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Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

Towards the proximization model of the analysis

of legitimization in political discourse
Piotr Cap *
Department of Linguistic Pragmatics, University of odz, Al. Kosciuszki 65, 90-514 odz, Poland
Received 4 July 2005; received in revised form 6 March 2006; accepted 6 October 2007

The goal of this methodological-critical paper is to pave the way for a new cross-disciplinary model
of analysis of political discourse. The model evolves gradually as the paper looks at the multi-faceted
phenomenon of legitimization of actions sought by politicians in front of their audiences. To describe
this phenomenon, the paper integrates a variety of linguistic and non-linguistic accounts. The argument
starts with the accentuation of advantages available to political linguists utilizing in analysis the
explanatory power of concepts which are primarily part of the affiliated disciplines, such as political
science, social psychology and anthropology. Following this account there is a counter-discussion of
hazards which could arise from an indiscriminate or uncontrolled adoption of the methodologically
heterogeneous concepts. It is stressed that the transparency and fuzzily defined boundaries of linguistic
and extralinguistic data and theory may lead to overdetermination of analysis, whether by the
controlling categories of analysis or by the bottom-level category of the actual language constructs.
This overdetermination can be neutralized in hierarchical analysis, but only if a peculiar system of
checks and balances is implemented in the study. First, the positioning of linguistic and non-linguistic
categories must be at different levels of analysis and, second, language data must be defined in constant
interaction with the overarching social or psychological premise which must itself control the
development of analysis. In accordance with the latter assumptions, the paper unfolds with the
definition of legitimization, a major objective pursued by a political speaker seeking justification
of the proclaimed actions. It is shown how legitimization reflects in the multiplicity of rhetorical
patterns which lend themselves to pragmalinguistic and political-linguistic analysis as a whole. For the
most part, the strategy of legitimization is discussed with regard to the American (interventionist)
rhetoricit is observed that (linguistic) legitimization of international involvement, both political and
military, is one of the most salient characteristics defining the US international policy after WWII.
Against this background, a specific cross-disciplinary scheme for the analysis of legitimization is
developed. The scheme utilizes Chiltons (2004) theory of spatial proximization, complemented by
temporal and axiological elements. The validity of the elaborated, spatial-temporal-axiological (STA)

* Tel.: +48 42 6655220; fax: +48 42 6655220.

E-mail address:

0378-2166/$ see front matter # 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
18 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

model is tested in a discourse-pragmatic study of the American involvement in Iraq, from March 2003
# 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Iraq; Legitimization; Political discourse; Proximization; STA model; USA

1. Scope and affiliations of political discourse analysis

More than any other kind of discourse analysis, it is the study of political discourse that
seems to invite necessarily cross-disciplinary considerations, involving contributions from such
disciplines as political science, sociology, (social) psychology and anthropology. This follows
from the existence of an endless number of well-grounded research findings which have been
voiced in multiple hypotheses as well as in apparently undeniable claims for interdisciplinarity
accumulating over centuries; in fact, ever since Aristotle wrote his Politics. First, embedded in
the western linguistic, sociopsychological and behavioral tradition is a view that language and
politics are two disciplines intimately linked at a fundamental level and, hence, their analytic
apparatuses must also be made alike (cf. Chilton, 2004). It is often maintained that, if politics
involves reconciling differences through discussion and persuasion (cf. Hague et al., 1998:34),
then the central process to be accounted for in defining political action is communication. In
order to provide an account of political discourse, micro- and macro-parallels between language
and politics are consequently isolated and defined. This involves, for instance, seeing micro-
level behaviors (struggles for dominance, efforts at cooperation, etc.) in terms of linguistic
action. On the other hand, some macro-level institutions (like laws or constitutions) are thus
seen as global discourse types which lend themselves to a top-down pragmatic-functional
analysis (cf. Beaugrande, 1991). Second, there is massive anthropological argument for a
genuine co-evolution of language and politics. In Gardenforss words, language makes it
possible for us to share visions (2002:5). Sharing visions is grounded in the exclusively human
ability to metarepresent things, that is to create mental representations of things which are
detached from the immediate stimuli (cf. Sperber, 2000). The evolution of language forms
applied to impose visions accompanies the political development of a society. One could
imagine that in the past, the chief of a village would convince the inhabitants that they should
cooperate in digging a common well that everyone would benefit from (cf. Gardenfors, 2002:5).
Accordingly, over the years eloquent leaders have been depicting enticing goals in order to
convince the supporters to make radical sacrifices, even though the visionary goals were
normally quite uncertain.
Third, political discourse analysis draws on the legacy of the related disciplines through their
joint interest in the connection between language and thought, a relationship originally described
in the SapirWhorf hypothesis. Of course, the research goals vary across the particular
disciplines and analytic perspectives; while a sociologist might use the hypothesis to apply to
ethnically, demographically or axiologically different groups and make his/her research, say, a
comparative account (cf. e.g. Lucy, 1996), a political discourse analyst is often interested in the
rudimentary issues of linguistic relativity and determination. The questions addressed are hence
fundamentally linked with the direction and strength of mental determination at the micro-level
of an individual addressee. Can the speakers use of a language count as a potent determinant of
what the addressee thinks and, subsequently, does? And vice versa: can it constitute an effective
constraint on what the addressee should not think and do? Naturally, this basic orientation does
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 19

not prevent political linguists from utilizing the broader cross-cultural findings, especially in
situations where the speaker addresses a geopolitically versatile or distant group.
Fourth, it is politicians themselves who are aware of the political-linguistic interface which
calls for a multi-faceted study. Statements such as were talking about semantics now are
frequently used to dismiss criticism or to avoid making politically sensitive specifications. On
NBCs program Meet the Press in February 2004 it was apparently the semantics that was
most at issue in a debate over legitimization of the recent American intervention in Iraq:

(1) Host: You said, quote, the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency. Saddam Hussein
is a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible. You gave the clear sense that
this was an immediate threat that must be dealt with.
George W. Bush: I think, if I might remind you that, in my language, I called it a
grave and gathering threat. But I dont want to get into a word context.

Examples such as above elegantly, albeit superficially, wrap up the thesis that language, social
and political behavior are closely intertwined, probably in innate mechanisms of the mind (cf.
Habermas, 1981; Lakoff, 1996; Van Dijk, 1998; Chilton, 2004, etc.) and, as we have seen before,
probably as a result of evolutionary adaptations. The extent of the relationship between language
and politics and, consequently, the sheer number and heterogeneity of methods whereby political
discourse can be accounted for from a linguistic, political, social and psychological perspective
is, as can be presumed, an analytic advantage and a tough challenge at the same time.

2. Analytic potential: advantages and hazards

The well-documented profundity of relationship between language and politics and hence the
growing pressure on analysts to meet the interdisciplinarity condition are challenging enough.
However, political discourse analysis is further complicated by the apparent lack of one-to-one
correspondence between analytic variables which are part of the methodological apparatus of
linguistics and those which normally characterize the related disciplines of psychology, sociology
or political science. Imagine, for instance, a study of the American propaganda during the Cold War
period in which an attempt is made to prove that the speakers rhetoric is necessarily in black-and-
white terms, so as to enact the clear distinction between the good (as symbolized by the US) and
the evil (as symbolized by the Soviet block). Proving the thesis in question entails going over a
massive number of variables which are not only of a different range of operation but sometimes are
in fact self-inclusive. To name just a few (ir-)regularities let us start from the relation which holds
between assertion and the thesisantithesis pattern. Assertion (strong, undeniable) is an
indispensable element of the us and them rhetoric and so is the thesisantithesis structure. But
while the former is a discourse-pragmatic concept capable of describing the function of an
utterance, the latter is a broader logical and psycholinguistic construct which can equally apply to
single utterances and to larger textual chunks, let alone entire discourses (cf. Mann and Thompson,
1983; Van Dijk, 1998; Cap, 2002, etc.). Therefore, although it would be tempting to group the two
into a bottom-level account of the particular text, such structuring would clearly fail to acknowledge
the generic function of the thesisantithesis pattern. On the other hand, limiting the operation of the
latter to macro analysis would deprive the bottom-level description of one of the key concepts
capable of illustrating axiological conflicts within an utterance.
Looking further into the case above, the reconciliation of the language-pragmatic account
with variables of sociopsychological research roots is no less complex. It would seem promising,
20 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

