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LINGUIST List 25.2307

Mon May 26 2014

Review: Applied Ling.; Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Socioling.: Cap & Okulska (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 13-Dec-2013
From: Sibo Chen <sibocsfu.ca>
Subject: Analyzing Genres in Political Communication
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-3206.html

EDITOR: Piotr Cap
EDITOR: Urszula Okulska
TITLE: Analyzing Genres in Political Communication
SUBTITLE: Theory and practice
SERIES TITLE: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 50
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Sibo Chen, Simon Fraser University

SUMMARY
Although investigations of political language have been a pivotal topic in
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), the broad body of previous studies has done
relatively little to provide a comprehensive and organized set of answers to
the theoretical complexities of political genre research. Given that
situation, “Analyzing Genres in Political Communication” has a two-fold
objective: “(1) to make a contribution to the study of genres in political
communication; and (2) to offer insights that add to the analysis of
communicative genres in general (p. 11)”. With contributions from a range of
experts with diverse backgrounds, this edited collection presents the latest
developments in political genre analysis and can be informative for
researchers in a wide range of disciplines, such as Applied Linguistics,
Communication, Political Science, and other fields.

The introduction, “Analyzing Genres in Political Communication”, addresses
general problems in genre analysis and overviews the studies in the following
chapters. Generally speaking, genre could be interpreted as: (1) abstractions
of communicative acts, (2) indicators of situational contexts, (3) flexible
macrostructures with both obligatory and optional elements, (4) interrelated
units in a social field, and (5) assigners of social roles for their
participants (pp. 3-7). In the field of political genre analysis, research
thus far has been mainly conducted at the national level, focusing on
discourse with significant mediation functions, such as political speeches,
press conferences, debates, and so on. Overall, research in political genres
poses three key questions for the theory of communicative genres (pp. 8-9):

A. The heterogeneity of political genres questions the analytical consistency
proposed by genre theories: Can the current methodological procedures
adequately address the typologies and hierarchies observed in political
genres?
B. The analysis of political genres requires the revisit of many common
properties of communicative genres: Do these properties also apply to
political genres, especially those on situational contexts and social
relations?
C. The interactions between policies and political genres bring the issue of
genre accomplishment: Is there a hypothetical “hyper-genre” in general for
various forms of political communication?

To address these questions, the collection explores various genres within
political communication in 12 chapters, divided into two parts based on their
research focus: “theory-driven approaches” (Part I: Chapters 1-6) and
“data-driven approaches” (Part II: Chapters 7-12).

Chapter One, “Genres in Political Discourse”, follows up on the theoretical
account in the introduction and reviews genre theories in various traditions:
the “New Rhetoric” approach (Bazerman, 1988), the “Systemic Functional
Grammar” approach (Martin, 1992), the “Functional Move” approach (Swales,
1990), and the “Socio-critical” approach (Bhatia, 2004). Then, the chapter
provides an analysis of Austrian chancellors’ inaugural speeches and concludes
that analyses of politically sensitive genres need to not only focus on
generic features of political texts, but also to account for the texts’
relevant registers and discourses.

Chapter Two, “Political Interviews in Context”, presents an analysis of
political interviews based on an integration of various discourse methods,
such as conversation analysis, pragmatics, social psychology, and content
analysis. The authors conceptualize political interviews as a “hybrid genre”
in essence and discuss how this hybrid genre frequently departures from its
default organization.

Chapter Three, “Policy, Policy Communication and Discursive Shifts”, deals
with the European Union’s (EU) policy discourses on climate change via a
critical discourse analysis of its policy documents. The analysis was
conducted from two perspectives: policy-making and policy-communication. The
conclusion reached is that the EU discourse on climate change can be
characterized by a large degree of discursive change that frames climate
change from an EU perspective (i.e. climate change as a crisis will threaten
EU’s future economy and presents a global crisis).

Chapter Four, “The Television Election Night Broadcast”, describes the genres
and sub-genres of television election night broadcasts and demonstrates that
they, as a macro-genre, involve complex interlocking of different genres
(speeches, interviews, breaking news, etc.), which shows how complex generic
structures are influenced by both internal and external factors. The
structures of election night broadcasts depend on the external social and
political contexts in which they are situated as well as their internal
communication logic and information economy.

Chapter Five “Analyzing Meetings in Political and Business Contexts” focuses
on meetings in political and business contexts and explores common strategies
shared in both situations. The chapter highlights the scarcity of theories of
meetings across different settings and discusses specific discursive
strategies in spontaneous interactions during meetings. Based on comparative
analyses of political and business meetings, the chapter further investigates
the impact of organization knowledge on the meeting genre as well as the role
of communications for genre identification.

