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Thus, in the interest of the present analysis, all contracted forms on the stop word list were automatically expanded, e. When it comes to closed-class lexical items capable of signalling the presence of one or more human actors in the discursive context, the English pronoun system provides us with personal pronouns proper, both subject and object, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns. Given that in the present study we are primarily interested in references by the speaker either to himself or herself, or to others, it makes sense also to include possessive determiners associated with personal pronouns because they are high frequency items and they can be used to signal political associations similarly to personal pronouns.

On the other hand, both possessive pronouns and reflexive pronouns are low frequency items and virtually never used without the corresponding personal pronoun in close proximity, and consequently they were left out of the study. Given that the corpus is restricted to the single register of political speeches, it seems reasonable to make certain blanket assumptions about the functional aspects of the personal pronouns. For example, although it is possible that some politicians in the data might used the royal or authorial we in reference to themselves, for the sake of keeping the analysis manageable I will make the assumption that such usage is rare enough to be negligible.

Likewise, while the use of the singular gender-neutral they has become more common in recent years, it must be considered extremely rare over much of the timeline. The analysis was operationalised as follows. The corpus was first queried for all cases of personal pronouns both subject and object , possessive determiners and possessive pronouns Next, the pronouns and determiners were classified into semantic groups according to their primary referent, considering the first person singular to be Self-referential, the second person singular and plural as Audience-referential, the first person plural as Inclusive-referential and the third person singular and plural as Other-referential Table 1.

As the table shows, Audience references are the least frequent type of person pronominal use at a mean frequency of 5. However, as can be seen in Table 2, some speakers will far exceed these baseline frequencies, at least on occasion. Interestingly perhaps, many of the names among the top ranks are highly recognisable politicians, which suggests that the high frequency of personal pronouns may be a part of a successful rhetorical strategy, or at the very least it is not a hindrance.

Table 2.

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Importantly, it goes without saying that these referential categories are only a rough approximation made necessary by the relatively large-scale of the corpus-based analysis. For example, it is certainly possible to find individual instances where references to him or them could be considered Inclusive, such as when a politician is thanking a specific supporter of his or her campaign, and likewise there may well be occasions where references to you may address a foreign leader who is not present and who may therefore be understood as the Other by both the speaker and the audience.

However, while it would be possible to carry out a more detailed analysis where every instance of a personal pronouns was individually categorized into one of the semantic groups, doing so would involve analysing hundreds of thousands of items, which was not possible in the scope of the present study.

Nevertheless, I would argue that the overall impression derived from this rough categorization is valid for identifying trends and general tendencies in political language. To begin with a general statement, the overall frequency of personal pronouns shows a slight positive cline over the timeline Figure 2. Figure 2. Scatter plot of combined frequency of personal pronouns against the timeline. However, when we start focusing on specific semantic categories of pronouns, things get much more interesting.

For clarity, each of the following figures shows two categories of pronouns only, starting with self references and audience references Figure 3. The polynomial lines are fitted to show trends more clearly. The overall pattern shows that references to self and to the audience are both at their most frequent during the latter half of the nineteenth century, going into a slight decline at the turn of the century.

The change in the frequency of audience references is slight, however. By contrast, the decline in self-references during the early part of the twentieth century was likely motivated by broad changes in democratic society, where self-promotion was increasingly disliked and instead politicians had a greater need to present themselves as representatives and members of the electorate. This may also be interpreted at least in part as a reflection of the changing media landscape.

As political speeches were increasingly broadcast to non-immediate audiences, that is, to audiences who may be listening to the speech by radio or watching it on television, the lack of proximity somewhat dilutes the effect of emotive and affective self-reference. The newfound incline in self-references observed from the s onward may in turn signal a change to a more person-centred style of politics and, though this is more hypothetical, improvements in audiovisual technology which allow close-up images of speakers to be broadcast, making the communicative style more immediate and thus making the use of self-references more effective.

