The Use and Effect of Coherence Markers in Presidential Debates.

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Presidential debates can be pivotal to the outcome of the presidential election in the USA. For candidates a good performance calls for sound argumentation and coherent speech in order to persuade the audience. Coherence can be created and supported by the use of connectives. Very few studies have analysed the role of coherence markers, or connectives in political debates. This study investigates whether individual politicians differ in their use of connectives and whether there is a relation between the outcome of the debate and connective use. A corpus of six (vice-)presidential debates was compiled from the years 2004, 2012 and 2016. 12 speakers were analysed. Results revealed individual differences in connective use between speakers. Specifically, Barack Obama and Dick Cheney used significantly more connectives than some of the other speakers, but not all. The distribution of connective types showed that Paul Ryan used relatively less conjunction connectives (and, also, as well) and relatively more cause (because, so, for) and synchronous connectives (as, before, then). However, no significant differences were found between winners and losers of the debates. In conclusion, some politicians can differ in connective use, but no relation was found between winning a debate and connective use.
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