Inaugural Addresses of American Presidents: A CDA-oriented Analysis of Party Affiliation

Authors

1 Assistant Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities, University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, Ardabil, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities, University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, Ardabil, Iran

3 MA in TEFL, University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, Ardabil, Iran

10.22108/are.2020.122738.1570

Abstract

The United States with its presidents stepping into power from either the Democratic or Republican parties influences global affairs in one way or another. These two main political parties have long been struggling for power and the significance of tapping into the ideological inclinations of the two parties underscores scholars’ accountability toward raising the critical language awareness of the public which could be an initial step toward a change for the better. The presidential inaugural speeches, due to their programmatic and strategic nature, are of significance to researchers. This study employed van Dijk’s (2006b) socio-cognitive framework where he defined two levels of analyses for a political discourse including the micro-level and macro-level text analyses. The former included 25 discursive devices such as polarization, generalization, hyperbole, etc. The latter drew on the dichotomy of ‘positive self-representation’ and ‘negative other-representation’. In the present study, the linguistic features in 16 inaugural speeches delivered by American Democratic and Republican presidents from 1961 to 2017 were examined at both levels. The overall data analysis revealed that Democrats employed ‘norm expression’ and ‘presupposition’ significantly more than Republicans, while Republicans made more use of ‘categorization’, ‘lexicalization’, and ‘populism’. The macro-level comparison of the two parties indicated that both Democrats and Republicans resorted to using ‘positive self-representation’ significantly more than ‘negative other-representation’ while the deployment of ‘negative other-representation’ by Republicans was significantly more than that by Democrats. The findings of this study have some implications for English for political purposes, political studies, as well as attempts in discourse studies.

Keywords

Main Subjects


Introduction

Language is known to be the most important source which is capable of revealing observable evidence on the processes which are taking place in one’s mind. It is initially conceptualized in mind and materialized through articulation by putting the words together. This consecutive nature implies that reverse engineering could take place, which processes the obtained information in order to tap into the ideological stance of an individual (Wiesehomeier & Doyle, 2012).

According tovan Dijk (1997),the term ‘discourse’ is any form of language use in the society. It is highly evident that the language we are using in the society is not, and cannot be neutral since “all texts are critical sites for the negotiation of power and ideology” (Burns, 2001, p. 138). The analysis of discourse is of great significance due to its potential in unraveling the ideological inclinations of discourse producers. Ideologies, as assumptions which are implanted in the forms of the language we are using (Fairclough, 1989), are traced within discourses; this helps raise the awareness of the public. The awareness-raising could be employed in the processes of decision-making which ultimately brings about changes in the society. That is why decoding the implanted ideologies in a discourse in an attempt to unravel the underlying ideologies could be a great contribution to a fair distribution of power.

There are two major approaches to discourse analysis: The noncritical (descriptive approach) and the critical approaches (Gee, 2011). The noncritical approach seeks to describe how language works in order to understand the language itself while the critical approach not only tries to describe how language works, but also seeks to engage in social or political issues, problems, and controversies in the world. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a discourse analytical approach that primarily studies the enactment, reproduction, legitimization, and resistance of social-power abuse and inequality by text and talk in the social and political context (van Dijk, 2001). Critical discourse analysts attempt to make visible the dominant discourses that are hidden from the ordinary people and account for ideology and power (Kumaravadivelu, 1999). Fairclough, Mulderrig, and Wodak (2011) suggested that CDA is a “problem-oriented interdisciplinary research movement, subsuming a variety of approaches, each with different theoretical models, research methods and agenda” (p. 357). CDA is seeking to unravel the invisible reality by collapsing the beautiful fence constructed around the existing reality.

 

 

Literature Review

CDA-oriented examination of political discourse between Democrats and Republicans has been several researchers’ recent concern. Prior to the U.S. presidential election in 2008 in which John McCain and Barack Obama competed as the nominees of Republican and Democratic parties, Aghagolzadeh and Bahrami Khorshid (2009) selected the speeches delivered by the aforementioned nominees on a similar topic (Iraq war) and incorporated them in the framework of CDA introduced by Norman Fairclough (1995). As proposed by Fairclough, the speeches were investigated in three interrelated levels: descriptive, interpretive, and explanatory. The analyses revealed that while McCain was asserting the war against Iraq, Obama was condemning this war. The two discourse producers under investigation stood on the two distinct poles of a continuum in representing and analyzing the issue of Iraq war. It was shown that multiple personal and impersonal motivations such as materialistic and spiritual interests, social position, power relations, and situational position trigger the production of the text. The two different thoughts represented by McCain and Obama are rooted in two oppositional ideologies and views. Obama seems to be from the rival party which is against the war while McCain belongs to the party which initiated the Iraq war. Despite the cost of war, the two nominees propagandize their parties.

