The article is devoted to revealing the elements of ritualization in modern political discourse. Real communicative acts of users of social network “Twitter” and speeches of D. Trump, B. Obama, V.V. Zhirinovsky, K.A. Sobchak act as the material of the research. The purpose of the research is achieved by the application of the descriptive-comparative method, method of definitional, lexical-semantical, stylistic and emotive analyses. The relevance of the research stems from the fact that modern media discourse provides political texts with a different degree of ritualism than the texts of the pre-internet period used to possess. The analysis of the material shows that speech ritual is an expected by the audience phenomenon of the language identity of the politician. It has a highly emotional form and contributes to maintaining the sense of integrity of the language personality of the politician. The authors conclude that modern highly ritualized text in political discourse has an aim to make the perception of the information easier by the mass audience and to anchor it as meaningful in the minds of the addressees. The most significant signs of high ritualization of the texts in political discourse, such as their high citation and response to them by the audience, are noted by the observers.
Keywords: Language identity of the politicianmedia discoursepolitical discourseritualizationspeech ritual
Political theme maintains one of the leading roles in modern mass communication. “One of the most persuasive discourses is mass media discourse, and especially political one” (Boeva-Omelechko et al., 2019, p. 2). The political discourse is becoming more focused on mass effect, using non-obvious manipulative or close to manipulative technologies. “The public sphere of politics is accomplished in the form of speech, which ranges from controversy and revelations to proclamation and declaration” (Tameryan et al., 2018, p. 378). Nowadays, there is a number of terms that can describe the communicative features of the linguistic personality of a politician (Aleshchanova et al., 2018). The speech of a politician is “guessable”, sometimes stereotypical, and the audience has certain expectations about some of its elements. The founder of the term “stereotype” is W. Lippman, who describes stereotypes as ordered, schematic culture-deterministic world pictures, reflected in a person’s mind, that can help to minimise efforts in the perception of complex objects of the world. Maslova (2001), giving a definition of “stereotype”, associates it with the term “ritual”, comparing them as follows: “Stereotype is a type existing in the world, it measures activity, behaviour... Behaviour stereotypes can shift to rituals. Ritual always involves reflection regarding the meaning of its performance... Ritual is conditional” (pp. 44, 110). Moreover, the author mentions that ritual actions originally served as symbols, and the fact of knowing them showed the level of culture and the importance of personality in society. Karasik (2014) notes that “discursive personality... shows itself as someone who is recognizable and partly predictive due to his manner of behaviour...All communicative acts of such a personality are saturated with the symbolic meaning” (p. 182). Speech actions (in this case we do not mean speech acts) can be related to any actions through complex multilevel ritual indirect schemes: In modern linguistics, performance … relates to performing of theatrical or ritual speech actions (Luchinskaya & Sizonenko, 2013). Manifestations of the linguistic personality of a politician can be viewed as actions that have clear and implicit signs of ritualism. Not without a reason the term “ritual” occurs in a lot of linguistic works, and, in our opinion, is quite appropriate to describe some peculiarities of political discourse. Therefore, we propose to use the term “ritualization” concerning processes, taking place in political discourse.
Ritualization as a feature of modern political texts has received little attention and requires a detailed study within the framework of media linguistics.
How do we understand the linguistic phenomenon of ritualization? Can we find out any dynamics of ritualization of texts in political discourse? What are the signs of high ritualization of the texts in political discourse?
Purpose of the Study
The research is aimed at revealing the elements of ritualization in modern political discourse and describing speech ritual as a phenomenon of the language identity of the politician.
The methodological framework of this research is the system approach. The purpose of the research is achieved by the application of the descriptive-comparative method, the method of definitional, lexical-semantical, stylistic and emotive analyses. Real communicative acts in social network “Twitter” and speeches by D. Trump, B. Obama, V.V. Zhirinovsky, K.A. Sobchak act as a material of the research.
The ancient Roman speaker and politician Marcus Porcius Cato finished each of his public speeches with the appeal
A new view is needed on the dynamics of ritualization of texts in political discourse, that would take into account some factors that have previously been left without due regard. Speech ritual helps to maintain the sense of integrity of the politicians’ language personality. Speech ritual is a relatively broad phenomenon, and the mass audience usually waits for its “performance”, although people cannot always figure out its beginning or ending in a political speech. It has a strong emotional influence and tends to meet the expectations of the audience. It would be incorrect to observe speech rituals only as regularly repeated symbolic actions, though we cannot deny “the symbolic nature of media communication, in which the power of the sign is fully manifested” (Vikulova & Serebrennikova, 2014, p. 55). The analysis of the actual material shows us that simple repetition is no longer the key point in modern political discourse. In our point of view, modern ritualized texts in political discourse are aimed at facilitating the perception of information by the mass audience and at consolidating this information as a significant one in the minds of the addressees. Ritual, as a rule, is not hidden by the politicians, on the contrary, it becomes a place where the semantic focus is made, and in which maximum emotional suggestion is put. In our opinion, ritual implies the repetition of not stereotypical actions, but the repetition of actions that are made in the same discursive way. Ritual is teleological and is usually aimed at a specific target audience.
