Evaluation of “Status” as a Persuasive Tool in Spanish and American Pre-electoral Debates in Times of Crisis
AbstractThe evaluative function of language is explored from the point of view of the expression of “status,” or how the world is presented, and its persuasive potential in pre-electoral debates in the US and Spain. The types of statements used in two comparable corpora in Spanish and English are examined using Hunston’s model (2000; 2008) for the evaluation of “status”—the degree of alignment of a proposition and the world—to discover similarities and differences between them. The results show that, in general, all politicians prefer to use statements that refer to the actual world—“world-reflecting statements” in Hunston’s classification—rather than “world-creating propositions” in an attempt to be seen as objective candidates. However, each language group behaves differently: Americans seem to prefer a more rational stance and Spaniards favor opinions and value judgments in the samples analyzed. The correspondence found in the results between certain rhetorical strategies and success in the post-debate elections may be an indicator of using effective discursive strategies by winners as opposed to losers. In our corpus, election winners used more objective propositions in the debate than losers—the ethos of the former may, thus, be more reliable—which may, in turn, imply that this strategy contributes to persuading the audience. If this is so, adopting a negative stance of facts attributed to the opponent seems to contribute to persuasion more than a positive stance of ideal intentions and suggestions attributed to oneself, which means that the audience gives more credibility to negatively-depicted actions than to positively-charged intentions. This conclusion may be self-evident somehow, but this study provides empirical quantitative evidence to support it.Keywords: Critical Discourse Analysis; evaluation; status; persuasion; political discourse; pre-electoral debates
Bamford, Julia. 2007. “Accentuating the Positive: Evaluation and Persuasive Discourse in Business Presentations.” In Business Discourse: Language at Work, edited by Julia Bamford and Rita Salvi, 135-155. Rome: Aracne Editrice.
Biber, Douglas and Edward Finegan. 1989. “Styles of Stance in English: Lexical and Grammatical Marking of Evidentially and Affect.” Text 9: 93-124.
Breeze, Ruth. 2018. “Emotion in Politics: Affective-discursive Practices in UKIP and Labour.” Discourse and Society 29 (5): 1-20.
Cabrejas-Peñuelas, Ana Belén. 2015. “Manipulation in Spanish and American Preelection Political Debates: The Rajoy-Rubalcaba vs. Obama-McCain Debates.” Intercultural Pragmatics 12 (4): 515-546.
—. Forthcoming. “The Language of Recovery: Metaphors in Obama’s and Rajoy’s Political Speeches.” Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada (RESLA).
Cabrejas-Peñuelas, Ana Belén and Mercedes Díez-Prados. 2014. “Positive Selfevaluation versus Negative Other-evaluation in the Political Genre of Pre-election Debates.” Discourse and Society 25 (2): 159-185.
Chafe, Wallace. 1986. “Evidendiality in English Conversation and Academic Writing.” In Evidentiality: The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology, edited by Wallace Chafe and Johanna Nichols, 261-272. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Díez-Prados, Mercedes. 2016. “The Use of Metaphor and Evaluation as Discourse Strategies in Pre-electoral Debates: Just about Winning Votes.” In Exploring Discourse Strategies in Social and Cognitive Interaction: Multimodal and Cross-Linguistics Perspectives, edited by Manuela Romano and M. Dolores Porto, 215-244. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Dörnyei, Zoltán. 2007. Research Methods in Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Englebretson, Robert. 2007. “Stancetaking in Discourse: An Introduction.” In Stancetaking in Discourse. Subjectivity, Evaluation, Interaction, edited by Robert Englebretson, 1-25. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Harris, Sandra. 1991. “Evasive Action: How Politicians Respond to Questions in Political Interviews.” In Broadcast Talk, edited by Paddy Scannell, 76-99. London: Sage.
Hunston, Susan. 2000. “Evaluation and the Planes of Discourse: Status and Value in Persuasive Texts.” In Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse, edited by Susan Hunston and Geoff Thompson, 176-207. Oxford: Oxford UP.
—. 2008. “The Evaluation of Status in Multi-modal Texts.” Functions of Language 15 (1): 64-83.
—. 2011. Corpus Approaches to Evaluation: Phraseology and Evaluative Language. London and New York: Routledge.
Hunston, Susan and Geoff Thompson, eds. (2000) 2003. Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Hyland, Ken. 1998. “Boosting, Hedging and the Negotiation of Academic Knowledge.” Text 18 (3): 349-382.
Jaffe, Clella Iles. 2007. Public Speaking: Concepts and Skills for a Diverse Society. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson.
Koutsantoni, Dimitra. 2005. “Certainty across Cultures: A Comparison of the Degree of Certainty Expressed by Greek and English Scientific Authors.” Intercultural Pragmatics 2 (2): 121-149.
