Delade meningar: Retorisk flertydighet och den pluralistiska publiken i politiska förnyelseprocesser.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis is an inquiry into rhetorical ambiguity as a property of utterances addressing composite, heterogeneous audiences. The purpose is to develop conceptual tools to analyse ambiguous communicative acts for the outcomes they make possible. The thesis proceeds from the assumption that utterances are purposeful and fundamentally social acts, always part of an ongoing social dialogue. As such, an utterance can be understood as rhetorically ambiguous when it can mean different things to different audiences, in its context of enunciation.
The first of the two analyses performed concern Lars Werners speech at the 1990 congress of the left wing, then communist party Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna. It shows that Werner’s speech performed a subtle diplomacy in the deep ideological conflict within the party at the time, by verbalisations that were pragmatically ambiguous in regards to the different ideological positions espoused by participants in the renewal debate. The second analysis shows that Fredrik Reinfeldt, at the 2005 right-wing Moderaterna party convention, gave a speech that was ambiguous on the purpose of the party reform platform that he advocated. By his arguing in ambiguous words and grammar, the nature of the party reform, as it was implied in the speech, could be taken as a genuine reform of party identity and goals, or as a strategic reformist position aiming either toward the partys’ traditional conservative ends or toward visionary liberal ends. Complementary analyses of audience reception of both speeches corroborates some of the findings of the primary speech analyses.
The analyses show that ambiguous utterances can have the function of rhetorically orchestrating divergent audience segments toward collective actions beyond their direct, local responses. I argue that conceptualising the ambiguous utterance as an act of mediation between different positions on a common problem, can unveil what developments of the controversy the act can enable rhetorically. Specifically, I show how Werner’s speech could persuade his composite audience to adopt a common pluralistic radical reformist identity, and accept dropping the communist label from the party name. I also show how Reinfeldt’s speech could persuade the constituent parts of his composite audience that his renewal platform was directly aligned with their divergent personal political goals, allowing them to commonly try to implement its policies. The findings of this thesis has implications for the theory of the composite audience. I argue for treating the composite audience as a dualistic phenomenon: Both as an addressed aggregation of different constituent parts, composed by virtue of being simultaneously addressed, and consequently as an articulated community. I argue that this perspective can be useful to uncover the roles, relationships and order that an utterance implies, and has the rhetorical potential to bring about in the future development of the addressed community.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Humanities not elsewhere specified


  • rhetoric, dialogical, ambiguity, composite audience, pluralism, dissensus, stylistics, amphiboly, public rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric, party reform, democratic leadership, Vänsterpartiet, Lars Werner, moderaterna, Fredrik Reinfeldt
Translated title of the contributionShared meanings: Rhetorical Ambiguity and the Pluralistic Audience in Political Party Reform Processes
Original languageSwedish
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Anders Sigrell, Supervisor
  • Kjeldsen, Jens, Assistant supervisor, External person
  • Hietanen, Mika, Assistant supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationÖdåkra
  • Retorikförlaget
Print ISBNs978-91-86093-31-0
Electronic ISBNs978-91-86093-32-7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2018-09-28 Time: 13:15 Place: Hörsalen, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Fischer, Otto Title: Professor Affiliation: Uppsala University ---

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Bruhn, T. (Visiting researcher)
2016 May 302016 Jun 3

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