A politician needs to be persuasive. If he does not possess the ability to persuade others, he will never become a great politician. The interesting question is what makes a person persuasive? This thesis investigates a collection of speeches delivered by Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997-2007), and George W. Bush, President of the United States (2000-2008). These are considered successful and persuasive politicians, not because of their politics or actions as Prime Minister and President respectively, but based on the fact that they have been democratically elected and re-elected to fulfil these positions. The fact that these two politicians have managed to obtain such powerful positions should indicate that they are persuasive, and thus a study of their speeches and techniques of persuasion should be interesting. Two corpora had to be constructed in order to carry out these investigations. The first corpus consists of 19 speeches delivered by Blair. The second corpus consists of 19 speeches delivered by Bush. All speeches are delivered between 11 September 2001 and the end of December 2005.
The study consists of three main parts; ideology, rhetoric and modality. The first of these parts is concerned with uncovering ideologies. Metaphors, metonymy, analogy and word choice have been studied with the intent to reveal ideologies. In the second part of the analysis, several rhetorical devices including three-part lists, contrastive pairs and use of personal pronouns have been analysed with the intent to uncover differences and similarities between the linguistic choices made by Blair and Bush. The third analysis concerns itself with the use of modal auxiliaries in the two corpora, and how they are able to express the speaker’s commitment to his own statements as well as function as an implicit expression of authority. A comparison of the findings of the different analyses showed that there are both similarities and differences in the way Tony Blair and George W. Bush uses language to communicate and persuade their audiences. The study shows that rhetorical style is influenced by historical and cultural background as well as personality.