Using van Dijk’s (2004a) framework, Rashidi and Souzandefar (2010) attempted to detect what attitudes Democratic and Republican candidates of the U.S. presidential primaries of 2008 had toward the continuation of the war in Iraq. To this aim, a total of six speeches, that is, three speeches by the forerunners of the Democratic Party and three speeches by the forerunners of the Republican Party were collected and the sections related to the issue of war in Iraq were selected for further investigation. The analytical framework included the analysis of the discursive devices employed in the speeches. The macro strategies of positive self-representation and negative other-representation together with the other 25 more subtle strategies were investigated within the transcripts of the candidates’ speeches. The findings of their study illustrated that although the Republican candidates were inclined to be against the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq, the Democratic candidates showed the opposite standpoint. Both frequently resorted to lexicalization, polarization, and justification to persuade their audience and justify their claims. Republicans tried to legitimize the issue, while the Democrats were into delegitimizing it. Rashidi and Souzandefar (2010) emphasized that CDA could be a great tool in discovering the realities which Fairclough (1995) calls them neutralized and distorted as “non-ideological common sense” (p. 27).

For the purpose of identifying the linguistic resources employed by the American politicians to project terrorism and antiterrorism and showing how language is used to construct an ideology or establish a power relation, Sarfo and Krampa (2013) selected three of Bush’s and three of Obama’s speeches for conducting a qualitative content analysis drawing on van Dijk’s (1998) concept of CDA. The findings of the study revealed that both Bush and Obama projected terrorism negatively while they projected anti-terrorism positively by a careful selection of emotionally charged vocabulary and expressions. They both frequently utilized power as control, mind control, and context control. The process of legitimizing antiterrorism and delegitimizing terrorism was enhanced by the employment of vocabulary items, phrases, clauses, and sentences as linguistic resources. The dominant vocabulary items were verbs and nouns; the phrasal categories included verb phrases, noun phrases, adjectival phrases, adverbial phrases, and prepositional phrases and clauses. The sentences included simple, compound, and complex ones. The findings of the study underscore the fact that linguistic expressions, carefully selected by discourse producers in order to achieve a certain purpose or intent and to have a specific kind of impact on listeners, characterize and underpin political discourses. There was enough evidence to prove the fact that Bush and Obama purposefully and with significant care attempted to use specific forms, words, and expressions in order to make a specific impact on their listeners.

The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorism made Toribio and Aldea (2017) analyze the speeches by the candidates of the American presidency, that is, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with regard to ISIS within the media framework and the way this terrorist group and its actions were characterized in their speeches. A sample of 20 speeches, which were the most important with regard to the issue of ISIS, 10 speeches delivered by Donald Trump and 10 by Hillary Clinton, was selected by the researchers. The researchers were concerned with the discursive representation of each candidate, focusing on two aspects: the rhetorical approach, investigating discursive strategies of the candidates in their statements, and the linguistic approach, concerning the language used to refer to ISIS, not forgetting the context of discourse and ideology. The candidates, who were representing the two opposing parties, portrayed an image of the ‘other’, the threat of ISIS, and how to fight it distinctly. Trump used a provocative and intimidating tone, while Clinton’s discourse was based on sound arguments, even though at times she resorted to populism as well. Trump’s speeches were mostly subject to conflict and controversy; this could be an incentive for journalists to direct the media attention toward him. He even resorted to some incendiary statements, such as the accusation that Obama and Clinton created ISIS. Trump made use of multiple cases of populist discourse against ISIS which were succeeded by presenting himself as the only one savior of the nation. Not having a clear plan to face ISIS, Trump frequently played on people’s fear in his speeches. He also created Islamophobic labels, referring to them, ISIS, as the enemy, but letting it be understood in a discriminatory way as a comment directed at the entire Muslim community. Conversely, Hillary Clinton, striving to convey a sense of security among her citizens, employed a conciliatory and respectful tone to propose her arguments. However, at times she resorted to populism to represent herself as the savior of America.

Lodhi, Mansoor, Shahzad, Robab, and Zafar (2018) comparatively analyzed the inaugural speeches of George W. Bush and Barack Obama in an attempt to identify the linguistic features and their functions. To achieve their goal, they employed Fairclough’s (1995) CDA Framework and Aristotle’s (1941) Persuasion Theory. Significant differences were detected in the use of linguistic features, discursive practices, and rhetoric devices in inaugural speeches of the two presidents and the qualitative analyses showed that the presidents did not use the speech to inform the people or share the facts, but they use language in a way to communicate meaning and persuasion to get their attention. The speeches contained pragmatic and lexical items focusing more on the audience and less on the message. The presidents showed that they were well aware of their authority in the world. They employed pronouns, adjectives, conjunctions, metaphors, and references to their history, constitution, and religion making them popular in the eyes of the nation. Both kept their country and the nation superior to any other and expressed comprehensive plans for uplifting them.

