Talk: Coded Language in US Political Speech Acts

The ways in which US Americans identify with political parties and the language used to participate in politics is of wide discussion in the study of linguistics and US American society at large. Mark and Patricia McCloskey's speech from the 2020 Republican National Convention provides a clear example of the ways in which political language carries pragmatic information to subgroups within an audience. This talk is a presentation of a multimodal analysis of the McCloskey's speech at the 2020 RNC. We will spend the time examining video clips from the speech to aid in a discussion of the modes of performance that lend nonlinguistic meaning to a political speech act. There will also be an in-depth examination of the use of political code words, hypothetical futurates, and grammatical framing in the speech transcript that add pragmatic meaning to the speech.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way in which politics are done during an election year in the United States. What is normally a large week-long gathering of Republicans from across the country to show support for the party's chosen candidate, the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC) was mostly held virtually without a live audience. The virtual setting of this year's convention provided the opportunity for speakers to produce pre-recorded speeches unlike the live speeches that featured in past conventions. Pre-recorded speeches are a form of mediated discourse that allow for a close multimodal examination because of their scripted, rehearsed, and edited nature. The scrutiny that this form of performance allows for lends itself well to a deep dive into pragmatic meaning building.

Through a discussion of the overarching metaphors that frame political affiliation in the United States, the language used by the McCloskey's can be placed in context and the multilayered pragmatic meaning of coded language used within the speech can be examined. The goal of this talk is to discover how a speech can utilize the modes of staged performances, political code words, and grammatical framing to deliver a fear-based, racially charged message without ever explicitly referencing race.


Day: 2020-11-19
Start time: 19:15
Duration: 00:30
Room: Ruqaiya Hasan
Track: Discourse Analysis
Language: en




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