The authors try to investigate the problem to which kind of the status-oriented discourse – the political or the journalist ones – the peculiar model of the genre of public speeches, namely, the public speeches of the members of the British Royal family, belong, as they show the traces of the both types of discourse mentioned. The main methods to achieve the aim of the study were the critical discourse analysis and the set of traditional methods of investigating the functional properties of different units of speech and speech structures. The result of the investigation shows that the object of the study, i.e. the texts and constituting them speech units and structures reveal a certain peculiarity in the manifestation of this particular genre sub-model as compared with the corresponding genres within the political and journalist types of discourse. In particular, the choice of words and word-combinations, the peculiar character of using expressive means and stylistic devices, a certain thematic separateness of such speeches show that, though adjacent to these types of discourse, the genre sub-model of the British Royal Family members’ public speeches stands somewhat aside the corresponding genre of the named types of the institutional discourse, though structurally it does belong to the general genre. The problem needs to be investigated further.
Keywords: Discoursepublic speechthe genre sub-model
The state of the human and political relations in the present-day world has become so complicated that it seems next to impossible to give any objective qualification and evaluation to many processes that take place in this world. And it seems logical that this skirmish of views and positions, of events and their consequences lays its imprint on the language as the main means of describing these events and giving them certain interpretation from the point of view of values that are reflected within the processes themselves and their reflection in the newspaper articles, Internet blogs, public speeches, etc.
The linguistic aspect of the problem concentrates mostly on the fact that many political and social statements expressed by the people who define the today’s system of human and political attitudes can be hardly classified form the point of view of these statements’ belonging to the certain class of the entity which has received the name of ‘discourse’. Due to unexpected turns of speech use and constructions within such speeches and declarations a scientist often finds himself at a problem of definition to what kind of discourse should this or that statement be referred to. Thus, the aim of the present article is to show this problem on the example of selected speeches and their abstracts from the part of the members of the Royal family of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
First of all, one should make sure to what kind of discourse a speech of a Royal Family member belongs. Surely, there may be different situations in which such a speech may sound. Yet the word “public” in the name of the genre within the frame of which such kind of speech is made actual implies that such kind of speech, first, though it is delivered in the oral form, it has been thought over beforehand; second, such a speech is devoted to some important social or political issues, thus the conceptual spheres which receive their actualization are rather limited; third, it is delivered in a special kind of premises or in the open air to a certain number of people who are supposed to be the rank-and-file representatives of the nation; and fourth, must be free from any representations of the colloquial style of oral speech. The last one means that a member of the Royal Family, no matter what kind of an easy-to-deal-with person he or she is in his or her private life, should be totally aware of the formal register of the speech.
Within the Russian linguistic tradition it is common to differentiate between such two fundamental socio-linguistic types of discourse as the personal and the institutional ones (Lisitsyna, 2012). The personal type of discourse presupposes either the communication within everyday informal situations (such as in a family, during a party or other kind of informal get-together) or an author’s personal remarks within a literary fiction or poetry, and the institutional discourse means such communication which is achieved in the case of persons bound with some formal relations (as in an office, or an official worker – client type of communication, in some kind of business or political negotiations, etc.).
In this respect one should notice a peculiarity which makes certain obstacles to an exact definition of the discourse type as far as the British Royal family is concerned. Actually, this is a common feature concerning any head of a state (a president, a prime-minister or a religious leader, as in the Islamic Republic of Iran, or even some national leader engaged in a certain political activities, as the late Yasser Arafat) that is considered by rank-and-file citizens as some kind of a relative or neighbor, as the bulk of the people within a state is interested in his or her family affairs, scandals, liaisons, divorces, etc. It means that the role status of the communicants in the case of a Royal Family member’s public speech is somewhat different from its counterparts in the cases of both a communication within a family or neighborhood and of an official communication. To a certain extent, such communication could have been compared with that of a writer with his/her readers but for the fact that that is quite another type of speech – the written one, - while in the case of a public speech a researcher has to deal with the oral type of speech communication. Besides, readers’ response to the thoughts and ideas from the part of a writer demands a certain and rather durable period of time, while with a public speech the response is immediate.
