The Persuasive Power of Person Deixis in Political Discourse: The Pronoun ‘We’ in Obama’s Speeches as an Example


Politicians resort to ‘soft power’ to influence others and to convince them to support their attitudes about given issues through the use of language as a persuasive power. Among the linguistic tools adopted to achieve specific goals is the pronominal system. That is why the present research tries to investigate the use of person deixis in political discourse. It adopts the general framework of pragmatics to scrutinize President Obama’s manipulation of the deictic entity “we” for persuasive ends. This study adopts a triangulation of quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze Obama’s use of the pronoun “we”: the quantitative research is based on the use of a statistical approach to get empirical data. The statistical approach consists of counting the number of occurrences of the deictic category ‘we’ in Obama’s political speeches about the Financial Crisis. The qualitative method is used to analyse and discuss how the pronoun ‘we’ in the corpus under investigation is used by President Obama for persuasive ends. The findings of this study are based on the results of a case study of Obama’s 14 speeches delivered in 2009 about the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis. This paper sheds light on Obama’s manipulative discursive power to persuade his audience and to share responsibility regarding certain actions to maintain his position, to strengthen a sense of unity and solidarity among the American citizens at a time of economic recession and to create a positive image of the American nation.

Author Information
Mariem Hamdaoui, University of Sfax, Tunisia

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2015
Stream: Humanities - Language

This paper is part of the ECAH2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon