Peculiarities of prosodic systems and their relation to other language means in actualization of presidential discourse

Interaction of prosodic means with units of other language levels in the process of updating the English-speaking presidential address. A complex of prosodic means, the functioning of which ensures the implementation of the strategic and tactical goals.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык украинский
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Peculiarities of prosodic systems and their relation to other language means in actualization of presidential discourse

Contemporary cognitive and functional-and-communicative studies draw special attention to presidential discourse. This domain of political discourse is of great interest to scholars because of a dominant role the presidency plays for the society and a variety of verbal and non-verbal rhetoric weapons which both effectively appeal to the deepest corners of the public's consciousness and provide speeches with a high level of persuasion.

There is a vast mass of works providing significant research of pragmatic, semantic, lexical, grammatical and stylistic aspects of political speeches [2; 10]. A review of the literature shows that one of the central issues to the study of miscellaneous discursive samples of presidential rhetoric is, on the one hand, strategies and tactics [5; 3; 15], on the other hand, the role of phonetic means in the actualization of political texts [8; 1]. In our opinion the two aspects define the verbal armory of the modern rhetorical president and suggest areas for further research. Thus, in inquiring into the nature of presidential rhetoric, within the framework of modern experimental phonetic studies, it is necessary to further a better understanding of how intonation systems contribute to the actualization of utterances integrated into a presidential speech as key spots that fulfill the speaker's strategic and tactical objectives.

When delivering a speech, a president, like any other speaker, transits from the conceptual level of communication, i.e. a level of strategies and tactics, to more concrete forms of their manifestations, communicative moves. The process is attained by the use of semantically and contextually relevant lexical units that have proper categorial form, phonic configuration, grammaticized subjects and objects, relations and subordinations, as well as various expressive figures of speech [10, p. 17-19]. Consequently, it is quite obvious that a speaker involves a wide range of language means of lexical, grammatical, and phonetic levels to make a communicative move as persuasive as possible. Herein, a complex nature of interactions between the elements that convey the meaning of the utterance by intensifying its semantics and more importantly, conduce to the realization of the pragmatic objectives can be presented by the following types: lexical + phonetic; grammatical + phonetic; lexical + grammatical + phonetic and the like [6, p. 21]. The speaker uses the type of intensifies which possess the communicative and pragmatic potential to fully actualize a set of strategic and tactical goals of the delivered speech.

Therewith, despite the type of interaction of language means, the prosodic system, signaling the dynamics of speech event, combining lexical and grammatical devices into a coherent unit [1, p. 8], is one of the crucial factors in speech delivery which is not always achieved by units of other language levels. It is due to intonation committing either a parallel (i.e. enhances the semantics of lexical and grammatical units) or contrastive intensification of the language units used as actualization agents of communicative moves, that a listener perceives general acoustic tonus of the speech (repetitions, hesitations, stops, rising and falling in pitch), connects and evaluates the ideas of the speaker's message [7, p. 101].

Thus, to understand the role of intonation and its components as a powerful tool for rendering the string «strategy - tactic - communicative move» in presidential addresses, we first need to examine the prosodic elements which are most likely able to intensify an utterance in their close relation to the means of other language levels. It also should be mentioned that our previous studies allowed us to distinguish a basic strategy of preserving the president's image through informing the listeners and three tactics: object / referent situation enhancement and detraction, and a tactic of theatricality in the presidential addresses to the nation and to Congress. The later ones include a range of communicative moves such as analysis - «minus», accusation, promise, self-presentation and the like.

On a lexical and semantic level, the most obvious indicators of communicative moves that realize tactics of a presidential address are the participants of the communication; objects, events and actions; the speaker's personal attitude to the message; the indication of the designation of the modality (time, obligation) [5, p. 130] etc. These are achieved by the use of nouns, adjectives, intensifying particles, negative and indefinite pronouns (e.g. nothing, everything, nobody, everybody, anyone), adverbs (e.g. all, whole, ever, never, forever) etc. For example, the communicative move analysis - «minus» in an excerpt of B. Obama's address shown below, illustrates the use of the temporal verb form Present Perfect the emphatic nature of which, focuses listeners' attention on the existing results (premiums have grown). Also, it represents the use of comparative and superlative degrees of adverbs (four times faster than; 1 million more) and adjectives comparison (the largest and fastest-growing). The incorporation of these means along with the exploitation of the metaphor (corporations ship jobs overseas) suggest a negative connotative colouring within the message.

In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, 1 million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it's one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget [17].

Similarly, it peculiarizes a tactic of speaker's qualities or referent situation enhancement in the above mentioned speech, exhibited by the self-presentation communicative move, for instance, Already, we've done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we've done in the last decade [17]. It is marked by the use of lexical units that emphasize the productivity of the president's policies (we've done more to advance). An inclusive pronoun «we» serves the same purpose. It effectively provides both the speaker's self-presentation and listener's concentration on the result of mutual efforts that forms, in the latter's consciousness, a belief in the direct correlation between the two.

So, the examples demonstrate that the actualization agents of communicative moves can be content and function words, the words that invoke strong emotive reactions, and completely denotative (neutral). However, we can hardly deny the fact that in a monotonous speech delivery, when the prosodic means are used to convey only a general communicative meaning, an impact of well selected, highly persuasive actualization agents of communicative moves is considerably diminished. On the contrary, their persuasive potential expands substantially when accompanied with changes in pitch, timbre, range, nuclear tone, tempo, loudness and pausation [19, p. 56-59], i.e. variations in intonation.

