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35 Seiten, Note: 1,0
2.Pragmatic application of (political) pronuns
2.1.Outlining the Iraqi Threat: President Bush´s application of pronuns
2.2.Pronouns in Winston Churchill´s speech “Their Finest Hour”
2.3.I, We, They: Who really wants to lead this war? A comparison
3.Convincing the masses: metaphorisation, nominalization and techniques of persuasion
3.1.“We will secure the peace”: metaphors, nominalizations and persuasiveness in President Bush´s speech
3.2.“I expect the Battle of Britain is about to Begin.” Stylistic devices in Winston Churchill´s speech
3.3“There is no dirty trick he will not do”: A comparison
Within the fields of linguistics, political language and discourse, especially its use and performance defenitely show and comprise a lot of special characteristic features which have become the subject of political linguistics.
No doubt, political power mainly is established not only by his actions and consequent outcomes, but by a politician´s use of language. On the level of political conversation, which includes debates, election campaigns, statements, announcements or declarations, linguistic concepts play an important role.
A political speech is not just a simple and sheer enumeration and presentation of aims, attitudes and demands, but a consciously constructed framework consisting of many linguistic devices to achieve a certain effect on the listeners. For a politician, a speech is a vessel to depict problems and necessities as well as achievements; it is a tool to persuade, to explain or even to manipulate. Especially in times of crisis, when facing the need of renewal and action, and particularly in times of war, announcements and speeches gain significance and are a challenging task since they have to fulfil several functions: by his speech, a politician has to define and to create a sinsister and menacing image of the enemy in order to awake grave resentment and aggressions against the serious threat he represents. Furthermore, plausible or at least convincing reasons for military action or a war or have to be given. By the means of persuasion such as evidence, arguments and justifications, the people´s allegiance has to be gained. Speeches that deal with war mainly aim at creating a feeling of unity, enthusiasm and at enhancing patriotism by referring and appealing to a nation´s history, ideology, convictions and values that are in danger and to defend. At the same time, a politician has to point out his own position, resolution, his personal authority and responsibility. All in all, it is his task to “promote“ the righteousness and necessity of a possible war.
But by which linguistic devices are these effects achieved, and are they universally applicable or are there differences depending on the situation (time, place, economy, culture…) as well as the kind of war? One main pragmatic device is the pragmatic application of pronouns. The following chapters will concentrate on how pronouns, especially in a political context, can be used to have certain effects on the listener; furthermore, the intents and effects of special linguistic and stylistic devices such as metaphorization, nominalization and techniques of persuasion will be analyzed. The analysis here refers to two different speeches delivered in (pre-)wartime: first, the speech which outlined the “Iraqui threat” held by the U.S. President George W. Bush (before the invasion of Iraq) in Ohio on October 7 in 2002; and second, the famous speech “Their Finest Hour” delivered by Prime Minister Winston before the House of Commons on June 8, 1940. Both speeches will be analyzed and compared afterwards.
In sociolinguistics, the pronominal system can reflect dimensions like formality, status, power, class and sex; each usage affects the hearer´s perception of the speaker. In pragmatic terms, and with regard to political discourse, pronominal forms like I, My, We, Our, They, Those can also be used to emphasize and to manipulate meanings: pronouns can serve to demonstrate the speaker´s power and position, his relationship to the topic and to his adressees and even to clearly expose and identify supporters and enemies. Furthermore, a politician´s exertion of pronouns also reveals a lot about his ideological perspective and intrinsic attitudes. In short, a personal deixis is given: pronouns can have very differentiated references depending on the speaker and the adressees.
The personal pronouns I, You and We are frequently and strategically used in speeches that deal with military actions and war.
The pronominal form I implies a very personal level: used in a speech, it enables the politician to show his personal involvement and commitment as well as his authority and personal responsibility (= personal voice).Used in combination with certain verbs (I believe, I am convinced), the pronoun I awakes the impression that the speaker is willing and resolute to personally answer for his convictions and demands and that he can be hold responsible for his words. Thus, the speaker´s credibility and powers of persuasion are enhanced.
The pronoun You can have at least two different implications: the indefinite form You in the sense of one is not directly adressing the listeners, but used as a rather generalizing form, albeit more including the adressees than the neutral form one. Applied for a direct adress (either in the second singular and plural), the pronoun You can have the effect of a strong appeal; it makes the listeners feel personally involved and affected.
The pronominal form We can imply a range of meanings: the exclusive we only figuratively speaking includes the speaker, whereas the inclusive we can be put on a scale with several gradations: We: me and at least one other person up to me and the entire humanity. Both forms are a characteristic feature of speeches that adress a whole nation and have various effects on the listener: by applying the pronoun We, a politician can distribute the load of responsibility (We: me and my government = institutionalized voice). By including the listeners (We: me and my nation), the pronoun We serves to establish rapport with the audience and thereby to encourage solidarity, to evoke a feeling of personal concern and unity. The quasi-superlative We (We and the whole world) lays emphasis on the correctness and importance of the speaker´s intention as well as it is a possibility to spread responsibility since it enlarges the group of (apparent) supporters.
On the other hand, also relations of contrast are presented by specific pronouns which refer to individuals and/or groups outside of the community of the speaker and his adressees (We). The direct naming of the opponent clearly identifies the enemy by giving the “evil” a name, and an emphasized and repetitive use of this name makes it become the object of negative emotions and associations, a clear concept of the foe.
A simple reduction to pronouns again has certain effects on the listener. First of all, a sheer reduction to pronouns like He/She/It or They,These,Those produces an effect of semantic emptiness and void and thereby a disparaging and disdainful connotation. By replacing names by pronominal forms, the speaker can distance himself and his adressees from the group or individual he is referring to. At the same time, the namelessness creates a sinister and threatening image of the enemy. As a result, these pronouns serve to demonstrate differences and the `otherness´ of the individual or group meant by them, thus finally establishing (especially when used in contrast to the term we) the concept of ´ us versus them `.
As shown, the diverging meanings and references of pronouns can serve quite well to affect and manipulate the hearer´s perception in order to convince and to gain support. Especially in speeches in times of crisis and war, this concept has been frequently made use of. Yet, it is to mention that not only the usage of certain pronouns, but also the situational context, the choice of words which are used in connection with these pronouns and particularly the performance of the speech (including gestures, articulation, intonation and prosody) as well as the communication media by which it is presented are of great importance for the impact of the speech.
The next chapters shall give an overview, an analysis and a comparison of the specific uses of pronouns in the speeches by George W. Bush, and Winston Churchill. Of course, these only concentrate on a confined selection of abstracts which focus on key uses that reveal particular intentions and effects.
The speech held by President George W. Bush concerning the ”Iraqi Threat” is almost a stereotypical and ideal example of how pronouns can be (vastly) used in Pragmatic terms. Even though a speech that aims at convincing the nation of the necessity of a war would require the leader´s (here: the President´s) absolute demonstration of high personal concern, responsibility and particularly conviction, it is interesting to see that the pronoun I appears only 13 times (compared to an incountable number of we), and a number of these I forms do not really reflect the President´s intrinsic attitudes, but serve as a mere introduction and welcome:
“ I´m honoured to be here tonight.” , “And tonight, I want to share those discussions with you.”.
In contrast, by the statement
“Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary; confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. When I spoke to Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorist themselves.”
George W. Bush shows personal involvement and admits that there is a link between the war on terror and the prospective invasion of Iraq; at the same time, he tries to convince (those who fear the military action to be only a substitute for the failures in capturing terrorists) by referring to his own words which emphasize his firm attitude and steadiness.
Especially the combination of the pronoun I with certain verbs like hope represent a very personal level:
“ I hope this will not require military action, but it may.”
This sentence seems to point out that it is not the President´s direct and personal intention to start a war, unless it would be absolutely necessary. Yet, a quite different attitude and a contradiction can be recognized in the following paragraphs:
“Some have argued we should wait – and that´s an option. In my view, it´s the riskiest of all options[…]. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I´m convinced that is a hope against all evidence.”
By using this strategy, George W. Bush first shares the audience´s position and doubts (or at least those of the opponents of the war) just to go on to imply an urgent need to start military action as a preventive measurement to defend the peace. Particularly the last statement of this paragraph
“ I´m not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein.”
has a very appalling effect on the listeners since it shows very deep personal concern and responsibility, presents a clear serious threat and thus evokes the impression that the President would do anything to defend “his” people´s lives.
Furthermore, George W. Bush´s use of the pronoun I (and also mine) underlines the correctness of his convictions and the joint responsibility of the government; thus, he can also present and refer to his institutional, legitimized base:
“And that´s why two administrations - mine and President Clinton´s - have stated that regime change in Iraq is the only certain means of removing a great danger[…]”.
Aditionally, the President also uses the form I to mark his personal point of view and to separate himself as a single authorative person from the government whose support he wants and needs:
“ I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America´s military,[…].” “Members of Congress are nearing an historic vote. I´m confident they will fully consider the facts, and their duties.”
It is quite remarkable that in his speech, President Bush does not apply the pronoun you at all (except in the introduction and welcome) – instead, he automatically appeals to and includes his listeners by the frequent use of the pronoun we. To meet the criticism and the doubts and questions on his intentions, he differentiates between we and some or many:
“ Many Americans have raised legitimate questions:[…]” , “First, some ask why Iraq is different from other countries […]” , “ Some ask how urgent this danger is to America[…]” ,” Some have argued that confronting the threat[…]” , “ Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon[..]” ,” Some citizens wonder, after 11 eleven years of living with this problem[…]” , “ Some believe we can adress this danger by simply resuming the old approach to inspections[…]”
This has an disparaging effect: by exposing opponents of the war and disbeliefers by the indefinite pronouns many and some, those people appear as an anonymous and rather small fringe group. Furthermore, the President directly gives detailed answers to all questions and strong arguments to weaken all those doubts.
President Bush´s frequent use of the pronoun we is of significant importance since it is presented in a threefold structure: by we, he refers to our nation, America, to me & my government/administration and to we and the rest of the world/UN. Throughout the speech, he switches between these senses of we. On the one hand, this enables the President to lay emphasis on specific important arguments and to encourage patriotism; on the other hand, he thereby suceeds in mixing up and blurring positions and responsibility. By this device, he creates a feeling of solidarity and support for his plans by the rest of the world (which he definitely did not have, let alone got):
“The entire world has witnessed Iraq´s eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith. We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history.”
Here, he definitely and literally includes the whole world to see Iraq as a serious problem and threat. He then changes to the “patriotic” level which demonstrates America´s absolute resoluteness:
“ We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.”
But then he switches again and refers to the Congress and the U.N. Security Council (the order of mentioning here already reveals how important the UN´s opinion really is to him):
“Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Since we all agree on this goal, the issue is: how can we best achieve it?”
To refer to himself and his administration (and military and secret service), George W. Bush uses the pronoun we continuously in combination with affirmative verbs like “we´ve discovered”, “we´ve learned”, but also “we´re concerned”, which underline the achievements and sense of responsibility of the government. Especially the numerous repetitions of “we know” appears almost as a propagandistic incantation:
“ We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents,[…]” , “[…] we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror” , “ We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy—the United States of America.”
Surely, this stoic and insisting repetition aims at erasing all doubts and presents the American government as a competent institution which present convincing reasons to take military action on the base of precise and thorough investigations.
At the same time, it somehow reveals the need for (self-) affirmation: in the aftermath, this strategy appears almost ridiculous and definitely undermined the government´s credibility since reports about all these “known” facts disclosed that the U.S. government did not know exactly what was going on in Iraq.
To appeal directly to the feeling of patriotism, the President repeatedly points to the shared and shocking experience of 09/11 and establishes a link between the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists and Saddam Hussein and thus enforces fear and the need for preventive action:
“We´ve experienced the horror of September the 11th.”, “Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us.” “[…]we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun[…]”, “[…]we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occuring.”
It is also interesting to see how President Bush applies the pronoun we to separate the U.S. position from that of the U.N. Council (whose support he would have needed): First, he includes the U.N. in order to demonstrate that the measurements taken so as being insufficient and therefore to be extended:
“[…] we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action […]”.
Then he switches to we (I and my administration), clearly stating his position:
“America wants the the U.N. to be an effective organization that helps keep the peace. And that is why we are urging the Security Council to adopt a new resolution […]”
This is definitely a strong appeal to the U.N. Council whose actions are presented as too undetermined and hesitative (and thus maybe even a justicification to ignore the Council´s objections). President Bush even anticipates what will happen if the U.N. Council might not agree:
“[…] for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”
To emphasize his resoluteness, he points to prospective military actions by the means of successive sentences which entail the combination of we and will:
“ We will plan carefully; we will act with the full power of the United States military; we will act with allies at our side, and we will prevail.”
The modal “will” is not only used to refer to the future, but it is an announcement that expresses volition. To give one more example, President Bush even utters a clear provocation and concerning the U.N. Council, clearly distorting the UN´s purpose and showing his own perception of the international organization:
“The United Nations would betray the purpose of its founding, and prove irrelevant to the problems of our time.”
This resoluteness reaches its climax in the President´s closing statement in which he uses the pronoun we in combination with important key words to appeal to and remind the U.S. nation and its people of their destination as Americans, pointing to rather unilateral solution based on “American duties”:
“We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. And by our actions, we will secure the peace, and lead the world to a better day.”
This special application of the pronoun we does not merely call for assistance or compliance, but it automatically indicates (and takes for granted) agentive plurality, implying the concept of “manifest destiny” which is deeply rooted in the American mindset. Furthermore, this last declaration presents the end of an argumentative and convincing circle: to name the enemy and to show what the U.S. nation ought to do, President Bush bluntly starts his speech with the following (rather simple) words:
“Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace,and America´s determination to lead the world in confronting that threat. The threat comes from Iraq.”
He goes on to refer to the the Iraqui regime and its faults by a number of short and successive sentences:
“It arises directly from the Iraqui regime´s own actions – its history of aggression, and its drive toward an arsenal of terror.[…]It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism[…].
It is quite remarkable to see that when outlining this threat, President Bush first only uses the “Iraqi Regime” and it without mentioning Saddam Hussein´s name. The reduction to the pronoun it does not have a neutral meaning, but definitely creates a negative image and has a depreciatory effect. Furthermore, the President here distances himself and his nation from the Iraqui regime, we (the U.S.A. as a united nation) is opposed to it (a different and undefined enemy). The enemy thus is presented as an unknown, not trustworthy and sinister threat – and furthermore, it seems to be in a far distance (local as well as emotional). Only after having presented the threat, President Bush clearly mentions the regime´s leader and gives the enemy a name and a face:
“Members of Congress and of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm.”
Once more, it is interesting to see that the dictator´s name is applied for the first time when the President is adressing the Congress and the U.N.Council. He often repeats Saddam Hussein´s name to point to the alleged fact that Saddam Hussein is not only a threat to the U.S.A. but to the entire world and thus appeals to the share of responsibility of the U.N. Besides, President Bush uses his opponent´s name in connection with certain power- and meaningful keywords (which do not only refer to weapons of mass destruction, but also establish a link between the Iraqi regime and terrorism), which enhance the impression of a dangerous menace and the need for preventive action:
“Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.”
“Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror,[…]”
“[…]how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon.”
During his speech, the President seldom refers to Saddam Hussein simply as he, but most of the time repetitively pronounces the dictator´s name – for the audience, Saddam Hussein becomes synonymous with the menace itself. His name is also used in connection with several negative associations and metaphors, (see example above) but this will be discussed in chapter 3.
The speech “Their Finest Hour” held before the Commons by Winston Churchill on June 18, 1940 did not aim at justifying a prospective war, but at explaining the course of World War II and at giving good reasons to fight on (despite losses).
Churchill was known as a famous speaker, but he also was a man of political and military experience – this has to be borne in mind when analyzing his speech (and here: especially Churchill´application of pronouns, which reveals a lot not only about his attitudes and convictions, but about his background).
Churchill already starts his speech by using the pronoun I:
“I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster[…]”
He does not begin his speech with any inaugural words or words of welcome but directly refers to the military defeat of France and the role of the B.E.F., which also had to face severe losses. Churchill explains why the British Army was not able to support the French Army, and in order to consider the matter closed and to pave the way for presenting his thoughts and strategies (and of course the need) for further military action, he states:
“Now I put all this aside. I put it on the shelf,[…].
Churchill also briefly but articulately refers to preceding disagreements within the British Government and clearly demonstrates his own position:
“Let each man search his conscience and search his speeches. I frequently search mine. Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find we have lost the future. Therefore, I cannot accept the drawing of any distinctions between Members of the present Government.”
The use of the pronouns I and mine here have several effects: Churchill definitely shows personal involvement and does not exclude himself from past mistakes. He demonstrates his very personal responsibility and thereby enhances his own credibility and reliability. Furthermore, his words really make him appear as a role model and as a leader – he acknowledges disagreements within the British Government but points out how important it is to put them aside for the sake of a higher cause: the successful performance of the British military in the war.
To emphasize his military competence and strategic knowledge of the course of the war, as well as to remind his adressees of the British position in it, he states:
“Indeed, I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open; and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on,[…].”
The situation required a person with political and military experience and capabilities, someone who was able to analyze the course of the war and who could set up strategic options, take efficient measurements and act as a strong leader – Churchill definitely accepted and perfectly fitted this role. Once more, he points to his own experiences and willingness to take responsibility himself by referring to World War I:
“For the last thirty years, I have been concerned in discussions about the possibilities of oversea invasion, and I took the responisbility on behalf of the Admirality,at the beginning of the last war,[…].”
