Pronominal deixis power to shape political discourse: A corpus analysis of English and Arabic speeches

31 May 2024
Room F1

Pronominal deixis power to shape political discourse: A corpus analysis of English and Arabic speeches

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, stated Orwell (1946, p.13). Under the same track, deictic expressions can also be used to create a sense of identification or distance between the speaker and the audience, or to shift the focus of attention or responsibility (Hamdaoui, 2015). Thus, to understand how we connect the words to the world, this paper aims to provide a comprehensive elaboration on the relationship between the actors, moment, and scene of action in relation to pronominal deixis. Accordingly, the study adopted a mixed-methods approach to investigate the speeches of two political leaders, Joe Biden and Abdelmadjid Tebboune on various issues. The corpus consisted of 10 speeches, 5 of each, delivered between 2019 and 2024. In one hand, the quantitative research relied on using AntConc software (version 4.2.4) to calculate and compare the frequency and distribution of pronouns. On the other hand, the qualitative analysis focused on examining the pragmatic functions of pronouns through critical discourse analysis. The analysis and interpretation of data revealed that the most common pronouns in all speeches of both presidents were “I” and “we” followed by “they” and “you” in less frequency. Nevertheless, the rest of the personal pronouns were used very rarely. The use of “I” and “we” pronouns as entities of both presidents also differs from one speech to another depending on the intention and purpose of the speakers, their cultural norms, and affiliations. The audience to whom the speeches were addressed was also a critical factor that affected their use. Possessive pronouns in the English and Arabic speeches had the same pragmatic functions in terms of creating authority and identity, demonstrating care and responsibility, and building rapport and connection. Exceptions in demonstrative pronouns between both languages are also illustrated. Results showed that exploring different rhetorical language choices of pronouns is crucial in comprehending how political leaders shape their discourse. Similar pragmatic functions exist across distinct languages, yet context remains a determining variable.


Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and the English Language. Derived from:

Hamdaoui, M. (2015). The persuasive power of person deixis in political discourse: The pronoun “We” in Obama’s speeches about the 2007-2009 financial crises as an example. European Conference on Arts & Humanities, Official Conference Proceedings, 99-111. Thistle Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom.