Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory

Founded by Gries, Stefan Th. / Stefanowitsch, Anatol

Ed. by Wulff, Stefanie

2 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.200
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.386

CiteScore 2017: 0.80

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.288
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.930

See all formats and pricing
More options …

How to identify moral language in presidential speeches: A comparison between a social-psychological and a cognitive-linguistic approach to corpus analysis

Kiki Y. Renardel de Lavalette
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Dutch Studies, University of Amsterdam, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam 1012 VB, Netherlands
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Gerard Steen
  • Department of Dutch Studies, University of Amsterdam, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam 1012 VB, Netherlands
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Christian Burgers
  • Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, Amsterdam 1081 HV, Netherlands
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2016-12-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2016-0007


Lakoff (2002 [1996], Moral politics. How liberals and conservative think. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) presents the Theory of Moral Politics (TMR), as based in the roles of metaphor in moral thinking in American Politics. Two distinct methods of data analysis, one social-psychological and one cognitive-linguistic, have been employed to empirically test Lakoff’s assertions on moral reasoning, but have yielded different results. We applied both methods to the same corpus of speeches to determine whether they would yield similar results and could thus be considered to be equally appropriate ways of testing the presence of moral language. We show that the method affects what sort of conclusion can be drawn from research. Consequently, when testing TMR, we recommend that the corpus-linguistic method used is critically evaluated.

Keywords: morality; politics; corpus analysis; metaphor; political speeches


  • Bar-Lev, Zev. 2007. Reframing moral politics. Journal of Language and Politics 6(3). 459–474. doi: CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Charteris-Black, Jonathan & Andreas Musolff. 2003. ‘Battered hero’ or ‘innocent victim’? A comparative study of metaphors for euro trading in British and German financial reporting. English for Specific Purposes 22. 153–176. doi: .CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cienki, Alan. 2005. Metaphor in the “Strict Father” and “Nurturant Parent” cognitive models: Theoretical issues raised in an empirical study. Cognitive Linguistics 16(2). 279–312. doi: CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Deason, Grace & Mari H. Gonzales. 2012. Moral politics in the 2008 presidential convention acceptance speeches. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 34(3). 254–268. doi: .CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Deason, Grace, Brad Lippmann, Marti H. Gonzales & Jennifer Filson. 2008. Exploring Uncle Sam: The role of family metaphors in political attitudes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Paris, France, 08 July.

  • Koller, Veronika. 2008. Metaphor and gender in business media discourse. A critical cognitive study. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • Kotrlik, Joe W. & Heather A. Williams. 2003. The incorporation of effect size in information technology, learning, and performance research. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal 21(1). 1–7.Google Scholar

  • Lakoff, George. 2002 [1996]. Moral politics. How liberals and conservative think. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • Landis, J. Richard & Gary G. Koch. 1977. The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics 33(1). 159–174. doi: CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Level playing-field. n.d. In MacMillan Dictionary online. Retrieved from http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/level-playing-field.

  • Moses, Jennifer F. & Marti H. Gonzales. 2015. Strong candidate, nurturant candidate: Moral language in presidential television advertisements. Political Psychology 36(4). 379–397. doi: .CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ohl, Jessy J., Damien S. Pfister, Martin Nader & Dana Griffin. 2013. Lakoff’s Theory of Moral Reasoning in presidential campaign advertisements, 1952–2012. Communication Studies 64(5). 488–507. doi: .CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Pragglejaz Group. 2007. MIP: A method for identifying metaphorically used words in discourse. Metaphor and Symbol 22(1). 1–39. doi: CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Semino, Elena. 2008. Metaphor in discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Steen, Gerard J. 2005. Basic discourse acts: Towards a psychological theory of discourse segmentation. In Francisco J. Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez & M. Sandra Peña Cervel (eds.), Cognitive linguistics: Internal dynamics and interdisciplinary interaction, 283–312. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Steen, Gerard J., Aletta G. Dorst, J. Berenike Herrmann, Anna Kaal, Tina Krennmayr & Trijntje Pasma. 2010. A method for linguistic metaphor identification: From MIP to MIPVU. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Wolters, H.C. 2012. Is Bush a strict father and Obama a nurturing parent? Metaphorical expressions of moral value systems in American politics. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam MA thesis.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2016-12-03

The contribution of Christian Burgers was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO VENI grant 275-89-020).

Citation Information: Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, ISSN (Online) 1613-7035, ISSN (Print) 1613-7027, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2016-0007.

Export Citation

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.


Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in