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Political discourse-understood here as a generic term encompassing all types of verbal interaction concerning political issues and/or taking place in a political context-reflects two closely interwoven aspects of social life, namely the clashes of interests between different ideological groups in society typically associated with a struggle for power and the cooperative efforts of people and institutions to resolve these clashes of interest (cf. Chilton 2004). It is therefore not surprising that numerous studies on political discourse explore how the language of politics reflects the ideologies[1] of participants involved in the process of social interaction and how language can be instrumental in constructing identities, power relations and persuading others to accept (or manipulating them into accepting) a particular ideological representation of reality (e.g. Wilson 1990, van Dijk 1997, 2002, 2006, Chilton and Schafner 2002, Chilton 2004, Wodak 2007a). Despite the variety of approaches available for the analysis of political discourse, what clearly emerges from the existing research in this area is that the interpretation of meaning conveyed in political interaction is essentially multifaceted and heavily dependent on contextual factors; it comprises intertextual, interdiscursive, social and (inter-) cultural dimensions, which may yield variation in the interpretations derived by different interactants, the analysts included. It is this indeterminacy and context-dependency of meaning which can be exploited for purposes of persuasion and manipulation that brings to the fore the study of pragmatic meanings in political discourse.

This investigation is concerned with the pragmatic functions of deictic pronouns and modal expressions which contribute to the perception of coherence and enhance the persuasive force of political rhetoric in a relatively neglected genre of political discourse-opening addresses delivered by Directors-General of UNESCO at international conferences. The working assumption taken as a starting point for this analysis is that the pragmatic functions of deictic pronouns and modal expressions and their genre-specific distribution in opening addresses enable the speaker to construe a coherent representation of his/her institutional identity and ideology, thus enhancing the persuasive force of the rhetoric. This chapter proceeds as follows: firstly, a brief discussion of the complex relation between persuasion and coherence is given in order to explain the approach adopted in the present study; secondly, being conceived as a genre analysis (Swales 1990, Bhatia 1993), the investigation proceeds to the determining of the communicative purpose and the rhetorical structure of addresses; the analysis then relates the rhetorical moves of the genre to pragmatic functions of deictic pronouns and modal expressions, with the primary aim of showing how these devices contribute to the perception of coherence and persuasiveness in the genre of opening addresses.

  • [1] Drawing on the understanding of this concept by critical linguists, ideology isdefined here as the way a social group or a society views objects existing in itsworld, explains how the world functions, and assigns values to these objects andprocesses (Fowler 1986: 11).
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