I and we references. Likewise political speakers must walk a fine line between appearing to share their own thoughts and thereby appearing intimate and genuinely human, and framing the discourse as a joint cause by evoking the inclusive group indexical we. As the evidence shows, few politicians do only one, most opting to use both strategies. Clear evidence of the shift from person-centred rhetoric to a more group-centred style is seen in Figure 4. The frequency of inclusive references using the group indexical pronouns we , us and our increases dramatically at the same time as self-references go into decline.

Notably, even though self-references turn back into an incline toward the end of the twentieth century, inclusive references continue to increase even further at the same time. The frequency change in inclusive references is the most dramatic difference observed in the use of personal pronouns. As the scatterplot shows Figure 4 , this does not mean that there were no speakers who used inclusive references in high frequencies during the nineteenth century, but it is clear that doing so was much less common then than it is today.

I greatly doubt whether it will be found possible to carry through any well-matured and complete plan of improvement if you have not the Government heartily with you ; and I must say that from the present Administration I can, as to that matter, expect nothing good. What I am to expect from them precisely I do not know whether the most obstinate opposition to every change, or the most insane and violent change.

For if I look to their actions and conduct, I find the gravest reasons for apprehending that they may at one time resist the most just demands, and at another time, from the merest caprice, propose the wildest innovations. And I will tell you why I entertain this opinion. I am sorry that, in doing so, I must mention the name of a gentleman for whom, personally, I have the highest respect I mean Mr.

Walpole, the Secretary of State for the Home Department. My own acquaintance with him is slight, but I know him well by character. I believe him to be an honourable, an excellent, an able man. No man is more esteemed in private life; but of his public conduct I must claim the right to speak with freedom; and I do so with the less scruple because of that freedom he has himself set me an example, and because I am really now speaking on the defense.

Macaulay From being the party not trusted with the economy, this conference should be proud that Labour is today the only party trusted with the economy. But for me , for us the Labour party, and for the country, this is not enough. We have created 1. But for us , the Labour party, this is not enough.

We have lifted one million children and more than one million pensioners out of poverty. But we must do more. We have introduced the minimum wage and raised it by 35 per cent to make work pay. But we will do more. We have created one million child care places. But we will go further. Economic stability and new incentives have helped create , new businesses.

But that is not enough.

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We will not rest until millions denied opportunity can achieve their aspirations and until the three million children living in poverty are growing up in a Britain where child poverty has been eradicated for good. We will not rest until Britain's public services - starved for two decades, now being rebuilt - are reformed and renewed, an example to the world and the collective pride of our nation. We will not rest until enterprise is open to all, creating hundreds more businesses in every community, and where the millions of men and women - some lone parents, some on incapacity benefit - who want to work will have the right to work, in a Britain where there is full employment in every region and every nation of our country.

Brown Through this other persons are brought into an obligation pattern and the speaker speaks as a representative of a group rather than as a self. Although the two excerpts above already exemplify the difference between nineteenth and twentieth century speaking styles, there is one specific category of speech where the diachronic stylistic switch is particularly salient, namely the inaugural address of American presidents.

Figure 5. Scatterplot of the personal pronouns I and we in American presidential inaugural addresses. The overwhelmingly clear stylistic shift that takes appears to begin at the end of the nineteenth century onward can be explained both by the processes of democratization and mediatisation. Following the Civil War in to , there was considerable need to bring the country together and to use a more inclusive voice. While the first presidents frequently used the inaugural address to speak about themselves and the responsibilities of the office, presidents of the post-Civil War era started focusing more on the country.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by by Rembrandt Peale, CALLED upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me , to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire.

A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye — when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue, and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking.

President Bill Clinton. My fellow citizens. Today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter. But, by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring.


A spring reborn in the world's oldest democracy, that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America. When our founders boldly declared America's independence to the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change. Not change for change's sake, but change to preserve America's ideals—life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Though we march to the music of our time, our mission is timeless. Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American. This need for inclusivity was intensified further during the World Wars, after which time it appears to have become a fixed standard. Significantly, the same time period also witnessed the appearance of broadcast media in the form of radio and television, and, in more recent times, of online media.