Moreover, Churchill also uses the pronoun I in connection with certain verbs to show his very personal attitude, namely his faith in the capabilities and prospective success of the British troops:
“I look forward confidently to the exploits of our fighter-pilots[…]” , “I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us; but I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it,[…]”
Since Churchill here shows his personal conviction, his words have the effect of encouragement and work as an appeal to (re-)gain pride and self-confidence.
His words emphasize his role not only as a political and moral, but again as a military leader, at the same time enable his listeners to identify with him: Churchill was idealistic but realistic, and if he, a man with a long political and military career, personally believed in the talents and success of the British military, everyone could do so.
Yet, Churchill does not confine himself to simple and populistic words of encouragement but gives solid reasons and arguments for the continuation of the war:
“There are a good many people who say, “[…]better die than submit to tyranny[…]. And I do not dissociate myself from them. But I can assure them that our professional advisers of the three Services unitedly advise that we should carry on the war,[…]”
“I have received from all these emninent men […]messages couched in the most moving terms in which they endorse our decision to fight on.”
The pronoun I here implies two levels: the personal and the professional level, which has a very convincing effect: Churchill admits that he personally agrees that anything would be better than to submit to tyranny, and thus he takes his place among the “common” people. But beyond, his personal attitude is enforced by his professional function as Prime Minister – not only is it his conviction that it is neccessary to continue the war, but he can also present the support of the Services and (even more important) of other nations, which enhances the soundness of his words and curtails doubts. In the final section of his speech, Churchill announces:
“ I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”
These words do not simply reflect Churchill´s judgement about the current status of the war, but they really express his expectations and demands and serve as a last personal appeal (or nearly as a blast of trumpets) and encouragement not to look back or to doubt, but to to believe in and to recall the power and the important role of the British Empire in this war.
So during his speech, Churchill clearly demonstrates where he stands, both as a single individual and as the British Prime Minister. By referring explicitly to himself by pronouns like I or mine, he on the one hand displaces himself open to attack, but at the same time presents himself as a steady and decisive person who is willing to take responsibility and to answer for his words, which lets him appear as a competent and trustworthy leader.
Still, the major aim of Churchill´s speech before the House of Commons was not only to give a report about the current state of affairs, but moreover to promote the necessity to fight on, to encourage and to moralize after the military disaster in France. For this purpose, he does not only adress the Members of Parliament, but the British Army as well as the entire British nation – in order to show that he himself is a part of it all (the government, the army and the nation), and to create a feeling of unity, Churchill uses the pronoun we with miscellaneous references.
First of all, Churchill points out that is vital for the whole British Government to put aside accusations and disputes within the governement and to act, as this difficult situation requires it, unaninmously:
“ We cannot afford it.”, “[…]if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”, “Without this concentrated power we cannot face what lies before us.”
He definitely includes himself by the pronoun we and thus admits not to be infalllible himself, which has a quite appealing and soliciting effect. At the same time, he stays within his role as the head of the government and reminds the Members of the House of Commons of their tasks and duties in order to be able to concentrate on a much more important cause, the war:
“ We are to have a secret Session on Thursday, and I should think that would be a better opportunity for the many earnest expressions of opinion which Members will desire to make and for the House to discuss vital matters[…].”
So after having considered the matter closed, Churchill gives an account of the British forces and capacities, interestingly introducing almost every phrase with we and have:
“ We have , therefore, in this Island today a very large and powerful military force.”
“ We have under arms at the present time in this Island over a million and a quarter men.”
“Behind these we have the Local Defense Volunteers, numbering half a million,[…]”
“ We have incorporated into our Defense Forces every man for whom we have a weapon.”
“ We have also over here Dominions armies.”
The repetitive use of we have serves several purposes: primarily, it is a strong affirmation of Britain´s military strength because the vast enumeration shall remind and most notably make it clear to the listeners that Great Britain does have a considerable military force at her disposal. The vigorous references to the nation´s military capabilities is supposed to resolve all doubt and emphasizes that Britain utterly is capable of facing the present challenge.
In these quotations, Churchill does not exclusively adress the Members of the House of Commons and the British Army, but the entire British nation – in times of war, it is vital not only to have a well-equipped army, but to strongly intensify feelings of unity, faith and patriotism.
The Prime Minister once more reminds the House of Commons of their responsibility and their important and leading function in establishing and perpetuating these feelings in order to appear faithful themselves:
“[…]and after all, we have a Navy. Some people seem to forget that we have a Navy. We must remind them.”
He continues to give an account of the state of the British Forces and viable strategic options, referring to the Forces but literally including himself (and the nation):
“[…] lying as we did close to the enemy´s main air power, we were copmelled to use only our submarines.” ,“During the battle in France, we gave very powerful and continuous aid to the French Army, both by fighters and bombers;[…]”.
Churchill, unlike other politicians, was indeed a man of military knowledge and experience, but surely he did not fight or intend to fight at the front himself. Still, his use of we here enhances the impression of personal commitment and involvement.
During his speech, Churchill frequently applies the pronoun we with different references, but selectively points to himself and his own opinion and convictions as an autonomous person. Interestingly, he also accentuates repeatedly the autonomy and important role of the British Empire in this war; he several times mentions the support of other nations and the Allies, but never uses the pronoun we to refer to this group, which somehow reflects the idea of a heroic but lone warrior:
“[…] we in this Island and in the British Empire will never lose our comradeship with the French people.”
“If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free[…]” , “But if w e fail, then the whole world[…]will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age […].”
This attitude seems quite presumptuous, but it again works as a very strong appeal not only to the British government or Army, but to the entire British nation to recall their strength and their duty to stand up to the challenge, to fight and to prevail. In the closing of his speech, Churchill directly adresses his audience (and again the entire nation):
“ Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
This final remark definitely has a very stirring impact on the listeners and the combination of let and us absolutely indicates agentive plurality and functions like an invitation or even a demand (especially in combination with the words brace and our duties) to face up to the important role which was imposed on the British nation by history and to act unanimously.