In another comparison of the members of Democratic and Republican parties from a linguistic perspective, Alemi and Latifi (2019) compared the manifestations of linguistic features of impoliteness in arguments between the Democrats and Republicans over the issue of the American government shutdown in 2013. The corpus included the video clips of the Democrats and Republicans’ speeches on different occasions such as press conferences, briefings, and interviews related to the U.S. government shutdown issue from September 20 to October 16, 2013, which was approximately 240 minutes in total. The main concern was the impoliteness strategies employed by each party to aggravate or attack the face of the opposing party. To meet the purpose of the study, a qualitative discourse analysis drawn from the theoretical frameworks of Culpeper’s (1996) super strategies and Bousfield’s (2008) off-record impoliteness were employed. The results of their research indicated that the frequencies of the detected strategies were relatively congruent between the two parties, the strategy of challenges being the most frequent one, and the threaten/frighten strategy being the least frequent. Although statistical analyses revealed that both parties did not significantly differ in their use of impoliteness strategies, the high frequency of the challenges strategy indicated that both parties resorted to questioning their opponent’s plans and policies in order to face them. The least frequent of the strategies was that of, as expected, threaten/frighten strategy which is justifiable due to the codes of conduct and the disallowance of explicit threat in this political context. Acting within a similar framework can be attributed to the demands and standards of the genre of political debates and live speeches within political discourse in the U.S.

The studies reviewed above have comparatively studied few politicians’ speeches; however, there seems to be no comprehensive study that comparatively analyzes the speeches by Democrats and Republicans on a broader scale. This study, employing a CDA perspective, conducts a comparative analysis of the inaugural speeches by American presidents throughout the years from 1961, when John F. Kennedy, the youngest president of the American history, stepped into the White House, to 2017, when Donald Trump, the oldest American president ever, took the office. The aim is to find any differences or similarities between the two parties’ ideological implications and how they are reflected in their speech, and as the ultimate goal, to expand the readers’ critical thinking abilities in comprehension and deciphering of political speeches as well as their political and public speaking skills.

 

The Study

The present study aims to trace the ideological orientations in the speeches delivered by Democratic and Republican presidents of the United States of America, from 1961 to 2017, in an attempt to decipher ideologies that are hidden to the public. The purpose is expanding the readers’ critical thinking abilities as well as contributing to the field of ESP in teaching programs of English for political purposes and public speaking skills. The distinctive feature of this research is the comparison of the two political parties by intensive coverage of the inaugural addresses made in a period of over half a century. The present study will try to answer the following questions:

1)      What are the frequencies of discursive devices (micro-level) evident in the inaugural speeches of Democratic and Republican presidents of the United States of America?

2)      What are the similarities or differences in the employment of discursive devices by Democrats and Republicans?

3)      What are the frequencies of macro-level dichotomy evident in the inaugural speeches of Democratic and Republican presidents of the United States of America?

4)      What are the implications of macro-level ideological dichotomy deployment by the presidents of the two political parties?

 

Methodology

Corpus

The materials used in this study were the transcripts of 16 inaugural speeches of American presidents (delivered by 11 presidents) throughout the years from 1961 to 2017. The Democratic presidents of this period are: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), James Earl Carter Jr. (JEC), William Jefferson Clinton (WJC), and Barack Hussein Obama II (BHO). The Republican presidents are: Richard Milhous Nixon (RMN), Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. (GRF), Ronald Wilson Reagan (RWR), George Herbert Walker Bush (GHWB), George Walker Bush (GWB), and Donald John Trump (DJT). The speeches were coded as above for the easy reference and those presidents with two consecutive terms, for instance, are referred to as BHO1/BHO2 referring to the first and second presidential terms by Barack Hussein Obama respectively.

 

Data Collection Procedure and Data Analysis

At the onset of the study, the transcripts of the 16 American presidential inaugural addresses from 1961 to 2017 were downloaded from https://www.cbsnews.com/. In order to verify the accuracy of the transcripts, the video files were also downloaded and each transcript was individually verified by the researchers for any accuracy issues.

