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Gender Differences In Political Discourse

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Political discourse is a broad field of study and it is identified by its participants that is politicians. Politicians actively participate not only in politics itself, but also in every kind of activity that may become helpful in gaining political aims. They are the group of people, who are elected and given trust by the society. However, politicians are not the only participants or members of the political domain. From the discourse analysis point of view various recipients of political events should be taken into consideration. In other words, the society is an important part of political discourse. Going further, politics consists of all people to whom all the political actions are addressed. Those may be defining as citizens, the public or political target domain group. Moreover, citizens might be divided into sub-categories like voters or political demonstrators etc. All these groups may be active in political process. What is worth noticing here is that when discussing politics, we must remember about political ideologies, institutions and organizations that to the same extent as people shape the political discourse. Summarising, political discourse involves political actions, structures, organizations and broadly defined audience. (Van Dijk, Teun. (1998)

Politics has always been associated with males. For the long time the role of women in political life has been neglected and ignored. Consequently, public male speakers have always been more influential than male ones. However, together with the appearance of Women’s Movement, females became more powerful and gained the audience’s attention not only in the field of politics. Participation in the public sphere by women changed to a larger extent the way in which political discourse is perceived today. (Sivric, Marijana, 2014)

In this paper I will analyse the concept of gender differences in political discourse discussing certain features and characteristics of language that appear among males and females in the context of political discourse these days. Politics includes all sort of communication between politicians and the target audience. It requires s the use of specific kind of language in order to persuade the intended messages.

Following this argumentation, gender discourse is a part of political discourse since both males and females tend to use different linguistic tools while giving their speech performances. What distinguishes the language used by male and female politicians is the use of syntax, semantics, pragmatics, lexical style and most importantly rhetorical strategies and manipulative language constructions that shape political speech. In general females’ conversational style is associated as sympathetic, supportive. It might be so due to existence of certain stereotypes about women. On the other hand, men’s style of speech may be generalised as strong due to stereotypes about males as well. Men are generally perceived as straightforward whereas their style as one showing strength. (Sivric, Marijana, 2014). They want to maintain their status. Many gender researchers agree that women use adjectives more frequently than men. When expressing themselves they emotional adjectives like “cool”, “pretty”, “lovely”, “cute”. Men on the other hand tend to use more neutral and distant adjectives like “good” and “great”. Additionally, men are more direct when expressing their thoughts, whereas women are more reversed. (Baikalova, Natalia)

When analysing political discourse men and women tend to exhibit certain different characteristics of speech.

Syntactical analysis of speeches performed by male and female politicians shows no significant differences. Both sexes when delivering their public speeches use different syntactic strategies such as topicalization, different tenses, personal and possessive pronouns. (Bailkova, Natalia). Probably, one of the best samples of political linguistic performances are campaigns. It is during campaigns that politicians deliver many speeches, paying detail to every single word or phrase they produce. All candidates want to sound as much convincing as possible in order to encourage their potential voters. To achieve this goal, they must use all kinds of rhetorical and linguistic devices. This is most visible during presidential campaigns.

They involve debates in which candidates must interact with each other. The political debates follow strict regulations and the rules of conduct which must be obeyed by the politicians. All these imposed rules significantly affect the way in which candidates speak and behave. In this sense political discourse involves communicative face-to-face interaction. They interviewers usually ask candidates controversial questions. That is why campaigns are interesting and useful material for the linguistic analysis. Firstly, presidential debates are expected to be emotional, they usually contain a lot of verbal attacks on the part of the candidates.

Secondly, they are supposed to be approved and accepted by others. Here, the contribution of Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory may be helpful to understand all the linguistically shaped political mechanisms. In pragmatics, keeping positive face deals with the desire of being accepted by others whereas the negative face concerns with the freedom of actions and the fact of not being imposed by others. Keeping a positive face is one of the most important goals in political interaction.

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Both sexes when delivering their public speeches use different syntactic strategies such as topicalization, different tenses, personal and possessive pronouns. (Bailkova, Natalia). Personal pronouns play an important role in political discourse, because they help politicians maintain this strategy of positive representation of themselves, and on the other hand negative representation of the other-the political opponent. Politicians, regardless of their sex, frequently use the personal pronoun “I”. It is because they want to underline the fact that they are independent individuals having their own opinions and beliefs. One of the most interesting campaigns recently conducted was the presidential campaign in the USA in 2

016, more precisely the rivalry between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Undoubtedly, after the campaign and the victory in elections Donald Trump became probably the most recognizable politician in the world. I will analyse the features of political discourse present both in Hilary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s performances giving most attention to the Presidential Campaign of 2016. In general Trump throughout the whole presidential campaign used the strategy of speaking slowly and clearly. (A critical discourse analysis of Donald Trump’s language Use in US Presidential Campaign)