As shown, Churchill succinctly refers to disagreements within the government and points out that it is momentous to settle these differences in order to focus on a more important cause. To rule off these discrepancies, he uses certain pronouns which definitely create a psychological distance:
“There are many who would hold an inquest in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Governments and of Parliaments,[…]” , “ They seek to indict those who were responsible[…]” , “There are too many in it.”
In this example, Churchill also refers to present Members of the Government, but at the same time distances himself and his audience from the topic by the application of (indefinite) pronouns like many, those and even they. Thereby nobody is directly adressed, and the impression of another, a different and undefined group is evoked. He uses a similar device to talk about the contemporary government , to which he simply refers by the neutral form it:
“ It was formed in a moment of crisis […]” , “ It has received the almost unanimous support of both Houses of Parliament. Its Members are going to stand to together, and, subject to the House of Commons, we are going to govern the country and fight the war.”
Churchill here once more emphasizes and encompasses the inevitable coherence within the government by reminding its Members of the conditions under which it was formed and of their obligatory duties. The switch to the inclusive (and adressing) form we in combination with going-to future does not only work as an appeal, but as an imperative.
It is quite remarkable to see that Churchill in his entire speech not a single time adresses his audience by the pronoun you, but frequently uses the pronominal form we, which automatically includes his audience.
In order to identify the enemy, Churchill indeed directly mentions the Germans or Hitler, but in the first instance plainly labels and personifies them as the enemy:
“[… ]the enormous losses inflicted upon the enemy and the evident exhaustion of the enemy ,[…]”
The simple reduction to the word enemy semantically deprives this enemy of any characteristic and mainly human features and identity – thus, a strong hostile view of the enemy is created. In order to enforce this concept of the enemy and to highlight the serious threat he presents, Churchill repeatedly uses the word enemy (or also foe) in combination with several negative adjectives:
“[…] our dangerous foes.” , “[…] the enemy is crafty and cunning and full of novel treacheries and stratagems.” , “[…]remember, the enemy is crafty and there is no dirty trick he will not do.”
So the term enemy becomes an aggregation of all evil and negative and thus gives a clear concept of what all animosity and all efforts to fight should be directed at. But Churchill also mentions the enemy by his/their name, the Germans and refers to them by pronouns like those or they, which here again carry a negative and devaluing connotation and create a strong distance and hostility towards the foe:
“[…], whereas now they only have a couple fo heavy ships […].” , “We should be able to give those gentry a warm reception […], if they reach it in any condition to continue the dispute.”
Moreover, Churchill uses the term the Germans to give the enemy a face, and what is more, a very threatening one; in order to make his audience realize that it is necessary to gather absolutely all powers to fight the enemy and to foment the discord, he also enforces the concept of us vs. them by frequently presenting and comparing the strength of the German and the British Army:
“[…] all our best- trained and finest troops,[…] who have alreadey measured their quality against the Germans and found themselves at no disadvantage.” ,”[…] the Germans have conquered a large part of the coast line of Western Europe, and many small countries have been overrun by them.” ,”[…] the Germans will be able to concentrate their forces, […]upon us.
Thus, he makes the dreaded invasion of Great Britain appear not only as a threat, but as a logical consequence of the war, a consequence that imperatively requires to stand together and to concentrate all available powers in order to save the country. It is remarkable to observe that Churchill refers to the enemy rather by the Germans than in terms of their leader Adolf Hitler – in his entire speech, Churchill only thrice mentions Hitler´s name directly.
Interestingly, Churchill use the pronouns they and their (which, especially in reiterative use carry a rather negative connotation) not only to refer to his enemies, but to the French Allies; and moreover he opposes these references to the pronoun we:
“The French Government will be […] casting adrift their future if they do not continue the war in accordance with their Treaty obligations, from which we have not felt able to release them .”
“If we are now called upon to endure what they have been suffering, we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains,[…]”
Applying both pronouns here has an ambiguous effect: on the one hand, his words almost sound reproachful and like an admonition to the French Government not to neglect their duties but to keep to the agreements; on the other hand, Churchill explicitly assures the French people of Great Britain´s support. At the same time, he once more points out the very important and leading role (in this war) bestowed on the British nation.
As presented, pronouns, especially in a political and the context of war, can be applied pragmatically to serve several purposes and to achieve speficic effects on the listeners. The examples taken from speeches by President Bush and Prime Minister Churchill which have been analyzed in the previous chapters offer a range of examples for the pragmatic application of pronouns.
A comparison of the conscious use of pronouns in both speeches shows some parallels and congruences, but there are also some discernible differences. Why are there differences and correspondences, and what do they reveal?
First of all, when comparing both speeches, it has to be borne in mind under which circumstances and for what purpose each speficic speech was delivered. The speech by President Bush was held in 2002, a time when the U.S. nation just had to experience its own vulnerability for the first time on their own territory. In this time, in which consequently an atmosphere of shock, fear and distrust prevailed, it was President Bush´s task to convince “his” shattered nation of the necessity to face and maybe even fight a threat that definitely posed a challenge to American values like freedom, democracy and also national security – nevertheless, this threat was merely based on speculations and suspicions only.
When Prime Minister Churchill delivered his speech before the Commons in 1940, the situation was quite different – the Second World War was going on, the British nation definitely was in danger and urgently needed encouragement and a strong and competent leader to face the challenge. Nevertheless, both speeches, as every speech held in wartime, were designed to strengthen the nation´s self-confidence, to enforce patriotism, to identify and present a perilous enemy.
The pronoun most frequently used in both speeches, even though with slightly distinctive references, is we. The overall effect of this pronominal form is, as depicted, the impression of inclusiveness, active participation as well as involvement and commitment; it evokes a feeling of unity and intensifies patriotic sentiments.
President Bush applies the pronoun we in at least three different senses, and he frequently switches between these senses, which brings about a distortion and obliteration of real causes,facts and surmises. Furthermore, these switches enable him to handle and to distribute responsibility: by using we to refer to the UN and other nations, the Iraqi threat appears as a menace to the entire world, and thus it seems as if the whole world supported the U.S. plans to fight this menace. Moreover, the President´s references to his administration´s achievements (like we´ve discovered, we know) definitely accentuates this administration`s competence, knowledge, and what is more, credibility. President Bush knew that the public was sceptical, and that´s why he frequently appeals to feelings of patriotism and unity – and these feelings can be best invoked by the presentation of a clear threat and the creation of an atmosphere of fear. He applies the pronoun I only in a minimalistic way: he still acknowledges his position as the President and shows personal commitment, but taking into account the entire speech, he appears almost inseparable from and coalesced with his administration (and thus, somehow as unassertive and hiding behind it).
In contrast, Prime Minister Churchill conspicuously applies the pronominal form I. By this device, he overtly accepts and admits his personal responsibility and commitment. He explicity demonstrates his position as the nation´s leader, his own attitude and his willingness to avouch for his words, which utterly enhances his trustworthiness, steadiness and power of persuasion.
Churchill also prevalently uses the form we, but mainly, he refers to we as the British military, which he still is part of (as the wartime minister), and the entire nation, the British people. Thereby, he acts as a role model and at the same time creates a deep sentiment of solidarity and patriotism.
President Bush´s speech focuses on the enemy, the Iraq and the leader of its regime, Saddam Hussein – Bush repeatedly uses the pronoun it in a pejorative sense to depict the Iraq and frequently mentions the dictator´s name. Somehow, this alludes to the need for affirmation– the audience still has to be convinced, and they will be best convinced with a clear concept of the dangerous enemy. Churchill only rarely uses Hitler´s name to present the foe, but most of the time simply refers to the Germans or the enemy – considering the course of the Second World War, no further definition or justifications are needed – fears do not have to be stirred, but the British peoples´ tenacity, motivation and cognition of Great Britain´s important role need to be invigorated (and with his appealing speech, Churchill surely achieved these effects).
In short, a close reading of the pragmatic application of pronouns in both speeches reveals that pronouns can serve (and have served) to reflect intrinsic attitudes and convictions, to arouse and enforce certain feelings, but also to manipulate and to veil meanings and facts.
Political discourse and especially speeches that deal with war have to be stirring, appealing and convincing, hence they are loaded with several stylistic devices such as metaphorizations, nominalizations and techniques of persuasion.
According to Piotr Cap, there are three major illocutionary forces of metaphorization: the stimulation of emotions, the enforcement of bewilderment and perplexity and the creation of mental intimacy. Furthermore, the pragmatics of metaphor can have the effect of semantic neutralization as well as intensification. Nominalizations mainly aim at a unification of attitudes and the obfuscation of agent and/or object and action. Furthermore, in nominalized sentences, special key words that arouse interest and attention are used repetitively. Techniques of persuasion comprise several aspects and theories such as arguments, fear appeals, consistency theory or the stimulus-response model.
All these devices can frequently be found embedded in the framework of speeches, but they also often merge, overlap or they are combined.
Especially speeches delivered in wartime offer abundant examples of these devices. The following chapters will show some selected examples of metaphors, nominalizations, and techniques of persuasion taken from the speeches by President Bush and Winston Churchill. They will be anaylized in regard to their specific intentions, cultural and political backgrounds as well as effects.
Especially because President Bush´s adress was designed to present the Iraqi Regime as a serious threat to the U.S. nation, to convince a sceptical public and, what is more, to let the prospective war against the Iraq appear justified, his speech contains abundant examples of metaphors, nominalized sentences and persuasive devices. The President presents apparent facts and arguments which claim that Saddam Hussein possesses and develops weapons of mass destruction. Since maybe these statements are not sufficient to convince the public, he builds up on American fears and underlines the threat the Iraq presents by establishing a link to terrorism:
“Over the years,Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists.”
This metaphor absolutely stirs up emotions, causes perplexity and distrust and affects even a critical hearer – the actions of the Iraqi Regime seem not only to include the development of weapons of mass destruction, but also the support and tight bondage with terrorist networks. Especially the “safe haven” image enhances such emotions. Another metaphorisation in Bush´s speech works as a fear appeal and as a justicfication for preventive action:
“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
This example also builds up on the people´s fear by anticipating the worst possible consequences and by depicting a catastrophe (even though the Iraqi Regime never articulated such a threat). Nevertheless, the image of the smoking gun, and worse, of an atomic explosion, which appears as the absolut superlative of any threat, semantically intensifies the need for urgent action and displays preventive measurements almost as defensive measurements.
President Bush also uses a very strong (but also striking) metaphor: he personifies the world and its fruitless efforts to deprive Saddam Hussein of his power, again depicting that the Iraqi Regime is perceived as a menace by the entire world:
“The world has also tried economic sanctions […] limited military strikes […] no-fly zones […] – and in the last year alone, the Iraqi military has fired upon American and British pilots more than 750 times.”
On the one hand, this image conveys the impression of a world-wide awareness of Iraq as a peril and of shared responsibility; furthermore, since all the measurements taken so far seemingly turned out to be ineffective, further military action seems appropriate and necessary (and hence justifiable). On the other hand, (especially to an non-American listener), the last phrase seems to infer that President Bush is referring to the U.S.A. and Great Britain only when he mentions “the world”, so he once more outlines America´s role as leader of the world.
Some metaphors highlight and justifiy the invasion and the ensuing liberation of Iraq as means for a higher cause:
“[…], protect our nation, and help others to find freedom of their own.”
This metaphor indeed has a very appealing effect since freedom is one of the salient values the American society is based on. The war is simply allegorized as aid and helping hand for another people to adopt this freedom (even though no one really asked for that freedom which would be achieved by military means - again we can find here the motive of manifest destiny). Thus, the American nation is portrayed as a friend, and President Bush even ties up to this concept by a personification of America:
“America is a friend to the people of Iraq.”
