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Date: Fri, 27 May 2005 20:11:18 -0400 From: Susana Sotillo Subject: Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice
AUTHOR: Chilton, Paul TITLE: Analysing Political Discourse SUBTITLE: Theory and Practice PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis) YEAR: 2004
Susana M. Sotillo, Department of Linguistics, Montclair State University, USA
This book offers a comprehensive introduction to political discourse analysis and presents a new model for the study of language and politics that rests on the intersection of several deictic dimensions. The author puts forth a theoretical framework based on a cognitivist perspective, which claims that social interaction is based on the actions of individuals, and that these individuals are primarily complex neural beings. He questions the current explanation of political discourse in Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as the actions of some social group or elite that exploits or controls language in order to preserve its own power. Instead, Chilton aims for a theory of language and politics that rests on the intersection of three axes: space, time, and modality. The book is divided into three sections. Part I presents the proposed theoretical framework. Parts II and III include detailed analyses of samples of political text and talk, and Part IV offers concluding thoughts concerning the need for a theory of language and politics. The book includes 11 chapters (205 pages of text), an appendix, notes on each chapter, a bibliography, and name and subject indexes.
The first chapter, Politics and Language, explores the linguistic, discursive, and communicative dimensions of politics drawing in part on Aristotle's view of humans as political creatures with a unique capacity for speech. The author speculates about the possible connection between the linguistic and the political in light of the view, widely accepted in linguistics, that the human capacity for language is genetically based, though primarily triggered through social interaction. Chilton explores the possibility that language might have evolved to perform social functions, which would correspond to the "political", or that it evolved primarily by a random mutation. He summarizes the findings of numerous scholars who have investigated the role of language in the construction (or destruction) of nation-states, and touches upon the current debate on the rights of linguistic minorities and cultural groups (see Foster, 1980.)
In chapter two, Language and Politics, Chilton examines the nature of language, (subscript L), particular languages, (subscript l), and the use of language in relation to politics, (subscript l/u). He discusses the re- emergence of Darwinian evolutionary theory and the development of new methods of investigation grounded in cognitive science, computational linguistics, archeology, sociology, neuroscience, and philosophy. Chilton also presents the three major approaches to the evolution of language: the species-specific ability for language capacity exemplified by Chomskyan linguistics; the social intelligence language module view (e.g., Humphrey 1976, Dunbar, 1993, Mithen, 1996); and the "Machiavellian" behavior view which presumes that early human individuals sought to developed strategies to maximize individual advantages through reciprocal altruism.
In seeking answers to questions related to the evolutionary advantage afforded by language, Chilton examines the notions of representation and meta-representation, or the ability humans possess of being able to communicate about things feasible, unfeasible, past, future, real, unreal, citing work by Sperber (2000), Gärdenfors (2002), and Hockett (1960). This leads him to speculate on the possibility of the co-evolution of language and politics. Grice's 'cooperative Principle (CP), which underlies human communication and is regarded as reciprocal altruism, as well as Sperber and Wilson's (1986) relevance theory, are discussed in detail. He examines truthfulness (Grice's maxim of quality), the logical structure of human cooperation as argued by Cosmides and Tooby (1989), and the species- specific ability to meta-represent.
The last section includes a lengthy discussion of Chomskyan linguistics, specifically the principle of generative creativity. Chilton seeks to establish a link between Chomsky's linguistics, where grammar is understood as autonomous syntax based on Cartesian formalist philosophy (i.e., disembodied and free of semantic and pragmatic considerations), and his anarchist-socialist political views. In Chomskyan political philosophy, rule by a government is inherently oppressive, and Capitalism is a perversion of universal human nature (see Lakoff and Johnson, 1999: 478). Chilton makes an argument for cognitive freedom claiming that the 'generative creativity' of language allows individuals to overcome the so-called Whorfian constraint. In discussing the ideal of free communication, he cites the work of critical social theorist Jürgen Habermas who posits that communication is distorted by issues of power and socio-political interests, but that it is possible in principle to achieve honest normal social exchange. In other words, the communicative power of reason, or reason freed from purposive bias, allows humans to reach true enlightenment through interaction (see Myerson, 1994).
