Syntactic Rhythm of Political Speeches as a Psycholinguistic Tool of Suggestive Influence

Keywords: suggestive influence, attention, FIGURE / GROUND construal, syntax, rhythm, rhythmic-syntactic pattern, political speech


This paper addresses the problem of linguistic means of suggestive influence. Suggestive influence is viewed as engrafting into the individuals’ psychic certain ideas, feelings, emotions, or other psychophysiological states bypassing their critical rational thinking. It is stated that suggestion works at the level of structure, specifically, at the level of syntactic arrangement of speech, creating persistent rhythmic-syntactic patterns that grow familiar and build anticipation switching off rationality, and making comprehension subconscious. The study is based on the structural and cognitive analysis of the syntax of Obama’s and Cameron’s political speeches. The cognitive analysis employs the instruments provided by L. Talmy’s FIGURE-GROUND construal. The analysis reveals that the syntax of the analysed political speeches is based on the three structural-semantic patterns of arranging predications: the structural-semantic incorporation, the semantic incorporation and the chain attachment. The structural-semantic incorporation and the chain attachment are underpinned by the linear cognitive scheme of changing the listeners’ focus of attention. The linear scheme is natural for the development of discourse. It sets the prevailing rhythmic-syntactic pattern of a political speech. Since this pattern is predictable, it serves to automatize perception and weaken rational evaluation of the speech content. The semantic incorporation is underpinned by the non-linear cognitive scheme of changing the listeners’ focus of attention. This scheme goes contrary to the natural development of discourse. It breaks the prevailing rhythmic-syntactic pattern and makes the listeners concentrate on what is being said. The change of patterns ensures the listeners’ interest to the speech.


Download data is not yet available.


Almor, A. (1999). Noun-phrase Anaphora and Focus: The Information Load Hypothesis. Psychological Review, 106(4), 748–765.

Bandler, R. (2014). How to take change of your life: The user’s guide to NLP. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Bandler, R., & Grinder, J. (1975). The structure of magic. Palo Alto, California: Science and Behavior Books, Inc.

Bekhterev, V.M. (2001). Vnusheniye i yego rol v obschestvennoj zhizni [Suggestion and its role in social life]. Sankt-Petyerburg: Pityer [in Russian].

Brik, O.M. (1927). Ritm i sintaksis [Rhythm and syntax]. Novyj lyef – New lef, 6,

33–39 [in Russian].

Cameron and Obama press conference, July 20, 2010. Available at:

Cameron and Obama press conference, March 14, 2012. Available at:

Cambridge English dictionary. Available at: dictionary/english/rhythm/

Carlson, K., Dickey, M.W., Frazier, L., & Clifton, C. (2009). Information structure expectations in sentence comprehension. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(1), 114–139. doi: 10.1080/17470210701880171

Chafe, W. (1994). Discourse, consciousness, and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cherepanova, I.Yu. (2002). Zagovor naroda. Kak sozdat silnyj politicheskij tekst [Plot against people. How to create the strong political text]. Moscow: KSP+ [in Russian].

Clifton, C., & Ferreira, F. (1987). Discourse structure and anaphora: Some experimental results. In: M. Coltheart (ed.) Attention and Performance XII – The Psychology of Reading, (pp. 635–654). Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum.

David Cameron’s press conference at the NATO summit in Lisbon, November 20, 2010. Available at:

David Cameron’s speech on radicalisation and Islamic extremism, February 5, 2011.Available at:

David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party conference 2012, October 10, 2012. Available at:

Dilts, R. (1999). Sleight of mouth. The magic of conversational belief change. Capitola, CA: Meta Publications.

Dilts, R. (2017). Success factor modeling. Conscious leadership and resilience:Orchestrating innovation and fi tness for the future, III. Santa Cruz, CA: Dilts Strategy Group.

Ilnytska, L.L. (2006). Anhlomovnyj suhestyvnyj dyskurs [English suggestive discourse]. Extended abstract of candidate’s thesis. Kharkiv [in Ukrainian].

Grinder, J., & Pucelik, F. (2013). Origins of neuro linguistic programming. Tonbridge: Crown House.

Kalita, A.A. (2015). Suggestivnyj potencial ritmicheskoj sistemy prozaicheskogo teksta [Subliminal potential of the prosaic text rhythmic system] Kohnitsiya. Komunikatsiya. Dyskurs – Cognition. Communication. Discourse, 11, 29–44 [in Russian]. doi: 10.26565/2218-2926-2015-11-03

Lambrecht, K. (1994). Information structure and sentence form: A theory of topic, focus, and the mental representations of the discourse referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lambrecht, K. (2001). A framework for the analysis of cleft constructions. Linguistics, 39(3), 463–516.

Magne, C., et al. (2004). Comparison of rhythmic processing in language and music: An interdisciplinary approach. The journal of music and meaning, 3, 2004–2005.

Martynyuk, A.P. (2015). Kognitivno-kommunikativnyj instrumentarij analiza rechevogo vozdejstviya [Cognitive-communicative instruments of analysis of verbal infl uence]. Science and Education: A New Dimension. Philology, 68, 67–71 [in Russian].

Martynyuk, A.P., & Ponikaryova, A.Yu. (2013). Kognitivno-kommunikativnyj instrumentarij analiza slozhnopodchinyennogo sintaksisa politicheskogo diskursa. [Cognitive-discursive tools of analysis of the complex syntax of English political discourse]. Kohnitsiya. Komunikatsiya. Dyskurs – Cognition. Communication. discourse, 7, 68–80 [in Russian]. doi: 10.26565/2218-2926-2013-07-05

Merriam-Webster dictionary. Available at:

Oxford dictionaries. Available at: nition/ rhythm

President Barack Obama’s address on the violence in Libya, February 23, 2011. Available at:

President Barack Obama’s state of the union address, January 25, 2011. Available at:

Shelestyuk, O.V. (2008). Rechevoye vozdejstviye: Ontologiya i metodologiya issledovaniya [Verbal infl uence: Ontology and methodology of research]. Chelyabinsk: OOO «Entsiklopediya» [in Russian].

Shklovsky, V. (1983). Iskusstvo kak priyom [Art as a fi gure]. O teorii prozy – On the theory of prose. (pp. 9–25). Moscow: Sovetskij pisatel [in Russian].

Sternin, I.A. (2015). Osnovy rechevogo vozdejstviya [Foundations of verbal infl uence] (3nd ed.). Moscow-Berlin: Direct-Media [in Russian].

Talmy, L. (1975). Figure and ground in complex sentences. Proceedings of the fi rst annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. (pp. 419–430).

Tomashevsky, B.V. (2002). Teoriya literatury. Poetika [Theory of literature. Poetics]. Moscow: Aspekt Press [in Russian].

Tynyanov, Yu.N. (2007). Problema stikhotvornogo yazyka [The problem of poetic language]. Moscow: KomKniga [in Russian].

Vorobyova, O.P. (2017). Haunted by Ambiguities Revisited: in Search of a Metamethod for Literary Text Disambiguation. Lege artis. Language yesterday, today, tomorrow. The Journal of University of SS Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, 2 (1), 428–496. doi: 10.1515/lart-2017-0011
How to Cite
Martynyuk, A., & Ponikaryova, A. (2018). Syntactic Rhythm of Political Speeches as a Psycholinguistic Tool of Suggestive Influence. PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, 24(2), 181-197.