The data were analyzed within the framework put forward by van Dijk (2006b). For the qualitative analysis at the micro-level, in order to spot the frequency of each of van Dijk’s 25 discursive devices, while the video files were being played, the entire corpus was carefully read for over 25 times, each reading aimed at spotting a single discursive device. This is due to the fact that identifying more than one device in a single reading was a demanding and almost an impossible task. In order to identify the employed discursive devices, the definitions of discursive devices provided by van Dijk (2006b) were employed. For the macro-level analyses, the whole corpus was covered two more times in order to see whether the identified discursive devices fell within the dichotomy of ideology, that is, positive self-representation and negative other-representation.

In order to ensure the consistency and reliability of the identified discursive devices, approximately 10% of the corpus (about 3,000 words) was randomly selected and submitted to an MA graduate who had done his thesis on CDA. The inter-coder agreement measured by Cohen’s kappa showed an acceptable reliability coefficient index of 0.73.

Since there was a significant difference between the total number of words used by Democratic and Republican presidents ( =755.898, p-value = 0.000), the relative frequency was computed for each discursive device as the number of occurrence in 10,000 words (which was a closer scale to our corpus). For further discussion, the percentage of the discursive devices at the micro-level and the percentage of the ideological dichotomy at the macro-level of the two parties’ speeches were also calculated. The datasets were imported into IBM SPSS Statistics Version 24 for analyses. One-way Chi-square tests of independence were run to show whether the differences in the use of each of the 25 discursive devices as well as of positive/negative representations employed by the parties were statistically significant.

 

Theoretical Framework

Due to the scope of the present study and the importance of the macro strategy of positive self-representation and negative other-representation, van Dijk’s (1998, 2004b, 2006b) socio-cognitive framework was applied for the purpose of this study. Deciphering the way Democrats and their opposing party intend to represent their in-groups and out-groups could be an important index in representing their ideological inclinations.

The selected analytical framework goes beyond counting words or extracting objective content from texts to examine the meaning, themes, and patterns that may be manifest or latent in a particular text (Sarfo & Krampa, 2013). By the use of van Dijk’s (2006b) socio-cognitive framework, ideological orientations in the selected political speeches were traced. The macro strategies of ‘positive self-presentation’ and ‘negative other-presentation’ and the micro-level text analysis of 25 discursive devices introduced by van Dijk were the main concerns in the analyses. Besides the general strategies of positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation, the 25 discursive devices with their discourse analysis domain according to van Dijk are:

1. Actor Description: Actors in discourses are described according to the discourse producers’ ideologies. Discourse producers tend to describe in-group members in a neutral or positive way and out-group members in a negative way (van Dijk, 2006b).

2. Authority: Discourse producers have recourse to the fallacy of mentioning authorities to support their case, usually organizations or people who are above the fray of party politics, or who are generally recognized experts or moral leaders (van Dijk, 2006b).

3. Burden: It refers to the human or financial loss of a specific group whether small or as big as a nation and to victimize the group or touch the feelings of the target audience (van Dijk, 2006b).

4. Categorization: To van Dijk (2006b) categorization means assigning people to different groups which is applied to classify people regarding their opinions and acts such as religious or political ones.

5. Comparison: Comparisons are used when in-groups and out-groups are collated. They can imply the negative score of the out-group on the criteria of comparison or compare the current situation with the similar situations in the past (van Dijk, 2000b).

6. Consensus: Insisting on cross-party or national consensus whenever the country is threatened, for instance, by an outside attack, is what van Dijk (2006b) names consensus.

7. Counterfactuals: It is the expression of what something or somebody would be like if certain conditions were or were not met; “they allow people to demonstrate absurd consequences when an alternative is being considered” (van Dijk, 2000b, p. 66).

8. Disclaimer: A disclaimer is seen as an ideologically-based strategy to demonstrate positive attributes of an entity and then presenting a denial of the attributes using terms like but, yet, or however. “Disclaimers briefly save face by mentioning our positive characteristics, but then focus rather exclusively, on their negative attributes” (van Dijk, 2006b, p. 736).

9. Euphemism: It is a communicative tactic by which discourse producers try to use less harsh words for the purpose of mitigating “negative impression formation and the negative acts of the own group” (van Dijk, 2006b, p. 736).

10. Evidentiality: Van Dijk (2006b) defines evidentiality as presenting some evidence or proof for the knowledge or opinions which will help make discourse producers’ claims and points of view more plausible in arguments. This may happen by references to authority figures or institutions, or by declaring how or where they got the information. Van Dijk adds “evidentials are an important move to convey objectivity, reliability, and hence credibility” (p. 736).

11. Illustration/Example: According to van Dijk (2006b), illustration is providing concrete examples, often in the form of a vignette or short story, which will illustrate and make general points plausible.

