Key words: discourse, political discourse, characteristics, interpretation
Nowadays the notion of discourse is widely used in a variety of academic fields including political science, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies and many other. This notion is attributed to become a certain paradigm as well. Thus, there is a variety of approaches to define this notion depending on a certain academic field.
The paper aims to provide an overview of discourse as a notion and discuss its peculiar characteristics from the point of view of linguistics.
When giving the definition of discourse, N. D. Arutyunova provides three perspectives to discuss. The first one would be when discourse is regarded a coherent text together with a set of extralinguistic aspects including pragmatic, sociocultural, psychological ones and other. Discourse can also be viewed as a text within a specific context. The last would be when discourse is regarded as speech viewed as intended social action, a component of human interaction and cognition. It is worthwhile mentioning that N. D. Arutyunova sees discourse as speech imbedded in context [1, p. 136]. As E. S. Kubryakova points out, from the point of view of cognitive linguistics the distinction between the two notions (text and discourse) is quite natural since it correlates with the contrast between cognition and its outcome [5, p. 191]. According to E. S. Kubryakova, discourse can be assumed as a cognitive process related to speech production while a text is the outcome of speech. Thus, researchers distinguish discourse and text according to a number of criteria, such as functionality and structure, dynamics and statics, process and outcome, topicality and virtuality. In Russian linguistics, V. Z. Demyankov provided the most comprehensive definition of this notion. V. Z. Demyankov claimed that discourse is ‘an arbitral part of text consisting of more than one sentence or an independent part of sentence; which is usually wrapped around some basic concept, creates the overall context, describing people, objects, circumstances, time, actions and etc.’ According to this definition, the initial structure of discourse is a sequence of simple propositions connected by conjunction, disjunction, etc. [4, p. 7]. Thus, we can suggest that discourse is a wide notion including two unequal components, i.e. text and speech. At the same time, discourse is a cognitive process, and text is its outcome. On the whole, discourse is a complex communicative phenomenon within the context of extralinguistic aspects, which is not equal to text.
A number of researchers have been studying political discourse over the last few years since this phenomenon is regarded as the type of discourse which affects society to a greater extent. According to A. N. Baranov, political discourse includes all speech acts of political discussions and the rules of public politics, having specific conventions. [2, p. 140]. The importance of political discourse lies in the fact that well-maintained political communication provides for reaching consensus in the society. This implies that a politician should aspire making decisions from which the society would benefit greatly.
The main aim of political discourse is to make the recipients believe in the necessity of politically correct actions or evaluations. So, it is not to describe but to persuade, so that the recipient would have some intentions, beliefs and need for certain actions. When it comes to discussing the effectiveness of political discourse, the researchers would analyse it in accordance with the main aim of political discourse. It is obvious that talking about the effectiveness of political discourse it is impossible to avoid one of the most important elements of political speech, i.e. persuasiveness.
As Rathmayr put it, politicians in their speech operate with certain symbols, it is successful depending on the extent to which these symbols correlate with public consciousness. A politician should be capable of finding the best way to address his audience taking into consideration their opinions, beliefs and so on [8, p. 211].
In accordance with E. V. Budaev and A. P. Chudinov, we suggest that there are several sources through which we can comprehend political discourse and language. The main source of political language that the audience touches upon is mass media, including newspapers, radio, television and the Internet). There is also a source of political institutional discourse comprising leaflets, parliamentary debates, public speech, published documents, etc. [6, p. 43]
Political discourse is considered specific since it possesses a number of peculiar features or characteristics. In their speech, politicians use particular terms and notions, which means that their vocabulary is professional, at the same time common words and phrases when used in political context might possess a different meaning opposed to their usual one. The structure of political discourse is also specific, as it is comprised of particular speech strategies typical of political discourse. The researchers also note that discourse possesses an outstanding spoken and written form, i.e. pauses and intonation. They say that politician’s speech contains twice as many meaningful pauses as other people’s, and these pauses tend to be longer which makes it possible to compare this type of speech with theatrical performances [7, p. 46].
