E Pluribus Unum: The Detection of Political Persuasion Through Discourse Analysis

Lara Mantovan


Political discourse involves particular lexical choices, grammatical features, rhetorical devices, and nonverbal signals. Politicians often capitalize on them in order to influence recipients’ state of mind and persuade them to share their world image. Particular persuasive strategies are used as tools to deliberately manufacture mass consent. On their part, the addressees of political discourse are not often aware of the effects of these particular discourse features in terms of audience control.

This paper aims at discussing discourse analysis as a diagnostic tool for the assessment of power relations and the transmission of ideological beliefs. In the spirit of Critical Discourse Analysis and in particular Fairclough’s (1989) ten-question model, the paper proposes a multimodal analysis of Barack Obama’s Victory Speech. The study reveals that the detection of political messages (in this case, the importance of national unity) is triggered by the presence of ideologically significant lexical elements, grammatical features, rhetorical techniques, and discourse markers that function as ideological cues. Their simultaneous distribution, together with specific non-verbal markers (i.e. eye gaze and baton signs). contributes to reinforcing the proposed ideological beliefs. 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v12i4.16859

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