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Returning to the full dataset, the plot for Inclusive and Audience references is given in Figure 6. Both types of reference can be used for essentially the same purpose, addressing the audience directly, but while the former includes the speaker as a member of the same in-group, the latter posits a dialogic relationship between the speaker and the audience, as seen earlier in Figure 3. Looking at Figure 6, we see that the frequency of Audience references has remained quite stable over the two-hundred-year timeline, while Inclusive references have increased, as noted earlier.

This establishes a subtle message, which links the two in-groups together, suggesting that by siding with Trump, the audience can share the success of the Trump business empire. The direct Audience references come toward the end of the excerpt, when Trump starts addressing the audience directly as he starts talking about the sorry state of infrastructure in America. I look at the roads being built all over the country, and I say I can build those things for one-third.

What they do is unbelievable, how bad. We got it from the General Services Administration in Washington. The Obama administration. We got it. It was the most highly sought after — or one of them, but I think the most highly sought after project in the history of General Services. People were shocked, Trump got it. Well, I got it for two reasons.

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Number two, we had a really good plan. Because the General Services, who are terrific people, by the way, and talented people, they wanted to do a great job. And they wanted to make sure it got built. So we have to rebuild our infrastructure, our bridges, our roadways, our airports. You look at the patches and the year-old floor. They throw down asphalt, and they throw. You look at these airports, we are like a third world country. And I come in from China and I come in from Qatar and I come in from different places, and they have the most incredible airports in the world.

You come to back to this country and you have LAX, disaster. You have all of these disastrous airports. We have to rebuild our infrastructure. The final plot Figure 7 shows the relationship between inclusive references and references to the Other they , them , their , he , his , him , she , her. Here, again, we see a shift in the early s, when references to the in-group overtake references to those outside it. Note the consistency of the difference, as attested by the scatter plot: nearly all nineteenth century speeches feature a higher frequency of Other references and nearly all speeches after feature a higher frequency of in-group references.

Anna Howard Shaw. Now, nobody can deny that they are sincere, honest, and earnest men. No one can deny that the Puritans were men of profound conviction, and yet these men who gave up everything in behalf of an ideal, hardly established their communities in this new country before they began to practice exactly the same sort of persecutions on other men which had been practiced upon them. They settled in their communities on the New England shores and when they formed their compacts by which they governed their local societies, they permitted no man to have a voice in the affairs unless he was a member of the church, and not a member of any church, but a member of the particular church which dominated the particular community in which he happened to be.

In Massachusetts they drove the Baptists down to Rhode Island; in Connecticut they drove the Presbyterians over to New Jersey; they burned the Quakers in Massachusetts and ducked the witches, and no colony, either Catholic or Protestant allowed a Jew to have a voice.

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And so a man must worship God according to the conscience of the particular community in which he was located, and yet they called that religious freedom, they were not able to live the ideal of religious liberty, and from that time to this the men of this government have been following along the same line of inconsistency, while they too have been following a vision of equal grandeur and power.

Shaw As the previous figures illustrate, self-references follow a pattern of decline from the beginning of the nineteenth century all the way to approximately s, where they appear to turn into an incline. Inclusive references, by stark contrast, experience an incline during the same period, reaching a plateau in the s.

The two trend lines cross at the turn of the century, but it is safe to say that the main shift really takes place in the first twenty years of the twentieth century. Audience references remain almost unchanged throughout the two centuries. In addition to the needs of addressing the immediate audience in a compelling fashion, the rise of Inclusive references in particular can also be linked to the emergence of national and international political entities as key players in the political field during the twentieth century. In such contexts, the conceptual in-group can comprise nations states, political or institutional entities, which are pronominally referred to in speeches as if they were animate entities.

Margaret Thatcher. Our democratic systems have made it possible to organize our relationships with one another on a healthy basis. The North Atlantic Alliance and the European Community are - and remain - free associations of free peoples. Policies are frankly debated. Of course the debates are often lively and occasionally heated. But those debates are a sign of strength just as the regimented agreements of the Communist alliances are a mark of weakness. The argument now going on in the European Community is a case in point.

