The Rhetoric of Pravda Editorials : A Diachronic Study of a Political Genre

Abstract: The present study considers the diachronic changes that took place in Soviet political discourse as reflected in six selections of Pravda editorials from the 1920s through the 1950s, as well as slogans and headlines in that newspaper from 1917 through 1933. The principal goal of analyses conducted on various levels is to identify and investigate a number of tendencies demonstrating the gradual transformation of the language of revolution into totalitarian language. A quantitative analysis of the vocabulary of slogans and headlines in Chapter 2 focuses on chronological changes in words and addresses the contexts in which they were used. The same material is used in a review of the polarization of vocabulary in positive and negative contexts. Chapters 3-6 are devoted to a qualitative analysis of editorial texts on three levels: lexical rhetorical means (Chapter 3), semantically charged elements of argumentation (Chapter 4), and the overall composition of the text (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 concludes the study with an illustration of the devices considered in Chapters 3-5 based on two editorials, one each from the revolutionary and totalitarian periods. The analysis identifies a number of stable elements present throughout the period under study, such as the self – other opposition and references to the classics of Marxism-Leninism. At the same time, noted on all levels are changes illustrating the process by which the language of revolution was gradually transformed into totalitarian language. These include the disappearance from rhetoric of emotionality, imagery, and elements of logic, as well as stylistic leveling and an increase in the frequent repetition of the same conclusions and clichés.