‘I will’ vs. ‘Yes, we can’. A rhetorical analysis of the political speeches of George W. Bush and Barack Obama during their election periods, with emphasis on their choice of metaphor
Even though signs of one of the worst American financial crises were already apparent by the end of the first presidential term of the Republican candidate George W. Bush, he managed to be reelected for a second term, and it can be argued that Bush’s rhetoric, which relied heavily on his famous ‘war on terror’, has contributed to his reelection. When the Democratic candidate Barack Obama was elected in 2008, his rhetoric was different from that of his predecessor, and although Obama agreed that there were threats to be faced, he focused rather on the possibility of overcoming these challenges and managed to convince the voters that they could retake the path to prosperity and restore America’s place as a superpower. In the present thesis, I propose that specific linguistic features employed by Bush and Obama in speeches from their election periods have contributed to the candidates’ persuasiveness as the right candidates for the presidency of the United States. In particular, I argue that Bush’s and Obama’s choices of metaphors have contributed to the creation of political myths that, for instance, portray them as heroic figures and their opponents as incompetent candidates. Following Cognitive Metaphor Theory and Charteris-Black’s framework for metaphor analysis in political discourses, I have used the NVivo software to code twelve of Bush’s and Obama’s speeches (six each), where I have identified different metaphors and grouped them with respect to their source domains. Thereafter, when a group of sentences shared the same source and target domains, conceptual metaphors have been inferred, and I present arguments as to which images Bush and Obama may have tried to evoke in the audience’s minds by employing such metaphors and what the probable intention behind these choices may be. Furthermore, I argue that the linguistic environment in which metaphors are found also play a role in the act of persuasion and propose that distinctive linguistic features, such as antitheses, isocolons and repetition, have been employed by both politicians to heighten the rhetorical effect of their metaphor choices.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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