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Review of  Discourse and Politics

Reviewer: Louisa Buckingham
Book Title: Discourse and Politics
Book Author: Gloria Álvarez-Benito Gabriela Fernández-Díaz Isabel MÍñigo-Mora
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Issue Number: 22.3147

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EDITORS: Gloria Álvarez-Benito, Gabriela Fernández-Díaz, Isabel Íñigo-Mora
TITLE: Discourse and Politics
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2009

Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa


This collection of thirteen papers was published following the First
International Conference on Political Discourse Strategies held in 2007 at the
University of Seville, Spain. Comprising 248 pages, the book is divided into
three sections: political discourse strategies; verbal and non-verbal elements
in political interaction; and methods of analysis. As stated in the short
introduction by Álvarez-Benito and Íñigo-Mora, the work probes the relationship
between politics and discourse from a variety of perspectives in different
languages and cultural contexts. Many of the studies follow the approaches to
critical discourse analysis found in Fairclough (1995, 2003), Chilton and
Schäffner (1997) and van Dijk (2004).


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

In chapter two, the second historical study in the book, Dafour investigates the
social nature of the language of secular and religious catechisms published
during 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 political
discourses of the two candidates in the 2004 US presidential election, John
Kerry and George W. Bush. He analyses two candidates' framing of issues such as
social security and homeland security using George Lakoff's (1996) approach to
metaphor analysis in political discourse. The author provides a number of
examples taken from the candidates' speeches and debates.

Ilie examines the argumentative function of parentheticals in Swedish and
British parliamentary debates in chapter four. The author's data is taken from
Britain's 'Question Time' and Sweden's 'Frågestund'. Ilie shows how an
examination of parentheticals can provide some insight into the interactive
strategies 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 other
MPs. The author provides examples of parentheticals used to support rational,
ethical and emotive appeals.

In chapter five, Carranza Márquez and Rivas Carmona examine gender-related
aspects of the use of direct and indirect quotations by Spanish and British
parliamentarians from the perspective of discursive psychology. Data is
collected from parliamentary debates on domestic violence. The authors end with
a short discussion on the differences in the types of discussion that
characterise 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-pragmatic
perspective, exploring the private-public interface in such interviews in the
media. The author observes that the one-dimensional nature of the interview may
become blurred by variations in references to the speakers' identities (as both
private and public individuals), and by the use of informal and emotive
language. The author discusses examples where the multidimensional and
multilayered nature of political interviews becomes particularly salient, for
instance, on occasions when the interviewer and the interviewee negotiate
constraints on topic selection, or the interviewee goes on record confiding
supposedly confidential information.

In chapter 7, Rivas Carmona and Carranza Márquez examine the discursive
construction of European identities in Spanish political debates. The authors
compile their data from a meeting of the Mixed Committee for the European Union
attended by the Spanish foreign minister and representatives from different
political parties. The authors focus on selected strategic functions following
Chilton and Schäffner (1997) and van Dijk (2004), such as
legitimisation/delegitimisation, positive vs. negative presentation.

In chapter eight, Filardo-Llamas studies the legitimatory function of political
discourse in Northern Ireland. The author analyses speeches given by leaders
from the four main Northern Island parties (unionist and nationalist) after the
1998 peace settlement.

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

In the following chapter, Del Solar Valdés looks at the relationship between
speech and gesture by speakers in the European Parliamentarian system. The
author made use of the software Transana and Anvil to analyse the video data. In
her discussion of results, Del Solar Valdés accounts for cultural differences
both in verbal communication and in the use of gestures, noting differences
among the Spanish parliamentarians in particular.

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

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


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

The quality of the studies in the volume varies, however. At times, the reader
may 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 accompanying
translation into English, rendering it of limited value to many readers. In
chapter five, the study's focus is unclear; the author states that ''the goal of
work is to analyze the different uses of 'memory' in the Spanish and British
parliaments''. 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 social
research. 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: Universitat
Pompeu 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.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1443803340
ISBN-13: 9781443803342
Pages: 270
Prices: U.K. £ 39.99