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2015-11-24 | 来源:51Due教员组 | 类别:更多范文

Euphemism, as an essential and natural part of the English language and a common linguistic phenomenon, is of great importance to keep daily communication and personal relationship smooth. Political euphemism displays its distinct charm in political field, especially that of America, which has great impact on the international politics. In Politics and the English Language,George Orwell points out that “Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” (67).
Western political life is the rich soil that produces euphemism, especially at the moment when political situation is changing or when War erupts. Therefore, a good knowledge of political euphemism can not only raise the comprehensibility of foreign language, but also enable people to catch the essence of domestic and international political events more accurately.
Euphemism has the characteristic of vagueness, which makes it deceitful, so western politicians often use the beautified euphemisms to disguise the fact as possible as they can. And politics in western become a game playing with euphemism. When some significant political events happen, a lot of political euphemisms may come into being.
       In recent years, so many scholars have made practical analysis of euphemisms and their researches contribute a lot to the study, and most of them related to approach the issue from the rhetoric, semantic, cultural and sociolinguistic angles. Few academic papers have touched euphemisms used in American Presidents’ Inaugural Addresses so far. This paper mainly focuses on the euphemisms used in the American Presidents’ Inaugural Addresses based on the theory of Leech’s Politeness Principle (PP).
I. Definition and Motivation of Political Euphemism
Many linguists hold that politics is a kind of linguistic behavior which tells people the happened political events in society and tries to persuade them to participate in such events. Language not only conveys political views but also creates the social reality people depends on.
Political euphemism is such a euphemism classified by its range of use. It is mainly used in governmental documents, the mass media critics and the speeches of statesmen. Actions and behaviors of every government, party, and leader are political. The government’s objective is to defend its status of domination and safeguard its own interests. In the western countries, when serious political scandals or great political events happen, the government and leaders usually use political euphemism to hide the truth and commit a fraud upon the public. As Neaman & Silver point out “whatever their individual codes, all governments are gold mines of euphemism” primarily for the purpose of “defending and rationalizing their actions and for disguising or diminishing their failures or unpopular proposals policies” (314).(51Due编辑:cari)
Political euphemism used by statesmen or diplomats is dependent on the national dignity and interest, therefore is more consequential with reference to international relations. Euphemism in international political communication enables statesmen or diplomats to say sharp things to each other without becoming unfriendly or impolite. In order to maintain their respective positions, diplomats or statesmen at times cannot avoid mentioning controversial topics. However, as they represent as well the image of their governments, they are supposed to remark and behave in a polite and proper manner. Consequently, they usually employ euphemistic expressions which enable them to make unpleasant things sound pleasant, or at least less unpleasant.
II. Functions of Political Euphemism
As a kind of euphemism, political euphemism is naturally endowed the functions of euphemism, which can be summarized as the following two points.
Euphemisms not only help the speaker avoid talking about the frightful or embarrassed things directly, but also help the speaker or the listener feel relaxed talking about the things that might probably make him or her appear disgraced or embarrassed if spoken directly.
Euphemisms are used to cover up the true nature of events, deceiving the public with nice-sounding and pseudo-technical work, and in the meanwhile it can also help some people avoid talking about sensitive things directly so that they can escape their due responsibility, even punishment. To illustrate more concretely, we may study from the perspectives of internal relations and international relations.
2.1 Functions of Political Euphemism in Internal Relations
2.1.1 Concealing Political Scandals
In order to maintain the image of the government, the officials always do their best to conceal political scandals. By means of political euphemism, the government covers up the truth of some issues and disguises the facts.
The notorious Watergate brings along a lot of euphemisms. The conspiracy is called “scenario” and one who steals intelligence is called “plumber”. What is more, the political scandals from then on is named as”-gate”, such as, Underwatergate, Reagan’s Irrigate and Clinton’s Zipgate.
2.1.2 Easing Social Problems
In the early 19th century, the tension of labor relation and the unrest of strike became serious social problems of western society. In order to ease the contradiction, “strike” is called “industry dispute”, “students’ strike” is called “student unrest” and “economy drop” is called “adjustment downward. To assure people that the social problems such as poverty and crime are not that serious, the government officials created various euphemisms. “lost jobs” became “between two jobs”, “fired employees” became “personnel ceiling reductions”, “prison” became “adjustment center”, “imprison” became “live at the government’s expense”,  and “search” became “pat down”.(51Due编辑:cari)
2.2 Functions of Political Euphemism in International Relations
Political activities in international stage are mainly reflected in diplomacy and military.
2.2.1 Lessening Conflicts and Contradictions
In diplomatic activities, every country aims at maintaining its own interest, so conflicts and contradictions are inevitable. In order to lessen conflicts and contradictions to the utmost extent,diplomats pay special attention to their speech, and they always express their opinions or put forward suggestions in a euphemistic way. For example, when a spokesman of a party says “cannot remain indifferent to some international dispute”, he in fact means that the government will sure get involved into the dispute. If he says the government will “view with grave concern”, it means that the government will consider taking tough measures.
2.2.2 Avoiding Sensitive Topics
In diplomatic field, there are lots of sensitive topics of which diplomats would not like to talk directly. In this case, they will try to use communicative strategies consciously to avoid those sensitive topics.
The following sentences are selected from the Toast by President Nixon at the banquet given by Premier Zhou Enlai on February21, 1972.
“So 1et us in these next five days, start a long march together, not in lockstep, but on different roads 1eading to the same goal…”
In this example, the president does not avoid mentioning the differences between the two states, but the differences are greatly diluted in such description as “a long march not in lockstep”, and the theme is quickly shifted to emphasize the common goals of the two countries, thus cleverly transferring the hearers’ attention away from the unpleasant topic.
2.2.3 Concealing Truth
       Military affairs are swamped with political euphemisms, the number of which is still on the increase. American military affairs are really a big producer of political euphemisms. By means of euphemism, American government tries to conceal the truth so that people would not feel hatred for what the government has done. For example, instead of admitting defeat, American government unblushingly says “leave the victory behind for the opposite party”, American air force take “air raid” as “air support” etc.
III. Analysis of Euphemisms in John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address from the Perspective of Politeness Principle
“A successful conversation results from the mutual effort of participants for the purpose of a mutual communicative goal.” (何兆熊, 146) The roundabout nature of euphemisms can be fairly explained well by Leech's Politeness Principle (PP). Leech proposes PP which included Tact Maxim, Generosity Maxim, Approbation Maxim, Modesty Maxim, Agreement Maxim and Sympathy Maxim, these maxims provide a way of explaining how politeness operates in communicative exchanges. American Presidents’ employing euphemisms in their addresses can tactfully avoid the conflicts and maintain a friendly and polite atmosphere, which puts PP into good practice, so does John F. Kennedy’s. How he uses euphemisms to achieve PP will be analyzed from three aspects, which are Approbation Maxim and Modesty Maxim, Agreement Maxim, and Sympathy Maxim. (51Due编辑:cari)
3.1 Observation of Approbation Maxim and Modesty Maxim
The Approbation maxim states: “Minimize the expression of beliefs which express dispraise of other; maximize the expression of beliefs which express approval of other.” (Leech, 139) It is preferred to praise others and if this is impossible, to state the issue indirectly, to give some sort of minimal response, or to remain silent. The Modesty maxim states: “Minimize the expression of praise of self; maximize the expression of dispraise of self.” The presidents apply the Approbation maxim and Modesty maxim of PP by using some euphemisms. In other words, euphemisms are used to minimize dispraise and maximize praise of others, or minimize the praise of self and maximize dispraise of self in their addresses.   
(51Due编辑:cari)

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