for example, to analyze the desired assertion effect in terms of a consistency trigger, in the way
other consistency triggers are defined with regard to the process of the mental internalization of
(new) information by the (resistant) addressee (cf. Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991; Bandura, 1986;
Jowett and ODonnell, 1992, etc.). But again, while the role of assertion in enacting a point of
view is considered evident and has been well studied at an utterance level (cf. Billig, 1987;
Cockcroft and Cockcroft, 1992; Tsohatzidis, 1994, etc.), much less has been said by
pragmaticians and text linguists about the function of assertive sequences constituting a speech
event, rather than an individual speech act (cf. Cap, 2002). On the contrary, the
sociopsychological concepts of homeostasis, consistency or consistency trigger have been
developed primarily as means to account for beliefs, attitudes and behaviors at a macro scale.
In many studies (cf. Van Dijk, 1993, 1998, 2002; Wodak, 2002; Chilton, 2000, 2003, 2004;
Fairclough, 1995, 2000; Werth, 1999) the problem of correspondence between the classic
pragmatic variables such as speech acts or deixis and the much broader mental, socio-
psychological or anthropological concepts is apparently solved by the hierarchical structuring of
analysis. Accordingly, the superordinate categories of macro acts, mental spaces, global
representations or cognitive frames are proposed as covers for a network of pragmalinguistic
variables describing the actual, bottom-level language data. For example, in Chilton (2004) the
frame model is applied in the study of indexical sequences involving individual space builders
such as anaphors, prepositions and other discourse markers. Once they have been tested for their
illocutionary potential in the primary data samples, the account of these markers and their
sequences becomes the pragmalinguistic input in the overall methodology of analysis which is
then applied to further, complementary cases, under different contextual conditions.
It seems that the hierarchical approach is a feasible way to meet the interdisciplinarity
condition and to make a full use of the explanatory power of both linguistic and non-linguistic
concepts available to political linguists. It only works, though, if there is a balance between the
degree to which the pragmalinguistic accounts of isolated data samples could contribute to the
adoption of heterogeneous or completely extralinguistic controlling categories of analysis and,
on the other hand, the extent to which a much likely, arbitrary pre-selection of the controlling
categories could determine the subsequent analysis of the language data. As I have argued
elsewhere (cf. Cap, 2003), the language data whereby the analyst is part of the depicted events or
part of the discourse audience often encourage fallacious, global-nature observations which are
made early in analysis, or even before the analysis takes place. Once the global function of the
text sample has been presupposed, the analysis proceeds deductively top-down, i.e. toward all
the micro-data chunks supportive of the initial hypothesis. In fact, the stronger the hypothesis, the
less data is used afterwards to verify it. Furthermore, the more plausible the hypothesis, the less
chance of its being reiterated in a thesis-like format after the data description has been completed.
Naturally, a (political) discourse study could also become overdetermined inductively
primarily as a result of the analysts having insufficient extralinguistic knowledge to postulate
whatever a priori claims about the text and its function. The analyst being alien to the cultural
background of the text because of, say, the geopolitical distance holding between him/her and the
event stage defined by the text, may be prohibitively reluctant to formulate a function-oriented
hypothesis. Or alternatively, he/she may choose to withhold such a claim until a substantial bottom-
level investigation into the text data has been completed. For example, in John Wilsons influential
publication Politically Speaking (cf. Wilson, 1991), such an inductive approach takes over anytime
the analysis goes overseas, that is, beyond the better-known, British political scene.
To investigate a concrete example of overdetermination in an analysis of political language,
we might want to stay with Wilson. Take his account of Ronald Reagans (1988) metaphor the
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 21

Lady standing in the harbor has never betrayed us once (cf. Wilson, 1991:115121). Wilson
starts his analysis with noting that President Reagan made this statement in a speech delivered in
the area of the New York harbor, against the backdrop of New York City, and facing the figure of
the Statue of Liberty. The date of the speech (May 29, 1988) is, quite intriguingly, not given.
Wilson admits that the statement does not stand a traditional test for truth validity and therefore
applies the theory of relevance (cf. Sperber and Wilson, 1986) to interpret it. What is important
for a correct interpretation, he claims, is the awareness of the distinction between attributive and
referential uses of definite descriptions (cf. Katz, 1987). This in turn involves looking at
Reagans words in two parts: the subject part and the predicate part, where specification of the
former will affect meaning of the latter. If, Wilson says, the hearer follows the referential track, he
or she will simply pick out the subject suggested (i.e. the Statue of Liberty) and match it against
all the referents accessible, that is all individual Americans. As a result, the metaphor will imply
that it is America and individual Americans who have not betrayed their values, of which
Liberty is an example. If, however, the hearer attempts a focused, selective and better
worked-out attribution of these values (which is the case when he or she is more involved with
the symbolism of the words rather than their automatic projection), then it is probably Ronald
Reagan himself who only gets referred to. The first interpretation, Wilson claims, is more
plausible because the hearer will probably treat the first part of the statement in terms of a dead
metaphor. This interpretation, he says, requires much less processing effort than a similarly
consequential second interpretation that could be accomplished through a complicated
comparison between animate and inanimate objects. The likely function of the metaphor, Wilson
concludes, is hence that of glorification of the American people.
The problem with Wilsons account, however, is his utter disregard for the temporal setting of
the speech, while in fact it is the time when the speech was given that should be the cornerstone of
its interpretation. Namely, President Reagan made his statement, along with many others, in
support of the incoming Republican nominee George Bush whose 1988 campaign was
characteristically centered around explicit commitment to the continuum of Reagans liberal
policies. Therefore, as Norris and Whitehouse (1988) note, Reagans words were most probably
meant to justify this commitment by stressing that over the 80s liberalism had passed the test of
time with success. This conclusion could have been reached in the quoted analysis by posing a
deductively minded question about the audiences pre-expectations from the speech. The fact is
that since Reagans popularity was relatively high at the end of the term, no declaration of change
in policies was ever desired or expected. In his analysis, however, Wilson does not pose such
questions. Hence, missing the contribution from the top-down track (which would involve testing
a global assumption about the function of Reagans statement against the text data), he generates
a (fallacious) conclusion from a bottom-up componential analysis alone.
In defense of Wilsons analysis, one should note, however, that it might have been the
metaphoric status of the statement that has encouraged his inductively overdetermined approach.
Metaphors, not only in political language, do impose a step-by-step speculation about their
meaning. They enforce perplexity, bewilderment and a natural desire to decipher the meaning
through mental processing which involves intrinsically inductive computation (cf. Lakoff, 1987). In
his analysis, Wilson sets upon the very first cue to compute the meaning; he starts with finding a
referent for the word Lady and builds the entire interpretation of the statement around the
postulated correlation. This appears to be a wrong move, since the comprehension of the metaphor
does not really depend on finding a correct reference for the word Lady. Nor in fact does it
depend on the second part of the statement being correctly inferred from the first part, as Wilson
claims. All we need to interpret Reagans statement is a thorough check of the words against a
22 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

global, culture-dependent supposition, a verification continual and unbiased in the sense of no word
prescribing the meaning of another prior to it. But, without doubt, the quoted metaphor offers
enough peculiarities (status of the word Lady; a semantic falsity of the phrase standing in the
harbor; an intriguing concept of betrayal, etc.) to discourage the analyst from taking such a track.
The overdetermination (of whatever direction) of political language analysis, which the latter
naturally involves multiple geopolitical backgrounds as well as fluctuating psychological
predispositions (of both political actors and analysts), cannot be eliminated in its entirety but it
can certainly be alleviated. In the critical part of this paper I attempt to accomplish this effect
through implementation of a peculiar method of checks and balances. The term in question,
originally used to account for the distribution of legislative and executive powers in the American
political system, seems to possess a considerable descriptive potential for political language
analysis. In my discussion of proximization it will indicate the procedure of continual verification
and updating of the hypothesis regarding legitimization against the consecutively investigated
manifestations of legitimization in (a) spatial, (b) temporal and (c) axiological dimension.
Having analyzed the issue of spatial proximization and its contribution to the global
legitimization effect, I will approach the issue of temporal proximization with a hypothesis that
has already been refined, from a both quantitative and qualitative standpoint, by the preceding
analysis. Naturally, the same approach will be followed further on, especially when moving from
the temporal to the axiological account.1

