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  • Politics as text and talk: Analytic approaches to political discourse ed. by Paul A. Chilton, Christina Schäffner
  • Charley Rowe
Politics as text and talk: Analytic approaches to political discourse. Ed. by Paul A. Chilton and Christina Schäffner. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002. Pp. 245. ISBN 1588112489. $84 (Hb).

This book is divided into seven chapters and an index. Ch. 1, ‘Themes and principles in the analysis of political discourse’, is the editors’ introduction. It discusses the intimate connection between politics and language (hence the title Politics as text and talk). The theoretical backgrounds of the articles in the volume are emphasized, as having their basis in principles of discourse analysis in general, and in speech act theory specifically, as well as in pragmatics, semantics and formal logic, and in cognitive linguistics. H. Paul Grice and the cooperative principle are particularly highlighted, as are Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson’s politeness theory and their conceptualization of face-threatening acts. The Habermasian framework is also drawn upon.

Part 1, ‘Institutions and identities’, contains the following chapters:

Ch. 2: ‘Politicization and depoliticization: Employment [End Page 515] policy in the European Union’, by Peter Muntigl. This chapter concerns itself with analyzing the political in terms of speakers’ discursive resources, particularly the semantics of the ‘path, force, and link’ metaphor (alongside the container metaphor already discussed by Klaus Sondermann).

Ch. 3: ‘Phraseological units in parliamentary discourse’, by Stephan Elspass. This chapter concentrates on idiomatic and ‘fixed’ expressions and their stylistic and rhetorical effect in political texts. ‘Gambits’ and forms of address are also treated. Both types have had, as the author has shown in German parliamentary debates, far-reaching implications.

Ch. 4: ‘Ceremonial text and talk: A functional-pragmatic approach’, by Christoph Sauer. Here political speeches are analyzed under the rubric of functional pragmatics (as the title states), a communication theory that regards discourse practices as the ‘continuous results of human (social) interaction’.

Ch. 5: ‘Fragmented identities: Redefining and recontextualising national identity’, by Ruth Wodak. This chapter deals with the recontextualization of historical and cultural identities in the expanding European Union, and uses critical discourse analysis (CDA) as its theoretical approach.

Part 2, ‘Interaction and cognition’, contains the remaining two chapters:

Ch. 6: ‘Put bluntly, you have something of a credibility problem: Sincerity and credibility in political interviews’, by Anita Fetzer. To analyze sincerity and credibility in the context of political interviews, Fetzer draws on the notions of contextual function and validity claims, alongside pragmatics and speech act theory, in particular, direct and indirect communicative intention, Brown and Levinson’s notion of face and Grice’s maxims. Fetzer conducts her microanalysis on twelve interviews conducted in 1990 on BBC-One’s On the record programme.

Ch. 7: ‘Political discourse and political cognition’, by Teun Van Dijk. This chapter explores the connection between political discourse and political cognition. Specifically, it deals with the relation between political text and talk on the individual level, and socially shared political representations. A speech by a conservative MP before parliament is the object of analysis.

The book is targeted toward specialists in the field of political discourse analysis. Despite the high degree of specialization, it does attempt to cover a range of topics and unique treatments within the field. The individual chapter authors justify this range by continuously pointing out the intimate connection between politics and language that unites this otherwise highly diverse set of treatments of political text and talk.

Charley Rowe
University of Newcastle upon Tyne


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pp. 515-516
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