Critical Discourse Analysis and the Party Conventions

My project was using Critical Discourse Analysis on two speeches: one from Donald Trump and one from Hillary Clinton, in order to uncover how power was established, subverted, and maintained through their language use.

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Abstract: How presidential candidates’ language use demonstrates, reinforces, and subverts power

Language use in presidential politics is, inherently, a negotiation of power and power structures. While all language use can be seen in this way, the implications of the presidential nominees’ language use are deep-rooted and far-reaching. Language plays a critical role in how politicians project their platform and attempt to convey their competence for the job. Researching the language of politics at the highest and most performative level can reveal systems of dominance and power that are reflected not only in the ideologies of the politicians themselves, but also in the ideologies of the people who support them. The way a politician uses language, how they buy into or reject underlying structures of dominance, can affect the way people feel toward them, either consciously or not. Analyzing how the presidential nominees in the 2016 election cycle use language to convey power and maintain, create, or subvert power structures is particularly of interest during this politically charged and nebulous time of potentially drastic change. The use of Critical Discourse Analysis can help uncover these implicit and explicit ideas of power expressed by presidential politicians, allowing for a greater understanding of the politicians’ stances.

Post 3: Summary and Conclusions on Linguistic Relativity

As I conclude my research, I have come to realize that the topic of linguistic relativity is immensely huge. From all of the different languages that can be studied to all of the different aspects of cognition that can be tested, there is so much out there that my initial proposition evaluating all of the current research on linguistic relativity was deemed impossible pretty early on. But that didn’t stop me from trying to come to my own consensus based on various books that argued both for and against linguistic relativity and many journal articles.

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Post 2: Learning more about the debate on Linguistic Relativity

As I continued my research, I realized that the Sapir Whorf hypothesis has undergone much development since it was first introduced and the reaction to it has changed dramatically. When it was first introduced, it was relatively well received until Whorf’s claims about native American languages were proven wrong as in the “Eskimo 100 words for snow” situation, which was greatly exaggerated from four up to one hundred. Many of Whorf’s claims about language and thought were later disproved and the theory lost favor in the scientific community, caused also by the introduction of the Chomskean Universal Grammar. With this theory, it was thought that language could have no influence on thought if the general properties of language were all universal. Since then, there has been a resurgence of interest for linguistic relativity, in part spear headed by Lera Boroditsky’s articles in favor of linguistic relativity which are actually what caught my interest when one of them was published in Scientific American back in 2011. She presents an eye catching argument for linguistic relativity using examples from her own research on topics such as the effect of language on assigning blame and the affect of language on conceptions of time. However in the time since his work has been published, there has been much backlash against some of her work. After analyzing one of her papers, the cross-linguistic differences in eyewitness memory she found, though statistically significant, were just barely and could not be said to have any significant real world application outside of the carefully controlled lab setting. In addition, her results on different conceptions of time due to language could not be replicated in six separate experiments.

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