3. What is legitimization?

As a political-linguistic concept, legitimization can be defined in terms of a linguistic

enactment of the speakers right to be obeyed (cf. Chilton, 2004). Drawing on the Habermasian
epistemological framework and his account of rationality and rightness (Richtigkeit) in
particular (cf. Habermas, 1981), this definition takes up both the socio-political and the linguistic
aspect of the speakers performance. The claim to rightness and the resulting enactment of
legitimization means that the performing of speech acts is grounded in an implicit claim, on the
part of the speaker, to inhabit a particular social or political role, and to possess a particular
authority. The possession of authority, usually accompanied by the asserted absence thereof in
the audience or in the adversary, provides rationale for listing reasons to be obeyed. The strategies
used for listing such reasons, whether overtly or by implication, include the awareness and/or
assertion of the addressees wants and needs, reinforcement of global and indisputable
ideological principles, charismatic leadership projection, boasting about ones performance,
positive self-presentation and many more. The apparent anchoring of these strategies in the
general framework of positive face (cf. Brown and Levinson, 1987) causes the overall concept of
legitimization to be intrinsically dyadic and to interface with its necessary (counter)part,
delegitimization. Accordingly, the complementary strategies pursued by the speaker are:
negative other-presentation, blaming, scape-goating, marginalizing, excluding, attacking the
moral character of the adversary, attacking the rationality of the adversary, etc. Altogether,
legitimization (and delegitimization2) strategies reflect in the vast number of rhetorical-linguistic
patterns which lend themselves to pragmalinguistic and political-linguistic analysis.

In spite of the clear differences in application, I must acknowledge here the analogy to the mental construction of
Langackers (2001) Current Discourse Space (CDS) model (particularly as far as the concept of updating is
In all of the forthcoming, delegitimization is treated as part of the conceptual framework of legitimization.
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 23

4. The language of legitimization

The following legitimization strategies are apparently cross-cultural and occurring in different
discourse types, over considerable periods of time. Some of them will be readdressed later in the
paper, from the perspective of the US rhetoric in the recent Iraq war.

4.1. Assertion and the assertion-directive framework

The power of assertion resides in its capacity for the enactment of credibility of the speaker.
Most commonly, assertions express ideological principles which are in line with psychological,
social, political or religious predispositions of the addressee. The reinforcement of ideals and
beliefs shared by the audience members establishes axiological groundwork which the speaker
may utilize subsequently for the imposition of messages which start to diverge from the
addressees original predispositions. This regularity is captured in the theory of the latitude of
acceptance (cf. Jowett and ODonnell, 1992): if a novel message is generally accepted after it has
been communicated for the first time, its credibility (and hence the credibility of the speaker)
tends to increase over time. Once it has been fully internalized, the subsequent novel messages
are interpreted relative to it. Crucial to this process is human drive toward consistency in belief
and the accompanying need for mental and psychological stability or homeostasis (cf. Noelle-
Neumann, 1991; Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991; Jowett and ODonnell, 1992, etc.).
While we shall be reassessing assertion later on, in discussing its contribution to the rhetoric of
the Iraq war within a specific legitimization model, let us now elucidate the assertion-based
enactment of credibility in another war-on-terror textthere is hardly a better example. After
9/11 the Bush administration has been facing expectations of a strong leadership more than ever
before. Yet, as every preceding administration, it has had to find a balance between appearing
ineffectual and infringing on civil liberties (cf. Livingston, 1994)a particular challenge to a
government trying to create the impression that it is able to contain the violence and protect its
citizens. Credibility has thus been the very crucial prerequisite for walking a fine line between
appearing efficient in the principal task, at all (social) costs, and appearing simply unable to
handle the crisis situation. To accomplish credibility and, in the long run, legitimization for the
prospective actions against the Al-Qaeda network, President Bush has put strong assertions into
work right on the night of 9/11:

(2) [. . .] Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our governments response
plans. Ive directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement
communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. America has
stood down enemies before, and will do so this time and in the future. [. . .] Today
our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best
of America with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers
and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

In this series of assertions Bush enacts credibility by (a) referring to actions which are undeniably
logical, legitimate and expected by the addressee, yet difficult to verify at the moment of speaking
(Ive directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those
responsible and to bring them to justice), (b) using conclusions whose scope and imprecision
makes them difficult to deny (America has stood down enemies before), (c) invoking a fellow
citizenry, which is salient both in pluralization of the idealistic stance (we responded with the best
24 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

of America) and in the images of the rescue workers helping the victims. The prevailing spirit is
that if the people are what they are and if the ensuing actions are governed by high ideological
principles, the crisis can be successfully overcome. Not only is this attitude drawing on the actual
predispositions of the American audience, but it is clearly flattering them, thus enhancing the
credibility with a bond of mutual appreciation between the speaker and the addressee.
In addition to drawing on the natural or contextual predispositions of the addressee, assertions
enact credibility by frequently referring to factual information (cf. Cap, 1999, 2003). By making
a reference to an existing state of affairs, they lay the ground for speculations about a future state
of affairs. The latter may involve controversial claims which are legitimized within the aura of
credibility instilled originally by the preceding assertions. How this happens can be seen from the
opening lines of the joint statement of the Anti-NATO Deputys Group signed by the members
of parliaments of Russia, Byelorussia, Latvia, and the Ukraine a few days after the NATO summit
in Madrid in July 1997 which saw the governments of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic
officially invited to the NATO membership negotiations. Considered since then one of the
strongest articulations of resentment over the NATO expansion, the statement of the anti-NATO
group opens with a sequence of assertions:

(3) At the NATO Summit in Madrid, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic were
officially invited to join NATO.
(4) At the same time the participants in the Summit have confirmed that they intend to
continue the process of expansion of this military block to other countries of the
European continent.
(5) This decision indicates that the USA which virtually control NATO as well as their
closest allies have adopted a policy of the use of force or the threat thereof as the main
factor of the international relations.

Even though, principally, all of the three sentences carry assertive acts, there are discernible
differences between the acts in (3) and (4) on the one hand, and the act(s) in (5) on the other.
Namely, examples (3) and (4) carry acts that describe a past state of affairs, while (5) contains an
act that describes a future or predicted state of affairs. Yet, all of these acts describe the state of
affairs as settled. This is so because the assertions in (3) and (4) are verifiable by facts, and the
assertion in (5) is construed relative to these facts, as well as to their description. In other words,
the assertion in (5) is validated on the basis of the truthfulness of the former assertions. The
interpretation of the claim in (5) in terms of a fact rather than a simple prediction is supported by a
number of psychological factors which determine the addressees attitude. The most important
factor is again the addressees drive toward consistency in belief. The addressee is likely to accept
the message as true if he or she has accepted the earlier messages and thereby developed
perception of credibility toward their author.
Having the addressee accept a prediction as a fact, as is the case with the interplay of assertions
in the opening part of the statement, is an instance of discourse power which has its further
manifestations. Once the addressee has been prompted to believe in the truthfulness of an
assertion such as in (5), he or she may come to believe, generally, in the predictive, deductive, and
explicative capacity of the speaker. This may happen as a result of the addressee uniting with the
speaker in an intimate bond of deductive insight which involves construal of a proposition such as
in (5) in relation to the former propositions. Importantly enough, the addressees inferences from
(3), (4) and (5) are made relatively straightforward, unbiased, and uncomplicated since the entire
paragraph is built upon an array of cohesion relations. They are produced largely by the repetition
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 25

of elements in the text such as anaphoric reference based on the application of pronouns (e.g.
participants vis a vis they in (4)) and lexical substitution based on synonymy (e.g. NATO
vis a vis this military block in (3) and (4)). Since the use of cohesion forms facilitates
comprehension of a text, cohesion can be and is applied purposefully in order to ensure that the
addressee interprets the message according to the speakers intention.
The process of imposition of a novel message involving a controversial claim or a directive
may develop over large discourse segments whose illocutionary force is not of an individual
speech act but rather that of a speech event. This is often the case when the macro function of the
speakers performance is complex or challenging to enact and therefore requires a continual,
step-by-step preparation of announcement of the ultimate goal. In his 1933 inaugural, Franklin D.
Roosevelt was facing a difficult task of proclaiming tough New Deal measures to a nation which,
having suffered during the time of the Great Depression, was naturally reluctant to accept a
policy involving potentially more economic and social concessions. Recognizing this, he opted
for a strategy of communicating his goals progressively, within the entire speech:

(para. I) (6) This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.
(para. V) (7) Let us not forget today that true happiness lies not in the mere possession
of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
(para. IX) (8) Our greatest task is to put people to work. This means, first, redistribution
of population, and . . ..