At the same time one can easily notice another peculiarity (or should we call it discrepancy?) that puts any public speech apart from a family, friendly or otherwise informal oral discourse. In the second case the communicating sides have the means of the same formal and pragmatic status, namely, the purely linguistic means, that is, the language units and constructions proper as well as such extra-linguistic means as mimics, bodily motions, gestures and so on. One can argue this standpoint justly saying that in the case of a public speech the communicating sides have the same communicative means at their disposal. But if the communicative partners within an informal oral discourse have the equal communicative status, in the case of a public speech the audience is restricted to shouting, waving hands, applause, booing and the like, it is a speaker who has practically unlimited language possibilities (surely, on condition that the speaker knows what he does and what he says, i.e. competent enough to speak in public) to realize his/her illocutive plans.
All these considerations show that the genre of a public speech occupies an uncommon position among other genres viewed within the motley set of different discourses. And it is a well-known fact that a genre is one of the main factors of determining the type of discourse, as A.A. Kibrik puts it (Кibrik, 2009). So, where does the genre of public speech belongs to? And what discourse type should the speeches of the British Royal Family members be referred to? The last question seems rather an insignificant one, as such speeches are not so numerous in comparison with the speeches of other biggest world political figures. But everybody knows about the significance of Great Britain’s position in world politics, and in spite of the well-known saying that the Queen of Great Britain “reigns but does not rule” more or less sophisticated people guess that in this saying the real role of Elizabeth II is drastically diminished. This woman is one of the helmsmen (or, to be exact, actually a helmswoman) on the ship of modern politics which is full of drastic and very often unpredictable evolutions, and we, being the passengers on this ship, should be well aware of who steers the course of the planet and where they could bring us to – to the harbor of well-being and peace or to the shipwreck. That is why this family should be given a very close scientific attention including the linguistic one.
The research represented by this paper intended to answer the following questions:
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this paper is to find whether such species of the genre of public speech as the speeches of the British Royal Family members belong to the political or journalistic type of the status-oriented discourse.
To solve the main task of the present study a certain set of methods should be used. To our mind, the combination of the discourse-analysis methods (the Critical Discourse Analysis, in particular) and the traditional methods of studying the speech properties of the language units belonging to different levels of the language hierarchy (such as the stylistic analysis, the contextual analysis and the method of speech units’ distribution) is the most effective set of research procedures to achieve the aim of the study.
Though we have already stated that the genre of the British Royal Family public speeches should be treated separately from both the personal and the institutional types of discourse, in the general run one must admit this particular case being attributed to the institutional general type of discourse, as it involves the relations of communication that are of social value. Besides, the case of the British Royal Family (further on BRF) is just a peculiar set within the genre of public speeches in general. But should this particular case within the notion of discourse in general be related to the institutional one, as by no means it is the personal one?
It seems to us that the problem is that the very idea of a certain communicative case determined by certain situational parameters being referred to a certain type of discourse on the socio-linguistic grounds is prone to criticism. In some earlier works on discourse we have already stated the problem of some kind of skirmish concerning the terms of nominating such kind of discourse in which the communicative situation involves certain social relations as the basis for such a situation (Chekulai & Prokhorova, 2019, 2020). In brief, the problem lies in the wide variety of terms that denote a socially oriented type of discourse. There are at least four terminological word-combinations which are often referred to such kind of discourse, namely, “institutional discourse’ proper, “professional discourse” (Graf et al., 2014; Gunnarsson, 2009; Gunnarsson et al., 1999; Irimiea, 2017), “business discourse” (Shiryaeva, 2011), “special”, or “expert discourse” (Gavrilenko, 2016). Some scientists, as Alessi and Jacobs (2016), differentiate even between professional and business types of discourses at least in presenting them as simultaneous attributes of the noun ‘discourse” without showing their distinctive features throughout the whole article.
