LINGUIST List 24.2737

Sun Jul 07 2013

Review: Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics: Berlin & Fetzer (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 03-May-2013
From: James Murphy <>
Subject: Dialogue in Politics
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EDITOR: Lawrence N. BerlinEDITOR: Anita FetzerTITLE: Dialogue in PoliticsSERIES TITLE: Dialogue Studies 18PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: James Murphy, University of Manchester

INTRODUCTIONThe book under review considers dialogue in politics as existing on acontinuum -- with one end where participants are able to contribute to thedialogic action freely and collaboratively, to the other where participantsare restricted to participating in the dialogue in strictly pre-defined ways.The individual chapters in the volume highlight case studies at differentpoints on the continuum, from a variety of political traditions, media, andusing different theoretical approaches, including but not limited tosemiotics, (critical) discourse analysis and cognitive linguistics. I firstsummarise each chapter and then provide an evaluation of the contribution thatthe volume makes as a whole to the field.

SUMMARYThe first chapter is an introduction by the editors, Lawrence Berlin and AnitaFetzer, outlining Chilton’s (2004) view, which they share, that politics is anaction which is essentially co-operative in the Gricean sense. As a result,the desire to share a vision for the future leads to interactants seeking topersuade through dialogue. It is noted, though, that this persuasion can beself-serving, meaning participants in a political dialogue possess ‘thepotential to obfuscate coercion as cooperation’ and ‘the ability to exploit orviolate the Cooperative Principle without necessarily being readily detectedwithin the verbal interaction’ (3). The editors go on to discuss thecontinuum already mentioned: with free contribution to a dialogue at one end(what the editors call ‘politics as interaction’), and the opposite end wherehegemony is the order of the day (‘politics as imposition’). The remainingchapters are divided into parts under these headings. Berlin & Fetzer surveythe main methods employed to analyse political discourse, summarising theirown previous work, as well as some of Fairclough’s work on mediatisation,hybridisation and recontextualisation (i.a. Fairclough 1995, 1998).

The first chapter under ‘Politics as interaction’ is Titus Ensink’s ‘Internetnewspaper discussion lists: A virtual political arena?’. Ensink discusseshow newspaper discussion lists give the impression to readers of having theopportunity to directly contribute to current societal and politicalarguments. Ensink analyses discussion boards from three different websitesand on different news stories. He shows that the format of the board affectsthe type of responses posted thereon -- for instance, ‘The Times’ website doesnot allow participants to respond directly to one another’s comments and thusmessages posted there only really respond to the article itself. The otherwebsites allow for such direct replies, and comments on these sites not onlydiscuss the issues arising from the article, but also matters stemming fromearlier postings on the discussion board.

Marjut Johansson’s chapter, ‘Political videos in digital news discourse’, alsolooks at the presentation of news in the online sphere, but with a focus onthe functions of videos presented alongside written news articles. Johanssonlooks at twelve videos from French, British and Finnish news sources (with aheavy bias towards French news sources, with eight videos). The videos servea variety of purposes -- the main ones discussed are: videos which resemblenews packages found on broadcast news and contain quotes from the actors inthe article; videos which contain press conferences or political speecheswhich allow readers to access the newsworthy item directly and become activeparticipants in the dialogue (rather than passive recipients of thejournalist’s interpretation of the news event); first hand footage (capturedby ‘citizen journalists’ on mobile phones) which function as evidence for theclaims of an article. These videos give readers an opportunity to becomeimmersed in the news, and more emotionally engaged in it, Johansson argues.

