Critical Discourse Analysis of Barack Obama's 2012 Speeches: Views from Systemic Functional Linguistics and Rhetoric

Topics: Rhetoric, Linguistics, Discourse Pages: 25 (7909 words) Published: June 2, 2014
ISSN 1799-2591
Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 4, No. 6, pp. 1178-1187, June 2014 © 2014 ACADEMY PUBLISHER Manufactured in Finland. doi:10.4304/tpls.4.6.1178-1187

Critical Discourse Analysis of Barack Obama's
2012 Speeches: Views from Systemic Functional
Linguistics and Rhetoric

Bahram Kazemian
Department of English, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran

Somayyeh Hashemi
Department of English, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran

Abstract—In the light of Halliday's Ideational Grammatical Metaphor, Rhetoric and Critical Discourse Analysis, the major objectives of this study are to investigate and analyze Barack Obama's 2012 five speeches, which amount to 19383 words, from the point of frequency and functions of Nominalization, Rhetorical strategies, Passivization and Modality, in which we can grasp the effective and dominant principles and tropes utilized in political discourse. Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis frameworks based on a Hallidayan perspective are used to depict the orator’s deft and clever use of these strategies in the speeches which are bound up with his overall political purposes. The results represent that nominalization, parallelism, unification strategies and modality have dominated in his speeches. There are some antithesis, expletive devices as well as passive voices in these texts. Accordingly, in terms of nominalization, some implications are drawn for political writing and reading, for translators and instructors entailed in reading and writing pedagogy.

Index Terms— critical discourse analysis, ideational grammatical metaphor, rhetorical devices, Passivization, modality


Language has a fundamental role in the conveyance of political orators’ staged-managed and pre-planned goals to the audience in order to provoke, prevail, and persuade the audience toward the intended goals and meanings (Woods, 2006). Language is not independently powerful; it obtains power through the use of powerful orators and politicians etc. This elaborates why the language utilization of those influential people can be studied critically and with close scrutiny. Power is signified, for instance, by grammatical forms within a text or a text’s genre (Renkema, 2009). The focal point of Discourse Analysis (DA) is any form of written or spoken language, such as political speeches; it concerns the sorts of devices and strategies people utilize when engaged in various discourses, such as emphatic tropes, the use of metaphor, nominalization, Passivization and choice of particular words to indicate power relations, and so on. Renkema (2009, p. 1) defines discourse studies as “the discipline devoted to the investigation of the relationship between form and function in verbal communication”. Halliday and Matthiessen (1999, 2004) draw a distinction between two major types of Grammatical Metaphor (GM), i.e. Ideational Grammatical Metaphor (IGM), focus of this study, which incorporates nominalization and process types and Interpersonal GM that includes modal metaphor and mood metaphor. In terms of metaphor of nominalization, Halliday (1994, p. 352) argue that nominalization is the single most powerful resource for creating grammatical metaphor”. Through this device, processes (verbs) and properties (adjectives) are construed metaphorically as nouns, enabling an informational dense discourse. Kazemian, Behnam and Ghafoori (2013) demonstrate that GM of nominalization is a resource language use to compact information by conveying concepts in metaphorical form which is very valued as a way of expressing objectification, abstraction, ambiguity, information density, formality as well as a mark of prestige and power. In traditional grammar, rhetoric was the study of style through grammatical and logical analysis. But new rhetoric, common in North American, is the study of how effective writing achieves its objectives. The term...

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