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  • «Свои» и «чужие» в политическом дискурсе: инструментальная функция «чужого» в американской президентской риторике

Article

«Свои» и «чужие» в политическом дискурсе: инструментальная функция «чужого» в американской президентской риторике

The article investigates the textualization of the categories “Us” and “Them” in American presidential rhetoric in two interrelated ways: as an inventory of lexicogrammatical resources specific to this genre and their contextualized use as a tool for legitimizing political decisions. To this purpose, several speeches by Donald Trump and George W. Bush have been analyzed. Methodologically the study draws on the discourse analytical toolkit which involves exploring evaluative labels for category members, as well as metaphors, leitmotifs (or topoi), and syllogisms. These various language resources are not treated separately but rather as making up two distinct discourse strategies.

The analysis shows that one pervasive discourse strategy in the sample is the strategy of out-casting the “evil other”. The primary means of out-casting and populating this category is negative evaluative lexis, which is extensively used for naming and identifying the members of the “evil” out-group. Another persistent exponent of this strategy is a set of leitmotifs, which are used to attribute certain qualities and features to out-group members and characterize their actions. The most salient leitmotifs in rhetoric of both presidents are threat and killing the innocent, which are very frequent in any references to terrorists, who are the core members of the out-group. It is worth noting that the usage of these linguistic resources is very consistent within this genre of presidential rhetoric irrespective of who the rhetor is and the specific historical context.

Further analysis of the sample shows that out-casting is inextricably linked to another pervasive discourse strategy: legitimation of going to or continuing the war in a given country. For Trump, it is primarily the military campaign in Afghanistan, while for Bush the target country was primarily Iraq. In both cases the legitimation of the contradictory move seems to hinge largely on whether the country in question can be convincingly placed into the “Them” category. Linguistically, the most popular way to do so is through the leitmotif of “safe haven”, which is used to indicate that a certain country houses, supports, and is, indeed, a safe haven for terrorists. Interestingly, the category seems to be structured as a fuzzy set, with the inclusion into the outgroup being, as it were, a matter of degree. Thus, in Trump’s speech Pakistan is construed as a member of the outgroup only to some extent, which translates into less strict measures directed against it. At the core of legitimation strategy is argumentation that relies on syllogisms. The assumed major premises of syllogisms used by both presidents are very similar, which makes them a type of leitmotifs. These leitmotifs are arguably also part of the genre’s inventory of rhetorical resources albeit the ones that are never expressed in the surface structure and have no language associated with them.