Examples (6)(8) illustrate a continuum of assertions which grow in their directive force. While
(6) is a pure assertion of belief, (7) involves general activation of the addressee for prospective
action and (8) instructs the addressee of the particular steps which he or she is supposed to take. In
asking Americans to reckon with a necessity of job migration (redistribution of population),
FDR impinges on one of the cornerstone predispositions of a person, that is, attachment to place.
Realizing the difficulty in affecting this predisposition, he waits with the message until the aura of
credibility has been successfully instilled through assertions (6) and (7).

4.2. The politics of implicatures

A sequence in which a series of assertions precedes a directive invites a scalar response from
the audience. Some audience members will be apt to believe in the truthfulness of the asserted
information and will thereby develop a positive perception of the speaker. Some of them will
consequently process the meaning of the directive and, possibly, comply with it. Some others,
however, may get stopped half-way as a result of the operation of what Sperber (2000) calls a
cheater detection device. Drawing on the earlier argument by Cosmides and Tooby (1989) as
well as by Axelrod (1984), Sperber (2000:135) claims that human mind possesses a logico-
rhetorical module which checks for consistency and for deceptive manipulation in all
communication, and especially if the communication occurs in an assertive mode. Consistency,
in Sperbers account, means self-consistency, that is, the internal logical consistency of an
incoming mental representation, and also consistency of the incoming representation with the
receiving minds own existing representations. The argument for the existence of logical
checking and cheater-checking abilities rests on reciprocal altruismit is worth giving
information to the addressee because the speaker can get feedback in return, and thus both sides
benefit. But, so the argument goes, the risk of manipulation and deception remains, so social
exchange, social contracts, social cooperation could not develop without a natural back-upthe
26 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

ability to detect exploiters and deceivers. As Sperber puts it, the importance of linguistic
communication in human social groups must have led to a logic of persuasion counter-
persuasion a kind of spiralling communicative arms race.
Even if the logic of the communicative arms race does not yield a truly linguistic counter-
persuasive act on the part of the addressee, it may still provoke his or her negative perception of
the speaker, an attitude growing undesirably with the progressive amassment of persuasive
messages. This is where the political speaker may sense a need for another guard against the
operation of the audiences cheater detector, providing a further guarantee for the truth of the
communicated messages. Consequently, implicature-based forms may be used, either on top of
the assertion-directive sequence, or as a feasible substitute for it.
In using implicature for legitimization purposes, political speaker benefits from the same
psychological tendency in the addressee as in the case of the assertion-based techniques, in the
sense that the addressee is made to interpret the target message through a speculation based on an
accepted premise. However, in the case of implicature the premise is not explicitly given by the
speaker in a manner similar to the conveyance of the indisputable information preceding a more
controversial assertion or a directive. It is rather the addressee who is supposed to identify the
premise within his or her latitude of acceptance which follows the existing pattern of mental
representations and the entire network of psychological predispositions. Unlike in the process of
acceptance of a novel message which takes place on the basis of linear verification of the speakers
credibility, implicature mitigates the operation of the cheater detection module by making the
verification a matter of the addressees own axiological system. In fact, there is virtually no time for
the module to operate, because once the speakers message has been communicated, it is processed
automatically against the best possible axiom in the addressees self-contained system of values
and not against the system of values salient in the continuity of the speakers performance.
One of the most prominent uses of implicature for justification, face-saving, denial of
unsubstantiated criticism and, generally, for enactment of legitimate leadership based on
integrity dates back to Richard Nixons words on his alleged involvement in the Watergate affair.
In his 1972 bid for the presidential office, Nixon defeated the Democratic candidate George
McGovern by one of the widest margins on record. But within a few months, his administration
was already embattled over the so-called Watergate scandal, following a break-in at the offices
of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to
officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President (Nixon). A number of administration officials
resigned; some were later convicted of offenses connected with efforts to cover up the affair.
Nixon first tried to avoid any explicit comment on his alleged involvement altogether, but when
the courts urged him to yield tape recordings indicating that he might indeed have tried to divert
the investigation, he decided to make the following statement:
(9) No-one presently employed in the White House participated in any way in the break-in
at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters.
This first on-record act of denial, made at a White House press conference on September 3, 1973
(shortly before the special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox was fired in the famous Saturday
night massacre in October 1973), triggered a multitude of interpretations (cf. Aitken, 1993 for an
extensive review and comments), most of them concentrating on the (implied) meaning of
presently in the statement. Was the president just denying involvement with no implication
attached? Was he trying to incriminate the CREEP, with whose founders he had apparently little
contact after the landslide 1972 victory? Was he, possibly, trying to suggest that, although there
might have been to use his own words crooks in his administration before, he had got rid of
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 27

them by the moment of speaking? This last interpretation seemed most popular among the
opinion-makers and the American people alike (cf. Aitken, 1993) and it indeed set Nixon in a
better political stead for another couple of weeks. But soon, especially following Archibald
Coxs dismissal, more doubts surrounding the affair arose and Americans started to feel
increasingly displeased with the presidents releasing information in dribs and drabs in the
first place. In response to these moods and aware of the fact that the original form of denial would
no longer suffice, Nixon made a largely dramatic attempt to come clean completely. Namely, at a
press conference in late October 1973 he purposefully repeated the initial words and added
(10) No-one presently employed in the White House participated in any way in the
break-in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, nor indeed anyone
who has ever worked in the White House.
The function of implied information in Nixons performance, in both (9) and (10), is remarkable.
Willing to keep the stance of legitimate leadership constant, but at the same time aware of the
changing expectations from his audience, Nixon cancels the implicature in (9) by providing more
content information in (10). In so doing, he opens up a brand new channel for further speculation,
though this time no implicature trigger is manifestly provided. Altogether, Nixons rhetoric is
that of monitoring the expectations of the addressee and releasing just as much of the demanded
information as is currently necessary and sufficient to maintain the aura of credibility and the
stance of legitimization of further leadership.

4.3. Common ground

Although the concept of common ground is unquestionably rooted in the modern theories of
pragmatic politeness and face-management (cf. Brown and Levinson, 1987; Fraser, 1990; Kasper,
1990; Culpeper, 1996; Chen, 2001, etc.), its application in the framework of legitimization calls for
a few epistemological reformulations. Reasonably, one can speak of common ground strategies in
relation to such issues as enactment of credibility, imposition of common discourse goals or
attracting the addressee to a particular course of action. In this sense, the phenomenon of common
ground involves a construction of mental frame shared by the speaker and the addressee, and as
such does not yield any more explanatory power than what comes from the traditional
understanding of the concept. But apparently, the notion of common ground can also offer a novel
theoretical viewpoint by inviting an intriguing interface between the speech act perspective (as in
section 4.1) and the implicature perspective (as in section 4.2). Additionally, as we shall see, the
adoption of common ground as a critical parameter goes a long way toward making the analysis of
political legitimization a genuinely cross-cultural and multidiscoursal undertaking.
Let us first examine a brief sample of text for the operation of the speech act-implicature
interface. The sample is the opening sentence of the decree of Afghan Islamic clerics (Ulema), on
the US demands for the handover of Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks on the US Pentagon and
the World Trade Center. The decree was distributed on September 20, 2001 by the Taliban, a then-
ruling group in Afghanistan suspected of harboring bin Laden. Originally published in the Pashtu
language, the text was translated in a duly accurate manner as regards the lexis by the Associated

(11) Afghanistans Ulema is sad over the losses in the United States and hopes that the
United States will not launch an attack on Afghanistan.
28 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

