 3-19.

Cap, Piotr. 2006. Legitimization in Political Discourse: A Cross-Disciplinary
Perspective on the Modern US War Rhetoric. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Cap, Piotr. 2008. Towards the Proximizing Model of the Analysis of
Legitimization in Political Discourse. Journal of Pragmatics 40(1). 17-41.

Chilton, Paul & Christina Schäffner. 1997. Discourse and Politics. In Van Dijk,
Teun A. (ed.), Discourse as Social Interaction. Discourse Studies: A
Multidisciplinary Introduction, vol. 2. London: Sage. 206-230.

Chilton, Paul. 2004. Analysing Political Discourse. Theory and Practice. London:

Chilton, Paul. 2005. Vectors, Viewpoint, and Viewpoint Shift. Annual Review of
Cognitive Linguistics 3. 78-116.

Entman, Robert M. 1993. Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm.
Journal of Communication 43. 51-58.

Fairclough, Norman. 1989. Language and Power. London: Longman.

Fairclough, Norman. 1993. Critical Discourse Analysis and the Marketization of
Public Discourse: The Universities. Discourse and Society 4(2). 133-168.

Giles, Howard, Nikolas Coupland & Justine Coupland. 1991. Accommodation Theory:
Communication, Context, and Consequence. In Giles, Howard, Nikolas Coupland &
Justine Coupland (eds.), Contexts of Accommodation. Developments in Applied
Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hodges, Adam & Chad Nilep (eds.). 2007. Discourse, War and Terrorism. Amsterdam:

Koller, Veronika. 2004. Metaphor and Gender in Business Media Discourse: A
Critical Cognitive Study. Basingtoke: Palgrave.

Koller, Veronika. 2007. 'The World's Local Bank': Glocalisation as a Strategy in
Corporate Branding Discourse. Social Semiotics 17(1). 111-130.

Sontag, Susan. 1990. Illness as Metaphor; AIDS and Its Metaphors. New York:

Van Leeuwen, Theo. 2007. Legitimation in Discourse and Communication. Discourse
and Communication 1. 91-112.

Van Dijk, Teun A. 1997. What is Political Discourse Analysis?, In Blommaert, Jan
& Chris Bulcaen (eds.), Political Linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 11-52.

Whorf, Benjamin Lee. 1956. Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Writings of
Benjamin Lee Whorf. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Laura Filardo-Llamas is a lecturer of English at the University of Valladolid, Spain. Her main area of research is political discourse analysis, in particular from a linguistic perspective. She has widely researched political discourse in Northern Ireland, about which she has published in 'Ethnopolitics and Peace and Conflict Studies'. She has also contributed to the books 'Discourse and Politics' (published by Cambridge Scholars) and 'Political Discourse and Conflict Resolution' (published by Taylor & Francis).