Meanings & Co. pp 193-211 | Cite as

Semiotic Practices in TV Debates

  • Nicolae-Sorin DrăganEmail author
Part of the Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress book series (NAHP, volume 6)


The purpose of this paper is to propose a methodological framework to analyze the dynamics of the positioning acts of political actors in dialogic forms of interaction, such as final TV debates for presidential elections, from the perspective of positioning theory (Davies and Harré 1990; Harré and Gillet 1994; Harré and van Langenhove 1998; Moghaddam et al. 2008; Moghaddam and Harré 2010; Harré and Moghaddam 2016). Positioning theory activates a tridimensional semiotic model, which includes positioning acts—semiotic configurations with a certain stability in the communicational practices of the community— storylines and the implicit illocutionary force of any discursive exchange. This paper uses an interdisciplinary approach—analysing the positioning complementarily with the Eudico Linguistic Annotator (henceforth ELAN) framework for multimodality research—to capture on the one hand the dynamics of the discursive exchange in the episode we considered, and on the other hand to disambiguate the positioning (and the interpretation thereof) of the political actors involved in the debate.


  1. Allwood, Jens, Loredana Cerrato, Kristiina Jokinen, Costanza Navarretta, and Patrizia Paggio. 2007. The MUMIN coding scheme for the annotation of feedback, turn management and sequencing phenomena. Language Resources and Evaluation 41 (3/4): 273–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. BBC News. 2017. French election gets dirty: Insults that marked a fierce debate. BBC News, 4 May 2017. Accessed 7 May 2017.
  3. Beciu, Camelia. 2009. Comunicare şi discurs mediatic. O lectură sociologică [Communication and media discourse. A sociological reading]. Bucureşti: Scholar
  4. Beciu, Camelia. 2015. Dezbaterile Electorale şi Rolul Mediei în Campania Prezidenţială 2014 din România [Electoral debates and the role of the media in the presidential campaign 2014 in Romania]. Revista Română De Sociologie [Romanian Journal of Sociology] 26 (3): 253–278.Google Scholar
  5. Belsey, Catherine. 2002 [1980]. Critical practice, ed. by Terence Hawkes, 2nd edn. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Benoit, L.William. 2014. Political election debates: Informing voters about policy and character. Lanham, U.K.: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  7. Blake, Aaron. 2016. The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate transcript, annotated. The Washington Post, September 26, 2016. Accessed 7 May 2017.
  8. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. On television. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  10. Boydstun, E. Amber, Glazier, A. Rebecca, and Matthew T. Pietryka. 2013. Playing to the crowd: Agenda control in presidential debates. Political Communication 30 (2): 254–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Colletta, Jean-Marc, Kunene, N. Ramona, Venouil, Aurélie, Kaufmann, Virginie, and Jean-Pascal Simon. 2009. Multi-track annotation of child language and gestures. In Multimodal Corpora. From models of natural interaction to systems and applications, eds. Michael Kipp, Jean-Claude Martin, Patrizia Paggio and Dirk Heylen. 54–72. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  12. Davies, Bronwyn, and Rom H. Harré. 1990. Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 20 (1): 43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Drăgan, Nicolae-Sorin. 2016. Loc, rol și poziție. Practici discursive în discursul politic românesc [Place, role and positon. Discursive practices in Romanian political discourse]. Romanian Review of Young Researchers (RRYR) 4 (I): 7–20.Google Scholar
  14. Eco, Umberto. 1976. A theory of semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erickson, V. Keith. 1998. Presidential spectacles: Political illusionism and the rhetoric of travel. Communication Monographs 65 (2):141–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Erickson, V. Keith. 2000. Presidential rhetoric’s visual turn: Performance fragments and the politics of illusionism. Communication Monographs 67 (2): 138–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  18. Flahault, François. 1978. La parole intermédiaire [La Parole intermediate]. Paris: Seuil.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gnisci, Augusto; Maricchiolo, Fridanna, and Marino Bonaiuto. 2013. Reliability and validity of coding systems for bodily forms of communication, In Body—Language—Communication: An international handbook on multimodality in human interaction, Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 38.1., Volume 1, eds. Cornelia Müller, Alan Cienki, Ellen Fricke, Silva H. Ladewig, David McNeill and Jana Bressem. 689–706. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