Peter Bull’s chapter, ‘Watch dogs or guard dogs? Adversarial discourse inpolitical journalism’, reviews existing research in the microanalysis of threeareas of political journalism: broadcast interviews, press conferences, andnews broadcasts. He does this in order to conclude whether journalists act aswatch dogs, by holding governments to account, or guard dogs, who seek only tosavage and attack politicians. The chapter sees Bull summarising Clayman &Heritage’s extensive work in this area (e.g. Clayman & Heritage 2002a,b;Clayman et al. 2006, 2007, 2010), in the main discussing their work onpresidential press conferences which showed, using extensive multivariateanalyses, an increase in adversialness in journalists’ questions. Work byEriksson (2011) and Ekström (2001), finding that news reports move frommediating political stories to critically interpreting what is happening inthe political sphere, is also summarised. Bull adduces these studies asbackground for his own work. A number of his studies find high rates ofconflictual questions in British news interviews. These conflictual questionslead to equivocation on the part of the politician (Bull et al. 1996, Bull &Elliott 1998, Bull 2003). Bull describes the advantages and disadvantages ofthe increasing ‘guard dog’ role of journalists -- advantages being protectingthe public from government abuses and disadvantages including increasedcynicism and political apathy amongst the public at large.

‘Types of positioning in television election debates’ by Verena Minow analysesfour television election debates from the US, Britain and Australia between2008 and 2010. Minow gives details of constraints on interaction at suchdebates, including the presence of a moderator or live audience, whether theinteractants are allowed to address one another directly and whether thepoliticians can make opening/closing statements. Minow then gives details ofPositioning Theory (Harré & van Langenhove 1991; van Langenhove & Harré 1994),which asserts that speakers often refer to their personal attributes andpersonality traits in order to position themselves in conversation (and thisimplicitly positions conversational partners, too). Examples of positioningare given from the four election debates analysed, with personal narratives orother explicit positioning strategies used by politicians to highlight theirlikeability, ability, honesty and achievements. These positioning strategieseither implicitly suggest that the converse is true of the political opponent,or these undesirable traits are somehow made explicit. Whilst the exampleschosen were both interesting and informative, one would have liked to see anindication of the frequency that these strategies are employed, so that onedoes not have to trawl through the transcripts of the debates.

‘Personal marketing and political rhetoric’ by Vladimir Dosev analyses howBulgarian politicians utilise marketing strategies to sell their images, aswell as their messages. Dosev first describes the importance placed on theaccents of the two candidates in the 2005 Sofia mayoral election. TatyanaDoncheva had a strong provincial accent which marked her as not being fromSofia; her campaign utilised this aspect of her ‘image’ to show her as beingdifferent from, and preferable to, her ‘tight-styled native Sofian’ (116)opponent. Dosev also notes the importance of footballing metaphors inBulgarian political discourse: ‘football match’ (= election campaign),‘injured players’ (= disappointing political colleagues), ‘significanttransfers’ (= potential coalition partners), etc. This adds, Dosev suggests,to the view that political media genres are under pressure to entertain, aswell as inform. In the final section, Dosev suggests how recurrent ‘politicalmyths’ are manifest in the Bulgarian public sphere: ‘the myth of theConspiratorial Enemy’, ‘the Valiant Leader myth’, and ‘the United We Standmyth’ (121-3), all played on by politicians and their spin-doctors.

Eric Anchimbe’s ‘Private dialogue in public space: ‘Motions of support’letters as response to political action’ explores a discourse type common inCameroon (and Francophone West Africa more generally) but not really found inWestern politics -- the ‘motions de soutien’ (motions of support) -- publicletters written by (senior) members of regional, ethnic or social groups tothe President praising him or pledging support. Recurrent patterns are foundin the letters, to the extent that these actions have become routinized.Firstly, authors introduce themselves and express why they are ratified tospeak on behalf of others (133-4). The senders seek to establish commoncause between themselves and the President, by praising his policies andprevious achievements (134-5). This is followed by thanking the Presidentfor various actions which have benefited the group(s) they represent (135-6).The groups then commit themselves to supporting the President further(136-7). The previous strategies serve as mitigation for the requests forfurther beneficial actions which follow (137-8). A prayer for the long lifeof the President forms the subsequent part of the MoS, since ‘the job of thepresident is interpreted as a divine mission and he alone is viewed as theonly one who can achieve it’ (138). An optional element of attacking thePresident’s opponents follows (139). The final act is the signature of theMoS, which gives it authenticity, especially if it is signed by a large numberof people.

