LINGUIST List 22.3147

Sun Aug 07 2011

Review: Discourse Analysis: Álvarez-Benito et al. (2009)

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        1.     Louisa Buckingham , Discourse and Politics

Message 1: Discourse and Politics
Date: 07-Aug-2011
From: Louisa Buckingham <>
Subject: Discourse and Politics
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EDITORS: Gloria Álvarez-Benito, Gabriela Fernández-Díaz, Isabel Íñigo-MoraTITLE: Discourse and PoliticsPUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars PublishingYEAR: 2009

Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa


This collection of thirteen papers was published following the FirstInternational Conference on Political Discourse Strategies held in 2007 at theUniversity of Seville, Spain. Comprising 248 pages, the book is divided intothree sections: political discourse strategies; verbal and non-verbal elementsin political interaction; and methods of analysis. As stated in the shortintroduction by Álvarez-Benito and Íñigo-Mora, the work probes the relationshipbetween politics and discourse from a variety of perspectives in differentlanguages and cultural contexts. Many of the studies follow the approaches tocritical discourse analysis found in Fairclough (1995, 2003), Chilton andSchäffner (1997) and van Dijk (2004).


In chapter one, Azuma examines the records of speeches delivered by Japaneseprime ministers to the Diet (parliament) upon taking office to analyse theoccurrence of formality markers (honorifics and other markers indicating degreesof certainty). A chronological study, the author focuses on a fifty-year periodbetween 1945 and 2006. According to Azuma, during this period politiciansexhibited an increased use of solidarity markers and he posits that thisstrategy was aimed at positively impacting the speaker's public image byreducing psychological distance. The author provides a statistical breakdown ofthe frequency of use of each linguistic feature discussed for all 32 Japaneseprime ministers during the period of study.

In chapter two, the second historical study in the book, Dafour investigates thesocial nature of the language of secular and religious catechisms publishedduring the 17th and 18th centuries. Despite the great variety of text types,Dafour establishes a recurring form common to them all based on short dialogues.He provides several brief examples.

In chapter three, Mejías-Borrero studies the use of metaphor in the politicaldiscourses of the two candidates in the 2004 US presidential election, JohnKerry and George W. Bush. He analyses two candidates' framing of issues such associal security and homeland security using George Lakoff's (1996) approach tometaphor analysis in political discourse. The author provides a number ofexamples taken from the candidates' speeches and debates.

Ilie examines the argumentative function of parentheticals in Swedish andBritish parliamentary debates in chapter four. The author's data is taken fromBritain's 'Question Time' and Sweden's 'Frågestund'. Ilie shows how anexamination of parentheticals can provide some insight into the interactivestrategies of personal and institutional confrontation in parliamentary debates.She provides descriptions of how parentheticals may be used to dispute,challenge, support and question in response to statements and actions by otherMPs. The author provides examples of parentheticals used to support rational,ethical and emotive appeals.

In chapter five, Carranza Márquez and Rivas Carmona examine gender-relatedaspects of the use of direct and indirect quotations by Spanish and Britishparliamentarians from the perspective of discursive psychology. Data iscollected from parliamentary debates on domestic violence. The authors end witha short discussion on the differences in the types of discussion thatcharacterise the two debate forums, and how quotations are used in each.Examples of the use of quotations in both contexts are provided.

In chapter six, Fetzer investigates political interviews from a socio-pragmaticperspective, exploring the private-public interface in such interviews in themedia. The author observes that the one-dimensional nature of the interview maybecome blurred by variations in references to the speakers' identities (as bothprivate and public individuals), and by the use of informal and emotivelanguage. The author discusses examples where the multidimensional andmultilayered nature of political interviews becomes particularly salient, forinstance, on occasions when the interviewer and the interviewee negotiateconstraints on topic selection, or the interviewee goes on record confidingsupposedly confidential information.

In chapter 7, Rivas Carmona and Carranza Márquez examine the discursiveconstruction of European identities in Spanish political debates. The authorscompile their data from a meeting of the Mixed Committee for the European Unionattended by the Spanish foreign minister and representatives from differentpolitical parties. The authors focus on selected strategic functions followingChilton and Schäffner (1997) and van Dijk (2004), such aslegitimisation/delegitimisation, positive vs. negative presentation.