Certainly, the problem of determining the boundaries between different types of the socially oriented discourse needs to be investigated further. Still, the problem remains urgent as in many instances a scholar faces the problem of the certainty of the particular institutional type of discourse he has to deal with. And this investigation is just the case. The problem lies in the peculiarity of the public speeches which the members of the Royal Family have to pronounce from time to time, as these are the necessary element of any constitutional monarchy to speak to the people to show that the Family is as much the British people as any of the listeners. As we have already stated above, such speech by no means belongs to the private type of discourse. But at the same time it differs much from the speeches of other politicians pronounced in public. The main distinction, to our mind, is that a Royal Family member is always optimistic (at least, explicitly) in his or her public speech. Besides, such speeches try to omit the critical problems concerning the British society. They are like articles in a newspaper claiming the unity of the nation. Thus, should one consider such kind of discourse as a journalist one? Or is it a political type of discourse?
To clear up this point, one should view the main peculiarities of both types of discourse as worked out in different scientific papers dedicated to them. First, let us make a brief survey of works on the political discourse.
While analyzing the political discourse as it is, Dijk (1997) comes to rather an unusual statement (and even putting it in italics): In other words, once we have analyzed the particular properties of political contexts, political discourse analysis in many respects will be like any other kind of discourse analysis. The specifics of political discourse analysis therefore should be searched for in the relations between discourse structures and political context structures. (p. 24)
So, one of the classics of discourse analysis points out that there is no specific procedure as far as the discourse analysis of political genres is concerned. That leaves the only way to define the peculiar character of this discourse type, and this way seems to be defined by the common topics which constitute the political discourse of the modern times, yet T. van Dijk is critical as for such an approach (Dijk, 1997). Dunmire (2012), on the contrary, lays an emphasis on such peculiar spheres of political discourse as race and racism, ideology, war, gender and sexism, migrants and refugees showing them as the most common topics of political debates.
One can easily see that these topics are no less common in the modern mass-media. And a brief survey of the special literature on the journalistic discourse shows that the authors are rather concerned with peculiar topics, such as the performance and style in the journalistic discourse (Broersma, 2010), the polyphony of the journalistic discourse (Gunha, 2015), the gender-determined content-analysis (Baider, 2014), investigating the hyperlinks within the framework of journalism (De Maeyer & Holton, 2016), or they stick to some peculiar point from the mentioned above, as, for instance, race and ethnicity (Reynolds, 2018).
Thus, the preliminary analysis of the works on discourse shows that it seems not an easy task to define the place of the socially-oriented discourse which takes place in the public speech of the members of the British Royal Family. The main problem is that the main characteristic features of the both types of discourses either are just the same or overlap so that it becomes difficult to tell for sure whether a certain piece of speech belongs to the political discourse or the journalistic one. It looks as if the real result can be produced only if one analyses the object of the study, namely, the public speeches of the British Royal Family members [BRFM further on], making stress on the particular linguistic characteristic features of the speech units which are typical of this particular speech samples produced by the limited family group and which have been formed throughout the centuries of such usage.
It seems rather strange that, despite the many years of linguistic study of the BRFM oral and written speech the attempt to define clearly the specific characteristics of such written or oral samples of speech has never been undertaken. Moreover, the investigations of discourse in this respect are rather numerous. In particular, the Queen Elizabeth II’s speech has been the object of close scientific scrutiny both in the country and overseas.
The British and American scientists concentrate mostly on pragmatic effects that the Queen’s speeches produce. For instance, W.L. Benoit and S.L. Brinson who study the pragmatic content of Elizabeth II’s speeches, TV addresses and commentaries on the death of Princess Diane in the auto crash in Paris, 1999, differentiate between such main strategies of hers as the repair strategies (denial and bolstering being the leading ones) and the minor strategies, with defeasibility and transcendence dominating in this speech strategy domain (as cited in Benoit & Brinson, 1999). A very interesting article concerning just the verbal reaction of the Queen to Princess Diana’s death has been delivered by M.-C. Rotaru. In the terms of the Critical Discourse Analysis she comes to the conclusion that the Queen is a skilled master of public discussing what seems purely the private matter of the Family. She is cordial and at the same time rather reserved when it comes to the problems which can if not ruin but at least put some dirt on the Royal Family. Rotaru marks, in particular, that the Queen deals rather aptly with the personal pronouns “I” and “We” using the latest both to denote the Family in general and her status as a monarch (the so-called “Pluralis Majestatis”). When it comes to her personal feelings and her attitude to the late daughter-in-law, she uses the form of the first person singular, when it comes to her family she uses “we” as denoting a group of people, and speaking about herself as a Queen she uses the Pluralis Majestatis. But what is the most remarkable, she perfectly varies “we” in the meaning of the whole family and as speaking from the part of the whole British nation (Rotaru, 2010). As one can see from the first part of the title of the article – “Royal Speech Prevents Crisis”, - the death of the Princess might have produced rather a grave effect to the reputation of the Royal Family in general and the Queen in particular. That shows that Her Majesty is a master of the public speech as well.
