ПОД - СЕКЦИЯ 5. Языковедение и иностранные языки. 


Бабій Ю.М.

Викладач ХНЕУ


The world is impossible without politics, which can be defined as a sphere of human activity directed to gaining, retaining and exercising power by one individual or group of individuals over another individual or group. Few would disagree that almost all people are more or less affected by politics. Thus, it is quite safe to suggest that politics unites us either as those who exercise power or those subjected to it. Similarly, language is the phenomenon common to all people. As a result, politics cannot but largely employs language as a means of reaching its aims. Moreover, politics has re-shaped the common language into a political language.

According to Xing Lu [4, p. 490], political language serves ‘to shape thought, guide action, induce commitment, and control the public mind’ and its role, function, and effect are similar irrespective of the society, country or regime. As politics is action in its essence, political language or political discourse can be treated as a purposeful social communicative act in the sphere of politics.

In examining the concept of political discourse, we singled out the notion of political narrative by which we mean a combination of various discourses evolving around a certain political action or a certain politician. We identify at least two major types of discourse in political narrative: political discourse and mass media discourse. The former type is inevitable here since political narrative forms a sub-type of political discourse. The latter type constitutes the so-called “shell” for the political discourse, the form into which it is “dressed” in order to become a narrative. In other words, the combination of political language, and the characteristics and forms of mass media discourse constitute political narrative.

The aforesaid combination gives forth the typical features of political narrative. In fact, the pattern of the latter is mostly that of a mass media form (a newspaper/magazine article, radio/TV/Internet coverage), while the content is that of political discourse. It is worth mentioning here that mass media discourse is not the only possible “shell” for political narrative. The latter may be realised in other forms as well: oral manifestation, rumours, etc.

In the study of political narrative it is necessary to examine both components as they are equally present there. It is the purpose of the author, or those behind him, that determines the dominance of this or that component. If the purpose is mostly to inform, then mass media discourse prevails, while if the main purpose is to influence the recipients'’ opinion political discourse comes to the foreground. Still, the “shell” will remain distinctive regardless of which purpose dominates.

Actually, political narrative can be compared to a complex cake. What we see on the surface – the form and composition, external features, means of attracting and retaining our attention – is the “shell”, mass media discourse. Political discourse, the real stuff, lies beneath, is hidden from our eyes. The outer layer attracts us, while the inner component influences us.

Political narrative can be treated in two ways. The first of them is functional and determines political narrative as a narrative flow of information, verbal evaluation, and concealed meaning. This approach helps us to understand how individual texts become a continuous hypertext, and how this hypertext operates in the social reality. Another way is broad and theoretical, and defines political narrative as a combination of various discourses. This interpretation allows us to see the double nature of political narrative and consequently separates it from political discourse.

For the purpose of the present study we suggest to follow the second approach and to examine the role of political discourse in political narrative. The primary method we use for this study is reframing. Frame analysis, according to Deborah Tannen, is ‘a type of discourse analysis that asks: What activity are speakers engaged in when they say this? What do they think they are doing by talking in this way at this time?’ We assume it possible to use the framework of ideological criticism, or ‘to discover and make visible the dominant ideology or ideologies embedded in an artefact and the ideologies that are being muted in it’ [4, p. 489]. By discovering the ideology behind the written acts it becomes possible to re-interpret the meaning of these acts on the whole, and achieve the goal of our study, i.e. to establish the role of political discourse in political narrative.

We argue that political discourse in the articles under examination helps establish political and ideological dominance of a certain group of candidates in the election campaign, as well as contributes to the popularity of the Mayor in his constant opposition to the Governor. We also emphasise that the analysed publications, though dominated by political discourse, remain within the “shell” of mass media discourse, whereas articles marked as paid for by the campaign teams of candidates have almost no connection with mass media discourse proper except for the place of their publication. We conclude by drawing out some of the implications of our analysis.

Ideology is defined as ‘a system of political, legal, moral, aesthetic, religious and philosophical beliefs, values and ideas which forms people’s attitudes towards reality’ [1, p. 475]. The manifestation and practice of ideology, according to Xing Lu [4, p. 495], are revealed ‘through political language characterised by slogans.’ Condit and Lucatis [4, p. 496] identify three functions of ideographs (slogans):

  • as a justification for action;
  • as a shared symbol for participation in a rhetorical culture;
  • as a means of persuasion.’ These ideographs are made by politicians/journalists with the aim of changing and controlling the mind of the public. Political slogans are further considered ‘an objective means of persuasion, and a way to raise political consciousness, and organise certain cultural attitudes’ [4, p. 499].

We suggest adopting these ideas on slogans to analysing the headings of newspaper articles. It is possible to argue that headings, titles and short subtitles often bear the same functions as slogans, have the same form (brief and idiomatic), and equally influence the public. It may be further claimed that by now political slogans in this country have lost their persuasive force, and have come out of broad use. On the other hand, newspaper articles remain a powerful source of political persuasion and shaping political attitudes, or the so-called political “cultivation and polishing“. For this reason we assume that in the course of our study the notions of slogans, ideographs and headings should be equalled.