In addition to these examples, Bush applies also a subtype of metaphor: the synecdoche. Just as Cap argues, “A classic example […] is the tendency to perceive states in terms of their leaders, ” which seems to be true not only for Bush Senior, but also for Bush Junior, who frequently mentions Saddam Hussein´s name to refer to the Iraq. In fact, he literally and semantically differentiates between Saddam Hussein as the tyrannical leader who has to be dispossessed and the Iraqi people, who need to be liberated. This distinction facilitates the perception of the war as legitimate.
Since nominalizations often aim at the unification of attitudes, politicians often use nominalizations of concepts people regard as basic and indisputable. Since some of his arguments indeed could be questioned, Bush also applies such effective nominal forms in his speech to attain such a unification:
“As Americans, we want peace – we work and sacrify for peace.” , “America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights,[…]” , “[…]we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression.”
In order to persuade his listeners, President Bush establishes a consensus about common and shared beliefs and values every American citizen agrees and relies on. Thereby, the hearer´s share and support is attained. Subsequently, the President can extend his argumentation by building up on that consensus and by presenting the Iraq as a serious threat to these basic values.
Beside their function as unification of attitudes, nominalised phrases can also obfuscate and blur facts and even the reference to the agent:
“Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us.”
Bush here uses a gerundive type; since a subject only introduces the next phrase, the focus of attention here is on the word knowing, but without having a clearly identified agent. Another example where nominalization is used for highlighting:
“Failure to act would embolden other tyrants,[…]”
Winning and being successful is also crucial to the American society, and failure to act here is in fact simply equated with being craven and the neglegance of American duties by not going to war (which Bush also denotes as “inaction”).
Nevertheless, besides all these examples of very strong, appealing and also convincing devices, one example of inconsistency shall be adduced:
“[…]---or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”
This contradiction combines two concepts that normally do not go together; to establish peace by the means of military forces, in short violence, is not really consistent. Still, this paradox blends and euphemizes Bush´s real intentions and again points out America´s self-conception as a powerful hegemon.
All in all, the metaphors, nominalizations and different techniques of persuasion applied by President Bush reflect and, what is more, build up on the values and ideals as well as on the fears of the American society. The Iraq is displayed as an absolute endangerment to this society, and any dilatoriness or even further attempts of negotiating appear as futile and hazardous – the devices Presidents Bush employs make preventive military action seem imperative “to secure the peace, and lead the world to a better day”.
Winston Churchill was known as a famous (and in some causes also notorious) orator. His very special,powerful and effective rhetoric was characterized by very strong and appealing metaphors, catching phrases, repetitions, alliterations, a sometimes doom-loaded language as well as literary and historical allusions. At the same time, his style was pragmatic and rather simple, hence accessible, comprehensible and appealing to his audience.
The aim of Churchill´s speech was to fortify and to encourage the British nation to fight and to defend their country against a dangerous enemy.
To directly adress the Members of the House of Commons and to remind them that because of the critical situation (the occupation of France) it is more vital than ever to Great Bitain to have a government which is capable of acting, Churchill employs a metaphorization that acts as an exhortation and foreboding:
“[…]if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
The past and the present in this metaphor are equated and could be supplemented with government, and thus directs the members´ attention to recall their own responsibilities towards the future of the entire British nation.
Churchill was also, as shown, known as a realistic and experienced man and political as well as military leader, and his rhetoric appeals to and stirs up emotions, but at the same time reflects these realism and experience:
“[…], in casting up this dread balancesheet and contemplating our dangers with a disillusioned eye, I see grreat reason for intense vigilance and exertion, but none whatever for panic or despair.”
The image of the “balancesheet” and of the “disillusioned eye” indicate that Churchill is aware of the fact and admits that Great Britain is not invulnerable and already had to learn this lesson; at the same time, his honesty and sobriety enhance his credibility and the faith in his qualities as a leader. One further example of his imagery, keen and appealing rhetoric is the following metaphor, in which he refers to to the alliance with (and the commitment to) France:
“[…]—we have proclaimed our willingness at the darkest hour in French history to conclude a union of common citizenship in this struggle.”
“The darkest hour” is a typical example of Churchill´s sometimes rather doom-loaded language. “The union of common citizenship” again enforces the notion of unification (and the necessity to fight the enemy with concentrated forces); what is more, it encompasses the concept of brotherhood in war. It is remarkable to observe that Churchill employs the most evocative metaphors towards the end of his speech. After words of encouragement and also exhortations, he points out the grave importance of the successful perfomance of Great Britain in the impending battle:
“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”
This very impressing utterance somehow is self-explanatory, but clearly imposes a profound task on Great Britain – namely to fight for and to grant survival, not only for the British Empire, but for the entire (Christian) humanity.
On top of that, the term civilization also implies its opposite: savages. In order to even enforce Great Britain´s historical responsibility, Churchill uses also a strong metaphor to depict the consequences of a failure:
“But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age.”
The image of the “Dark Age” has several references: Generally, it describes an early time during the Middle Ages, when civilized values had not been developed and violence prevailed; in some cases it also refers to the period of time shortly after the Romans left Britannia – so maybe a very “national” metaphor.
Another stylistic device that is found frequently with Churchill is the use of repetitions. As already shown in chapter 2.2., Churchill begins a number of successive sentences by we have:
“We have, therefore, in this Island today a very large and powerful military force.” , “We have under arms […] over a million and a quarter men.” , “We have also over here Dominions armies.”