In the first chapter in Part III ‘Politics as imposition’, LilianaIonescu-Ruxăndoiu explores how authority can be called into question anddialogue made persuasive in the Romanian parliament in ‘Perspectivation in theRomanian parliamentary discourse’. Ionescu-Ruxăndoiu discusses how quotation,rhetorical questions and irony are used in speeches made before the Romanianparliament during a debate about whether the President should be suspendedfrom office for various breaches of the Constitution (the conclusion of thedebate saw him suspended for thirty days). She shows how quotations in thedebate were used as arguments of authority (‘argumentum ad verecundiam’), andtook the President’s previous utterances and turned them into a source ofridicule (158-9). Rhetorical questions were used, Ionescu-Ruxăndoiu argues,to ‘implicitly claim a similarity of views between the speaker and a largepart of the audience’ (160). This type of strategy is an attempt to align thespeaker with the audience. The final strategy explored in this paper is theuse of irony. Irony can be seen to bring criticism of the President into evenstarker focus. The author argues that all of these strategies have in commonthe Bakhtinian notion of ‘double-voicedness’, which allows speakers to behighly critical but, at the same time, dissociate themselves from theresponsibility of what is said.

‘The making of a new American revolution or ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’:“It’s time to reload”’ is the contribution of one of the editors, LawrenceBerlin. In it he uses Positioning Theory to analyse Sarah Palin’s speech toexplain her appeal to Tea Party supporters and show what he believes to be alack of substance in her discourse. Berlin also uses his Multilayered Modelof Context (Berlin 2007, 2011) to analyse the extrasituational, situational,interactional and linguistic contexts of two Palin speeches. He notes theimportance of Palin speaking on Ronald Reagan’s birthday, in Republicanstates, at important points in the stages of the passing of the ‘Obamacare’healthcare reforms. Analysing her interactional practices, Berlin notes howPalin is quick to relate to her audience: discussing her credentials as a wifeand mother, contrasting herself with ‘a bunch of elites in Washington’ (179),as well as inclusivization with ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ (180). In the analysisof her discourse, Berlin finds a great deal of evidence of redundancy (thatis, flouting Grice’s quantity maxim), as well as instances of logorrhea (theflouting of quantity, manner and relation maxims). Berlin uncovers muchevidence of contradiction in Palin’s speeches, too. She derides Obama forfocusing on ‘that hopey, changey thing’ (186) but spends much of her speechreferring to the need for change. Berlin argues that Palin’s use ofpositioning in her speeches (i.e. positioning herself as just like the TeaParty activists she is speaking to), outweighs the contradictions in herspeech for her audience. She does not represent, in their view, theWashington elite which has left them feeling disenfranchised, and thisexplains, to some extent, her popularity amongst Tea Party members.

Ibrahim El-Hussari’s chapter, ‘Remaking U.S. foreign policy for a newbeginning with the Arab and Muslim worlds: Linguistic and discursive featuresof President Obama’s Cairo speech’, explores how Barack Obama constructs theneed for a ‘new beginning’ in relations between the U.S. and Muslim world andhow he seeks a constructive dialogue between the two countries. The paperexplores the speech because it can be seen as a firebreak between George W.Bush’s approach to the Middle East and the approach which Obama sets out.El-Hussari also argues that Obama is trying to cast himself as a man of peacein light of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (198) -- this seems dubious tome, since the prize was awarded on 9 October 2009 and the speech beinganalysed took place some months before on 4 June 2009. Critical discourseanalysis (CDA), it is argued, allows the analyst to not only give a deeperunderstanding of the text itself, but also what is not said by Obama (201).In his analysis, El-Hussari suggests that the speech follows a sequence of‘situation-problem-solution’ (202). A number of examples support the ideathat Obama seeks to be the willing peacemaker to facilitate solutions toproblems between the West and the Muslim world (206). El-Hussari then goes onto describe how Obama cannot be the honest peacemaker he portrays himself as-- suggesting that Obama is biased in favour of the Israelis. It is here thatEl-Hussari makes increasingly political points, rather than focussing on theanalysis on the speech itself, suggesting that Palestinian violence is akin tothat found in the American War of Independence (209), for instance.

El-Hussari also analyses matters not found in the speech at hand, as furtherevidence that Obama is not an honest broker. Those include the idea that theCrusades were religious wars; the reasons violent extremists are adversariesof the US; the violations by Israel (which he describes as ‘inspired by a myth2000 years old’ (214)) of the conditions set out at its founding; the increasein illegal Israeli settlements; the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons; andUS laws which prevent Arab and Muslim contributions to humanitarian charityfunds. In the conclusion, El-Hussari states that his work ‘as a CDA analyst’(217) has guided the interpretation of the Cairo speech; the feeling that onegets from the chapter is that his political views have, to some extent, beenthe primary driving force of the analysis, rather than the linguistic contentof the speech at hand.

‘War-normalizing dialogue (WND): The Israeli case study’ by DaliaGavriely-Nuri looks at how political and military figures use discursivestrategies broadly described as war-normalizing to gain the support of thepublic for (new) wars. The chapter describes various types of WND and whereit occurs, as well as giving examples from previously published studies(Gavriely-Nuri 2008, 2009, 2010; Gavriely-Nury & Balas 2010) of such discoursefrom Israeli public discourse. According to Gavriely-Nuri, WND has four mainfunctions: i) euphemization, giving a positive ‘spin’ on war, e.g. giving anopportunity for bravery, a feeling of self-worth, etc.; ii) naturalization,representing war as a natural force, e.g. the naming of Operation Blue Sky;iii) legitimation, representing war as a moral and rational act, e.g.Operation Iraqi Freedom was worthy since it had the aim of delivering freedom;iv) symbolic annihilation, excluding war and some of its components from thediscourse, e.g. the avoidance of mentioning death and destruction. Thesediscursive functions are joined with discursive elements -- naming, framingand metaphors -- to form discursive strategies.

These discursive strategies are found in Israeli war-normalizing discourse.For instance, more than a quarter of Israeli military operations were namedafter natural phenomena (e.g. Lightning, Cypress, The Poplar’s Song) (230). Anumber of war-normalizing metaphors are also discussed, including WAR ISSPORT, WAR IS A MEDICINE, and WAR IS BUSINESS. Gavriely-Nuri suggests that WNDis used to turn an event that needs the consent and support of the public(war) into a normal event that causes as little disruption to the public aspossible. Scope for comparative analyses on normalizing discourses around theworld is noted.

The final chapter is Christoph Sauer’s ‘Multimodality and performance:Britain’s first Holocaust Memorial Day (BBC on January 27, 2001)’. Saueranalyses how informational and commemorative discourses are combined in thepresentation of the ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day on the BBC’s MemorialDay live broadcast. Informed by multimodal semiotics, audience design, andparticipation framework (Goffman 1981), Sauer discusses how two dialogues aremaintained -- one for those present in Westminster Central Hall (where thecommemoration took place) and one for the television audience who see theceremony, which is supplemented by voice-over commentary. Sauer discusses ingreat detail how the images shown, the language used by the contributors andcommentators, and the music which accompanies these aspects were frequentlycongruent, which aids viewers in their comprehension of the memorial and theevents which are being commemorated. A substantial appendix provides amultimodal transcript of the event.

EVALUATIONThis volume is, to use a hackneyed phrase, a mixed bag. Anchimbe’s chapter isparticularly welcome as a thorough study of a genre not found in Westernpolitical culture which has been the main source of research in politicaldiscourse analysis. Berlin’s chapter is a reminder of the importance of amultitude of different contexts to the interpretation of a text (situational,extrasituational, interactional and discourse). Sauer’s chapter is the resultof a painstaking analysis of a multimodal piece of data, and is a model forthe amount of detailed work which needs to be carried out to have a thoroughunderstanding of what is going on in televised events of this type.

However, the overall impression this volume gives is of a collection ofstudies published before enough empirical work has been carried out -- manyappear to be pilot studies which give interesting interim findings, but theseare tentative ones more suited to a conference environment, and not a bookwhich claims to offer ‘illuminating and persuasive analyses of dialogue inpolitics’.

