Diploma thesis

Brno 2011

Author: Bc. Peter Adamec Supervisor: Mgr. Olga Dontcheva- Navrбtilovб, Ph.D.



Department of English Language and Literature

Persuasion in Political Discourse

Diploma thesis

Brno 2011

Author: Bc. Peter Adamec

Supervisor: Mgr. Olga Dontcheva-Navrбtilovб Ph.D.


ADAMEC, Peter. Persuasion in Political Discourse; diploma thesis. Brno: Masaryk University, Faculty of education, Department of English Language and Literature, 2011. 83 pages, The supervisor is Mgr. Olga Dontcheva-Navrбtilovб Ph.D.


The diploma thesis "Persuasion in Political Discourse"

investigates on the examples of Barack Obama's speeches which

methods are used in order to reach the main purpose of this

genre - to persuade the others about the validity of

politician's suggestions and make them willing to act according

to him. During the analysis, five speeches intended for the

domestic audience and five speeches devoted especially to the

foreign one are investigated. The speeches are evaluated either

by qualitative criteria when the main ideas and themes are

commented, as well as by quantitative approach when the content

of the speeches is evaluated in percentage on the ground of

particular paragraphs. The aim is to compare Obama's approach

to domestic and foreign audience and to find out possible

similarities or differences.


political speeches, political rhetoric, domestic audience, foreign audience, persuasion, comparison


I hereby declare that this diploma thesis was done by my own and I used only the materials that are stated in bibliography.

I agree with the placing of this thesis in the Masaryk University Brno Information system, in the library of the Department of English Language and Literature and with the access for studying purposes.

In Brno 9 December 2011 Bc. Peter Adamec



I would like to express gratitude to my supervisor Mgr. Olga Dontcheva-Navrбtilovб, Ph.D. for her valuable advice as well as for having been very kind and supportive throughout my work on this thesis.





2.1 Pragmatics. 10

2.1.1 Syntax, semantics and pragmatics. 11

2.1.2 Reference, inference, presupposition and entailment 12

2.2. Discourse. 15

2.2.1 Discourse Analysis. 16

2.2.2 Critical Discourse Analysis. 16

2.2.3 The Role of Cohesion. 17 Discourse, Context and Co-text 18

2.3 The Nature of Discourse and Political Speeches. 20

2.3.1 Politics and its Theoretical Bases. 20

2.3.2 Features of Political Participation. 21

2.3.3 The Features of Spoken Political Speeches and their Gradual Changes. 22 Changes of the Features of Political Speeches through the Time. 23 The Influence of Media on Changes in Political Speeches. 24

2.3.4 Problems of Analysis of Political Discourse. 26 Some Features of Analysis of Political Discourse. 27 Necessary Principles of Analysis of Political Discourse. 28

2.3.5 The Presence of Power, Ideology and Persuasion in Political Speeches. 30 Ideological Argumentation and Persuasion. 30 Tolerance and Opposition to Persuasive Argumentation. 32

2.4 The Position of the US in Contemporary World. 33

2.5 Summary. 34


3.1 Corpus under Investigation. 35

3.2 Scrutiny of all speeches. 37

3.2.1 Obama's domestic speeches. 37 Victory Speech. 38 Inaugural Speech. 39 Address to the Congress on February 24, 2009. 41 State of the Union Address 2010. 43 State of the Union 2011. 46

3.2.2 Obama's Foreign Speeches. 48 Remarks by President Obama at Strasbourg Town Hall; 48 Remarks by President Obama at a New Start Treaty Signing Ceremony and Press Conference 50 Remarks at the Meeting with Future Chinese Leaders. 52 Remarks by President Obama at G20 Press Conference in Toronto, 54 Remarks by the President to Parliament in London. 56

3.3 Comparison of the speeches. 58

3.3.1 Comparison of Obama’s domestic speeches. 59

3.3.2 Comparison of Obama`s Foreign Speeches. 67



5.1 Primary Sources. 79

5.2 Secondary Sources. 80


People use various methods when they want to win their fight. The most traditional one is the fight in its original sense, i.e. to overthrow a rival with the help of common tools such as sword, spear or knife in the past or various modern guns more recently. The other methods are sports or various competitions where competitors fight according to exact rules in order to win some kind of price or simply to be the first in a particular area of sports or competitions. However, a man could struggle and even win an imaginary fight just with the appropriate use of words. Human speech as a whole may become an instrument which could serve for various purposes.

Speech itself is the main element which distinguishes a man from other living beings. Though also the other animals use various kinds of signs or even sounds in order to convey information and come to an understanding, only the human beings are able to decode several codes as people speak different languages. This human ability depends on the knowledge of these particular languages. If people do not know some of them it follows that they would not be able to communicate in these languages. However, in order to understand what the speaker or writer wants really to tell the hearer or reader has to be able to decode the speaker's/writer's aim in particular speech. This ability is important especially in the field of political speeches. Political speeches are just the most evident case where the exact choice of words and expressions may influence the audience to think or even do what a political speaker wants them to think or do. In this sense, with the appropriate choice of words the politicians may win their political battles and fights.

The aim of this diploma thesis is to explore how political speeches can persuade different audiences that those words which are proclaimed are really truthful and the only correct. In other words, the work tries to trace the words and phrases that move the people to do what the politician wishes them to do in various situations and various environments.

The work itself is divided into four parts: introduction, theoretical part, practical part and conclusion. The theoretical one looks more deeply into theoretical background of political speeches, how they are formed, which principles and methods may be applied and also describes more deeply these methods. The main, third, practical part of this work analyzes the form of political speeches. As a corpus for the research serve speeches by U.S. president Barrack Obama delivered either for the audience inside the United States or the speeches which are determined mainly for the foreign audience. The purpose is to compare whether the methods, phrases and words which Obama uses are relatively the same or whether his approach to a domestic audience differs from his approach to a foreign one. The corpus is described more deeply inside the practical part. In the final part, the results from the practical part are summarized as a whole and compared with the findings from the theoretical part.

Finally, a short remark on the use of citations in this thesis should be made. The basic MLA format is generally used with its general rules. The cited item is followed by the name of cited work's author or by the name of particular title if the author is unknown; such entry is then usually followed by the putting the cited page(s). Unfortunately, this is not always possible. As some of the sources are just the electronic copies of printed sources where original pagination was not preserved and it is not possible to access these sources without registration which is restricted to the narrow group of users, as a specification of the cited item it is here put just the relevant chapter. This is especially the case of the majority of the sources retrieved from The Support Centre for Students with Special Needs at Masaryk University.