12. Generalizations: Based on van Dijk (1995), it is the generalization of an attribute from one person to another or from a small group to a larger group or category. Van Dijk (2000b) adds “this may happen with standard expressions, such as quantifiers for nouns (most, all), or expressions of time and frequency (always, constantly) or place (everywhere)” (p. 72).

13. Hyperbole: Van Dijk (2006b) defines hyperbole as a semantic rhetorical device that discourse producers tend to use for the purpose of enhancing meaning within the overall strategy of positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation.

14. Implication: According to Shakoury (2018), an implication is the understanding of what is not explicitly expressed in discourse. “Indeed, large part of discourse remains implicit, and such implicit information may be inferred by recipients from shared knowledge or attitudes and thus constructed as part of their mental models of the event or action represented in the discourse” (van Dijk, 2000b, p. 74).

15. Irony: Shakoury (2018) refers to irony as the “deliberate contrast between what is said and what the speaker intends to convey through language use, often humorously” (p. 29). Van Dijk (2006b) asserts that accusations may come across as more effective when they are made indirectly, in lighter manifestations of irony.

16. Lexicalization: The use of semantic features of words to portray something or somebody positively or negatively (Rashidi & Souzandefar, 2010).

17. Metaphor: “Metaphor is the comparison of two things or phenomena which bear no resemblance to assign the attributes of one to another” (Shakoury, 2018, p. 30).

18. National Self-glorification: The discourse producers may try to positively represent their country by “positive references to or praise for one’s own country, its principles, history, and traditions” (van Dijk, 2006b, p. 738).

19. Norm Expression: It is the expression of what/how something should or should not be done (van Dijk, 2006b).

20. Number Game: Van Dijk (2006b) emphasizes that numbers and statistics are used to represent facts against opinions and impressions.

21. Polarization: It is the categorization of people as belonging to us with good and bad attributes (van Dijk, 2006b).

22. Populism: Populism is evident when the discourse producer intends to gain popularity by representing ordinary people’s needs and wishes (Khan et al. 2019; Shakoury, 2018).

23. Presupposition: For van Dijk (2006b), presuppositions are significant since “meanings are not explicitly expressed but presupposed to be known, and inferable from general sociocultural knowledge” (p. 739). It is an idea implemented in a discourse without evidence of proof (Jones & Peccei, 2004).

24. Vagueness: Van Dijk (2000a) argues that vagueness “characteristically functions as a form of impression management: protecting our own face (when being vague about racism for instance), and where possible being vague about the positive properties of the others” (p. 94).

25. Victimization: It is the use of “binary us–them pair of in-groups and out-groups” (van Dijk, 2006b, p. 739) to show out-group members negatively and portray in-group members as the victims of unfair treatment.

 

Results

Micro-level Analysis

In order to have a normalized frequency for each party, the relative frequency of each discursive device was calculated per 10,000 words. Table 1 illustrates the absolute and relative frequency of the total of each discursive device (the micro-level) in the Democratic and Republican presidents’ inaugural addresses together with the percentages of discursive devices.

As Table 1 illustrates, Democrats deployed approximately 1460 discursive devices per 10000 words, of which lexicalization occurred 352 times (24.12%), followed by presupposition (233 times = 15.95%), implication (95 times = 6.50%), vagueness (94 times = 6.44%), actor description (86 times = 5.89%), norm expression (65 times = 4.44%), metaphor (62 times = 4.22%), generalization (59 times = 4.05%), polarization (56 times = 3.83%), disclaimers (37 times = 2.55%), national self-glorification (37 times = 2.50%), consensus (35 times = 2.39%), illustration (32 times = 2.22%), hyperbole (30 times = 2.05%), evidentiality (27 times = 1.73%), comparison (26 times = 1.77%), counterfactuals (23 times = 1.55%), authority (20 times = 1.38%), number game (20 times = 1.38%), categorization (19 times = 1.33%), victimization (16 times = 1.11%), populism (15 times = 1.05%), burden (11 times = 0.77%), euphemism (8 times = 0.55%), and irony (0 time = 0.00%) respectively.

