Framing Issues in The Specialised Discourse Of Diplomacy: A Quantitative and Qualitative Approach

Cinzia Spinzi


Relevant international issues, such as terrorism, immigration, climate change, human security, cybersecurity and so on, imply the construction of complex ideological and axiological discursive positions, which stem from a web of unavoidably superimposed emotional and moral evaluations, often interwoven with logical observations (Spinzi 2016). All transactions whether promoting ideologies and values or selling products are a way of profiting from the general representation of a nation, and strategic communication contributes to this by increasing appreciation and influencing people’s behaviour.

Embracing the perspective that transformations in social life are led by discourse (Fairclough, 2006a: 24-25), this study explores the specialized ‘realm’ of diplomacy that expresses the foreign policy of a country. This research is an enquiry into the communicative and, more particularly, persuasive strategies used by British foreign ministers to pursue their ideological design and to construct a positive image of their country’s policy by claiming unity. In the context of foreign policy, language choices, which carry significant communicative intent, are regularly made “to galvanize the audience to achieve a commonality of purpose” (Burhanudeen, 2005: 37) through the enactment of specific linguistic frames.

This study assumes a cognitive perspective on the language of diplomacy outlining the ways in which speakers negotiate solidarity with their audience by ‘naturalizing’ a variety of ideological positions through the particular frames chosen. Frames are conceptual structures reproducing particular areas of knowledge and experience (Fillmore 1982, 1985). Data come from an ad-hoc corpus which includes online speeches by the British foreign ministers from 1997 up to the present times and online interviews published in different online newspapers.

In this work, I will focus on those framing devices which appeal primarily to the power of reason, from assertion to typecasting and semantic categories (Scott 2013). When considering such mechanisms, the present work has two main areas of interest: linguistic and institutional. From the linguistic point of view, our interest concerns those lexical and grammatical patterns which express the point of view of the speakers (Stubbs, 1996: 20), namely their way of projecting the world, their way of persuading and positioning their audience to accept what they say. From the institutional point of view, it is crucial to determine “how is discourse organized” in order to “appear factual, literal, objective, authoritative” (Partington 2003: 5; Stubbs 1996: 97) and persuasive.

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