HENB01393U English - Elective 2, topic 3: Language, politics and discourse

Volume 2017/2018



It is generally recognized that language has a significant role in politics. Negative implications of this have been the most striking: concepts like spin, newspeak and manipulation abound in discussions about political communication. Such concepts refer to questionable practices by power holders among politicians and established media; but recently, attention has focused also on problems in social media, including false stories, trolling, etc. Regardless of where such issues arise, they put an obligation on language specialists to use their analytic abilities also in ways that can promote transparency in political discussions and throw light on how language actually works in a political context.


Living up to this task requires analysts to do something belonging under the broad heading of ‘discourse analysis.’ The first type of discourse analysis that comes to mind in this context may be what is known as ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, which is a continuation of a critical tradition that started in the sixties and seventies, where the aim is to focus attention on ideology and on the way power is used and especially abused. While this course will also have a critical orientation, it differs from this tradition in stressing the need to understand political language as communication and to see it in relation to the pressures that the political process is working under (including pressures due to the facts on the ground). Basic principles of rhetorical analysis will also be introduced.


As a label for the analytic method described above, the approach may be called ‘functional-pragmatic discourse analysis’: ‘Functional’ indicates that the analysis seeks to throw light on the job that the texts are assumed to do; ‘pragmatic’ indicates that the analysis refers to key aspects of the context in which the texts belong. As part of this programme, the course also takes up the principles and practices of democratic politics: an awareness of the way the world works in the domain of investigation is a prerequisite for understanding how language functions in that context.


On the basis of central concepts, analytical practices and positions the course aims to stimulate an analytic practice that reflects an awareness of the grounds on which one may legitimately be critical both of politicians and of their critics (including the ‘commentariat’), when analysing language used in a political context.


Brian Paltridge: Discourse Analysis. London: Bloomsbury, 2012

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 162,75
  • Total
  • 204,75
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment