Discriminating political styles as genres: A corpus study exploring Hariman's theory of political style

David Kaufer*, Robert Hariman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Five years apart, Hariman (1995) and Fairclough (2000) produced major theoretical statements about political language and style. Their work grew out of different intellectual traditions and took on different subject matters. Hariman, drawing on the textual criticism model of American rhetorical studies, defined style as a cultural repertoire of persuasive techniques that can work across texts, media, institutions, and other modes of communication. He analyzed four major styles - realist, republican, courtly, and bureaucratic - that have had significant literary exposition and political effect. Fairclough, writing from the tradition of critical discourse analysis, focused more narrowly on the political style of Tony Blair and New Labour, and studied whether New Labour represented an emergent new language distinct from older instantiations of Labour Party rhetoric. Important for this analysis is Fairclough's distinction between political style and genre, which motivated a methodology combining theoretical analysis and corpus analysis. We show how the same combination of methods can illuminate Hariman's theory, particularly in respect to the problem its theoretical sophistication presents for application through close reading of individual texts. The corpus study validates or refines many of Hariman's central claims, and provides one model for better coordination of two important programs of research on political discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-500
Number of pages26
JournalText and Talk
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • Automatic text classification
  • Corpus analysis
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Genre
  • Political style
  • Rhetorical criticism
  • Statistical text analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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