Lister, Richard. 2008. “Why Barack Obama Won.” BBC News, November 8. [Accessed online on September 28, 2018]
Longley, Robert. 2017. “What is Earmark Spending in the US Congress?” ThoughtCo. [Accessed on September 28, 2018].
Martin, J. R. (2000) 2003. “Beyond Exchange: Appraisal Systems in English.” In Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse, edited by Susan Hunston and Geoff Thompson, 142-175. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Martin, J. R. and Peter R.R. White. 2005. The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in English. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Müller, Jan-W. 2016. “Trump, Erdogan, Farage: The Attractions of Populism for Politicians, the Dangers for Democracy.” The Guardian, September 2. [Accessed online on September 28, 2018].
New York Times. 2008. “The First Presidential Debate Election 2008,” May 23. [Accessed online on September 28, 2018].
Ochs, Elinor and Bambi Schieffelin. 1989. “Language has a Heart.” Text & Talk: An Interdiciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse and Communication Studies 9 (1): 7-25.
O’Donnell, Mick. 2012. UAM Corpus Tool: Text Annotation for the 21st Century. [Accessed online on July 3, 2018].
Pullman, George. 2013. Persuasion. History, Theory, Practice. Indianapolis, IN and Cambridge: Hackett.
Radio y Televisión Española (RTVE). 2011. “Elecciones Generales 2011. Debates” [“2011 General Elections. Pre-electoral Debates”], November 20. [Accessed online on September 28, 2018]
Razón, La. 2011. “Rajoy presidente. Rubalcaba trató a su rival como futuro inquilino de La Moncloa.” La Razón, November 8. [Accessed online on November 20, 2018]
Sánchez-Cuenca, Ignacio. 2011. “How Spain’s Left Turned on Zapatero.” The Guardian, May 24. [Accessed online on September 28, 2018].
Santamaría, Julián. 2012. “Los candidatos tratan de afirmar su propia credibilidad.” In Debate del Debate 2011, España, edited by Academia de las Ciencias y de las Artes de Televisión, 37-44. Madrid: Dykinson.
Simon-Vandenbergen, Ann-Marie. 1996. “Image-building through Modality: The Case of Political Interviews.” Discourse and Society 7: 389-415.
—. 2008. “Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama: A Linguistic Study of Appraisal in Political Speeches.” Master’s thesis, University of Ghent.
Simon-Vandenbergen, Ann-Marie, Peter R.R. White and Karin Aijmer. 2007. “Presupposition and ‘Taken-for-granted’ in Mass Communicated Political Argument: An Illustration from British, Flemish and Swedish Political Colloquy.” In Political Discourse in the Media: Cross-cultural Perspectives, edited by Anita Fetzer and Gerda A. Lauerbach, 31-74. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Thompson, Geoff and Susan Hunston. 2000. “Evaluation: An Introduction.” In Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse, edited by Susan Hunston and Geoff Thompson, 1-27. Oxford: Oxford UP.
White, Peter R. R. 2002. “Appraisal: The Language of Attitudinal Evaluation and Intersubjective Stance.” In Handbook of Pragmatics, edited by Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman, Jan Blommaert and Chris Bulcaen, 1-27. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
The authors retain copyright of articles. They authorise AEDEAN to publish them in its journal Atlantis and to include them in the indexing and abstracting services, academic databases and repositories the journal participates in.
Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), for non-commercial (i.e., personal or academic) purposes only, users are free to share (i.e., copy and redistribute in any medium or format) and adapt (i.e., remix, transform and build upon) articles published in Atlantis, free of charge and without obtaining prior permission from the publisher or the author(s), as long as they give appropriate credit to the author, the journal (Atlantis) and the publisher (AEDEAN), provide the relevant URL link to the original publication and indicate if changes were made. Such attribution may be done in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the journal endorses the user or their use of the material published therein. Users who adapt (i.e., remix, transform or build upon the material) must distribute their contributions under the same licence as the original.
Self-archiving is also permitted, so that authors are allowed to deposit the published PDF version of their articles in academic and/or institutional repositories, without fee or embargo. Authors may also post their individual articles on their personal websites, again on condition that the original link to the online edition is provided.
Authors are expected to know and heed basic ground rules that preclude simultaneous submission and/or duplicate publication. Prospective contributors to Atlantis commit themselves to the following when they submit a manuscript:
- That no concurrent consideration of the same, or almost identical, work by any other journal and/or publisher is taking place.
- That the potential contribution has not appeared previously, in any form whatsoever, in another journal, electronic format or as a chapter/section of a book.
Seeking permission for the use of copyright material is the responsibility of the author.