Scheda insegnamento

Anno Accademico 2018/2019

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

Presentation of key techniques, using sample texts, for the linguistic analysis of political, social and economic texts, including the system of evaluation for persuasion effective rhetorical techniques, textual organisation, cohesion and argument structure speaker/writer importance marking, use of metaphor, competition between metaphors (e.g. the EU as a ‘club’, as a ‘fortress’, as a ‘parent’, as a ‘thief’) ‘non-obvious’ meaning in persuasion and its dangers, including semantic prosody. Two topics will be covered: The development of the English-speaking world and the English world within Europe. At the end of the course, students will be able to conduct a linguistic and content analysis of key texts and to discuss it in an «Oxford-style» debate.


A course in political linguistics

The study of “language and power” is intended as the study of the power of communication and persuasion, particularly that of politicians, experts and the media.

All political and social-policy activity is carried out using the medium of language, either spoken or written, from parliamentary debates to the drafting of laws, from political interviews to international treaties. In a democratic society, language is the vehicle of the competitive exchange and growth of ideas, whether they be strictly political or economic, legal or social. How language is used in politics and its related areas, is a common topic of public debate and yet the linguistic mechanisms used in writing, speeches or debate to attempt to persuade an audience of one’s arguments and to resist and challenge the ideas of others, are not often studied in a course of political science.

In this course we examine, through examples, the mechanisms that the language provides to practice the art of persuasion. At the same time, by analysing these mechanisms, we learn how, when necessary, other similar organisations attempts to mediate and even resist their attempts to persuade and control. In a democratic society, language is both a resource and a battlefield.

Students learn advanced techniques of textual analysis of political, sociopolitical and media discourses. They learn to:

  1. identify the overall argumentative structure of political and sociopolitical discourses, including the problem –solution, hypothesis-evidence, generalisation –particulars/details and argument by evaluative contrasts patterns.
  2. recognize, analyse and interpret rhetorical features of texts (from bicolons to metaphor and metonymy) in a text and explain how they are relevant to a speaker’s or writer’s argumentative intentions,
  3. identify and explain the evaluative patterns in a text; who is evaluating, what is being evaluated, using which language and with what rhetorical purpose
  4. identify the use of personal narrative and how speakers make it relevant to their argument

Students will examine, employing the discourse-analytical skills learned during the course and using relevant modern examples, the use and misuse of language in persuasive political rhetoric. Particular attention is paid to what makes media communication so frequently distorted. This involves the study of overall news values (‘newsworthiness’) and examples of media misinformation and ignorance on such issues as violence, conflict and world health.

Topics include:

The Politics of Language

Language and Power: Differentials but Development

Language as Power: the power of persuasion

Evaluation in political persuasion: explicit and implicit evaluation, evaluation by selection and exclusion of information

The macrostructures of political arguments

The microstructures of political arguments (rhetorical devices)

The marking of importance in political discourse

Metaphor and metonymy

Interpersonal power in political question-response discourses

Audio-visual material includes:

1. Globalisation: A Brief History (N. Ferguson)

2. The Global Power Shift (P. Ashdown)

3. New World View (H. Rosling) / Beating World Hunger (WHO) / The Good News about Global Diseases (M. Ridley)

4. The New Africa: Trade With Us (N. Okonjo-Iweala) / Nigeria (The Economist)

5. China or India? (Yasheng Huang)

6. How India Grew Up: How Ideas Change Nations (N. Nilekani)

7. The Forgotten Voices of China’s Workers (L. Cheng) / Why China Retains its Old Pass Laws (South China Morning Post)

8. Conflict Management (P. Collier)

9. The Surprising Decline in Violence (S. Pinker)


Partington & Taylor 2018. The Language of Persuasion in Politics. London:Routledge.

Dispensa: The Language of Politics: Power, Persuasion and Soldarity

Per non-frequentanti:

Partington & Taylor 2018. The Language of Persuasion in Politics. London:Routledge.

Dispensa: The Language of Politics: Power, Persuasion and Soldarity

Ferguson, N. 2011. Civilisation: The West and the Rest. London: Allen Lane.

Metodi didattici

Frontal teaching, presentation of oral and written texts, including audio-visual material. Questioning and debates. A "Dispensa" containing an outline of the topics and material dealt with in class must be obtained by attending students. Details will be supplied at the beginning of the course.

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

A written exam consisting of closed and semi-open questions on the content of the classroom course and analysis of short text extracts examnined in class. The exam lasts 70 minutes.

Per non-frequentanti:

A written exam consisting of closed and semi-open questions on the content of bibliography listed above and analysis of short text extracts from these books. The exam lasts 70 minutes.


Strumenti a supporto della didattica

PowerPoint. Audio-visual material on persuasion (TED talks, presidential addresses, political advertising etc).

Link ad altre eventuali informazioni


Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Alan Scott Partington