Politics is concerned with power, and the language that politicians use reflects their craving for it. Through language politicians hope to make decisions that will influence other people’s behaviour and even their values. Power can be gained in many ways, in a dictatorship by force, in a democracy through law, or often a much more successful technique; through the power of persuasion. This method is often found in political speeches, and is used to coerce people into embracing a politician’s goals.
Much background reading was done into politics and the English language, including “The Language of Politics” by Adrian Beard and George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”, in order to gain a deeper insight into this distinct style of language. “The Language of Politics” highlights the different stances that political parties may take e.g. left or right wing, and this is often reflected in the politician’s speeches. Left wing parties such as Labour are often socialist or radical groups, and right wing parties, such as the Conservatives are often conservative or nationalist. Both types of party have very different values. Beard also points out some of the techniques that politicians use in speeches in order to be persuasive. For example: metaphors, contrastive pairs and tripartite structures.
Orwell points out, in his essay, “…political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” He also stresses, “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell suggests a number of rules that politicians should (but do not) follow:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out
4. Never use the passive when you can use the active
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous
By not following these rules Orwell accuses politicians of confusing, intimidating, and manipulating their audience into believing that they are listening to a dignified and honourable person through use of fancy words and unclear language.
The last general election was held on Thursday 5th May 2005; the labour party had its third consecutive victory with the Conservative party coming in second place. At the time Tony Blair was the leader of the Labour party, Charles Kennedy; the Liberal Democrats and Michael Howard; the Conservatives.
One strategy that political leaders use to persuade their audience to lend their support to their party is through speeches. These speeches will address issues that they believe to be most important to their audience, and will use political language strategies such as rhetorical devices to win over their listeners. This investigation explored a series of political speeches to see how political leaders won over their listeners and to see what features were most prevalent.