In addition, there is evidence of an overly passive editorial approach, withsome chapters suffering from issues with respect to clarity of expression(e.g. ‘We should look at where and how these discussion points are addressedin the discussion, and if the discussion has relevance to the discussion aboutthese points’ (29)). Proof-reading could also have been more thorough: on thesame page, one can find: ‘In about half of the reactions posters define there[sic] own identity’ (29).

The introduction contains some useful suggestions for how political dialoguecan be studied (ethnomethodology, speech-act theory, facework and empiricalpolitical science are all mentioned (5)). If studies using these approacheswere also found in the book, a more thorough exploration of dialogue inpolitics might have been provided. As it is, what is offered here is anoccasionally interesting book demonstrating the importance of looking atdialogic data in political discourse analysis. However, a great deal morework needs to be done before we have a comprehensive understanding of thisarea of public communication.

REFERENCESBull, Peter. 2003. The microanalysis of political communication: Claptrap andambiguity. London: Routledge.

Bull, Peter & Judy Elliot. 1998. Level of threat: Means of assessinginterviewer toughness and neutrality. Journal of Language and SocialPsychology 17. 220-244.

Bull, Peter, Judy Elliott, Derrol Palmer & Libby Walker. 1996. Why politiciansare three-faced: The face model of political interviews. British Journal ofSocial Psychology 35. 267-284.

Clayman, Steven & John Heritage. 2002a. The news interview. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

Clayman, Steven & John Heritage. 2002b. Questioning presidents: Journalisticdeferences and adversarialness in the press conferences of U.S. PresidentsEisenhower and Reagan. Journal of Communication 52. 749-775.

Clayman, Steven, Marc Elliot, John Heritage & Laurie McDonald. 2006.Historical trends in questioning the presidents, 1953-2000. PresidentialStudies Quarterly 36. 561-583.

Clayman, Steven, Marc Elliot, John Heritage & Laurie McDonald. 2007. When doesthe watchdog bark? Conditions of aggressive questioning in presidential newsconferences. American Sociological Review 72. 23-41.

Clayman, Steven, Marc Elliott, John Heritage & Megan Beckett. 2010. Awatershed in White House journalism: Explaining the post-1968 rise ofaggressive presidential news. Political Communication 27. 229-247.

Chilton, Paul. 2004. Analysing political discourse: Theory and practice.London: Routledge.

Ekström, Mats. 2001. Politicians interviewed on television news. Discourse &Society 12. 563-584.

Eriksson, Göran. 2011. Adversarial moments: A study of short-form interviewsin the news. Journalism 12. 51-69.

Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Critical discourse analysis: The critical study oflanguage. London: Longman.

Fairclough, Norman. 1998. ‘Political discourse in the media: An analyticframework’. In: Bell, Allen & Peter Garret (eds). Approaches to mediadiscourse. 142-162. Oxford: Blackwell.

Gavriely, Nuri, Dalia. 2008. The ‘metaphorical annihilation’ of the secondLebanon war (2006) from the Israeli political discourse. Discourse & Society19. 5-20.

Gavriely, Nuri, Dalia. 2009. Friendly fire: War-normalizing metaphors in theIsraeli political discourse. Journal of Peace Education 6. 153-169.

Gavriely, Nuri, Dalia. 2010. Rainbow, snow, and the Poplar’s Song: The‘annihilative naming’ of Israeli military practices. Armed Forces and Society36. 825-842.

Gavriely, Nuri, Dalia & Tiki Balas. 2010. ‘Annihilating framing’: How Israelitelevision framed wounded soldiers during the second Lebanon war (2006).Journalism 11. 409-423.

Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of talk. Philadelphia: University of PennsylvaniaPress.

Harré, Rom & Luk van Langenhove. 1991. Varieties of positioning. Journal forthe Theory of Social Behaviour 21. 393-407.

van Langenhove, Luk & Rom Harré. 1994. Cultural stereotypes and positioningtheory. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 24. 359-372.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERJames Murphy is a PhD candidate in the Linguistics and English Languagedepartment at The University of Manchester. His PhD research explores thepragmatics of political apologies, focussing on those produced by Britishpoliticians. He uses speech act theory, conversation analysis, (neo-)Griceanpragmatics, and politeness theory in his work.

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