Evaluation of “Status” as a Persuasive Tool in Spanish and American Pre-electoral Debates in Times of Crisis

  • Mercedes Diez-Prados Universidad de Alcalá
  • Ana Belén Cabrejas-Peñuelas Universitat de València


The 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

Author Biographies

Mercedes Diez-Prados, Universidad de Alcalá
Mercedes Díez-Prados is an Associate Professor at Alcalá University (Spain). Both her teaching and research are mainly concerned with Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics and Systemic Functional Linguistics. Her most significant publications tackle the issues of cohesion, evidentiality andevaluation in written English by native and non-native writers, both expert and novice, including from a gender perspective. Of late she is conducting contrastive research (English-Spanish) on evaluation devices and metaphors used in political language, and on persuasive devices in businessdiscourse.
Ana Belén Cabrejas-Peñuelas, Universitat de València
Ana Belén Cabrejas-Peñuelas is an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Valencia (Spain). She investigates the cognitive processes involved in second or foreign language writing, in particular the revision process and the use of the mother tongue, although she is also interested in DiscourseAnalysis, Pragmatics and Systemic Functional Linguistics. Her most important publications deal with L2 writing processes and evaluation, metaphor and metonymy in political language from a contrastive perspective.


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