Interaction, the organizing theme of chapter three, is examined in relation to its political dimension. Chilton discusses Austin's (1962) and Searle's (1969) classical speech act theory and examines the felicity conditions and CP in relation to a political framework. The mechanisms for flouting the maxims and the implied pragmatic meaning or implicatures are also discussed within the context of political interaction as in particular institutionalized contexts such as Parliamentary debates.
In a micro-analysis of political interaction, Chilton utilizes notational conventions from conversation analysis developed by Schegloff (1972, 1979) and Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974) that reveal fine details of face-to-face (F2F) interaction. Following a brief discussion of the strategic use of language, the author focuses on the Habermasian epistemological framework and its four validity claims: understandability, truth, sincerity in speech, and rightness or authority in performing a particular speech act. Habermas's universal pragmatics model asserts that its claims provide a logical explanation for the mechanism of human communication, and that distorted communication can be detected in interaction.
Concerning strategic uses of language in political discourse, the author puts forth the following strategic functions (Chilton and Schäffner, 1997): coercion, legitimization and delegitimization, and representation and misrepresentation. He claims that representation and misrepresentation in political discourse are directly related to Grice's maxims of quantity, quality, and manner, and Habermas's validity claims of truth and truthfulness. Coercion strategies are connected to some of Habermas's rightness or "Richtigkeit" claim.
Also, the strategies of legitimization and delegitimization are linked to Brown and Levinson's (1987) concepts of face-threatening acts, which are based on Goffman's (1967) ideas of positive face and negative face. Thus acts of negative other-presentation such as scapegoating, marginalizing, or derogating constitute delegitimization, whereas legitimization, usually oriented to the self, encompasses positive self-presentation or acts of self-praise, self-justification, and self-identification with a power source or authority figure.
Chapter four deals with the way representations of the world are communicated in political interaction. Semantics and pragmatics, or the nature of meaning and meaning as a function of context, are discussed in relation to the study of language and politics. Chilton investigates how mental representations of reality are constructed during the process of interaction in political discourse, and discusses cognitive approaches to linguistics in processing discourse in the work of van Dijk (1990, 2002) and van Dijk and Kintsch (1983). This approach explains how knowledge of politics and political ideologies involves storage in long-term memory, which can be either personal memory or social memory, and how short-term memory deals primarily with processes of discourse production and understanding.
The term 'frame' is introduced and defined as a theoretical construct related to the conceptualization of situation types and their expression in language. He also discusses conceptual metaphor, an important element of political rhetoric, which "allows conventional mental imagery from sensorimotor domains to be used for domains of subjective experience" (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999: 45). Metaphorical mappings are also discussed as complex bundles of meaning and frame representations that consist of accumulated cultural knowledge.
In doing practical analyses of text and talk, Chilton uses a theoretical framework that allows him to make propositional representations consisting of arguments (e.g., noun phrases), predicates (e.g., verbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases), and adjuncts, which specify location, time, and manner. Citing Dowty (1991), Chilton explains that the thematic roles of arguments have to be understood as clusters of entailments about the predicate, and that traditional roles (e.g., agent, source, patient, experiencer, goal) must be linked to one of two prototypical categories: prototypical agent (P-Agent) and prototypical patient (P-Patient). The semantic phenomenon of presupposition is explained as being triggered by syntactic and lexical structures. He displays the propositional representations (Table 4.1) of unpacked sentences from a transcript of a speech given in 1999 by former President Clinton to justify the use of air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in alliance with NATO. Serbian forces are represented as responsible agents of brutality and Kosovo civilians and insurgents as victims of brutality in Kosovo.
Chilton also shows how indexical expressions are used as linguistic resources to relate to a variety of situational features, and elaborates on spatial, temporal, and social deixis since these relate to elements of political discourse. Thus political actors are situated in relation to a particular time, place, and social group. In this three-dimensional model, the deictic center (e.g., the Self/I/or we) constitutes the source or origin of the three dimensions of deixis. Clinton's 1999 speech is mapped onto a three-dimensional deixis. Events, nations, agents, and patients are located in relation to the Self or speaker. Time or the here/now is also at the center, and in this type of political speech, historical periods are either close or remote to the source. Along the m axis, Chilton describes close connections between epistemic modality (involving degrees of certainty) and deontic modality (related to permission and obligation), commonly regarded as scales.