The statement in (11) contains two assertions (is sad over the losses and hopes that the
United States will not launch an attack) linked together by the conjunction and. Seemingly, the
use of and implies some sort of a causative or at least a sequential relationship holding between
the assertions. This interpretation, relying heavily on the construal of and as a marker of
conventional implicature (cf. Levinson, 1983), ascribes the reason for the action visualized in the
second assertion to part of the message carried by the first assertion. In other words, the
interpretation of the conjunction and as a valid implicature marker is a tacit acknowledgement of
a connection between the 9/11 attack and the possibility of the American intervention in
Afghanistan in the days to come. From this stage there is only a step to conclude that if there is an
attack on Afghanistan, it will be retaliatory in nature and hence potentially justified. Interestingly
enough, an entailment of the latter point is that the Taliban recognize the gravity of the situation and
may be prone to offer concessions such as, indeed, the handover of Osama bin Laden. From the
perspective of the majority of the world community and the American audience in particular, such a
reading of the Ulema text could, at least to an extent, legitimize the current stance of the Taliban
On the other hand, though, one may presuppose, with good reason, that if there is any kind of
legitimization sought by the Taliban, it relates not so much to the international addressee but rather
to the home addressee, meaning in fact the whole of the Arab audience. This presupposition
translates into an inference when verified by the actual text, or rather by this aspect of the text which,
while being downplayed in the implicature-based analysis, is highlighted by a different, speech-
act-based analysis which looks at the internal structure of the two assertions separated by the
conjunction and. Namely, the thematic disparity holding between the first assertion and the
second one cancels the interpretation of the entire utterance in terms of its expressing a causative or
even a sequential relationship. The resulting pattern of legitimization is thus one that involves
perception of the Taliban by the home audience which sees them as a group that does not yield to
intimidation and charismatically safeguards interests of the Arab world.
On a final note, however, it needs to be said that since there is no ultimate way of knowing
which interpretation of (11) is the correct one, the stance of legitimization expressed in the text
is perhaps best defined in relation to the whole of the utterance and not to any of its parts or
aspects. It seems that the global purpose of (11) is to make the message universally acceptable
and thereby to enact the aura of common ground and partnership imposed on the world
audience and the Arab audience, or rather on both at the same time. Of course, the concept of
common ground or partnership is construed differently by the different recipients of the message,
but what remains relatively constant is the apparent existence of a rationale for treating the
Taliban group as a politically accountable entity. It is this aura that is deftly (though yet
ineffectively in the long run) built in (11) and it is only the analysis of the complex
methodological interface salient in the assertion-implicature pattern that could possibly reveal it.
In the above, the analysis has been a hierarchical one, with the controlling parameter of common
ground incorporating the bottom parameters of conventional implicature and speech acts, the
latter defined in relation to the thematic structuring of the utterance.
In view of the multiplicity of political discourses which evade clear-cut situational
definitions, the application of the concept of common ground in the analysis of text data seems
remarkably feasible. And, in fact, it need not be limited to the study of political
legitimization alone, since the existence of techniques drawing on the common ground stance
is a feature of a vast number of discourses (cf. e.g. Clark, 1996; Stalnaker, 2002, etc.). In the
language of advertising, for instance, common ground strategies reflect in a seemingly endless
catalogue of specific persuasion ploys: parity claims, unfinished comparisons, vessel
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 29

phrasing, etc. (cf. Goddard, 1998 for an extensive overview of these). All of them are similar
in their coordinate function to the illocutionary point of structures such as the discussed
assertion-implicature interface. Regarding the entire relation between the overarching goal of
the speaker (that is, having the addressee pursue the action of buying a product) and the
subordinate discourse-level techniques, it is also quite similar to how the pattern of political
legitimization worksat least in the sense of the common ground parameter being a speech-
event-like connector between the macro level of the speakers intention and the bottom level
of particular language form used in a given discourse chunk. Predictably enough, considering
the salience of the bottom-level techniques (of persuasion, etc.) in the process of imposition of
shared insight as well as in the subsequent enactment of mental closeness between discourse
parties, the concept of common ground will also matter a lot to the proximization model which
is going to be developed now.

5. Legitimization via Proximization: the Iraq war (2003) as a case in point

Arguably, G.W. Bush administration did everything that they possibly could in order to
communicate to the American and the world audience that the military operation in Iraq (2003)
has been justified and that it has been pursued in the vital interest of all the peoples abhorring the
vision of the 9/11 ever repeating again. A consistent pattern of rhetoric was developed in the
aftermath of the WTC and the Pentagon attacks, aiming to justify military retaliation on account
of the apparent imminence of danger facing the American citizens. To this day, the most salient
premise of the White House rhetoric has been the construal of the terrorist threat as existing
within the US borders. Unlike in the past, when America was going to foreign wars in Korea,
Vietnam or, recently, Kosovo, the war has come home.
One cannot possibly underestimate the role of the evidence brought by the 9/11 attacks in such
an argument. Although following the WWII the legitimization of each consecutive military
involvement has drawn on the simplistic dichotomy of us and them, the latter party usually
symbolizing some kind of adversarial or plainly evil ideology that could potentially jeopardize
the American system of beliefs and values or, in the long run, threaten the lives of the American
people, it was not until after 2001 that the ideologies of evil and terror could be claimed, by
analogy, to have already been operating within the American territory.
I shall refer to a systematic rhetorical arrangement of such claims as proximization, a heavily
legitimization oriented strategy to picture the occurring events and their actors as directly
affecting the addressee. In so doing, I draw to an extent upon the pioneering work on
proximization done by Chilton (2004). In Chiltons view, the concept of proximization is an
essentially spatial one: the speaker describes events as physically close to and thus consequential
for the addressee. Mapping this observation onto the reality of the post-9/11 America and the
recent war in Iraq in particular, the White House administration could be seen, let us stress it
again, as enacting proximization by maintaining the stance of continual reference to the 2001
attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, as a means for building up a future oriented cause-and-
effect analogy. This analogy, and its heuristic implications, have been of crucial importance for
the US legitimization of the military intervention in Iraq in March 2003.
In the following discussion I will first show (briefly) the applicability of Chiltons concept of
spatial proximization to the analysis of legitimization/justification of the war on Iraq. Then, having
reviewed the internal validity of the spatial schema for some methodological improvements, I will
propose an elaborated model of proximization, involving the complementary, temporal and
axiological aspects.
30 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

5.1. Proximization: space

Before declaring war on Iraq on March 19, 2003, the Bush administration had been facing a
question by no means alien to their predecessors, namely: how to justify and legitimate the
American involvement in military action in a far-away place, among a far-away people, of whom
the American people knew little. In this context, the possibility of linking the current situation
with the 9/11 attacks could not be underestimated; cynical as it may sound, the memory of the
terrorist attacks of 2001 came as a true blessing for the construction of a plausible pro-war
rhetoric. It took no time for the White House to jump at this opportunity. As has been mentioned,
a well worked-out, analogy-based model was developed whereby the Iraqi question was
construed relative to the global issue of the war on terror. Consider the following excerpts from
President Bushs address at the American Enterprise Institute. The speech was given on February
26, 2003, the mere three weeks before the first US troops entered Iraq on March 19.
(12) We are facing a crucial period in the history of our nation, and of the civilized
world. (. . .) On a September morning, threats that had gathered for years, in secret
and far away, led to murder in our country on a massive scale. As a result, we
must look at security in a new way, because our country is a battlefield in the first
war of the 21st century. (. . .) We learned a lesson: the dangers of our time must
be confronted actively and forcefully, before we see them again in our skies and
our cities. And we will not allow the flames of hatred and violence in the affairs of
men. (. . .) The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because
stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. (. . .) Saddam
Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction are a direct threat to our people
and to all free people. (. . .) My job is to protect the American people. When it
comes to our security and freedom, we really dont need anybodys permission.
(. . .) Weve tried diplomacy for 12 years. It hasnt worked. Saddam Hussein hasnt
disarmed, hes armed. Today the goal is to remove the Iraqi regime and to rid Iraq
of weapons of mass destruction. (. . .) The liberation of millions is the fulfillment
of Americas founding promise. The objectives weve set in this war are worthy
of America, worthy of all the acts of heroism and generosity that have come before.
There are, apparently, a number of lexical triggers of spatial proximization in the text. They
include, principally, secret and far away, all free people, stable and free nations,
Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, direct threat and flames. All these
occupy different positions on the space axis (cf. Chilton, 2004) which stems from the deictic
center (that is the US, seen as a geopolitical anchor or a reference point for all spatial
conceptualization). Although originally distant from the current US event stage, the threat-
carrying concepts (weapons of mass destruction, etc.) are made increasingly proximate to and
ultimately part of the deictically and axiologically close domain (all free people, stable and free
nations). The proximization occurs typically by imposed inference or by metaphorization. The
mechanism of imposed inference bears a close resemblance to the assertion-implicature
framework discussed in sections 4.1 and 4.2; a strong enactment of the 9/11 lesson allows for
the interpretation of the secret and far away in terms of a current direct threat, the latter by
far more consequential given the nuclear element at stake. The metaphor of fire, which underlies
a substantial part of the text, only adds to the imminence of the danger; first, by invoking again the
potentiality of a terrorist attack salient in the 9/11 analogy, second, by stressing the speed and
capacity of the destructive force of nuclear (as well as biological and chemical) weapons as such.
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 31

