Perspective in the discourse of war: The case of Colin Powell

Camelia Suleiman and Daniel C. O’Connell


The following article applies both quantitative and qualitative methods of research to markers of perspective in a TV interview of Colin Powell on the CNN LARRY KING LIVE program from November 26, 2001. Perspective is well established in phenomenology and social psychology; its starting point is the conviction that every utterance expresses a point of view. From previous research, we accept the dialogical nature of perspective (see O’Connell & Kowal 1998) and further argue that perspective can be observed through measures of orality and literacy and through referencing (name and pronoun reference). The following measures of orality and literacy are examined: Back channeling hesitations, interruptions, contractions and elisions, first person singular pronominals, interjections and tag questions, and turn transitions from interviewer to interviewee and vice versa. We argue further that Colin Powell’s perspective stresses the division between “we” and “they” with regard to the then imminent involvement in Iraq. Theoretical implications are discussed.

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