The most important role in modern political discourse is given not to the number of author’s repetitions of the text, but to quoting of a political speech or its part in mass media. Citation and quoting bring an element of ritualization to the source text. In political discourse, repetitions made by the authors themselves can be minimized, which happens because of the uncertain time limits of active actions of a politician. The presence of ritual in political discourse indirectly indicates the effectiveness of the influence of the politician on the audience. As citation grows, so do the discursive connections generated by the text, which leads to the ritualization of thoughts, judgments and statements. We can consider hyperlinks, reposts and likes in social networks, as well as various signs stimulating emotional response left by the audience in comments as types of indirect citation. All the above mentioned helps to distribute the text on the Internet more actively, to anchor its discursive connections, and to maintain a certain level of the emotional response of the audience to the ritualized text. The more the text is “reactive”, the more it becomes ritualized. For example, the “mistakes” made in media texts can lead to a countless number of easily detectable responses. We should note that a “mistake” requires the audience to be familiar with at least a part of the context. D. Trump posted a message in Twitter in which he wrote about his meeting with the “whale prince”:
We suggest calling the sense of self or group rightness (including the correctness of judgment or act) resulting from almost purely emotional influences, “the sense of emotional rightness”. We understand “rightness” in the modern media environment as a synonym for general acceptance, wide prevalence. The politicians in their texts deliberately try to make the audience feel the emotional rightness and to make its reaction more ritualized. It happens because “The main system-forming goal of political media discourse is the struggle for power which serves as a determining factor in the choice of a strategic arsenal of communicative actions in the political media communication which are based on the desire to influence the intellectual, volitional and emotional sphere of the addressee” (Tameryan et al., 2019, p. 3). The sense of emotional rightness strengthens the resistance of the audience to alternative information, reduces fatigue when it is necessary to increase the frequency of repetition of the text or its part. “A promotional campaign consists mostly of tautologies because it is emotion-targeted. It helps to achieve the suggestion to the addressee of several basic thoughts, and the constant repetition creates the impression of ideological clarity and coherence” (Zheltukhina, 2016, p. 156). It should be mentioned that only cognitions can be denied or disputed, but individual emotions are true for the person just because of the fact of their occurrence. Therefore, in modern political discourse, emotions that provoke the emergence of “emotional rightness” require particular attention from the politicians. Often the emotions provocating the sense of “emotional rightness” are framed into a special cognitive-emotional unit. For example, D. Trump, telling the Americans about the murder of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, called him a “bad guy”:
An important role in ritualization is also played by minimizing the informational base, which leads to the emergency of expected emotions from the side of the audience. For example, D. Trump actively uses the social network “Twitter” to address the audience (Donald Trump’s official page in the social network “Twitter”, 2020). We believe that such a format with a limited number of possible signs in a message was not chosen accidentally. It does not cognitively overload the audience and is enough for causing relatively complex encouraging or provocative emotions. The basis of the speech ritual is hard to be distinguished, the ritual arises as if from nowhere. They emerge from minimal provoking linguistic and non-linguistic factors, and then attract to themselves other linguistic phenomena, and are finally gradually formed as a massive phenomenon. The appearance reasons of a ritual are complex, they are not relevant to purely linguistic factors. It should be noted that the majority of modern political texts in media discourse are produced by the team of authors, although in this article we consider all texts as authorial. The presence of ritualization in the text lets us make a relatively reliable conclusion about the presence of the target audience and can help us to guess some of its characteristics. For example, D. Trump tends to make ritualized statements concerning the topic of traditional family relations and traditional religious values:
An effective speech stereotype is likely to develop into an image speech ritual. Image speech ritual we understand as repeated in a political speech language phenomenon aimed at maintaining or changing the image of the language personality. Thus, ritual image is not always determined by the pure pragmatism of speech. It can have delayed consequences. For example, Xenia Sobchak had an image of “glamorous diva” before participating in the 2018 presidential election campaign but shortly before the election campaign, she acquired an image of a political specialist. In 2008, Xenia took part in the TV-show “Blondinka v shokolade” (A blonde in chocolate) on a popular Russian youth channel “MUZ-TV”. Her speech was full of colloquial, mistakes, youth slang, pejorative, vulgar words:
In the virtual media environment, a speech ritual can be reduced to over-saturation of information. At the same time, it can have not enough necessary or expected informational component, or it can be replaced by the background emotionally-saturated information. Donald Trump, for example, expressed some scepticism about the relevance of environmental problems in his election campaign: Mr. Trump has called human-caused climate change a “hoax.” He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form (Davenport, 2016). B. Obama “responded” to D. Trump with a highly ritualized science article in which he made the following judgments:
Modern political systems are built in such a way that there is always at least a nominal opposition, with which a kind of a ritual dialogue is held. However, the speech ritual of political discourse does not always imply the response of the opponent. For example, V.V. Zhirinovsky often mentions the United States in his speeches, and does it in a negative way, usually at the end of the speech. For example, he does it in his speech at the LDPR rally in honour of the Defender of the Fatherland Day on February 23, 2018, though it seems that nothing should be said about other countries:
Thus, summarizing everything we have said above, we can make the following conclusions about ritualization in modern political discourse. Ritual in political discourse has lost many of its usual features, that are inherent for the ritual in general. It is more appropriate to talk about the level of ritualization of texts in political discourse than to divide texts into ritual and non-ritual ones. Texts in political discourse are usually highly ritualized, however, it is possible to prove it only in retrospect. The signs of high ritualization of texts in political discourse are their high citation of them and responsiveness to them by the audience. The repetition of the text in modern political discourse is achieved by fundamentally different means than in the pre-internet era. The presence of “emotional rightness” in the text makes it possible to speak about the high degree of its ritualization and the probability of existing of alternative “emotionally correct” points of view.
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28 December 2020
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Gavrish, A. D., Zheltukhina, M. R., Paramonova, D. V., & Sporova, I. P. (2020). Modern Political Discourse: Phenomenon Of The Ritualization. In N. L. Shamne, S. Cindori, E. Y. Malushko, O. Larouk, & V. G. Lizunkov (Eds.), Individual and Society in the Modern Geopolitical Environment, vol 99. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 280-288). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.12.04.33