According to Chilton and Shaffner, “a crucial conceptual and semantic mechanism in the production of political meanings is metaphor,” used in order to explain or simplify certain facts or concepts. As for the definition, Lackoff and Johnson suggest that, “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.” (p.5) The choice of a metaphor is as particular as the speaker himself, reflecting his political beliefs and principles. The metaphor, “self-questioning is essential to the health of any society,” personifies society, implying that it can pose questions to itself or be healthy. (Thatcher) Similarly, other speakers take advantage of metaphoric language to get the message across in a simpler or more poetic way. That said, it is important to realize that a “political metaphor…can hide aspects of reality…which can lead to human degradation.” (Lackoff and Johnson, p. 236) Consider the following metaphor:
It is a new type of war. It will rest on intelligence to a greater degree than ever before. It demands a difference attitude to our own interests. It forces us to act even when so many comforts seem unaffected, and the threat so far off, if not illusory.
In this excerpt, the speaker suggests that war has human-like qualities, demanding people change their attitude and act even when they do not want to. Further, it is insinuated that it is not the speaker who demands these changes but the war. Whether a metaphor highlights or hides its true meaning will be suggested, however, the reader will have to “evaluate the hypothesis in the light of their own social and political experience,” as is the recommended approach for all findings in this thesis. (Chilton and Schaffner, p. 228)
As a subgenre of metaphor, metonymy is also a frequent tool in the hands of politicians. Lackoff and Johnson perceive metonymy as “using one entity to refer to another that is related to it.” (p. 35) The metonymy, ‘Get me Prague on the phone!’, uses a geographical location to refer to some person. Metonymies are especially numerous in political speeches, as politicians refer to political entities in terms of geographic labels in order to provide visual support or emphasis for the audience.
The linguistic term frames might be defined as “an area of experience in a particular culture.” (Chilton, p.51) In other words, frames are mental schemata or plans, including times, places or relationships evoked in our minds through various words in discourse that share certain similarities. For example words like Al Quaeda, Iraq, armed forces, war on terror, extremism, etc., might evoke in our minds examples of geographical frames: Middle East; moral frames: shameless people; war frames: homeland security and others, depending on the audience. Of course, each person will envision a particular frame based on their own experience, which is something that should be taken into account by the speaker.
Comparing two objects with certain features in common is making an analogy. The higher the degree of similarity between the objects and the relevance to the argument presented, the stronger the analogy. (Beard, p. 27) People store various images and memories of events in their minds, and this “analogical conflation of stored representation of events, consciously worked through discourse or not, can play a role in the construction of mental contexts.” (Chilton, p. 157) A politician can use analogies to access people’s ‘mental contexts’ in order to evoke a particular emotion or response and thus gain support.