Perhaps many more critical comments could be made on the shifts alongside the space axis
and, altogether, on the entire spatial aspect of proximization manifested in (12); indeed, Chiltons
spatial model seems to do much useful preliminary work in terms of accounting elegantly for the
space-dynamic character of those discourse elements (discourse parties, past actions, anticipated
(future) action effects, etc.) which make up the geopolitical context of the Iraqi conflict. But,
methodologically, how exactly are the choices made about what constitutes the spatial input for
proximization? Consequently, how do we measure the salience of the particular spatial elements,
in order to determine the lexical arrangement on the space axis? These questions Chilton (2004)
leaves unanswered.
I would argue that a complex spatial framework yielding proximization effects and allowing a
potentially broader scope of application than the current case of the Iraq war at least any
rhetoric involving legitimization of pre-emptive (military) actions via a fear appeal be
composed of the following six lexicogrammatical categories:

(1) Noun phrases (NPs) conceptualized as elements of the deictic center (IDCs);
(2) NPs conceptualized as elements outside the deictic center (ODCs);
(3) Verb phrases (VPs) of motion and directionality conceptualized together as indicators of
movement of ODCs towards the deictic center and vice versa;
(4) VPs of action conceptualized as indicators of contact between ODCs and IDCs;
(5) NPs expressing abstract notions conceptualized as anticipations of potential contact between
ODCs and IDCs;
(6) NPs expressing abstract notions conceptualized as effects of actual contact between ODCs
and IDCs.

Let us identify these six categories in a sample text. Consider an excerpt from the US ultimatum
urging Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 h to avoid war. The ultimatum was issued on
March 17, 2003.
(13) [. . .] The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons,
obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and
kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any
other. [. . .] The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this
threat. But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy,
we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before it is too
late to act, this danger will be removed [. . .]
To start with categories (1) and (2), the IDC elements involve lexical items and phrases such as
United States, other nations, innocent people, our country, we, etc. The con-
ceptualization of indefinite entities (cf. other nations) as members of the deictic center occurs
through the implication of mutual relation, or sameness, triggered by the conjunction and. At the
other end of the event stage are the ODCs: Iraq, terrorists and their ambitions. Again, a
relation of shared identity is established between some of these elements. Iraq and terrorists
are put on common ground through the presupposition of lasting cooperation (viz. help), and the
sheer proximity of their lexical occurrence in the text. The relative distance between IDCs and
ODCs is shrinking as a result of two processes: (a) the ODC elements are construed as aspiring to
physically affect the IDC territory (kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in
our country), which invokes the aura of catastrophe or tragedy (not-yet explicitly stated as
such); (b) the IDC elements are construed as partly inert and thus sooner or later exposed to contact
32 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

with ODCs, a clash resulting in tragedy (stated explicitly to fit in with the previously invoked
aura). These two processes involve lexical items from all the four remaining categories: (3)
(drifting toward), (4) (kill), (5) (danger, threat), and (6) (tragedy, horror). The
presence of elements representing, within a markedly short text sample such as above, all of the six
categories distinguished, goes a long way towards proving the pervasiveness of spatial proximiza-
tion especially in the early stages of the war. Moving beyond the proposed category distinction, and
looking at the use of modality in the quoted excerpt, it can also be postulated that the process of
spatial proximization is heavily aided by the zooming in on the probability of the conflict. First, a
relatively remote possibility is drafted (could fulfill their stated ambitions), only to be replaced
by a more concrete prediction (before the day of horror can come).
If we abstract the key lemmas and major phraseological concordances representing each of the
six categories, we could get a fair quantitativequalitative picture of the space axis, in the sense
that the frequencies of occurrence of individual lexical items determine the positions of the
abstracted meanings mapped onto the axis. Naturally enough, the higher the frequency counts and
thus the salience, the smaller, as we shall see from the figures in section 5.2, the distance to the
deictic center. For now, let us concentrate on the counts alone. Consider the key lemmas abstracted
from a 34-text corpus of President Bushs speeches3 delivered in the relatively early stages of the
US involvement in Iraq, between March and November 20034:

Table 1
The key lemmas of the spatial framework of the Iraq war rhetoric, 03-11/2003
Category Key Lemma/Concordance Phase one
1. United States or America 426
free and/or democratic world (inclusive of synonyms such as 194
2. Iraq 330
terrorists 255
3. head (of IDCs, followed by preposition and ctg. 6 abstract NP, 126
like in head toward tragedy, inclusive of multiple passive
synonyms such as drift)
expand (of ODCs) with reference to WMD 88
without reference to WMD 61
4. destroy (of ODCs) 105
confront of ODCs 18
of IDCs 47
5. threat 127
danger 96
6. tragedy 60
catastrophe 45

Within the first category, there is a striking gap between the vast number of hits indicating the
US, the central IDC (involving the major discourse parties such as the speaker and the direct
audience), and the relatively limited number of hits indicating other IDCs (e.g. other democracies
sharing the US principles of freedom, equality, etc.). This difference reflects the predominant

3; accessed January 5, 2005.
Inclusive of pronouns where applicable.
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 33

rhetorical ploy of the early stages of the war, the strategy of alerting the American addressee to
the proximity of physical danger following from the alleged possession of WMD by the Iraqi
regime and, consequently, terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. Since the most desired,
home-front success of this strategy depends on the US addressees conceptualization of the threat
as maximally realistic and thus demanding a quick and radical response, the primary scope is
temporarily narrowed down to cover the principal IDCs. In other words, although the overall
range of the threat may be worldwide, it is the temporary centralization of the anticipated impact
that ensures the fastest legitimization effects regarding the response, involving the very
commencement of military operations, the funding priorities, etc.
In contrast to the above, the difference in the number of hits indicating the major ODCs
(Iraq and terrorists) is rather insignificant. In fact, what were dealing with here is a
conflation of the two concepts, which results in the perception of the Iraqi regime in terms of a
terrorist entity representing a major threat to countries conceptualized as IDC elements. The
conflation process relies heavily on the textual proximity of the two lemmas and, while this
information is not given in the table, it should be noted that most of the time Iraq and terrorists
occur in sufficient syntactic closeness to swiftly generate a link of relationship. Furthermore, as can
be seen from the ultimatum excerpt, they are often construed within one causative pattern. The
overall proximization effect of such a conflation is that, with the 9/11 analogy constantly in
operation, an Iraqi threat is virtually becoming a terrorist threat and vice versa.
The concept of threat, involving the anticipated impact of ODCs on IDC elements, brings us
to considerations of the relative distance between the two domains, a coordinate defined by VPs
constituting the third category of our spatial framework. Since the success of the proximization
strategy depends on the construal of the eventual clash between the ODC and the IDC entities, the
most salient lemmas are those which indicate a conflict-bound movement on the part of both
ODCs and IDCs, though the latter can also be construed as passive or inert and thus easily
invadable. As can be seen from the table, the overall number of hits referring to both domains is
largely comparable in terms of VP occurrence, however, on the ODC side there is currently (i.e.
in the early stages of the conflict) a remarkable role played by the WMD complementation,
which will cease in importance as the US involvement continues. Furthermore, it is worth noting
that the presence of the IDC-related lemmas indicating both activity (as in head) and inertia
(as in drift) reflects two and apparently conflicting characteristics of the spatial proximization
rhetoric. One is a desire to justify the extremely radical response to the threat, which takes
measures such as adding the maximum of momentum to the picture of the event stage and hence
the lemmas such as head while the other is an equally significant need to enhance the spirit of
leadership of the US president and the administration, by portraying their determination and
resolve in a stark contrast to the general aura of passivity (viz. drift).
The fourth category, involving VPs of action conceptualized as indicators of contact between
ODCs and IDCs, features lemmas directly responsible for the pragmatic impact of spatial
proximization between March and November 2003. The pervasiveness of destroy (which
obviously occurs in phrases where an ODC element is the agent) is staggering, and so is the
difference in the use of confront, a lemma occurring 2.6 times more frequently with an IDC-
related agent than with an ODC-related one. The fact that the ODC-governed destroy easily
surpasses in number the IDC-governed confront corroborates the existence of two regularities.
First, early in the conflict the most dynamic element of the event stage is Iraq and its alleged terrorist
allies, and it is their (anticipated) actions that serve as a basis for most of the spatial proximization
rhetoric. Second, as the ODC elements threaten to invade the deictic center, the IDCs (and the US in
particular) are construed as steering a middle course between pursuit of defensive measures and
34 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

legitimization of a pre-emptive strike. The duality of the stance adopted by the IDCs is expressed
precisely in the use of the lexical item confront, which implies a weaker or a stronger response to
the ODC threat. Thus, in a sense, the second regularity is in line with the conflicting characteristics
of the spatial proximization rhetoric that have been shown with regard to the occurrence of VPs of
motion and directionality. It is important to observe that while confront is a popular lexical
choice in IDC-related phrases, its occurrence with ODC-related agents is minimal. This finding
goes a long way toward setting up a causative picture of the Iraqi war. Apparently, it is the Iraqi side
that is the instigator of the conflict and the US takes up a merely self-defensive role. The idealistic
connotations of confront and its general tendency to take on such appealing lexical items as
poverty, misery, injustice or danger, some of the phrases indeed coming up in our
corpus, only add to the clarity of the picture.
The fifth and the sixth category of our spatial framework may be going beyond what has been
the traditional domain of space, directionality and stage-viewing arrangement theories (cf.
MacLaurys (1995) Vantage Theory, etc.) but I shall argue that the NP-based abstract notions
conceptualized as anticipations of potential contact between ODCs and IDCs (the fifth category)
and the NP-based notions conceptualized as effects of this contact (the sixth category) are
necessary elements of the early proximization, which, as has been shown, has an intrinsically
spatial character. This time the vertical differences in the number of the particular lemmas are of
secondary importance; what matters, however, is their combined occurrence, i.e. the total number
of hits reflecting the key concepts of threat, danger, tragedy and catastrophe. The
number, 328, is massive by itself but consider that all these hard-hitting words occur, within a
cause-and-effect pattern, in phrases involving the spatial coordinates of IDC and ODC, as well as
the mobile coordinate, which altogether define the spatial arrangement of major forces of the
Iraqi conflict. Thus, the main elements in the arrangement substantially profit from the appeal of
potential contact and actual effect concepts, at least in terms of enhancing their own status and
pragmatic force. Still, the most convincing argument for the validity of the fifth and the sixth
category members in the spatial proximization strategy is perhaps the dramatic decline in
occurrence of the four lemmas in the later rhetoric where the premise for war is no longer the
narrowing of the gap between the ODC and the IDC entities.
Let us recap the findings from this subsection. Even a brief look at how the 9/11
analogy operates or how the metaphorization schemata work towards the spatial
proximization effect, but principally, the observations concerning the semantic structure
of the proposed spatial framework, all suggest that in trying to capture all the complexities
of proximization more dimensions should be addressed in analysis. The conceptualization of
the Iraqi event stage follows the construal of the spatial/mobile coordinates to a great extent,
and if indeed most of the analytic work is to take into account the borderless character of the
world terrorism (viz. the 9/11 analogy) or the geographically widespread consequences of a
potential WMD conflict, then it is equally important to establish the contextual background
comprising the past actions yielding the particular inferences or analogies, as well as the
specific ideological context in which these past actions were performed. This means
broadening the range of the concept of proximization to include its temporal and axiological

5.2. Proximization: (s)pace, (t)ime, (a)xiology (a proposal for the STA model)

In order for the elaborated proximization schema to be theoretically sound, especially in terms
of its being able to account for the hierarchically superior discourse function (i.e. legitimization)
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 35

in terms of set configurations of bottom-level textual constructs, the following two

methodological conditions seem paramount. First, in the analysis of key lexical items of a
text such as (12) the general mechanism of proximization must be seen to operate within all the
dimensions identified. The second condition is more complex and thus worth a separate
if within a macro scale5 a legitimization text6 is followed by another text, produced by the
same political speaker/actor, in relation to the same issue and with the same overall goal,7
but against so different a contextual background that it has affected the selection of bottom-
level lexical items in such a way that the new text differs with regard to the kind of key
lemmas from the old or previous one, any ensuing decrease/increase in manifestation of
one type of proximization must mean, respectively, an increased/decreased salience of
another type.
Let us deal with the first condition first, i.e. let us define cases of interface holding between the
spatial, temporal and axiological accounts. Under the STA model, temporal proximization can be
understood as a construal of events occurring in the spatial dimension as momentous and historic
and thus of central significance to the discourse addressee localized in the deictic center.
Temporal proximization can also be a strategy of interpreting consequences of past events in such
a way that they determine the centrality of the current situation to the evolution of desires,
aspirations and expectations of the addressee. There is hence an axiological element present as
well. For instance, the build-up of the 9/11 analogy involves not only the conceptualization of a
past event (i.e. the terrorist attacks) as a factor determining the development of the current
situation, but also an ensuing conceptualization of antagonistic beliefs and values underlying the
occurrence of this past event as gradually and negatively affecting the elements of the deictic
center in terms of their axiological composition (audience predispositions, liability to ideological
conflict, etc.).
If we abstract from some of the individual lexical items in (12) the key lemmas characterizing,
by their distance (a frequency derivative; the bigger the count, the smaller the distance) from the
deictic center, the overall proximization pattern at the outset of the Iraqi war,8 the STA structure
could be represented symbolically as follows9,10:

Like the one defined by the time boundaries of the Iraq war.
Such as, e.g (12).
That is, legitimization of military involvement, in our case.
The lexical choices in (12) are highly representative of the entire US discourse characterizing the early stages of the
Iraq conflict. A corpus analysis of the White House press releases issued between March and September, 2003 (34 texts
total), yields lemma frequency counts which make the AEI speech an idealized sample of the legitimization rhetoric.
Explanation of symbols: (in the description of the axes and the deictic center: S = space, T = time, A = axiology,
positive (+) and negative ( ) value concepts; in the description of the interplay schemata: An = analogy, AC = ax-
iological continuum, AE = anticipated effect, C = cause, F1 = fact: first UN resolution concerning disarmament of Iraq,
followed by a series of diplomatic failures, F2 = fact: 9/11 attacks, I = inference, M = metaphor).
This is partly heuristic representation, in the sense that only the S lemmas have been assigned counts (cf. Table 1),
thus laying down the precise linear configuration of the spatial axis. The positioning of lemmas on the temporal and the
axiological axes follows, as yet, a rather introspective study of the corpus and more quantitative research is necessary to
specify the counts of the key lemmas making up the linear T and A configurations. That this need not be a futile attempt
could be seen, by analogy, from the proposal for the spatial framework (cf. section 5.1).
36 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

As has already been indicated, the spatial axis involves entites conceptualized in different and
variable degrees of physical and geopolitical distance from the discourse addressee located
within the deictic center which marks not only the here and the now of the situation but also its
perception by the addressee in terms of the current positive- and negative-value characteristics
(A+, A ). The temporal axis involves the past as well as the anticipated actions which were, may
or will be performed by agents identified within the entities marked on the space axis. The
axiological axis involves different ideological beliefs and values which the addressee in the
deictic center interprets relative to their own predispositions as well as to the dominant ideology
of their State (i.e. the US) and other states of similar political and cultural composition. The
strategy of proximization assumes continual shifting of the concepts identified in these three
dimensions in the direction of the deictic center, so as to alert the addressee to the centrality and
relevance of the issue at stake and thus justify and legitimate the prospective (re)action. This
process is characterized by a number of interplays in which spatial, temporal and axiological
elements are mapped onto one another. One such interplay has already been defined with regard
to the construal of the 9/11 analogy. Another important one involves reference to the past inaction
or a failed action (F1: unexecuted 1991 UN resolution on the disarmament of Iraq) as an inferable
reason for the growth of ideologies of murder (axiological dimension) which have been giving
rise to world terrorism harbors (spatial dimension). Since the failure of the post-1991 diplomatic
missions could be partly attributed to the US foreign policies as well, the above causative
relationship is to some extent neutralized by the enactment of the axiological continuum (AC)
stressing the steadfastness of purpose and the unequivocal commitment of the American people
to such ideals as worldwide freedom and democracyof course, the anticipated liberation of
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 37

