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 1 , Gerard Steen 2  and Christian Burgers 3
  • 1 Department of Dutch Studies, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2 Department of Dutch Studies, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 3 Department of Communication Science, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kiki Y. Renardel de Lavalette, Gerard Steen and Christian Burgers
  • Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Abstract

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.

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