The Community is used to debate, often difficult and prolonged. We are seeing at present something more serious than many of the disputes which have taken place in the past. But the interests that unite the members of the Community are stronger than those which divide them - particularly when viewed in the light of other international problems. I believe that these common interests will assert themselves. I am confident that an acceptable solution will be found and that the European Community will emerge fortified from the debate. And a strong Europe is the best partner for the United States.

It is on the strength of that partnership that the strength of the free world depends. The last asset I want to mention today is the West's relationship with the countries of the Third World. Neither recent events; nor past injustices; nor the outdated rhetoric of anti-colonialism can disguise the real convergence of interest between the Third World and the West. It is we in the West who have the experience and contacts the Third World needs. We supply most of the markets for their goods and their raw materials.

We supply most of the technology they require. We provide them with private investment as well as Government aid. This exploratory study takes a first step toward a more comprehensive description of quantitative changes in Anglophone political speeches during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The strength of the phenomenon is such that it merits the label rhetorical threshold.

The evidence from SCPS suggests that the beginning of radio broadcasting coincides, if not ushers in, the beginning of a more we-focused style of political speaking, which occurs concurrently with a temporary decline of speaker-focus. Following the Second World War and the introduction of television, self-references by political speakers turn back into an include, while inclusive references also continue to rise. The data is too scarce to allow more than anecdotal conclusions about the era of digital media, but there is some indication that the self-referential style may be turning into a decline again.

Notably, there is also weak evidence to suggest that audience references may have been on a slight increase since the beginning of the Internet era. Figure 8. Fitted polynomial lines of the four categories of referential pronouns against the timeline. Although this empirical finding can be interpreted as indirectly supporting early twentieth-century observations about a contemporaneous transition from an individuated to a communal sense of self as the predominant mode of personal identity around the turn of the century, it is important to note that there are limits to the extent to which can read changes in political language as reflecting and taking advantage of the contemporary zeitgeist.

The study does not include political interviews, biographies and autobiographies, articles, columns, blogs or tweets. All the online archives used are available open access. In many cases this reflects the fact that the speech was not transcribed live but instead distributed in writing after the event.

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As clearly demonstrated by the graphs used in this paper, linear fits would grossly misrepresent periodic and oscillating phenomena. Acton, Eric. Journal of Sociolinguistics 18 1 : 3— Allen, Wendy. Androtsopoulos, Jannis. Mediatization and Sociolinguistic Change. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter. Discourse and Society 19 3 : — Bello, Umar. International Journal of English Linguistics 3 6 : 84— Brown, Roger and Albert Gilman. Style in Language , ed. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics , ed.

Chapelle, 1—8. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Chilton, Paul. Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 3 9 : — Bush calling for declarations of war or authority to use force? At a time when fact-checkers pore over the controversial rhetoric of a new president, does it offer food for thought? To answer whether Wilson achieved his goal, we should understand what his goal was, and was not. It was not to win over a recalcitrant Congress.

Wilson was a perceptive politician; he knew that if he asked for war, he had the votes. Neither was it meant to stir listening Americans with flights of passionate rhetoric. In , almost no Americans would hear him deliver it. Filled with long sentences and passive voice, the speech contains little noteworthy language in any of its roughly 3, words.

And compared to the requests for a declaration of war or authority to use force that followed, Wilson stayed true to that obligation. He acknowledges error. His own error, that is. For two years, Wilson had persisted in the belief that neutrality was the best bet, and that Germany would not wage war with such savagery.

Not for Wilson the George W. He acknowledges suffering ahead. He offers compassion. He tells the truth. George W. Wilson leaves some things unsaid. But he paints no sanitized picture of victory ahead. Not if we look for moving story, antithesis, gripping detail, or litanies of imagery. Speeches, though, are about more than language. Only to historians. For what Wilson did, no president seeking war has done since.