14.608, Diss: Discourse Analysis: Danilina "The Rhythm..."

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-14-608. Mon Mar 3 2003. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 14.608, Diss: Discourse Analysis: Danilina "The Rhythm..."

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Date:  Fri, 28 Feb 2003 10:59:14 +0000
From:  varidan at yahoo.com
Subject:  Discourse Analysis: Danilina "The Rhythm of Political Oratory"

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Fri, 28 Feb 2003 10:59:14 +0000
From:  varidan at yahoo.com
Subject:  Discourse Analysis: Danilina "The Rhythm of Political Oratory"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: Moscow State University
Program: Department of Foreigh Languages
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Varvara Danilina

Dissertation Title:
The Rhythm of Political Oratory

Linguistic Field:
Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, Text/Corpus Linguistics, Syntax

Subject Language: English (code: 1738)

Dissertation Director 1: Ludmila Minaeva

Dissertation Abstract:

My doctoral dissertation was completed after four years of research on
the rhythm of British and American political oratory. I sought to
establish the rhythmic norm for political public speech and to find
out, whether any deviations from this norm (i.e. from an expected
rhythmic model) influence listeners and provoke their verbal reactions
or bursts of applause. To accomplish this task I used a variety of
linguistic and rhetorical methods, and drew upon social psychology and
political science.

There is no single linguistic perspective on speech rhythm. For
instance, such distinguished scholars as D. Crystal and D. Abercrombie
regard it as a purely phonetic phenomenon. At the same time, according
to Moscow University school of thought, to which I belong, speech
rhythm is created by a blend of phonetics, syntax and meaning of an
utterance. As a result of my research, I established rhythmic
regularities for political oratory at five levels.

Firstly, I analyzed pauses that divide the stream of speech into
segments (syntagmas), and classified all the pauses into syntactic,
rhetorical or unintentional (unintentional pauses are caused by
hesitation, deliberation, stammering, interruptions by listeners,
etc). Secondly, I established the relative frequency of short, medium
and long syntagmas between pauses, and thirdly, analyzed the rhythmic
structures constituted by linear sequences of syntagmas. Fourthly, I
studied the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables inside
syntagmas. And finally, I considered all kinds of repetitions, both
rhetorical and unintentional. This method of rhythmic analysis is
based on earlier analytical models designed by my university
colleagues. My own contribution consisted in adapting this method to
the study of public speech, describing the typical rhythm of political
oratory, and challenging some popular assumptions about speech rhythm.

As for the impact of speech rhythm upon listeners, I started by
analyzing audiences in order to understand psychological, social and
political conditions of that process. G. Le Bon, Z. Freud and other
scholars demonstrated conclusively that members of a crowd (and the
audience of a public speech is a crowd) are connected with each other
and with their leader (in our case, a speaker) by strong subconscious
ties. However, the degree of unity or polarization of an audience may
differ. Besides, each audience can be characterized according to
several other criteria that determine listeners' responsiveness and
the nature of their responses: their emotional state, the level of
expertise in a particular subject, the demographic and social
characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity, social status, occupation,
education), the existing evaluation of discussed issues, which is
largely determined by listeners' ideologies, and finally, the attitude
to the speaker, which can be positive, negative or indifferent. I
have applied this model of audience analysis to determine
peculiarities of the British parliamentary audience in October 1996,
and of the US Congress in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

To analyze the reactions of these audiences to the rhythm of Prime
Minister Major and President Bush's parliamentary addresses I used
M. Atkinson's version of the conversation analysis method. I showed
the two speeches as dialogues between the speakers and their
listeners, and singled out phrases and syntagmas that immediately
preceded audience responses, such as cheering, booing, laughter or
bursts of applause. These phrases and syntagmas happened to be quite
similar in terms of rhythm to other stretches of speech in the same
addresses. Moreover, there proved to be little rhythmic difference
between John Major and George Bush's speeches. In short, my research
demonstrated that there is no direct interconnection between the
rhythm of a public address and audience responses.

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