How to discredit an opponent and get away with it: discourse analysis of communicative strategies

Elena Kusotskaya, St.Petersburg State University, Russia;     Abstract: This research is based on the debates of the 2019/2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries in the USA and considers aggressive verbal behaviour in highly conflictive social-political discourse, namely communicative strategies that are aimed at discrediting an opponent. The main focus of the work is to analyse and describe the linguistic means that help to discredit an opponent as a person undeserving the audience’s attention instead of debating their arguments on an issue. The analysis has been conducted within the pragmatics line of research with an application of the critical discourse analysis method as well as the discursive approach (within the frame of im/politeness research). It has been discovered that the following discrediting strategies play an important role within the Democratic debate: discrediting presupposition, explicit or implicit accusations, polarization of the world by labelling an opponent as an unworthy ‘insider’ or an ‘outsider’. Comparisons with Trump, republicans or hints on connections with odious figures on the world political stage are frequently applied to alienate an opponent from the shared audience in the context of the Democratic Party debates.


Keywords: pragmatics, critical discourse analysis, social-political discourse, communicative strategies, discredit, world polarization



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