More complexity is added to the proposed dimensions of deixis by suggesting that social groups are conceptualized metaphorically on the basis of container and center-periphery image schemata. A rightness- wrongness scale along the m axis is added, showing primarily modal verbs (will, must, should, ought, etc.) though other linguistic expressions could easily be used. Chilton's argument is that individuals mentally processing political speeches will locate arguments and predicates in relation to the three axes of space, time, and modality. He also brings up the notion of presumptions (implicit or presumed claims) present in political discourse.
In Part II, the Domestic Arena, Chilton examines the micro-structure of the media interview (chapter five). Margaret Beckett, Labour MP and Leader of the House of Commons (HC) is interviewed by John Humphrys on BBC Radio in June 2001. Using conventions from conversation analysis, Chilton explains how participants are aware of recent political history, social structures, and customs of discourse beyond the context of the local interview. For example, Beckett's comments about William Hague, the Conservative Party leader, reveal her concern with the impact of his speech on voters, since they may decide not to vote thus hurting the Labour party. The interaction in this media interview shows how the ideal question-answer format is in fact disrupted by Humphrys' frequent interruptions of Beckett's responses, and her own challenges and interruptions of the interviewer's deontic (rightness) frames.
Propositions and presumptions are closely examined in the Humphrys-Beckett interview. The presumed knowledge of political institutions, party system, and electoral processes are displayed in Table 5.1. Political reasoning using conditional propositions (knowledge of cause and effect) is also analyzed in a separate table (5.2), illustrating the embedding of propositions in interview talk (e.g., argument-P-Agent, predicate relation, action, etc., Argument 2-P-Patient, adjunct/conjunct). Chilton argues that this type of micro-analysis shows how Grice's CP and the conversational maxims are preserved in this type of political text and talk. The analysis also shows how Humphrys, the interviewer, uses frames of beliefs about democracy and overt deontic expressions such as 'be allowed,' to lead Beckett into logical dilemmas that force her to reformulate her explanation of 'non-voting as a rejection of the government' by using analogy, in particular the voting patterns of US presidential elections.
The characteristics of a particular genre of democratic discourse, Parliamentary language, are examined in chapter six. Following an historical account of institutional rules, turn-taking rules, and mechanisms for regulating this genre, Chilton describes what happens in parliamentary question time by examining repairs in a transcript of a parliamentary debate in the HC, 7 July 1999. A new MP, Laxton, puts questions that are really statements until the opposition MPs interrupt following Laxton's falling intonation at the end of speech segment, which enables the Speaker to use the imperative, 'put your question now please' as a means of controlling the syntactic form and pragmatic force of the MP's utterances. Prime Minister Blair's response to Laxton's requests concerning a community hospital focuses on the order of salience and he repeats the word 'agree' twice and the phrase 'he's right' three times to elicit a chorus of approval from Labour MPs. Chilton characterizes this activity as a form of bonding as well as bounding behavior among members. Laxton appears to be seeking public commitment from the current government and approval from his peers and constituents through self-advertising via this televised performance. The parliamentary debate analyzed shows that in this type of political discourse one has to demonstrate some basic mastery of appropriate language and political behavior.
Next, Chilton analyzes parliamentary exchanges between seasoned leaders such as Prime Minister Tony Blair and opposition leader MP William Hague. At one point Hague is criticizing the waiting time for access to health services using interrogatives, presuppositions, and hand gestures to accompany rising-falling intonation contours, which Chilton interprets as meaning challenges since prosodic features often accompanied by gestures are part of the parliamentary performance. Blair interrupts to save face and quickly asserts that waiting time has decreased. After Blair seats himself, Hague accuses him of evasion and makes reference to the poor conditions under which junior doctors labor, but makes a slip of the tongue when referring to the head of the British Medical Association using the acronym MBA instead of BMA, which prompts the MPs to interrupt with laughter since Hague has not mentally registered his slip. He then corrects himself after what is seen as other-initiated self-repair. Hague uses gestures and manipulates vocalization in order to mitigate the adversarial effect of a derisive interruption, and following the intervention of Madam Speaker, attempts to reassert verbal control by eventually returning to the question of the number of people waiting to see a doctor.
