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Laparoscopic Endoscopic Surgical Science The pragmatics of hedges in political communication: A critical discourse analysis of the 2016 US presidential debates [ALRJournal]
ALRJournal. 2021; 5(1): 54-67 | DOI: 10.14744/alrj.2020.47135

The pragmatics of hedges in political communication: A critical discourse analysis of the 2016 US presidential debates

Danqi Zhang
Department of Linguistics, School of International Studies, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

In the light of critical discourse analysis (CDA) and the classic categorization of hedges, this study analyzes the pragmatic functions of hedges in the transcripts of the 2016 US presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The results show that among the four types of hedges, plausibility shields and adaptors are frequently used, whereas rounders and attribution shields are rarely employed by the candidates. Trump uses significantly more approximators than Clinton, while Clinton uses shields more frequently than her rival. On the whole, Trump uses hedges more frequently than Clinton in the debates. In such political communication, hedges have multiple pragmatic functions, namely emphasizing proposition, establishing common ground, increasing credibility, avoiding responsibility, and showing politeness. It is found that Trump tends to use hedges to emphasize propositions, while Clinton often employs hedges to show politeness and closeness with the voters. This use of hedges reveals the different ideologies of each candidate.

Keywords: Trump, Clinton, hedge, presidential debate, critical discourse analysis

Danqi Zhang. The pragmatics of hedges in political communication: A critical discourse analysis of the 2016 US presidential debates. ALRJournal. 2021; 5(1): 54-67

Corresponding Author: Danqi Zhang, China
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