As it was mentioned in the introduction to this paper, discourse as a whole and political discourse in particular is subject to multidisciplinary research and there is a variety of approaches towards it. In this paper, we suggest that there are at least three perspectives worth discussing. First, political discourse can be viewed from the point of view of physiology as any other text, however, in this case an academic would also regard the context and ideologies. Another important approach to political discourse is that of sociopsychology, when researchers attempt estimating the effectiveness of discourse and the extent to which speakers reach their aims. And the last perspective is one concerning the analysis of personal rationales or intentions and/or the addressee’s as well within certain context.
The abovementioned suggests that studying political discourse is indeed interconnected with a number of fields of study and aims at analyzing forms, intentions and content of the discourse used in certain context [7, p.46].
In addition, another peculiarity of political discourse is its oratory character including declamations, propaganda, triumphant style, ideologies, abstract notions, references to science and logic, criticisms, bumper-sticker rhetoric, and claims of undeniable truth. All these features make political speech sound theatrical and aggressive. The intention of politicians in this case would be to discard their opponents and impose their ideas and beliefs upon the audience. The researchers put together summarized criteria of political discourse, including description of actions or stating a fact, imbedded statements put forward in interrogative sentences; answers to particular questions, descriptions of issues existing in the society (these would also include a course of actions needed positive or negative one); novel ideas and beliefs; stating general truth or God’s truth, inquiries and claims to the public authorities and calls for some actions or decision to be made.
The criteria mentioned above contribute to the effectiveness of political discourse which is to suit specific requirements. Speakers usually tend to suggest that recipients have a particular set of beliefs and ideas, what they support and what they are opposed to. This knowledge makes speakers follow a certain pattern within their speech. This pattern begins with declaring the reason for the speech to be made, the motive, which usually sounds as ‘I speak not because I want to but because it is right’. The speaker also emphasises that he or she is a representative of a political party or group and the opinion voiced correlated with the ideas and beliefs of that party of group. Sometimes there would be clear support from that party or group as it would be given more attention from the public. Speakers avoid talking about personal motives and intentions, emphasising the importance of their speech for the society and them being responsible citizens, thinking about the common good.
When it comes to interpreting political discourse as a whole, researchers point out that a study should not focus only on the language means since in that case the idea and genuine intention of political discourse would be left out. Understanding and interpreting political discourse imply that a study would mention background information, speaker’s and recipient’s expectations, imbedded motives, plots and logic. Researchers often note that the issue of understanding political discourse is one of its information value within a particular context. Political discourse is closely interconnected with ideology, mental outlook, and philosophy of life and feelings of a recipient that is why political discourse is to be analysed in accordance with the abovementioned points.
The rhetoric of political discourse correlates with overcoming of its negative features such as ideological pretentiousness and monopoly, aggressiveness, dictatorship, pragmatism, and propensity towards conflict. These features of political discourse impose the information instead of making it the subject of recipient’s reflection, thus, leading to aloof perception of text. The maxims of reflexivity and dialogism are the basis for the main concept of this rhetoric. The maxim of reflexivity implies that any words bears certain ideas and energy passed by the author or speaker to the recipient. During the perception of these words, the recipient understand the text and fits it within his reflection. When this occurs, researchers note that it provides for dialogism as this text is adapted by means of recipient’s perception. Rhetoric means are applied to make the recipient more interested in the text and its meaning, in answering questions and providing arguments for his position, agreeing or disagreeing with the speaker [3, p.49]. However, often researchers mention the maxim of monologue as one that is typical of political discourse since sometimes the text does not reflect the reflection of the speaker and does not call for recipient’s reflection as well.
Thus, political discourse comprises all types of interaction of an individual and society, creating worldview. Political discourse reveals the way cultural values and social order are imposed in different societies. This type of discourse includes a variety of political discussions in the society, including ones with the politicians and officials and public rhetoric.
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