Chilton's close examination of repairs when parliamentary rules are transgressed reveals that they are often used as mechanisms for initiation, bonding, and bounding. His detailed analysis of parliamentary discourse demonstrates how verbal and political behavior are interwoven, and although form is important, performance is crucial in this context.
The theme of foreigners as a threatening category is discussed in chapter seven. Using a portion of Enoch Powell's 1968 'Rivers of Blood' speech, Chilton illustrates the strategic functions utilized to bring about specific emotive effects. For example, when Powell states that "Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England ... will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population..." it brings up the fear of domination and invasion by immigrant hordes in the minds of native-born (white) English citizens. He shows that the various legitimizing/delegitimizing strategies used by Powell cluster around claims of moral authority, common moral ground, and superior rationality (his). Hearers are left to infer that Powell's political opponents are neither moral nor rational with respect to the issue of immigration. Container and fluid schema are also used when referring to the English nation and family. In the propositional structure of Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech, immigrants are depicted as social agents whose impact negatively affects the welfare of the existing native population -- the patients or victims at the receiving end of actions, perceptions, and feelings. Presupposed propositions are also examined within argument structures.
Next, Chilton examines a transcript from the 1997 inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder which took place in London, on 22 April 1993 (http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm42/4262/ap10- 156.htm). The transcript is based on a conversation among three of the murder suspects. He utilizes the methodological grid provided by the notions of legitimization, coercion, and representation in order to obtain insights into the type of discourse produced by a self-supporting group. One of the most significant findings of this analysis is that background knowledge of Powell's 1968 speech and his opinions regarding blacks were known and referred to by the interactants for purposes of self- legitimization. Violent image schematas and shared racist ideology emerge through the use of question-answer pairs, rhetorical questions, and vulgar intensifiers.
Chapters eight, nine, and ten are included in Part III, the global arena. Here the author focuses on the conceptualization of geopolitical space. In chapter eight, he analyzes Clinton's address to the nation on 24 March 1999 for the justification of American and NATO involvement in the destruction of the FRY. In his analysis, Chilton ably shows how space builders and cognitive frames in propositions are used to appeal to the hearers' background knowledge of institutions, history, and American values: "(a) joined (our armed forces, our NATO allies) -- space builders: our, our today, -ed; cognitive frames: America, armed forces, alliances" (page 139). Presuppositions, as well as arguments and predicates are analyzed and visually represented as deictically specified reality spaces that depend on the speaker's deictically specified reality space (Figure 8.1, page 141).
The speaker assumes that hearers possess both geographical and political knowledge about the events unfolding and that they share with the speaker moral categories (e.g., exists brutality in Kosovo). Causation or agency is attributed to the Serbian armed forces in Clinton's discourse thus justifying air strikes. Events described in Clinton's speech are located in a historical time-event narrative (e.g., Kosovo, Central Europe, Cold War, First World War (WWI), Second World War (WWII), the Holocaust, etc.) and are illustrated on spatial, temporal, and modal axes (Figure 8.2). Further analysis of metonymy (Sarajevo for WWI), metaphor (fire and flames of ethnic and religious division), and center-periphery schemas compel the hearer or receiver of the speech/text to make the necessary inferences with respect to the events unfolding such as the possibility that these events will escalate beyond Kosovo and affect American interests.
Chilton also presents visual representations of metaphor supporting inferences concerning events from the center (self/we/us/here/now). He suggests four tendencies in the manipulation of ontological spaces in Clinton's 1999 speech: the mobilization of conceptual schemas; the linking of historical episodes to draw conclusions by analogy; the linking of temporally remote spaces with the space of the speaker and hearer in the here and now; and the triggering of inference chains that inaction causes potentially dangerous consequences. Though Chilton's analysis appears to capture the essence of Clinton's text/speech, it is important to keep in mind that ordinary Americans would not have access to the type of recent historical and political background knowledge that would indeed delegitimize Clinton's use of air strikes against the FRY (see Michael Parenti's (2000) "To Kill a Nation" for a historical perspective on NATO's war crimes under American command.)