Beside the topic of Princess Diana’s death which stands quite separately from the rest of the topics – opening ceremonies, the ceremonies of the descents HMSs on the water, such burning problems as immigration, Brexit, coronavirus etc, - as they are not so private, and most of the speeches pronounced on certain occasions have the traces of the political discourse. But they are always connected with Her Majesty’s or another member of the Royal Family to the event in particular and to the fate of the British nation in general. This shows a certain discrepancy with what one can call “the Royal discourse” and the political discourse in its conventional understanding. Yet it is not a secret that the Queen herself is one of the most outstanding
As for the other BRF members, they are surely far from modern politics in the direct sense of the word ‘politics”. Surely, they understand and share the policy their mother and grandmother is one of the main conductors in the world. Yet, they usually restrain themselves from anything drastic that may sound unexpectedly and shocking. That is why if one speaks of the Royal Family discourse, he can hardly call it “political” as even if the policy is really meant the BRF members usually speak on some more trivial matters.
Let us analyze some samples of the BRF members speaking in public. While viewing and analyzing the material for the article we have found out that despite the fact that all of them have different preferences, points of view, aesthetic tastes etc., all they use a very similar set of the rhetorical and stylistic means and devices. For instance, the most common stylistic devices in the BRF members’ public speeches are parallel constructions, repetitions and other means of syntactical abundance.
In his speech on the Opening Ceremony of the sport games in Toronto Prince Harry says the following: “But today you are all saying no to pessimism and cynicism. Here in Toronto - with both WE day and the Invictus Games - we are saying yes to optimism, yes to hope, and yes to belief. And we are putting service and giving back at the heart of everything that we do”.
As one can see, within these three utterances there are at least the four stylistic means. Namely, they are the antithesis
Practically, the same effects have been realized in Prince William’s greeting speech in the British embassy in Paris:
Our intelligence agencies and security forces are working together night and day to counter the continuing threats.
Our armed forces are working more closely together than they have ever done – over the skies of Syria and Iraq, or here in Europe.
And our Governments work closely together to resolve some of the world's most complex issues – whether in the Middle East, Africa or elsewhere.
The parallel construction beginning with
Sometimes, such kind of pathetic speech may be dissolved with a reasonable, allowable in this particular situation informality. We have already discussed the ability of Elizabeth II to draw everybody’s attention and understanding in the cases when pathos is required. But ‘the dear old queen” has a good command of humour as well. While speaking about serious economical perils awaiting the British economical life after “Brexit”, she makes the situation somewhat easy by mentioning her husband, the Prince-Consort of the British Empire. The Queen uses the parenthetical construction as a mixed kind of a stylistic and at the same time pragmatic means conveying the evident respect and at the same time the soft humour to her spouse:
Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a little – having, as he economically put it, “done his bit”.
