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A Critical Search for Values in George W. Bush’s State of the Union Addresses


Agnieszka Sowińska

This book focuses on values and valuation in the State of the Union addresses delivered by the former U.S. President George W. Bush. What values are invoked in the speeches? How are these values constructed? How can they be classified? How are particular construals of values conducive to the actions the speaker wants to legitimize? Drawing on Critical Discourse Studies, the book examines pragmalinguistic tools applied in political legitimization, such as proximization, metaphor or assertion. The analysis reveals three ideological values used in the context of foreign policy making: security, terrorism and freedom.
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Chapter Three: Toward the analysis of values in political discourse


In this chapter, we stipulate our objectives and major assumptions, and present a sample analysis of the 2002 SOTU address delivered by George W. Bush and the 2009 SOTU speech by Barack Obama. The chapter’s main concern is to demonstrate a number of pragmalinguistic tools applied in the process of evaluation in political discourse.

1. Main objectives and assumptions

Evaluation permeates all the levels of linguistic description: phonological, morphological, lexical, syntactic and semantic (Alba-Juez and Thompson 2014: 11). Although in the present work we are essentially interested in the micro-level of language at which values are articulated, that is in terms of lexical and grammatical features of language, we also focus on the macro-level of discourse, which is the legitimization of political actions. Legitimization is understood here as legitimization with value concepts, i.e. justification of certain policy proposals through explicit or implicit appeals to particular socio-cultural values and by means of particular pragmalinguistic tools.

The conception of value adopted in the present study draws on Teun van Dijk’s (1998) socio-cognitive understanding of value, according to which values are mental objects, yet are part of a cultural common ground. They are referred to by van Dijk (and in the present work) as socio-cultural values. These are accomplished linguistically by specific words and are a basis for shaping attitudes and ideologies.

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