Chapter nine presents Chilton's analyses of the talk and text that followed the events of the September 11, 2001 destruction of the twin towers and simultaneous attack on the Pentagon. Images of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, along with historical and social components of shared American culture background knowledge are represented in the minds of people who heard the speech of President George W. Bush on 7 October 2001. Likewise, historical information about the fundamentalist Islamic revolution in Iran during the Carter era, the plight of the Palestinian people, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and America's military intervention known as Operation Desert Storm form part of the historical and political background knowledge of many Americans, Islamic followers, and residents of the Middle East.
Chilton also examines the cognitive implications of historical and metaphorical representations in the text of Osama bin Laden as processed by hearers/readers, as well as the spatial, temporal, and modal structuring of Bush's speech and bin Laden's text. In Figure 9.1 he plots the distance from we (self/speaker, United States, we, Great Britain, other close friends, etc.) on the s-axis following the discourse sequence in Bush's speech. Spatial representations are also produced for relative distances in geopolitical space (we, here, now, true/right (speaker) vs. they/Afghanistan) and for distance and deictic polarization (Figures 9.2 and 9.3). The author points out that some sentences can be processed at the spatial level but others only at the propositional-conceptual level. An additional spatial representation of polarizations through conditionals and metaphor is shown in Figure 9.4.
The English translation of Osama bin Laden's text broadcast by Jazeera television is also analyzed in terms of its interwoven political and theological mental representation. Though it is historically accurate to state that in American discourse the political has been separated from the religious, this appears to be changing with the reelection of George W. Bush. Chilton renders representations of God in both Islamic and Judeo- Christian traditions as conceptualized on spatial axes and scales (Figure 9.5). He locates God at the extreme end of s (where s represents the three physical spatial dimensions) by assuming his conceptualization as remote on the vertical dimension so as to explain bin Laden's expressions, "God is above us," "has power over us." But he cautions that this would not be an accurate conceptualization of God among American Christian fundamentalists who often claim that God is on their side. In terms of the vertical dimension, it would be at the close end of s. Figures 9.6 and 9.7 are multidimensional representations of the location of entities in Bush's text (we, the United States), and of the moral values vocabulary in the translated bin Laden text, respectively.
Thus Chilton's discourse processor, embedded in Western cultural practices, shows how multi-dimensional deictic space is divided into two regions that highlight the striking parallel between the Bush and bin Laden conceptualizations of geographical, geopolitical, cultural, and moral space.
The role of religion is further explored in chapter ten. Bush's speech of 14 September 2001 at St. Patrick's cathedral and its presumptions about religion are compared with the bin Laden text, its presumptions, analogies, and entailments. Both texts invoke historical and theological background knowledge shared by two different audiences, a westernized American public and Muslim and Middle Eastern receivers, who mentally process different representations of the world. Cognitive frames and metaphors are analyzed in both texts which reveal that whereas in the bin Laden text there is no separation between the religious and the secular, and sacred space seems to extend over an entire region, the Bush text shows that God is partly hidden and oriented with his face toward the speaker's own face, in a more intimate local space. Chilton speculates about the nature of religious belief and prayer in public discourse in the American text in light of the currently contested secular/religious separation in American society (see also Lakoff, 2004).
The chapter concludes with a speculation about the possible linkage between historical intimations and religious presumptions present in Bush's presidential discourse during a crisis situation. There is a possible implication in this speech that by attacking America, bin Laden is inhibiting the spread of freedom, which represents interference with the possibility of choosing moral ends (the Kantian metaphor). 'Moral ends' in this sense implies American cultural and economic values. Chilton concludes by stating that this mode of argumentation rests on the spatial model he has developed and explored in chapters eight through ten.