It is important for the reader that the beginning of a text contains the main information of this text. That is why the major pieces of information come at the beginning of an article: in its title, subtitle, and the first paragraph. The same principle applies to separate paragraphs of the text, with the main information at their beginning. By analysing the titles it becomes possible to analyse the whole bulk of political narrative from the point of view of its functional meaning, its role in the political campaign under consideration. In other words, the analysis of the titles helps us to classify the instances of political narrative and single out certain groups, which taken separately seem to present various political narratives, but all have a single concealed meaning and, thus, form one political narrative. These groups are: (1) the Regional Duma obedient to the Governor; (2) a negative image of the Governor and his political, economic, and ideological mistakes and failures; (3) the scandal around the Regional budget that encroaches upon interests of Kharkov; (4) the election campaign, and illegal actions of the Regional Election Commission before and after the elections.

As some scholars point out, ‘We live in the age of the permanent campaign, in which incumbents are always looking toward the next election. Furthermore, rather than serving to bring candidates and elected officials closer to their constituents, the constant, immediate eye of broadcast and cable media dampen the prospects for a candid disclosure and discussion. Engineering a candidate’s image is a full-time, resource-draining political necessity.’ [2, p. 78]. These words very well apply to the political narrative in question. As far as an election campaign begins long before its official start, mass media are ready to make their own contribution, and not to miss time and opportunity for their political rhetoric, which blooms just at the time of campaigning of all sorts. It should be borne in mind also that no media in the world are absolutely independent from any political influence and pressure; therefore, one cannot delude himself about the real nature of what is written or said by journalists, especially during election campaigns. Even if an article is not written by a candidate, it has certainly passed an editorial selection, which would not allow it to be published unless it met rigid political requirements.

Since the articles under examination are taken from the newspaper published by the City Administration and on its money, you cannot expect anything other than a positive image of the Mayor, and a negative image of the Governor. Consequently, the majority if not all of the articles will tell the reader about how “good” are the candidates-allies of the mayor (who is one of the candidates himself), and how “bad” – their opponents. On a larger scale, the positive picture will be extended to the City Administration, City Duma, while the negative picture of the Regional Duma will dominate, because the factor of “voting against” remains one of the strongest in the modern history of Russia.

In the first place, mass media create a picture of total submission and obedience of the Regional Duma to the Governor’s power, which brings forth an implication of the necessity for the change of the deputies. ‘Our hearts require changes’, as was sung at the dawn of perestroika. And it all began quite peacefully with the usual arguments, counter-arguments and mutual attacks. One of the articles, for example, was entitled “Negative results of a five-year long being in power” and dwelt upon the Governor’s economic and political errors. But the end of election didn’t put an end to this sub-narrative: “Who needs political jerking” (on the attempts to deactivate electronic voting system in the newly elected Duma and, thus, to make deputies pass or reject the bills in favour of the Governor, because hand-voting is revealing and doesn’t let the deputies vote freely in fear of the Governor’s anger). Other articles describe the Governor’s policy as destructive for the Region’s industry and agriculture. So, article after article the media prepared the electorate for the election and clarified its necessity.

In the second place, there broke the budget scandal, when the Regional Duma passed the Budget Bill which encroached dramatically upon the financial interest of the city of Kharkov. The Law further worsened position of Kharkov jeopardising its central status in the Region. It was especially evident in comparison with the privileges of other cities and towns. The Law gave the Mayor’s team the best opportunity to win points in the campaign, moreover, to beat the Governor prematurely, by creating the image of a victimised city. Nothing could have been better masterminded by the cleverest think-tanks. The Regional Duma loyal to the Governor cooked both its own and the Governor’s geese. The general tone of the articles becomes more idiomatic and sharp: “Ah, Kharkov-city, you are so divested…”, “Deputies, don’t betray Kharkov!”, “Deputies mustn’t cave in like this”, “Kharkov’s belly robbed to cover Region’s back”, “In whose throat is Kharkov stuck”. It is important to realise that the Ukrainians have always preferred victims to oppressors and “thought with their hearts, not minds.” It was only natural that the Governor’s team was defeated severely in the December election in spite of all attempts by the Regional Election Commission (REC) to resist. Pictures of the winners were published on the front page under the title “Congratulations on the Victory! There are now more patriots of Kharkov in the Duma”.

It goes without saying that mass media played the decisive role in the election campaign, thus realising the main purposes of political discourse: to influence, persuade, guide and control the public mind. These functions were excellently performed by the journalists. The electorate was greatly in favour of the Mayor and his allies. The information contained in the articles was organised into several frames: (1) frame of negative image of the Duma, the Governor and the TVI; (2) frame of budget infringement on Kharkov; (3) frame of a fair fight for the city’s rights. These frames may be termed as political scenarios. They are initiated and promoted by the politicians, and fall within the domain of political discourse. Therefore, the volume of the latter is high in the articles. But they are written by journalists and do not directly call for political action. Consequently, the articles under discussion fall within the frameworks of political narrative defined at the beginning of the present study.

The mass media response to the election campaign was quite misleading for the public, as it produced a large amount of uncertainty among the former supporters of the Governor. His image was badly injured by the disclosure of some risky ventures of his Administration in the regional economy and his own political vacillation. The most alarming persuasive effect of the media campaign was the loss of memory and conscience, which led people to forget that during all previous elections the Mayor and the Governor took turns in offering friendship to one another according to the political situation of the time. They more than once have pretended to be allies against some third party. But one rather important consideration which tends to be forgotten is that there are no friends in politics, especially between equally power-seeking persons, and this election campaign has proved it.

Analysis of the media coverage also reveals the growing incursion of black PR technologies in campaigning in general and the mass media in particular. Huge amounts of money spent on the political promotion of one candidate and the political sinking of another resulted in a snowfall of political discourse in the media. The authors of various diatribes resorted to all possible verbal means of achieving their goals. Once again we observe a vast use of metaphors and other stylistic devices aimed at reviving imagery. It is quite interesting to single out metaphors by which the Governor and his team are described in the opposition newspaper: ‘flocks of bureaucrats’, ‘the Governor’s Family’, ‘oligarch structures’, ‘flabby column of lured federal workers’, ‘inert Vice-Governor’, ‘grand master of intrigues’.

It is interesting to note that the political narrative under examination abounds in metaphors of the same group as in the political narrative about Clinton-Lewinsky scandal: metaphors of war and struggle. The following list of metaphors and idiomatic expressions was taken from just one article: ‘the struggle for the Duma’, ‘to mobilise the Administration’, ‘bombardment of the enemies’, ‘a grand battle’, ‘unlimited looting’, ‘obscene dancing on political corpses’, ‘general mobilisation’, ‘counterattacks’, ‘countless army’, ‘Victory Parade’, ‘to attack’, ‘disorderly firing’, ‘heavy artillery’, ‘to wait in ambush’, ‘to shoot all the bullets’, ‘frontal attack’, ‘The Regional Administration was the first to strike’, ‘the election battle’, ‘the outcome of the war’. These two political narratives, so different in contents and active participants, are so similar in their aims, methods and means: they possess the same lingo-stylistic features that help us to differentiate them from political discourse proper and mass media discourse proper. These features include: plurality of narrators (journalists, candidates, political scientists, deputies, officials, etc.); duration (several months); information of various types (facts, evaluations, concealed meaning); wide use of terms and stylistic devices.

This study has examined a particular political narrative as a means of political influence. Four implications can be drawn from this analysis for the evaluation of ideological campaigns in the context of Ukraine’s modern history.

First, the political discourse in question forms one of two integral parts of political narrative, the other form being that of mass media discourse. One cannot make a clear division between the two, because they are interwoven and the boundaries between them are neither clear-cut nor decisive. At the same time, political discourse dominates the narrative. The reason for this is not hard to find – election campaign is rather a sensitive matter and falls within the domain of overt political fight. Still, the “shell” of mass media discourse remains the only medium that allows “them” (politicians) to reach and affect a wide range of “us” (the public). No other means of communication can bring these two antithetical sides of social life closer together.

Second, the political discourse in the examined narrative accomplished its purpose and established political and ideological dominance of certain candidates, contributed to the Mayor’s popularity, closed ranks of the urban electorate around the Mayor’s team, helped the latter to win elections in the key constituencies. This proves that political discourse has a very powerful social potential even or probably thanks to, being part of political narrative. The public minds are easily taken and carried away by the strategies of political discourse. These strategies are directed towards implementation and justification of political tasks. The political discourse employed in the narrative appears to be a powerful rhetorical form of persuasion.

Third, there exists one and only political narrative dealing with a certain event or a certain personality regardless of how many arenas (i.e. mass media forms) is involved. It is the point of view on a situation that may be diametrically opposite, i.e. forms of political representation, political discourse and its purposes differ in different mass media “shells” and depend on political and financial sponsorship. The articles quoted here present a one-sided view, often extreme and emotionally charged. But all these discourses deal with essentially the same social situation and, thus, form one universal political narrative.

Finally, through an analysis of this political narrative and its comparison with other narratives, it becomes clear that rhetorical strategies and techniques, stylistic devices, compositional principles and other linguistic features are essentially the same in all political narratives. These similarities suggest that although political narratives may differ in facts, their rhetorical means and lingo-stylistic peculiarities bear a close resemblance to one another.


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2.      Jaffe, J. M. Interactive Mass Media and Political Participation. - 1994.

3.      Tannen D. Discourse Analysis.

4.      Xing Lu. An ideological/cultural analysis of political slogans in Communist China // Discourse and Society. – 1999. – № 4. – P. 487-508.