Table 1. Absolute and Relative Frequency of Discursive Devices (the Micro-level) in the Democratic and Republican Presidents’ Addresses

 

Democratic Party

Republican Party

Discursive devices

Absolute frequency

Relative frequency (per 10000 words)

%

Absolute frequency

Relative frequency (per 10000 words)

%

Actor Description

106

86.04

5.89%

162

95.13

6.41%

Authority

25

20.29

1.38%

36

21.14

1.42%

Burden

14

11.36

0.77%

17

9.98

0.67%

Categorization

24

19.48

1.33%

60

35.23

2.37%

Comparison

32

25.97

1.77%

59

34.64

2.33%

Consensus

43

34.90

2.39%

39

22.90

1.54%

Counterfactuals

28

22.72

1.55%

41

24.07

1.62%

Disclaimers

46

37.34

2.55%

53

31.12

2.09%

Euphemism

10

8.11

0.55%

26

15.26

1.02%

Evidentiality

33

26.78

1.83%

40

23.48

1.58%

Illustration/Example

40

32.47

2.22%

57

33.47

2.25%

Generalization

73

59.25

4.05%

84

49.32

3.32%

Hyperbole

37

30.03

2.05%

45

26.42

1.78%

Implication

117

94.97

6.50%

145

85.14

5.74%

Irony

0

0

0%

2

1.17

0.07%

Lexicalization

434

352.30

24.12%

733

430.44

29.01%

Metaphor

76

61.69

4.22%

111

65.18

4.39%

National self-glorification

45

36.52

2.50%

76

44.62

3.00%

Norm Expression

80

64.94

4.44%

64

37.58

2.53%

Number Game

25

20.29

1.38%

51

29.94

2.01%

Polarization

69

56.01

3.83%

114

66.94

4.51%

Populism

19

15.42

1.05%

69

40.51

2.73%

Presupposition

287

232.97

15.95%

265

155.61

10.49%

Vagueness

116

94.16

6.44%

139

81.62

5.50%

Victimization

20

16.23

1.11%

38

22.31

1.50%

Total

1799

1460.34

 

2526

1483.35

 

 

Republicans deployed a total of approximately 1483 discursive devices per 10000 words, the highest frequency belongs to lexicalization with 430 occurrences (29.01%), followed by presupposition (156 times = 10.49%), actor description (95 times = 6.41%), implication (85 times = 5.74%), vagueness (82 times = 5.50%), polarization (67 times = 4.51%), metaphor (65 times = 4.39%), generalization (49 times = 3.32%), national self-glorification (45 times = 3.00%), populism (41 times = 2.73%), norm expression (38 times = 2.53%), categorization (35 times = 2.37%), comparison (35 times = 2.33%), illustration (33 times = 2.25%), disclaimers (31 times = 2.09%), number game (30 times = 2.01%), hyperbole (26 times = 1.78%), counterfactuals (24 times = 1.62%), evidentiality (23 times = 1.58%), consensus (23 times = 1.54%), victimization (22 times = 1.50%), authority (21 times = 1.42%), euphemism (15 times = 1.02%), burden (10 times = 0.67%), and irony (1 time = 0.07%), respectively.

Figure 1 illustrates the frequency of discursive devices employed by the Democratic and Republican presidents. As it is shown, the bar chart has similar patterns for both parties, irony being the least frequent and lexicalization being the most frequent device for both parties. There is a predictable pattern showing that inclinations toward using discursive devices were quite similar and the difference in the frequency of most devices seems to be statistically insignificant.

 

 

Figure 1.The Distribution of Micro-level discursive Devices for the Presidents of the Two Political Parties.

As reported, there were differences between the usage of the discursive devices by the presidents of the two political parties. A Chi-square test of independence was used to compare the total frequency of discursive devices at the micro-level for the two parties’ presidents. The results of the test are represented in Table 2.

 

Table 2. Chi-square Analysis of Discursive Devices (the Micro-level) in the Democratic and Republican Presidents’ Addresses.

Discursive Device

Democratic

Republican

 

p

Actor description

86

95

0.448

0.504

Authority

20

21

0.024

0.876

Burden

11

10

0.048

0.827

Categorization

19

35

4.741

0.029

Comparison

26

35

1.328

0.249

Consensus

35

23

2.483

0.115

Counterfactuals

23

24

0.021

0.884

Disclaimers

37

31

0.529

0.467

Euphemism

8

15

2.130

0.144

Evidentiality

27

23

0.320

0.572

Illustration/Example

32

33

0.015

0.901

Generalization

59

49

0.926

0.336

Hyperbole

30

26

0.286

0.593

Implication

95

85

0.556

0.456

Irony

0

1

-

-

Lexicalization

352

430

7.780

0.005

Metaphor

62

65

0.071

0.790

National self-glorification

37

45

0.780

0.377

Norm expression

65

38

7.078

0.008

Number game

20

30

2.000

0.157

Polarization

56

67

0.984

0.321

Populism

15

41

12.071

0.001

Presupposition

233

156

15.242

0.000

Vagueness

94

82

0.818

0.366

Victimization

16

22

0.947

0.330

Total

1460

1483

0.180

0.672

 