In chapter eight, Filardo-Llamas studies the legitimatory function of politicaldiscourse in Northern Ireland. The author analyses speeches given by leadersfrom the four main Northern Island parties (unionist and nationalist) after the1998 peace settlement.

The two chapters in the second section of this text cover non-verbal elements ofpolitical discourse. In chapter ten, Íñigo-Mora investigates possible relationsbetween verbal and non-verbal communication through the Spanish president's useof eye contact with the interviewer when responding to questions. The authorbegins with a discussion of different question types, before analysing datacompiled from interviews broadcast on a range of television stations. Íñigo-Morafinds a degree of correlation between eye contact and question type, with eyecontact more likely with non-threatening questions.

In the following chapter, Del Solar Valdés looks at the relationship betweenspeech and gesture by speakers in the European Parliamentarian system. Theauthor made use of the software Transana and Anvil to analyse the video data. Inher discussion of results, Del Solar Valdés accounts for cultural differencesboth in verbal communication and in the use of gestures, noting differencesamong the Spanish parliamentarians in particular.

The two papers in section three discuss methods of analysis of politicaldiscourse. In the first chapter, Álvarez-Benito and Del Solar Valdés present theannotation tool APOLLO-1 which allows the analysis of a wide range of verbal andnon-verbal data. The authors demonstrate how it may be used to analyse verbaland non-verbal communication techniques used by politicians in interviews. Inchapter 12, Bull focuses on techniques to analyse question-response sequences intelevised political interviews involving prominent British politicians. Heprovides a detailed discussion on different question types, such asface-threatening questions, and considers how these influence the form of thepolitician's reply. He gives particular attention to various types ofnon-replies, or equivocation.

The final chapter examines how a corpus may be used for the analysis ofpolitical language. Fernández-Díaz details the procedure of compiling a corpusand processing data using WordSmith Tools. By way of illustration, the authordescribes the process of corpus compilation using speeches given by JavierSolana between 2000 and 2005. The author undertakes an analysis of a specificand a general corpus, explaining the different functions provided by WordSmithTools. Photo reproductions of the computer screen illustrating the software'sdifferent functions assist the reader in understanding how data can be analysedand displayed.


This book provides a varied collection of short articles on different aspects ofanalysing the language of politics. All studies involve the use of a corpuscompiled by the author for the purpose of the study. The book is likely to be ofinterest to scholars involved in discourse analysis due to the breadth of topicscovered and the emphasis in some papers on methodological aspects of the studyof contemporary (and to a lesser extent, historical) discourse.

The quality of the studies in the volume varies, however. At times, the readermay wish for a clearer description of the methods undertaken for some studies,while in other studies the conclusion section does not do justice to the article(e.g. chapter eight), or the chapter lacks a conclusion section (chapter three).In chapter four, data in Swedish is presented without an accompanyingtranslation into English, rendering it of limited value to many readers. Inchapter five, the study's focus is unclear; the author states that ''the goal ofwork is to analyze the different uses of 'memory' in the Spanish and Britishparliaments''. The actual focus of the work, as stated in the following sentence,is on direct and indirect quotations, and it is not clear what relevance'memory' has to the study.


Chilton, P. and C. Schäffner (1997). Discourse and politics, in T. van Dijk(ed.), Discourse in social interaction, 206-230. London: Sage.

Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical discourse analysis. London: Longman.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing discourse. Textual analysis for socialresearch. London: Routledge.

Lakoff, G. (1996). Moral politics: How liberals and conservatives think.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Van Dijk, T. (2004). Politics, ideology and discourse. Barcelona: UniversitatPompeu Fabra.


Louisa Buckingham completed her Ph.D. at the University of Granada (Spain) in the area of phraseology. She has taught second language acquisition, phonetics and phonology and academic writing at the University of Tuzla (Bosnia) and academic writing at Sabanci University (Turkey). She is presently teaching at Nizwa University in Oman. She has published in the areas of phraseology and second language writing.

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