A primary part in actualization of most communicative moves (accusation, analysis - «minus», self-presentation, cooperation etc.) belong to emotive, evaluative and expressive lexical units of both positive (e.g. freedom, democracy, equality, safety, peace, employment etc.) and negative (e.g. regime, radical etc.) connotative and denotative meanings. This can be seen in the following excerpt: The Communists in the Kremlin are engaged in monstrous conspiracy to stamp out freedom all over the world. If they were to succeed, the United States would be numbered among their principal victims [18]. Here, the word freedom in the metaphoric phrase to stamp out freedom on the background of negatively evaluative lexical elements (monstrous conspiracy, principal victims) are employed to implement psychological pressure. Their persuasive potential can be strengthened by such intonation means as accidental rise, accentuation, modifications of timber, pausation [4, p. 90; 16, p. 57-58] etc. Moreover, prosody can be an independent means of expressiveness for cases in which the meaning of any prosodic parameter is unexpected in the specific situation, for example, too high pitch level, too slow tempo and the like.

To convince listeners and achieve tactical objectives, presidents adopt a wide range of expressive figures like metaphor, epithet, antithesis, simile, emotive and evaluative lexes including synonyms, hyperboles, ironical and humorous expressions etc. in their addresses. The use of the tropes, particularly metaphors, allows a speaker to highlight the facts both in positive and negative lights that optimize the actualization of communicative moves. It also allows the intended audience to form a more personal connection with the speaker, since these devises convey more of a conversational feel.

Regarding the interaction of prosodic means and tropes, it should be mentioned that antithesis in the following excerpt of G. Bush's address: As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world [12] (communicative move prognosis), can be realized by the contrast between maximum and minimum values of intonation parameters (melodic range, shape of melody contour, melody level etc.) [14, p. 282-284] against their average parameters.

It should be noted that the opposition «good - bad» as a distinctive feature of the tactic of object / referent situation detraction can sometimes be represented by negative information for the purpose of concentrating the intended audience on the president's positive qualities. In this case, the speaker may use a contrast or an opposition as variants of antitheses. Unlike the later, they don't involve antonyms but words, phrases or sentences that extend negative or positive connotations of the message. The following fragment of G. Bush's speech exemplifies this: It is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists [12]. Their presence on the lexical level (e.g., repressingthreatening) can be intensified by the emotionally coloured components of all the prosodic subsystems (contrasts in pitch levels and ranges, pitch movement and its configuration, contrast in tempo of neighbouring intonation groups and the like) [9, p. 82].

The analysis of the presidential addresses shows that actualization agents of some communicative moves may include such syntactical devices as parallel constructions and repetitions, constructions with conditional complex sentences, imperatives, future forms of the verb, imperative, interrogative, negative syntactic constructions and so on. Such unidirectional interaction of various lexical and grammatical means is traced in the following example of communicative move promise: What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act [13]. It represents the parallelism of grammatical constructions linked with the same conjunction (polysyndeton) and the verb «do» being used as an intensifier. On the prosodic level, quite commonly used, in presidential addresses to the nation and to Congress, syntactic parallelism can be accompanied with the parallelism of suprasegmental units, i.e. the repetition of the same intonation model in the parallel constructions [9, p. 66]. As a result, the utterance not only becomes more energetic but also acquires a specific rhythm [10, p. 20], which enables a speaker to transmit the entire energetic potential of the words. Adjusting to a specific rhythm and its dynamic changes both make it easier for the audience to understand the message and attract their attention to the quanta of information which are of primary importance for the realization of various distinct communicative moves.

Besides this, the results of the analysis indicate that some communicative moves for example, accusation are characterized by inversion, as we may see in the following: With more than a hundred thousand troops, along with tanks, artillery, and surface - to-surface missiles, Iraq now occupies Kuwait [11]. Their semantic weight can be increased as a result of variations in pitch in the terminal part of the intonation group. For this reason, a combination of a falling-rising tone (one of its functions is to encourage and convey urgency [7, p. 115]) and the inversion allows the speaker to draw the listener's attention to the strategically important quanta of information. Similar unidirectional interaction of syntactical structures and prosodic means can also be seen in variations of other components of melody (pitch level, range etc.) [7, p. 128]. However, such means extend beyond the melody and embrace many more components of intonation which effectively actualize communicative tactics and moves. Thereby, further investigation of the issue based on experimentally verified data is of primary importance.

To summarize, this study indicates that variations in individual parameter of intonation subsystems are able to deepen words' semantics and in this way provides the presidential speech with an essential expressiveness which is necessary for a speaker to capture the listeners' attention and to replicate a sense of emotional, intellectual or sensory pressure among the audience. Here, in general, we may conclude that studying basic characteristics of intonation models which conduce to the actualization of communicative moves we should focus on relative values of intonation parameters like changes in pitch, tempo, volume, speed of pitch movement shifts and the like. Moreover, by concretizing the information about the speaker's intentions, his attitudes towards the ideas he states, the prosodic means assist a speaker in fulfilling the speech's strategic and tactical objectives which are primarily reached through marking the segments, the communicative weight of which effects the realization of a communicative move.


prosodic language presidential address

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