According to Table 2 and the Chi-square analysis, statistically significant differences were found in the use of the following discursive devices by the two political parties’ presidents: categorization (  p-value = 0.029), lexicalization (  p-value = 0.005), norm expression (  p-value = 0.008), populism (  p-value = 0.001), and presupposition (  p-value = 0.000). The employment of norm expression and presupposition among the Democratic presidents were significantly more than that of the Republican ones; 65 vs. 38, and 233 vs. 156, respectively, while categorization, lexicalization, and populism were utilized significantly more by theRepublican presidents; 35 vs. 19, 430 vs. 352, 41 vs. 15, respectively. The difference between the use of other discursive devices between Democrats and Republicans was not statistically significant.

 

Macro-level Analysis

Table 3 represents the frequency and percentage of the total of the macro-level positive and negative representations observed in the Democratic and Republican presidents’ addresses.

 

Table 3. Frequency and Percentage of the Total of Each Fundamental Dichotomy of Ideology (the Macro-level) in the Democratic and Republican Presidents’ Addresses.

 

Democratic

Republican

 

Absolute frequency

per 10000 words

%

Absolute frequency

per 10000 words

%

Positive self-representation

574

466

63.92%

861

506

59.62%

Negative other-representation

324

263

36.08%

583

342

40.38%

Total

898

729

 

1444

848

 

 

As Table 3 illustrates, Democratic presidents deployed 729 cases of positive/negative representations relatively in their inaugural speeches. They employed the positive self-representation (466 times = 63.92%) significantly (  p-value = 0.000) more than negative other-representation (263 times = 36.08%). Republican presidents employed positive/negative representations 848 times in their inaugural addresses. They utilized positive self- representation (506 times = 59.62%) significantly (  p-value = 0.000) more than negative other-representation (342 times = 40.38%).

 

Figure 2. The Distribution of Macro-level Discursive Devices for the Presidents of the Two Political Parties

 

To assess whether there was a statistically significant difference in the deployment of positive/negative representations between the two parties’ presidents, a Chi-square test of independence was run to compare the obtained frequencies. Table 4 reports the results of the Chi-square test.

 

Table 4. Chi-square Analysis of the Total of Each Fundamental Dichotomy of Ideology (the Macro-level) in the Democratic and Republican Presidents’ Addresses.

 

Democratic

Republican

 

p

Positive self-representation

466

506

1.646

0.199

Negative other-representation

263

342

10.316

0.001

 

Although Republicans employed positive self-representation slightly more than Democrats, the Chi-square analysis revealed that the difference was not statistically significant (  p-value = 0.199). On the other hand, Republicans resorted to negative other-representation significantly more than Democrats (  p-value = 0.001).

 

Discussion and Conclusion

Overall deployment of discursive devices by the presidents of the Democratic and Republican parties did not differ significantly. The ratio of the number of discursive devices employed by each party over the number of words is 0.14 discursive devices for each word which is almost the same for both parties. This can be justified by the fact that both parties belong to the same macro culture and are committed to the same sentiments on specific issues like Americanism and professionalism (Biria & Mohammadi, 2012). The overall insignificant difference was also evident in the work of Alemi and Latifi (2019) in which the members of these two parties did not differ significantly in the use of impoliteness strategies. Grossman and Hopkins (2016) suggest that the two parties do not simply operate as mirror images. The framework of inaugural speeches and the genre of inaugural addresses do not allow the presidents to exercise their own personal tastes of public speaking.

Republicans employed categorization significantly more than Democrats. This indicates that when it comes to representing others, Republicans are more likely to implement their ideologies in assigning others into different groups. This also correlates with Khan et al. (2019) who indicated that Trump, as a Republican, tended to use categorization frequently. Frequent deployment of categorization by Republicans indicates that they tend to assign people into groups and do not consider them as unique individuals, rather as members of a group. This tendency triggers a form of exaggeration drawing attention to the apparent differences across distinct groups as well as a perceived similarity among the members of a single group.

Republicans attempted to express their ideologies by lexicalization significantly more than Democrats.This is also seen in Sujito, Indriana, and Muttaqin (2019) that Trump, as a Republican, intended to employ lexicalization frequently to persuade and justify his audience. Resorting to the semantic features of words in order to implement their attitudes is what politicians and discourse producers in general use frequently. The frequent use of lexicalization by Republicans can be justified due to their frequent resort to the dichotomy of positive self-representation and negative other-representation: “the positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation (often inextricably combined) are achieved mostly through lexicalization” (Matić, 2012, p. 61).

