"Expressing through a Metaphor": SUSU Philologist Speaks about Prospects of Political Linguistics

The research by the Ural language scholars from Ural State Pedagogical University, Ekaterinburg, and from SUSU, Chelyabinsk, is devoted to political linguistics, in particular to the field of studying the metaphors that function in political discourse. The use of the Russian language resources helps develop political communication in society and understand the hidden meaning in the speeches of political leaders.

The scientific status and broad research prospects of a relatively new interdisciplinary science, that is political linguistics, are determined by the object of research, the direction of interpretations of political discourse, and the scope of application of the results of the analysis of political communication.

Anatolii Chudinov, Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Professor, Chief Researcher of Ural State Pedagogical University, Ekaterinburg, and Olga Solopova, Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Professor of the Department of Linguistics and Translation Studies at the Institute of Linguistics and International Communications, South Ural State University, Chelyabinsk, told what political linguistics studies, what function metaphor performs in modern political speech, what the role of the new direction of "linguo-political prognostics" is in the development of metaphorical systems, and also presented the monographs by the Ural scientific school published this year.

"In recent years, the most promising research fields are most often born at the intersection of various spheres of knowledge. One of these spheres is political linguistics, a new scientific field for Russia, which arose at the intersection of linguistics and political science, taking into account the achievements of ethnology, social psychology, sociology, cultural studies, and history. Research in political linguistics combines, first of all, the materials under study (political language, political texts, political discourse), and therefore there is still no single theoretical basis, methodology and terminology in this sphere of knowledge. However, a certain conceptual and terminological minimum is necessary, without which even mutual understanding between specialists is impossible, and even more so, the systematic interpretation of the foundations of political linguistics. In our works, we offer one of the possible sets of basic concepts and terms.

The subject of research in political linguistics is political communication, that is speech activity focused on the promotion of certain ideas, emotional impact on citizens of the country and encouraging them to take political action, to develop public consent, make and substantiate socio-political decisions in the context of multiple points of view in society," Professor Anatolii Chudinov explains what constitutes the essence, subject and functions of political linguistics.

Professor Olga Solopova complements the colleague's answer: "An important task of political linguistics is to explore the diverse relationships between language, thinking, communication, subjects of political activity and the political state of society. Political communication influences the distribution and use of power due to the fact that it serves as a means of influencing the consciousness of people who make political decisions (voters, deputies, officials, etc.)."

How can you characterize the modern Russian political language? Are there any peculiar linguo-stylistic features of the political speeches of Russian politicians, or do they follow Western models?

"Perhaps it is more appropriate to use the term "political style" here, the features of which are precisely related to the preference for certain linguistic means. For example, scientists compared interviews given to journalists by Russian politicians, and found that the most verbose interviews were those with M.S. Gorbachev, and the briefest ones belonged to B.N. Yeltsin. The first politician often used rare, uncommon words of foreign origin, and the latter used slang words and expressions. In many cases, experts do not consider the linguistic peculiarities of individual politicians, but rather the ways of expression typical for representatives of certain political parties," Anatolii Chudinov replies.

What is the collective "speech portrait" of a contemporary Russian politician?

"As a rule, this is a professional who is brilliant in verbal and non-verbal means. The "speech portrait" of this person is characterized by such features as bright personality, confidence in his/her own position, and competence. But to every rule there is an exception. Alas, we cannot speak about the collective image, since the "speech portrait", like a fine art portrait, depends on the direction of art, the talent of the master, the angle, the background, the quality of the work, etc. That is a metaphor. And in this case, not only the personality who speaks should be taken into account, but also the one who analyzes," comments Olga Solopova.

A metaphor is used actively as a means of influencing the political consciousness of people in society. And the Ural scientists are trying to investigate what function it performs in modern political speech.

"We consider metaphor as a way of understanding, structuring, evaluating and explaining the world. People not only express their thoughts with the help of metaphors, but also think in metaphors, learn the world in which they live with the help of metaphors, and also seek to transform the linguistic picture of the world existing in their consciousness in the process of speech-thinking activity. Accordingly, the main functions of metaphor are cognitive (processing and storing information), modelling (creating a model or image of a fragment of the world), communicative (transmitting information), and pragmatic (influencing the addressee) ones," explains Anatolii Chudinov.

What is the metaphorical model, and what is it based on?

"The structure of the metaphorical model is that X is similar to Y. It makes it possible to radically shorten the path from one image to another and allows to economically, clearly and vividly present new knowledge in relation to new conditions, but starting from the already known and familiar. For example, POLITICAL ACTIVITY is WAR. The metaphors of the model are associated with the struggle in political circles, the hostile attitude of opponents to each other, unwillingness to find compromises when solving accumulated problems: politicians try to predict the possible end to endless "wars", planning and thinking over future "military" actions in advance, choosing the most effective type of "weapons"," Chudinov gives a definition of the concept and examples of the model.

What is the author's approach (the method of cognitive discourse analysis) in the study of political metaphors?

"The specificity of our approach is determined by equal attention to the cognitive and discourse components of modern political metaphorology. It is the cognitive discourse methodology that brings the most interesting scientific results, it is this methodology that is increasingly used to analyze the most complex political texts conditioned by the discourse, that is, depending on the social, political, ideological, and historical context. Simply put, this is the maximum consideration of not only what is said, but who says it and to whom, when, and under what circumstances," says Professor Chudinov.

