This thesis investigates populist political rhetoric through the lens of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). SFL provides the tools to analyze and quantify language-in-context and allows us to make inferences about the relationship between the orator and their audience, about the ideological commitments of the orator as well as what they present or want to present as more prominent or salient, and about the way that the orator represents the world through text. The subject of this investigation is populist politician Nigel Farage. This project employs a corpus approach to 13 speeches given by Farage, which exhibit a range of rhetorical devices that he employs. While this investigation focuses on Farage's political speeches, the underlying subject matter includes populism, populist rhetoric, and Brexit. It was found that Farage adapts his use of rhetorical devices depending on his audience. For example, he implies a certain closeness or belonging when speaking to his supporters, while he foregrounds more circumstantial elements when speaking to the mainstream media, perhaps in an attempt to alleviate some of the negative impact or contentiousness of his statements. This project applies the framework SFL to political discourse. Populist rhetoric was chosen as a topic because of its increasing pervasiveness in modern politics and political movements, and Brexit was chosen because it showcases the ability of populist rhetoric to effect social and political change.
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Thesis advisor: Taboada, Maite
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