Analysis of the pragmatic functions of personal pronouns and modal expressions

Since pragmatic choices are performed intentionally by the speaker in order to convey additional context-dependent meanings in the process of interaction, they play a key role in enhancing the persuasive power of political rhetoric. In agreement with Chilton’s approach to the analysis of political discourse the ideologically-biased discourse world of the speaker is seen here as constructed along three dimensions of deixis-space, time and modality-in which the speaker is positioned as the deictic centre, associated with “not only the origin of here and now, but also of epistemic true and deontic right’ (Chilton 2004: 59). The potential of deictic expressions to contribute to the construction of this discourse world results from their inherent indeterminacy. Due to their context-dependency pronominal forms may be used to indicate different categories of individuals or groups and their interpretation is the result of a cooperative effort by the participants in the communicative event. It follows that personal deixis can be instrumental in the construal of the identity of the speaker and the categorization of his/her relations with other individuals or groups represented in the discourse world. Modality[1] is connected with the expression of meanings which have evaluative function, i.e. they express the speaker’s “opinion or attitude towards the proposition that the sentence expresses or the situation that the proposition describes" (Lyons 1977: 452). Thus epistemic modality enables the speakers to express various degrees of commitment to the truth value of propositions, while deontic modality allows them to exhort or condemn behaviour and views from the point of view of the culture-specific moral norms and value system which they share.

  • [1] This investigation adopts Palmer’s (1986, 2003) categorization of modalmeanings in terms of the speaker’s commitment to propositional content, whichdifferentiates between three types of modality, namely epistemic, deontic anddynamic.
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