He was using simple and short structures in order to attract more people, especially those of lower incomes. Both candidates used personal pronouns consistently while delivering their speeches. The following passages from the first Clinton-Trump debate show the frequent usage of pronouns by both politicians. Trump “(…) but we have to stop our jobs being stolen from us,” we cannot let it happen,” Clinton: “now, we have come back from that abys” or “I think science is real”. Both politicians constructed their sentences by means of fillers. In linguistics a filler is a sound or word used by the interlocutor to signal a pause or a hesitation. The most popular fillers are “like”, “you know”, “okay”, “so”,” actually” etc. Following fragments show Trump’s usage of fillers: “yeah, for 30 years,” “well, he approved NAFTA,”, “so is it President Obama’s fault? Clinton’s use of fillers is as follows: “Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS,” “Yeah, well, let's start the clock again, Lester,” So you've got to ask yourself, why won't he release his tax returns?”

The given fragments prove that Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump applied the tactic of constant use of fillers. The most frequent ones were “well” and “so”. Fillers helped politicians to keep the impression of spontaneity. From the first debate onward, each candidate maintained the strategy of using a significant number of personal pronouns and fillers.

It seems that Trump used more repetitions than Clinton. It is visible in the following fragments: “I did not. I did not. I do not say that… I do not say that”. The strategy of using repetitions may have helped Trump in maintaining his point of view. Moreover, the majority of his repetitions were phrases conceptualizing the issue of Americanism. Trump used such expressions like “Americans”, “(our) country”, “(our) nation’, “(our) people”, “(our) citizens”, “American Prestige”, “Constitution”, “Democracy”, “American dream”. In Trump’s discourse Americanism may be summarized as “America first”. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” clearly underlines his view on American nation. The concept of Americanism may also reflect Trump’s nationalistic visions of the country. Americanism was also visible in his acceptance speech: “Tonight I will share with you for action for America. The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America first. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo”, “It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.” or “We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.” In Donald Trump’s victory speech repeatedly appeared phrases like” we will” or “I will”. (Mohammadi, M, 2017)

It is worth noticing though that Trump unlike Clinton used strong and emotional discourse throughout the whole campaign. He also adopted the style of powerful gesticulation. His strategy in delivering the speeches was based on verbal attack, offensive, oftentimes vulgar language. Democratic party candidate used sexism language towards women during campaign which can be exemplified by the following tweet: “If Hilary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”. Trump used sexist discourse not only in social media, but also in interviews: “I think Hilary is an embarrassment to our country. She does not have the strength or stamina to be president. Hilary needs to be trashed at every opportunity that presents itself! This bitch must be stopped”. In this fragment Trump seriously insults Clinton. Vulgarism “bitch” was repeated in Trump’s speeches many times.

Summarising, Trump throughout the whole presidential campaign used different discourse strategies, rhetorical or lexical to diminish and humiliate other candidates, especially women.

Hilary Clinton’s style of discourse differentiated significantly from the one represented by Donald Trump. Firstly, she avoided using non-verbal communication and body language. Secondly, Clinton adopted the strategy of more emphatic and polite discourse concentrating on issues important for American citizens. Unlike Trump she didn’t sue any kind of strategies that were based on verbal attack and insult. Her speeches were calm, rather devoid of emotional content. She developed the strategy of personal pronouns in order to defend her viewpoint, whereas Trump often employed personal pronouns not necessarily to persuade audience, but mainly to attack and offend the rival.

To sum up, the most vital aim of political discourse is persuasion. Politicians adopt several linguistic and rhetorical strategies in order to attract the audience. Moreover, language itself allows political actors to manipulate the citizens and create a blurred vision of reality. Political discourse undoubtedly proves that language can be an extremely powerful tool in achieving different goals. This can be exemplified by Donald Trump’s strategy of discourse. By adopting offensive, vulgar and sexist language he managed to attract the citizens, later wining the elections. The US presidential campaign of 2016 shows that women and men tend to differ in the choice of language use.


  1. Baikalova, N( 2016). Gender Differences in Female Political Discourse: The Construction of Hilary Clinton’s Political Image. Journal of Siberian federal university doi: 10.17516/1997-1370-0030
  2. Blake, A. (2016, September 26.). The First Trump-Clinton presidential transcript, annotated. Retrieved from
  3. Daraweesh, D. Abbas (2016). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Donald Trump’s Sexist Ideology. Journal of Education and Practice, 7 (30)
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  5. Mohammadi, M (2017). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Donald Trump’s Language Use in US Presidential Campaign, 2016. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, 6(5) doi: 10.7575/aiac.ijalel.
  6. Plumer, B. (2016, July 22). Full Transcript of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC. Retreived from
  7. Sivric, M (2014). Gender differences in Political Discourse. Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics doi: 10.14706/JFLTAL152227
  8. Tamulis, Alex. (2017). Conversational Fillers and Linguistic Identities.
  9. Van Dijk, Teun. (1998). What is Political Discourse Analysis. European Journal of Political Economy, 11(1), 11-52 doi: 101075/bjl.11.03dij
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