Here we see both a monarch and a simple woman who is not against mocking at her husband. One must admit the great effectiveness of this tactics of constructing the speech. Elizabeth II makes something like sending message to other British women: we know the strong and weak features of our men, and together we are a strong force that can change the world for better. The colloquial tone of the whole utterance is evident, as it is expressed explicitly by the colloquial contamination
In any BRFM’s speech such rhetorical device as the address becomes important to maintain the contact between them and the audience. It is noteworthy that the members of the Royal Family do not “like” this device, or, rather, use it very seldom. At least, the address is extremely rare in the corpus of the BRFMs’ public speeches that we have chosen as the material for analysis. It seems evident that there is the real ground which lies in the notion of the “BRFM’s image”. We have already drawn our attention to that fact, but it is worth mentioning it again. From one side, a BRFM should be an integral part of the ethnos where he himself/she herself or his or her close relative reigns. From another side, a British monarch has been over his/her subjects for centuries, and so, the distance between them is expected to be much greater than, for instance, between the citizens of a state and a President elected by these citizens. Evidently, the fact that the address in the BRFMs’ speech is often omitted is just the result of such greater distance. The idea is that
If one looks at this fact from the point of view of the difference between the political and journalistic type of discourse he would notice that such a phenomenon stands between the two mentioned discourse types. The first sight at this fact may give the impression that there are little if any common features between the BRFMs’ public speeches and the journalism, as the first is by no means an oral type of presenting speech, and the second exists mostly in the form of written genres. But we must not forget that there exist certain oral genres within the journalist discourse, such as the talk shows, brief thematic TV reviews, etc. And, strange as it may seem, but it is due to these particular genres that the BRFM’s speech as a genre becomes closer to journalism and more distant from the politics, because, like in all the “oral” genres of the journalist discourse their thematic content is united by certain burning issues of modern life that touch upon different problems, not necessarily of political flavour. For instance, the problem of the coronavirus pandemia is far from being referred to as a political issue, and both in the Queen of Great Britain’s TV address to the nation and in the numerous talk-shows around the world dedicated to this problem the main thought was the common one: people should understand the danger of the disease, be careful, help the authorities and each other to overcome this calamity, while the politicians and the politicized radio and TV talk-shows reduced this really dangerous problem to setting scores with their political opponents.
Another important factor in solving the problem whether such a peculiar and separate sector of the genre of public speech belongs to the political or journalist subtype of the status-oriented discourse is the factor of speech situation. When one of the BRFMs makes a speech before the British crown subjects he or she is engaged in a sort of a situation of informal communication and in that way by the rights of a member of the first family in the state dictates the rules of communication in some ways. That, too, brings this genre closer to the characteristic features of the journalist discourse as, for instance, a TV host usurps the algorithm of a TV show and, respectively, the form of speech behavior of the participants and the audience in a studio, while a politician, no matter what psychological type he or she represents, is bound by certain traditional rules of the public speech. On the other hand, the situation is much more different when a BRFM has to communicate with the representatives of other states. There exists a non-written but time-honoured etiquette rule of not only a necessary address to the audience in general and a certain person (usually heading that body of foreign representatives), but a desirable beginning a speech in the language which is in this situation represented alongside English as a state language of the country different from the Great Britain (of course, on condition that a BRFM has a commendable command of that particular language. Anyway, in the case of French which every member of the Royal Family has known since childhood usually the address and initial sentences and the concluding utterances of a speech are pronounced in this language. For example, at the reception at the British Embassy in Paris Prince William not only addresses the French ambassador in his native language: “Merci, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, pour ces mots” but utters the first and the last phrases of his brief speech in this language and then wishes everybody present the good evening in this language.
The analysis of the lexical units which have peculiar stylistic marking and are used in the public speeches of the BRFMs shows that the bulk of such the vocabulary belongs to what I.R. Galperin calls “the common literary vocabulary”, i.e. words used in the written and polished speech (Galperin, 1981, p. 64). This definition seems too general to add to the decision of the problem, as all the status-oriented discourse types are based on the use of mostly neutral and common literary words. In the stylistics of the language these words are described as serving to create the atmosphere of sublimity and formality to show that a speaker occupies some prominent place or position in a society. These words are, as a rule, bookish synonyms to the widely used words and expressions. As a member of a monarchic family is always a person with a very high level of education and social upbringing, he or she is bound to use these words while speaking in public to underline his/her outstanding position and at the same time to show that he or she is a normal human being with the necessary set of feelings and emotions, having certain prevailing worldview. Hence the speech of any BRFM is a kind of translation from the common, everyday speech into the lofty one which may be omitted in a speech of a politician or a TV host who may use simple, and sometimes vulgar, words to show that he or she is a part of the people he was born into. That is why the evaluative words in a BRFM’s speech are frequently substitutes of some more common in such situations words, and, besides, the initial meanings of these words may be somewhat changed. Here are the examples of the evaluative words taken from different speeches of Elizabeth II:
Still, the bookish and lofty words as the only bearers of the main sense are used more seldom than in the certain free and phraseologically bound word-combinations. Such use is typical of any kind of speakers who present their speeches for the masses of people in the open air, in special halls of on TV or other kind of mass-media. But the BRFMs use them more often than other speakers named. This helps to create a certain effect of loftiness and pathos which the political speeches or TV shows lack. At the same time this loftiness is not humiliating or defying, as such word combinations are used in the contexts of the monarch and her subjects’ common interests, understanding the needs, problems, necessities, life tragedies, or common joy and mutual love. By the way, the word love is one of the most common ones in the speeches of the BRFMs, especially in the public speeches of Elizabeth II, as in the following example (from Queen Elizabeth speech in the 2017 TV Christmas message to the British people:
We think of our homes as places of warmth, familiarity and love; of shared stories and memories, which is perhaps why at this time of year so many return to where they grew up. There is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home.
It is easy to see that generally lofty and somewhat pompous phrases become the warm words of motherly concern for her children-subjects. The Queen appears before her people as a loving and tender mother. She invites them to share the warmth and joy of the greatest religious holiday in the life of the British people.
As the above-stated facts show, there exists a certain set of discrepancies between the genre of the British Royal Family members’ public speeches and the corresponding genres within the political and journalistic subtypes of the institutional discourse. At first sight, these discrepancies are of insignificant character, as the general set of rhetoric, pragmatic and stylistic devices used in the named genres is approximately the same. Nevertheless, the analysis of the use of speech units and patterns typical of the public speeches of the BRFM shows certain differential features which prevent a strict reference of the above-mentioned definite pattern of the genre of public speeches from the typical models of public speeches within the political and journalist subtypes of the status-oriented discourse. Among them are the peculiar use of words and word-combinations in a somewhat unusual still clearly transmitting the necessary message use on the basis of metaphorical interpretations of the neutral words and expressions, of choosing peculiar bookish synonyms to some common or otherwise lofty evaluative words, the peculiar use of addressing people whom they are speaking to, etc. The results of the critical discourse-analysis of the BRFMs’ public speeches show the peculiarity of the main topics and their content as compared with the public speeches performed within the frames of the political and journalist discourses.
These considerations give us grounds to consider that the sub-model of public speeches pronounced by the members of the British Royal Family, actually being a constituent part of the named genre, makes, at the same time, a peculiar sample of the genre which stands somewhat aside of it, as it does not fully belong to any of the discourse types (namely, the political and journalist ones) where the genre of public speeches is characterized by the features different from those that have been found while analyzing the BRFMs’ public speeches. At the same time, the sub-model investigated may have the traces of the main genre within the both types of discourse mentioned, but it depends fully on the thematic essence of a definite specimen of public speech. That is why it seems rather early to announce that everything has been clear with the genre and discourse relations of the British Royal Family public speeches. The problem needs its further investigation, and the problem seems important not only from the purely linguistic point of view but from the common standpoint of the social and political studies of actions and speech of the people whom the fate of this world depends on.
This investigation may give start to other explorations of the role of the prominent people of the contemporary life. In this way the public speeches, private interviews and other genres of the public appearance of the prominent figures in political and economical spheres of life, prominent scientists, actors, artists, musicians, sportsmen and other categories of prominent in some respect people deserve their linguistic investigation, and this investigation should by all means combine the traditional and the modern, cognitive and discursive, methods of investigation.
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27 May 2021
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Chekulai, I., Prokhorova, O., Kuchmistyy, V., & Zhukov, K. (2021). Public Speeches Of Royal Family Members: Political Or Journalistic Discourse?. In E. V. Toropova, E. F. Zhukova, S. A. Malenko, T. L. Kaminskaya, N. V. Salonikov, V. I. Makarov, A. V. Batulina, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, & A. M. Grinev (Eds.), Man, Society, Communication, vol 108. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 73-84). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.05.02.10