Framing the Candidate: A Corpus-based Rhetorical Analysis of the 2016 Democratic Primaries in the USA

Biondi, Alberto (2017) Framing the Candidate: A Corpus-based Rhetorical Analysis of the 2016 Democratic Primaries in the USA. Bologna: Centro di Studi Linguistico-Culturali (CeSLiC) e Alma Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna. ALMADL, p. 33. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsacta/5538. In: Quaderni del CeSLiC. Occasional papers A cura di: Miller, Donna Rose. ISSN 1973-221X.
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Abstract

Framing the Candidate: A Corpus-Based Rhetorical Analysis of the 2016 Democratic Primaries in the USA analyzes the rhetoric of the two main Democratic candidates running in the 2016 election cycle: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernard ‘Bernie’ Sanders. In order to identify the main persuasive strategies employed, we used the tools of corpus linguistics to study their campaign speeches and interventions during the televised debates. The transcripts of the speeches were collected both online and at the Digital Archives of the Library of Congress (Washington DC). We focused particularly on the way candidates framed themselves as the most suitable leader in November general elections. Clinton leveraged on her experience and pragmatism, while Sanders insisted on the issues of income inequality and social justice. If, on one hand, the former Secretary of State ran a more personalized campaign, heavily centered on herself, on the other hand the Senator from Vermont crafted a more inclusive message. What the keyword lists, n-grams and semantic preference revealed is their stark difference in rhetoric: Hillary Clinton is the “fighter”, the problem-solver who gets things done through incremental change; Bernie Sanders is the inspirer of a “political revolution”, the anti-establishment candidate seeking radical change. Our corpus-based analysis, with its focus on the candidates’ syntactical and lexical figures of speech, conceptual metaphors and frames, proved invaluable in underlining the differences between Clinton and Sanders in their persuasive discourse as well as in their political agenda.

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