Chapter 11, Part IV of the book, presents Chilton's concluding thoughts concerning a theory of language and politics. He explores the question of what it means to communicate in the 21st century across societies, culture, and languages but remains primarily focused on F2F interaction. He thus leaves out a very important realm in which millions of humans communicate on a daily basis: virtual space or the Internet.
Chilton goes on to speculate about the relationship between language ability and political ability, which hints at a possible evolutionary explanation for political ability, and urges the reader to move beyond the limited views of political discourse in current CDA research by taking into account recent findings from cognitive science that show how conceptual metaphors, reason, and human actions are shaped by our bodies, brains, and modes of functioning in the world. Thus he adopts a broad cognitivist perspective in his book which is consistent with the claims of Lakoff and Johnson (1999) and recent findings of second-generation cognitive science; namely, "that our unconscious conceptual systems make use of multiple metaphors and prototypes, especially in the area of metaphors for what is right and what is good and ought to be pursued."(1999:559).
In proposing a new theoretical framework, Chilton borrows ideas from Aristotle, Chomsky, evolutionary theorists, and cognitive scientists, and posits hypotheses based on descriptive and explanatory analyses of political texts. Twelve propositions are advanced concerning political discourse, of which two constitute major claims: that political discourse has specific connections to the emotional centers of the brain, and that it is anchored in multi-dimensional deixis. He concludes his ambitious task by urging researchers to focus on the processes of the mind in order to enhance our understanding of our political human nature, and move away from purely critical approaches to the analysis of political discourse.
This text is not for those without basic background knowledge in areas such as rhetoric, generative linguistics, social theory, speech act theory, and cognitive science. I would recommend it for graduate students seriously interested in theoretical approaches to the study of language and politics. Those investigating linguistic strategies and propositional structures in political discourse should refer to the author's detailed micro-analyses of language samples of political interviews (chapter 5), parliamentary debates (chapter 6), and xenophobic speeches and talk (chapter 7).
Though the author presents a novel theoretical framework for the analysis of political discourse, I found his use of the multi-dimensional spatial model to deictically represent specified reality spaces from linguistic analyses of political texts in chapters 8, 9, and 10 sometimes difficult to follow. Moreover, one wonders how it would be possible to utilize this multi-dimensional model in the analysis of large numbers of political texts or on different types of political discourse data since the author never explains his methodology for compiling a corpus of political texts.
It is not clear how these political texts were collected and whether or not they are principled and representative of various genres of political discourse. Surely a combination of methodologies could be used to analyze political discourse that would allow researchers to generalize beyond a particular sample of political text or discourse genre. For example, in a discussion of the discourse-pragmatic functions of remember, Tao (2001) successfully shows that corpus linguistic tools and sociocultural linguistic analyses can be treated as complementary methodologies.
Despite some methodological shortcomings and problematic speculations about the possible connection between innate political tendencies of humans and their innate linguistic abilities, "Analysing Political Discourse" is provocative and offers readers a unique international perspective. The author's in-depth linguistic analyses of various contemporary samples of political discourse bring to light different mental representations of political thought and behavior. Given its broad scope, "Analysing Political Discourse" would be a valuable resource for researchers in the fields of discourse analysis, English, linguistics, sociolinguistics, and communication studies.
TYPOS p. 26 ('is' missing after 'recursivity') p. 48 ('of' missing)
Foster, C., ed. (1980). Nations without a State. New York, NJ: Praeger Publishers.
Lakoff, G. (2004). Don't think of an elephant. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Myerson, G. (1994). Rhetoric, Reason and Society. London: Sage Publications.
Parenti, M. 2000. To Kill a Nation (The Attack of Yugoslavia). London: Verso.
Tao, H. (2001). Discovering the Usual with Corpora: The Case of Remember. In Corpus Linguistics in North America, ed. R. C. Simpson and J. M. Swales, 16-144. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Susana M. Sotillo is Associate Professor of Linguistics at Montclair State University in New Jersey and teaches Theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), the Structure of American English, the Language of Propaganda, and Language and Culture. Her current research interests include Computer-Mediated Communication and SLA, Corpus Linguistics, and Critical Discourse Analysis.