Professor Olga Solopova, who specializes in political metaphorology and who is the author of a new field, that is a linguo-political forecasting, explains what the forecasting of the development of metaphorical systems in their relationship with the development of the political situation in a particular society is based on:

“Power as a basic category of politics and political discourse is directly related to modelling of the future, with the help of which state and public institutions carry out their self-representation and legitimation, construct and promote certain images of the future in order to regulate the course of internal political struggle, foreign policy relations and control the process of pressure from various social and political institutions both inside the country and abroad. A metaphor is the key to understanding the future, since it is precisely this property of anticipatory thinking that helps to interpret the past and the present, structures the vision of the future, organizes the forecast, guiding it, directing it along the “path of light”, or choosing a “dark” alternative. My works are related to the study of the image of the future of Russia in the domestic and foreign discourses of various historical periods (the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries), but this is a completely different story.”

How do Ural scholar philologists assess the prospects of political metaphorology?

“The prospects are great, since fundamentally new opportunities and new methods appear in the era of digitalization,” says Professor Anatolii Chudinov.

Adding to the answer of her colleague Olga Solopova expressed her opinion: “Of particular relevance are the problems of the development of comparative studies of political metaphor based on the material of discourses of different countries and historical changes in the systems of national metaphors, which is directly related to the possibilities that Anatolii Chudinov has identified: access to the computer corpus databases data, digitized archives of editions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and using the tools of corpus linguistics.”

It is important that the Ural school of political linguistics (sometimes referred to as political metaphorology) emerged in the mid-1990s and brings together researchers from Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Tagil, Surgut, and other cities of the Ural Federal District. Anatolii Chudinov shares: “The methodological core of the scientific school is the theory of metaphorical modelling. It has happened that some talented and motivated scientists have been working with me for 15-20 years. For example, my co-authors on monographs: Eduard Budaev, Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of the Russian State Vocational Pedagogical University (Nizhny Tagil) and Olga Solopova, Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Professor of the Department of Linguistics and Translation Studies, Institute of Linguistics and International Communications of South Ural State University (National Research University) (Chelyabinsk), managed to defend two theses, publish many books and articles, and also tutor their postgraduates to our dissertation council. This is how the Ural scientific school of political linguistics has been established.”

This year, within the framework of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research project No. 19-012-00192 “Ural Region in the military-publicistic discourse of the Great Patriotic War (based on the material of digitized archival documents of the USSR and Western European countries)” (supervised by Olga Solopova), the research team of the Ural school of political linguistics has published the monograph “Political Metaphrology: Discursive Turn” (Moscow, 2020), authors - Anatolii Chudinov, Eduard Budaev, Olga Solopova. The study is carried out by the scientists from South Ural State University (Chelyabinsk) and is to be implemented during three years (2019 through 2021).

Olga Solopova reports: “The project team works with texts published during the Great Patriotic War in the media of five countries: the USSR, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. These are analytical materials by journalists writing on foreign policy topics, speeches by leaders of political parties, comments by political scientists. Researchers are stydying truly unique documents that make it possible to look differently at the events of the Great Patriotic War, especially those that took place on the home front, in the Ural region. Naturally, this view is distorted and to some extent politicized depending on in which country and in which edition the material is published. Nevertheless, such a view must be available since it helps to have a new assessment of the seemingly well-known events. The value of the published monograph for this project lies in the fact that it outlines the main provisions of the cognitive-discursive approach to the study of the language of politics, including in terms of analysing the discourse of the past eras in a comparative perspective (the project uses material from five European languages).”

What is the application of the project results in educational practice and for social/ political institutions?

“The project is directly related to the strategic field outlined by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in 2019 at the meeting of the “Pobeda” (“Victory”) Russian organizing committee for the preparation for the Year of Memory and Glory, preserving memory, and preventing the falsification of the history of the Great Patriotic War.

On the one hand, we are developing a unique information resource that provides open access to unknown and previously unpublished materials about the Ural region during the Great Patriotic War,” Professor Olga Solopova spoke in detail about the productivity of scientific research and its implementation in practice. “In addition, the project team has provided materials to the State Museum of the South Ural History for two exhibitions: “Today the War Began” (2019), and “One Victory for Everyone” (2020). Last year, the project team held a stationary exhibition “The Ural Region during the Great Patriotic War” with the participation of the talented youth of our university at the SUSU Museum and Educational Complex. In my opinion such exhibitions seem to be an effective mechanism for the integration of scientific knowledge and methodological innovations, which will help to introduce the best practices of language training in universities under Project 5-100, to introduce Russian and foreign students in an innovative format to the history of Russia and our region, and to promote the involvement of students in the public university life.”

Professor of the Ural State Pedagogical University emphasized: “A characteristic feature of our scientific school is the constant scientific and creative communication, joint preparation of textbooks, monographs, and articles. This is not our first joint work." Professor Anatolii Chudinov points out: “Close interaction with Chinese scientists is another distinguishing feature of our scientific school. Joint research began two decades ago. Chinese and Russian specialists jointly hold scientific conferences, publish scientific articles in Russian and Chinese journals, and participate in training students who study political communication in Russia, China, and other countries. In 2020, the monograph “Theory and Practice of Political Metaphorology” (Ekaterinburg, 2020) was published, which my co-authors (Eduard Budaev and Olga Solopova) and I wrote together with Yang Ke, Director of the Institute of European Languages and Cultures at Guangdong University of Foreign Languages and International Trade. One of the objectives of this monograph is to acquaint the multinational scientific community of political communication specialists with the research by the Russian and Chinese scientists. That is why chapters in Russian, Chinese and English are available in the monograph”.

In the future, the Ural scientists plan to continue their cooperation. Since, according to Chudinov: “In China, political linguistics is at the initial stage of development and formation, and Chinese scientists are interested in continuing the cooperation, what will result in another monograph, which is to be published in Chinese in China in 2021 (Peking University Press)”.


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