The repetitive use of we have strongly emphasises Britain´s military capabilities - the long account thus serves as a confirmation and recognition of Great Britain´s military strength. It furthermore aims at diminishing doubts and fears and is an appeal to recall and to have faith in this strength. Another conspicuous example for such repetitions are combined with a historical analogy:
“[…]I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it, like the brave men of Barcelona, and will be able to stand up to it, and carry on in spite of it,[…]”
Repetitions mainly are used for accentuation, and here Churchill clearly emphasises and shows his personal conviction – again he encourages and acts as a role model and leader; not only does he want his listeners to have faith in their country and their abilities, but he demonstrates his own reliance and confidence in his people. He propably uses the example of Barcelona to refer to the aerial bombardment of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War – a city which bravely stood and resisted the attacks.
Another stylistic tactic to remind and convince his listeners of Great Britain´s efficiencies is a special type of argument, the two-sided message: Churchill does not only give an account of his own country´s forces, but opposes them to the power of the enemy:
“[…], a very great many injured machines and men do get down safely […] and live to fight another day; whereas all the injured enemy machines and their complements will be total losses […]” , “[…] our fighter strength is stronger at the present time realtively to the Germans […]” , “It is true that the German bomber force is superior in numbers to ours;but we have a large bomber force also[…]”
The two-sided argument, especially in form of an opposition, enforces motivation and the sense of competition and rivalry; furthermore, it also refers to the concept of us vs. them.
Beyond, Churchill employs a range of key words and catching phrases which focus the listener´s attention and conjure up and reflect his (and of course, the British) ideological view:
“[…] these great communities far beyond the oceans who have been built up on our laws and on our civilazation,[…] are absolutely devoted to the ancient Motherland.”
By his referance to England as the “ancient Motherland”, he does not only highlight Great Britain´s leading and momentous role in this war, but furthermore depicts Great Britain as the native country of values and doctrines the entire civilized world is based on and that are to defend; values such as Christianity, democracy and freedom.
In addition, Churchill was aware of Great Britain's position as the last stronghold of resistance against the German conquest, that´s why he repeatedly refers to these values and the necessity to face the challenging task which lay before the British nation. So he wants his nation to accept and perform their historical duty, closing his speech with the famous words:
“[…], if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” “
All in all, Winston Churchill´s speech “Their Finest Hour” is a perfect framework mainly consisting of consciously and effectively applied stylistic devices, which unfortunately cannot all be analyzed in detail here. There is one more informal device which makes the strong metaphors and appealing and meaningful keywords even more convincing: his honesty. As Robert Courts stated it, “[…] the words reflected the man to an unusual degree.” Churchill´s style included the presentation of objective facts, but also the reflection of his own experiences, knowledge and convictions. He himself was convinced that Great Britain was capable to prevail, and his speech might be seen as one of the reasons for Great Britain´s staying power and final success.
Both speeches are augmented with stylistic devices and persuavise arguments.
Of course, parallels can be drawn: both orators, Churchill and Bush, appeal to basic and salient values of their societies and thus gain support. But whereas President Bush struggles for images and arguments that let an unjustifiable war appear justified and portray a menace to the American society that did not exist (at least not directly), Prime Minister Churchill elucidates a real threat and encourages his people to stand up to the heavy challenge history imposed on them. Both techniques are effective; however, after a closer observation, the arguments and metaphors presented by President Bush sometimes appear almost overemphasized, and furthermore intermingle, distort and even disguise real facts and intentions, which can also be inferred from slight logical contradictions (and even open lies) in his speech.
The devices applied by Churchill do not only serve their purpose to call attention and to encourage, but mostly they are really convincing: Churchill uses a very powerful and also grandiloquent language, but since he does not only highlight Great Britain´s power but also admits weaknesses and presents real facts, his words are absolutely credible. His credibility is even more enforced since his speech also mirrors his personal belief and faith, his experience and his willingness to take action and responsibilty to defend Great Britain.
In short, an anlalysis reveals that the devices applied by Bush base on fear and also misrepresentations, those applied by Churchill base on honesty, encouragement and conviction – maybe that´s why President Bush frequently was and still is being criticized, whereas Churchill is still known as one of the greatest orators.
And in fact, in seems that in the end, politicians seem to be judged and perceived not only by their linguistic abilities, but also by their real actions.
Explorations in political discourse. Frankfurt am Main [u.a.]: Lang Verlag, 2002.
Politically speaking : the pragmatic analysis of political language.
Oxford [u.a.] : Blackwell, 1990.
Churchill online, Churchill and Oratory.
Source : http://www.courts.fsnet.co.uk/churchilloratory.htm
President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat
Remarks by the President on Iraq
Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal Cincinnati, Ohio
“Their Finest Hour”
June 18, 1940
House of Commons
 Taken from the chapter “Political Pronouns and Pragmatic Implications”, in: Wilson, John. Politically speaking : the pragmatic analysis of political language. Oxford [u.a.] : Blackwell, 1990.
 Separation from the government as well as distributing responsibilty among the governement by the use of pronouns becomes crucial when considering the peculiarities of the American system of government, where the President and the Congress are really separated concerning their authorities, and Congress even controls the President.
 Referring to 09/11.
 Here, again the order might reflect the President´s intrinsic attitude.
 It is important to mention that on 09/11, the American population had to become aware of the fact that the U.S.A. are vulnerable- this experience shaped a new kind of patriotism. Of course it is a very good strategy to psychologically build up on that emotion in order to create an atmosphere of fear and hate.
 Churchill refers to the Prime Ministers, Mr. Mackenzie King of Canada, Mr. Menzies of Australia, Mr. Fraser of New Zealand and General Smuts of South Africa.
 It is to mention here that when Neville Chamberlain, who pursued a (rather ineffective) policy of appeasement had resigned his office, Churchill became the new Prime Minister of an All Party Government, which only occurred twice in British history. Churchill did not only become Prime Minister, but he also was wartime minister.
 Cap, Piotr. Explorations in political discourse. Frankfurt am Main [u.a.]: Lang Verlag, 2002, p. 71.
 Cap, Piotr. Explorations in political discourse. Frankfurt am Main [u.a.]: Lang Verlag, 2002, p. 73.
 Ebd. p. 78.
 Courts, Robert. Churchill and Oratory (for further information see appendix).
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