Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics


Rania Habib


Aristotle, Grice, Persuasion, Political Discourse Analysis, Speech Act Theory, Tunisian Dialect

Subject Categories



Within a discourse analysis framework, this research investigates persuasion in political discourse in the last speech of the former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, delivered one day before he left the country in the middle of the Tunisian Revolution that sparked the so-called Arab Spring.

Sentences are analyzed to check their illocutionary force in light of Searle's typology of Speech Act Theory. Then, an analysis of agency is carried out to investigate the persuasive dimension of the use of deictic pronouns to construct the self-image as well as the image of the Other. The speech is also examined using the three appeals of Aristotle, and its use of diglossia is analyzed. Lastly, the Gricean maxims are used to check whether the Cooperative Principle is observed or not and whether the deviation is intended for persuasive ends.

The findings of this study indicate that multiple speech acts are used in the same utterance either with or without an explicit performative verb. Some speech acts may be used as a medium to carry others. It also shows how the strategic use of deictic pronouns and agency with certain illocutionary forces helps construct otherness as well as the self. This process is enforced by the marked use of ethos, which is a crucial strategy of persuasion in political discourse.

Although the use of Tunisian dialect represents a deviation from the norm, the findings show that emotions are more effectively conveyed in dialect than in Standard Arabic. The non-observance of the Gricean maxims is found to be a persuasive strategy to manipulate the audience. However, persuasion cannot be achieved only through linguistic tools. It has to be paralleled with a good awareness of the context.


Open Access

Included in

Linguistics Commons



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