Republicans employed populism significantly more than Democrats. This indicates that Republicans are in favor of expressing ordinary people’s needs and wants in order to attract their addressees’ interest and persuade them to get their things done. Toribio and Aldea (2017) compared Clinton’s discourse with that of Trump; they came up with findings indicating that while Trump employed populism, Clinton based her ideology on sound arguments. According to National Public Radio’s Mara Liasson, “Trump fits right into the classic tradition of American populism,” which “has always combined nativism with economic grievance.” Populism is also seen as a frequent device used by Trump (Khan et al., 2019). Republicans are more likely to show that the elites take an opposing stance toward the people as well as trying to persuade their audience that their in-groups will stand by the people and support them against the threats directed by the elite.

Democrats employed norm expression and presupposition significantly more than Republicans. Republicans attempted to explicitly refer to their ideological standpoints while Democrats take the truth of their ideologies for granted in a way that the hearer does not feel any need to challenge them. Democrats seem to be smarter than Republicans in their attempts to show out-groups negatively and in-groups positively by resorting to presupposition which leaves no room for any challenge. Frequent expression of norms by the members of the Democratic Party could be considered a sign of shirking responsibility. In other words, they intended to show that such things need to be done and should be done so, but do not consider their own role as the subject of such actions.  

Within both parties, the macro-structure of positive self-representation was deployed significantly more than negative other-representation, which is justifiable since an inaugural address is not a proper stage to attack the opposing side frequently. The analysis revealed that the politicians resorted to positive self-representation more than trying to create a negative picture of others in their audience’s minds. This can also be justified since inaugural addresses are post-election and are delivered after the victory is gained, that is why there seems to be no urgent need to attack the opponents, rather, they seek to show that a decent future is coming for the nation by showing their administration as a savior.

If we compare the macro-level analyses between the two parties, we can figure out that while the use of positive self-representation is not statistically different, the macro strategy of negative other-representation is deployed by Republicans statistically more than Democrats. This seems to be the most notable finding of the research that forerunners of the Republican Party have been trying to create a negative picture of their opponents’ in their nation’s mind, more than that of the Democratic Party. In a recent study, Khajavi and Rasti (2020) came to the conclusion that Mitt Romney as a Republican Party representative made use of more negative other-representation than did Democratic Barack Obama.

Using van Dijk’s (2006b) CDA framework, 16 inaugural speeches delivered by Democratic and Republican presidents of the United States of America were analyzed to find out how these members of two parties employ the discursive strategies to exert their ideological stance. The analysis was conducted at two levels; the micro-level analysis with a focus on the application of 25 discursive devices of van Dijk (2006b), and the macro-level analysis with a concentration on the use of the dichotomy of ideology, positive self-representation and negative other-representation in those speeches.

The analysis revealed that although Democrats and Republicans deployed few discursive devices (five out of 25 discursive devices in van Dijk’s framework) in a significantly different frequency, there was not any meaningful difference in the frequency of the majority of the devices (20 out of 25) as well as the total number of employed devices. It is revealed that Democrats employed ‘norm expression’ and ‘presupposition’ more than Republicans, while Republicans utilized ‘categorization’, ‘lexicalization’, and ‘populism’ more than their opposing party members.

Regarding the predominant ideology according to van Dijk’s (2006b) dichotomy of ideology, ‘positive self-representation’ and ‘negative other-representation’, at the macro-level of analysis, we can conclude that Democrats and Republicans adopted similar ideological stances, both resorting to the use of positive self-representation excessively more than negative other-representation. Although both employed positive self-representation more than negative other-representation, their use of negative other-representation was significantly different. Democrats sounded more positive than the Republicans; however, Republicans were more explicit in representing their opposing side negatively.

Due to the subjective nature of CDA studies, future studies can implement a similar framework to find out if the findings of this research are free from bias and ideological inclinations. The future studies can also include a wider domain of data sources such as interviews, presidential campaign speeches, etc. to determine the generalizability of the obtained results. The employed framework focused on the semantic features; we recommend the corpus be investigated from a grammatical and syntactic perspective to see whether the same or different results are obtained. According to Pinar, Renolds, Slattery, and Taubman (1995), understanding a curriculum is of high significance for curriculum re-conceptualists and this understanding is achieved through considering a curriculum as a ‘text’ or ‘discourse’. CDA studies seek to facilitate an in-depth understanding of discourse and text that is why the findings of this study can be employed in curriculum development for ESP programs especially English for political purposes as well as public speaking courses through, but not limited to, consciousness-raising tasks and activities. Such contributions to enhance the critical language awareness of both instructors and learners would improve the quality of ESP courses and prevent misinterpretation.

 

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