millions in Iraq inscribes into this. Still, for the time being (i.e. at the outset of the intervention),
the handling of the Iraqi question by the US is not yet pictured as part of a global causethere is
evidently enough justification at hand from the ominous 9/11 analogy. Thus, as can be seen from
the symbolic representation of the early proximization pattern, most inferential processes
concentrate indeed around the concept of the WMD threat, the latter perpetuated by the existence
of the Iraqi regime and the aspirations of the world terrorist network. It is at the same time the
destination point for the shifts occurring alongside the spatial axis (proximization of the secret
and far away), the endpoint in a cause-and-effect axiologically motivated calculation
(proximization of ideologies of murder to assume concrete physicalgeopolitical manifesta-
tions), as well as an important element of the metaphoric reasoning (see [flames] again)
describing potential direct consequences of further inaction (proximization within the temporal
The comment in fn.10 makes it clear that the explanatory power of the provided STA
representation is yet to draw on more quantitative research, especially within the temporal and
the axiological dimension. But there are, arguably, more underexplored areas. Paradoxically, the
spatial framework so complex as envisaged in section 5.1 (for the apparently undeniable benefit
of the account of the S axis) detracts from the precise delimitation of lemmas assigned to the
other two coordinatessimply because some of the spatial lemmas have rather fuzzy status in
terms of a potential temporal or axiological load. Take, for instance, the very concept of
threat and its status within the following conceptual chain: IDEOLOGIES OF MURDER
THREAT9/11 ATTACKS. The starting point and the endpoint of the chain are marked by,
respectively, an abstract concept involving deictically unspecified values and a physical
concept involving a deictically specified event. On this condition and considering some further
semantic-referential properties (e.g. degrees of referentiality, tangibility, visuality, etc.) I have
argued for their exclusive, A- and S-axis assignments, though the latter assignment has
occurred indirectly, through analogy. The concept of threat, however, seems even fuzzier. Is it
a spatial concept in the sense that its referent can be, e.g. touched and seen? Apparently not.
Reacted to? This seems a more plausible criterion. The US proximization rhetoric has been able
to apply this criterion to successfully animate the threat; to make it genuinely tangible, as in
Bushs words below And do you deal with the threat once you see it?. Of course, we would
have been more reluctant to assign threat a spatial value had the speakers intention stopped
with the speaker. But, apparently, at least in the course of MarchSeptember 2003, the concept of
threat has been perceived by the US audience in extremely concrete terms (cf. Silberstein, 2004).
While the legitimization of the military intervention in Iraq in early 2003 has the element of
the WMD threat as the cornerstone of virtually all proximization-based rhetoric, the increasingly
widespread awareness of the US intelligence failure has meant that the proximization pattern
occurring in the later discourse displays a radically different internal composition. Let us discuss
this change on the example of G.W. Bushs address delivered at the Whitehall Palace in London
on November 19, 2003,

(14) We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq and pay a bitter cost of
casualties, and liberate 25 million people, only to retreat before a band of thugs and
assassins. And who will say that Iraq was better off when Saddam Hussein was strutting
and killing, or that the world was safer when he held power? (. . .) By advancing freedom in
the greater Middle East, we help end a cycle of dictatorship and radicalism that brings
millions of people to misery and brings danger to our own people. By struggling for justice
in Iraq, Burma, in Sudan, and in Zimbabwe, we give hope to suffering people and improve
38 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

the chances for stability and progress. (. . .) Had we failed to act, the dictators programs
for weapons of mass destruction would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Iraqs
torture chambers would still be filled with victims, terrified and innocent. The killing fields
of Iraq where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the
sands would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the
world without Saddam Husseins regime is a better and safer place. (. . .) He had used the
weapons before. He had been running programs. He had funded suicide bombers into
Israel. He had terrorist connections. All of those ingredients said to me: threat. And do you
deal with the threat once you see it?11

which, following the abstraction of the key lemmas and, specifically, the frequency-based
assignment of the spatial lemmas, yields the following representation:

What can be most readily seen from (14) and the corresponding figure is that the loss of the
WMD or the terrorist premise for spatial proximization has been offset by an imposed
conceptualization of the intervention in Iraq in terms of part of a bigger cause, involving a
broader geopolitical spectrum (note the almost identical counts of Iraq versus other ODCs) as
well as a deeper axiological anchoring. There is no longer a proximization shift alongside the
space axis as the 9/11 analogy has lost its relevance. Instead, the entities on the space axis (an
extended representation of countries) are construed collectively as carriers of values
endangering the axiological composition of the deictic center elements. The linguistic enactment
of values antithetical to those of the deictic center (involving the US addressee as well as the
majority of the world community) takes on an explicitly drastic imagery which seeks a natural
common ground for rejection of the alien ideologies. The proximization that occurs is thus a
proximization within the axiological dimension: foreign ideological concepts (dictatorship,
radicalism, etc.), approached globally, are shown to have been inspiring actions which come in
increasingly direct conflict with the very basic human principles of not only the US audience but
in fact of any social and political audience worldwide that would call themselves civilized.

Again, the lexical choices in (14) are quite representative of the entire legitimization pattern occurring within a
specific timeframe of the conflictthe current example uses findings of the analysis of lemma frequency counts in a
corpus of White House press releases issued between November 2003 and June 2004 (30 texts total).
P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741 39

The axiological proximization works towards an enactment of political competence of the

speaker, too. The latter follows from the apparent aura of premeditation underlying the speakers
actions within the extended activity domain (i.e. involving a vast range of target countries of
which Iraq is one). Additionally, there is a clear indication of a logical continuum eliciting
legitimization of current or future actions (i.e. further involvement) on the basis of actions
undertaken thus far. The application of the ongoing AC pattern (cf. the discussion of (12))
enhances the legitimization in its own right.
Although as a result of the disqualification of the 9/11 analogy the proximization available
from the ST interface has definitely lost much of its salience in (14), there are still some
intriguing remnants. With a reference to weapons of mass destruction as such (cf. (12)) no
longer at hand, the legitimization rhetoric in (14) has switched to running programs [for the
WMD] as a scalar concept validating the apparently fallible early proximization pattern.
Clearly, the US administration must have considered the axiological motive, however strongly
elucidated in the second phase of the conflict, still incapable of providing a full compensation for
the loss of the principal argument for going to war.

6. Conclusions: a preliminary evaluation of the STA model and directions for further

The apparent advantage of the elaborated STA model lies in its capacity to respond to the
temporal variability of the social and political discourse context generating, over time, a number
of lexically different manifestations of the speakers same principal goal. The STA proximization
schema assumes constancy of the macro function of the speakers performance within a defined
timeframeif, as a result of external factors, one strategy of proximization is downplayed or
abandoned, the overall balance is redressed by an increase in the salience of another strategy.
This kind of flexibility allows the STA model to meet the second methodological condition
voiced in section 5.2. At the same time, it corroborates the feasibility of the model for a
hierarchically organized discourse study, insofar as concepts of different degrees of
interdisciplinarity are utilized at different levels of analysis. The model presupposes the
prominence of legitimization as a principal discourse goal sought by political actors.
Proximization is seen as a major multidimensional strategy to accomplish it. Each dimension of
proximization involves occurrence of a set of language-pragmatic configurations which have a
speech event or a speech act status (cf. the establishment of common ground as a derivative of the
assertion-implicature interplay). At the bottom of this hierarchy are individual lexical items
which can be abstracted as key lemmas typifying the consecutively produced (as in the 12/14
timeframe) discourses. The abstraction of the key lemmas seems also one of the major concerns
in refining the entire modelwithout doubt, more research is needed on corpus collection,
sampling methods, etc. The assignment of lemmas to positions in the three-dimensional space
constitutes another problem; this paper has been perhaps the first step to suggest how the primary,
S axis could be configured but the other mappings are thus far largely a matter of heuristics.
What seems very important (and optimistic) for the final shape of the STA model, its current
design and application have shown inherent potential to allow for methodological updates
resulting from the empirical checking and reconsideration of the central element of analysis at a
given level. For instance, although the spatial aspect of proximization seems the most productive
in terms of the explanatory power, its application in the actual text analysis has necessitated a
reformulation of the original module. One cannot exclude the possibility of further
reformulations once the model has been applied more extensively. Imaginably, the proximization
40 P. Cap / Journal of Pragmatics 40 (2008) 1741

schema might need updating when applied prescriptively, for instance, with a view to activating
a disinterested addressee in order to make him absorb a new ideology, rather than reinforce an
existing one (cf. Fairclough, 2003, on strategies for social mobilization in former Soviet bloc


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