Discursive construction of ethos-based framework for public identity. Investigative congressional hearings


The construction of ethos-based self-representation in public discourse is particularly evident when it comes to politicians and corporate leaders who, in their public prominent role, may need to convince their audience they behave and have behaved ethically. This seems to be even more evident in case of suspicion of wrongdoing, which is typically the reason why investigative congressional hearings are conducted. The hearings can give researchers the possibility to discover whom the Congress is listening to, who the players are and how they position themselves in a debate. However – to the author’s knowledge – the subject has not been of much scrutiny on the part of discourse scholars, an attitude somehow contrasting with lay public’s general interests and a missed opportunity to shed light on the actors and the issues. It is the scope of the present study to analyse discursive strategies aimed to construct ethos-based framework for public identity in the opening statements of investigative hearings. The strategies are expected to be displayed both by politicians facing a controversial topic and by highly influential company CEOs whose companies have been under public scrutiny for suspected unethical behaviour. The methodological framework adopted in the study makes synergic use of discourse analytical perspective combined with the traditional definition of text types by Egon Werlich, and especially argumentative type. It is believed that by discourse analysis readers can become aware of linguistic choices and the arguments that they imply – i.e. the way writers put forth a standpoint and defend it in opposition to its contrary. In this case, it is the witnesses’ portrait as ethical persona which is questioned and needs to be asserted.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v33p109

Keywords: Congressional hearings; Discourse analysis; Genre analysis; Rhetorical moves; Ethos building.


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