  20. Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  21. Harré, H. Rom, and Luk van Langenhove. 1991. Varieties of positioning. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 21 (4): 393–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harré, H. Rom, and Grant Gillet. 1994. The discursive mind. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Harré, H. Rom, and Luk van Langenhove (eds.). 1998. Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Harré, H. Rom, and Mark Rossetti. 2010. In words of conflict words of war. How the language we use in political processes sparks fighting, eds. Fathali Moghaddam and Rom H. Harré. 111–123. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Google Scholar
  25. Harré, H.Rom, and Fathali M. Moghaddam (eds.). 2016. Questioning causality: scientific explorations of cause and consequence across social contexts. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Google Scholar
  26. Hellweg, A. Susan; Pfau, Michael, and Steven R. Brydon. 1992. Televised presidential debates: Advocacy in contemporary America. New York: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Holquist, Michael. 2002 [1990]. Dialogism: Bakhtin and his world. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Holt, Richard. 2003. Bakhtin’s dimensions of language and the analysis of conversation. Communication Quarterly 51 (2): 225–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kress, Gunther, and Theo van Leeuwen. 2010 [1996]. Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Kristeva, Julia. 1980. Problemele structurării textului [Problèmes de la structuration du texte]. In Pentru o teorie a textului, Antologie Tel Quel 1960–1971 [Trans. from volume Tel Quel: Théorie d’ensemble, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1968, 297–316]. 250–272. București: Univers.Google Scholar
  31. Lempert, Michael, and Michael Silverstein. 2012. Creatures of politics: Media, message, and the American Presidency. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Marcus, Solomon. 2011. Paradigme Universale [Universal Paradigms]. Bucureşti: Paralela 45 Publishing House.Google Scholar
  33. Maricchiolo, Fridanna, Augusto Gnisci, and Marino Bonaiuto. 2012. Coding hand gestures: A reliable taxonomy and a multi-media support. In Cognitive behavioural systems 2011, LNCS 7403, ed. Anna Esposito, Antonietta M. Esposito, Alessandro Vinciarelli, Rüdiger Hoffmann, and Vincent C. Müller, 405–416. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  34. McKinney, S. Mitchell, and Lamoureux, E. R. 1999. Citizen response to the 1996 presidential debates: Focusing on the focus groups. In The electronic election: Perspectives on the 1996 campaign communication, eds. Kaid, Lynda Lee, and Dianne G. Bystrom. 163–177. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  35. McKinney, S. Mitchell, and Diana B. Carlin. 2004. Political campaign debates. In Handbook of political communication research, ed. Kaid, Lynda Lee. 203–234. New Jersey (USA): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers.Google Scholar
  36. Moghaddam, M. Fathali; Harré, H. Rom, and Naomi Lee (eds.). 2008. Global conflict resolution through positioning analysis. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  37. Moghaddam, M. Fathali, and Rom H. Harré (eds.). 2010. Words of conflict words of war. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.Google Scholar
  38. Navarretta, Constanza, and Patrizia Paggio. 2013. Multimodal Behaviour and Interlocutor Identification in Political Debates. In Multimodal communication in political speech. Shaping minds and social action, international workshop, political speech 2010, eds. Isabella Poggi; Francesca D’Errico; Laura Vincze, and Alessandro Vinciarelli. 99–113. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  39. Nine O’Clock. 2014. Ponta-Iohannis televised duel continued on B1TV Wednesday night. Nine O’Clock, November 13, 2014. Accesed 10 Apr 2017.
  40. O’Halloran, L. Kay. 2011. Multimodal discourse analysis. In Companion to discourse analysis, ed. Ken Hyland and Brian Paltridge, 120–137. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  41. Pfau, Michael. 2002. The subtle nature of presidential debate influence. Argumentation & Advocacy 38: 251–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pleșu, Andrei. 2010. Parabolele lui Iisus. O analitică a receptivității [The parables of Jesus. An analytics of receptivity]. Conference given on 27 October 2010, in the Aula of the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iași. Available at Accessed 27 Dec 2015.
  43. Pleșu, Andrei. 2015. Interviewed by Daniela Zeca-Buzura, Micdejun cu un campion [Breakfast with a champion]. TVR2, May 9, 2015. Accessed 20 Jan 2016.
  44. Popescu, Cristian Tudor. 2014. Magistrul Loază şi ucenicul Forfotă [Master Scoundrel and apprentice Fuss]. Gândul, November 12, 2014. Accessed 13 Nov 2014.
  45. Postman, Neil. 1985. Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  46. Rovența-Frumușani, Daniela. 1999. Semiotică, Societate, Cultură [Semiotics, Society, Culture]. Iaşi: Editura Institutului European.Google Scholar
  47. Rovența-Frumușani, Daniela. 2012. Analiza discursului. Ipoteze si ipostaze [Discourse Analysis. Hypotheses and hypostases]. Bucureşti: Editura Tritonic.Google Scholar
  48. Siefkes, Martin. 2015. How semiotic modes work together in multimodal texts: Defining and representing intermodal relations. 10plus1: Living Linguistics 1: 113–131.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (NUPSPA)BucharestRomania

Personalised recommendations