Chapter Six, “Presenting Politics”, the last chapter of Part I, serves as a
transition between the collection’s two parts and offers a reflection on
persuasion and performance across political genres. The chapter reviews two
approaches to addressing persuasion in political communication (persuasion as
a psychological process versus persuasion as a cultural performance). The
chapter tackles Question C (see above): given the heterogeneity of political
genres and their theoretical frameworks, can the complexity of political
genres be addressed within the existing genre theories, or should the research
go beyond them?

Chapters in Part II pay more attention to the investigation of specific genres
through data-driven methods. Chapter Seven, “Legitimizing the Iraq War”,
discusses the theory of legitimation through the rhetoric of judge-penitence.
The chapter further analyzes the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s
self-critiques of Danish collaboration with German Nazis during World War II,
which established moral credibility and moral ground for the legitimation of
the Danish government’s engagement in the Iraqi war.

Chapter Eight, “Macro and Micro, Quantitative and Qualitative”, explores
election night speeches in Britain and German and addresses the most typical
characteristic in political speeches: the construction of the binary
opposition of “us versus them”. Based on quantitative and qualitative
analyses, the chapter shows that for election night speeches, the
cross-cultural similarities at the micro level may not correspond to
similarities at the macro level.

Chapter Nine, “Reframing the American Dream”, examines the genre of political
debates. Focusing on the final televised presidential debate in the 2008 US
election, the chapter argues that the ‘nation as family’ metaphor proposed by
Lakoff (2002) has significant implications for US political discourse. The two
competing moral models (paternal vs. maternal) within US politics were
consolidated through the strategic use of personal references and pronouns by
John McCain and Barack Obama during the debate.

Chapter Ten, “The Late-night TV Talk Show as a Strategic Genre”, and Chapter
Eleven, “Multimodal Legitimation”, continue to investigate the 2008 US
presidential election, exploring late night shows and online election
advertisements. To be specific, Chapter Ten works with a selection of popular
talk shows in US and shows that their generic conventions tend to be recruited
to suit politician’s aims. By comparison, Chapter Eleven approaches the
multimodal legitimation offered by Obama’s 2008 campaign and discusses the
general question of hybridity within political genres: if a well-established
genre (e.g. political speeches) was adapted into a non-conventional
communication form (e.g. online advertisements), would it continue to dominate
the legitimation process of political communications, or would it be reduced
to a supportive role? The analysis in Chapter Eleven highlights the
significance of semiotic simultaneity in multimodal legitimation.

Finally, Chapter Twelve, “Blogging as the Mediatization of Politics”, deals
with the issue of mediation offered by political blogs, reflecting the
digitization and interdiscursivity of online discourse. Based on quantitative
corpus analysis, the study scrutinizes the functional and structural features
of political blogs. Overall, the chapter shows how political communication
function as a complex network with increasingly mediated and interactive
practices of civil society.

EVALUATION
In summary, this book presents an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of
political communication from the genre perspective. Covering a wide range of
genres, tit demonstrates not only the complexity of political genres
themselves, but also the contributions of political communication for genre
theories. Specifically, Chapters Five and Six provide theoretical updates on
current political genre research, showing how studies on political genres can
further benefit not only genre theory, but also other disciplines such as
political science and communication. Meanwhile, Part II continues the
theoretical discussion of legitimation, which can benefit the growing body of
scholarship in this area. Finally, this volume also offers much needed
insights on political TV talk shows and political blogs, which have previously
received little linguistic attention but are becoming significant
communicative phenomena in public discourse.

Unfortunately, the book does have one minor limitation, which might be
addressed in a future edition: it focuses exclusively on the Western context.
All chapters are based on political communications in Europe and United
States, which limits some of the findings to non-western contexts such as Asia
and Latin America. As pointed out in Chapter Eight, further studies based on
non-western cultures may “contribute even more to the way political genres can
be defined without running the risk of a Western bias” (p. 287) and in this
regard, more studies based on non-Western contexts in a future edition would
further improve the book’s theoretical depth and breadth.

Overall, though, this book offers significant theoretical and methodological
updates for genre theories. The book is sure to appeal to genre scholars as
well as those in related disciplines. It is an interesting and useful
collection with a wealth of up-to-date information for anyone interested in
political genres.

REFERENCES
Bazerman, C. (1988). “Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the
experimental article in science”. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Bhatia, V. (2004). “Worlds of written discourse”. London: Continuum.

Lakoff, G. (2002). “Moral politics: How liberals and conservatives think”.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Martin, J. (1992). English text. Systems and structure.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Swales, J. (1990). “Genre analysis: English in academic and research
settings”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sibo Chen is a graduate student in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser
University. He received his MA in Applied Linguistics from the Department of
Linguistics, University of Victoria, Canada. His major research interests are
language and communication, discourse analysis, and genre theories.
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