The Goal-Achievement Pattern in Articles about Politics

Seminar Paper, 2008

14 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Background
2.1 Characteristics of articles about politics
2.2 The role of journalism
2.3 Does the Iranian President really want Israel to be “wiped off the map”?
2.4 Political goals and language
2.5Rhetorical devices

3 Patterns of text organisation
3.1The Problem-Solution Pattern
3.2The Goal-Achievement Pattern

4 Analysis of a current article on the Iranian nuclear program

5 Conclusion



1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is not only to analyze a linguistic pattern in an article about politics. I also want to examine the triangle between language, politics and media – as far as the limited space will allow it. I have already worked for media companies and I am generally interested in journalism. Therefore I think it is important to emblaze some journalistic backgrounds which could be important for a better understanding of my analysis. First of all I will give some basic information about political goals, political language and articles about politics. Then I will handle patterns of textual organization, in particular the goal-achievement pattern. This is going to be followed by my attempt to analyze an article about a current political topic. My conclusion will be concerned about what in my opinion the goal-achievement pattern is able to tell the reader about complex political goals and the methods politicians may adopt to achieve them.

2. Background

I assume it is important to give some background information ahead the analysis of linguistic patters. First of all I will try to give some basic information concerning articles about politics in general. Then I will try to highlight the importance of journalistic backgrounds and give a short example to point out how media, language and politics can be connected. Afterwards I will try to analyse how the term “goal” works in a linguistic sense, find out in which way politicians may talk about their goals and finally how this is connected to different rhetoric devices.

2.1. Characteristics of articles about politics

Articles about politics generally refer to something said or done by politicians. An article in a daily newspaper about a current domestical topic will usually not tell about the development of that topic from the beginning. So the understanding of the text often depends on the readers’ knowledge of some texts previously encountered (Beaugrande and Dressler mentioned in Reitbauer 2008: 4). Therefore, in my opinion, articles about politics show a very high grade of intertextuality. For example a Martian who has no idea who are Mr. Gusenbauer and Mr. Molterer, what parties they represent, stand for and how they are connected, presumable will not be able to understand an article in an Austrian newspaper on a current government crisis in detail. This high grade of intertextuality will make the analysis more complicated.

2.2. The role of journalism

As the producer of articles concerning politics, journalists in my opinion take an important role when analyzing such texts. According to Partington (2003: 55f), the press footings should be divided in the press as a group and individual journalists. During a press conference they all receive the same information but afterwards they work it out in an individual way. Therefore, I assume that a journalist also takes the role of a sender and a receiver. Partington further notes that political journalists see it as one of their main tasks to present “the other side” – for example when they ask questions during a podium discussion (2003: 100).

Assmann (2005: 13) shows with an interesting example (an apology by the New York Times for distributing unconfirmed information) how extremely important it is, that a political journalist works accurate. The rendering of unverified information may cause myths which influence the public and may hardly ever disappear again. I would like to highlight this statement with an example at the next point.

2.3. Does the Iranian President really want Israel to be “wiped off the map”?

I think it is possible to say that it was quite a shock for the very Holocaust-sensitive western society when in October 2005 TV stations and newspapers worldwide published a quote by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (the democratic elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran) which said that he wants Israel to be “wiped off the map”. Since this day many people associate Ahmadinejad with Anti-Semitism, which has definitely a negative connotation and still causes him international blame. But meanwhile it is a quite acknowledged fact that this quotation has been translated by Press Agencies in a fatally wrong way. According to the “Sprachdienst des Deutschen Bundestages” the right translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech says “the regime that occupies Jerusalem has to be wiped off the annuals of history” – a far less offensive interpretation of the Persian original. Spiegel online and CNN already admitted the error, but apparently the recall spreads far more slowly than the first statement. The German Federal Agency for Political Education even has had the obviously wrong quote on their Website until April 2008 (Fikentscher and Neumann in Uni Kassel Online: 2008). I have not carried out a survey on this, but I am pretty sure that at the moment far more people in Austria have heard about the “wiped off the map”-quote than about the fact, that this is incorrect information.

2.4. Political goals and language

The relation between politics and language can be very closely and they may also influence each other:

As Schäffer (1997: 1) points out, language is vital to the process of transforming political will into social action, ‘in fact, any political action is prepared, accompanied, controlled and influenced by language’. Fairclough (1989: 23) goes still further. Politics is not just conducted through language, but much of politics is language […]. Schäffer (1997: 1) stresses the need for a closer cooperation between political scientists and linguists.

(Partington 2003: 26 f)

According to Assmann (2005: 14) every language user pursues a certain goal with his or her speech action. In politics this occurs in a form of motivation and persuasion. How the example at point 2.3. shows, it is possible that articles about politics imply a politician goals he or she maybe does not have (in this case the destruction of Israel). It is also possible that a newspaper article wants to present a political goal in a special light. There are several techniques for being vaguer and hiding information in some way (Partington 2003: 14ff):

- absent quantifiers

e.g.: “Angry voters want re-elections” – How many voters? All? Ten thousand? Two?

- nominalization

e.g.: “The offer has been subject to criticism” – Who has criticized the offer?

- adjectivization

e.g..: “Unemployment is an Austrian problem” – Is it a problem of Austrian people, caused by Austrian people or can it be solved by Austrian people?

In official speeches politicians have the intention that the public should identify with their goals (Assmann 2005: 22). Therefore they may use “passwords” and rhetorical devices. The latter will be handled at the next point. “Passwords” (Hudson 1978: 67) refer to words which have a special connotation in a specific content and/or for a social group. E.g.: most ÖVP-politicians today still refer to the SPÖ as “Sozialistische Partei”, but they have changed their name to “Sozialdemokratische Partei” in 1991. This lets assume that ÖVP-politicians think that their sympathizers associate a negative connotation with the term “sozialistisch”. Therefore they may use it as a password.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


The Goal-Achievement Pattern in Articles about Politics
University of Graz  (Anglistik)
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ISBN (Book)
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Linguistic patters, goal-achievement, hoey, rhetoric devices, language of politics, journalism, language and media, Iran, problem-solution pattern, linguistic analysis
Quote paper
Johannes Zeller (Author), 2008, The Goal-Achievement Pattern in Articles about Politics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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