Skip to main content
Truth, obligation and ethics in the propagation of democracy
eJournalist (2009)
  • Krystina L Benson

In this paper I present an analysis of the language used by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on its website (NED, 2008). The specific focus of the analysis is on the NED's high usage of the word “should” revealed in computer assisted corpus analysis using Leximancer. Typically we use the word “should” as a term to propose specific courses of action for ourselves and others. It is a marker of obligation and “oughtness”. In other words, its systematic institutional use can be read as a statement of ethics, of how the NED thinks the world ought to behave. As an ostensibly democracy-promoting institution, and one with a clear agenda of implementing American foreign policy, the ethics of NED are worth understanding. Analysis reveals a pattern of grammatical metaphor in which “should” is often deployed counter intuitively, and sometimes ambiguously, as a truth-making tool rather than one for proposing action. The effect is to present NED's imperatives for action as matters of fact rather than ethical or obligatory claims.

Publication Date
January 1, 2009
Publisher Statement
Published Version.

Benson, K. (2009). Truth, obligation and ethics in the propagation of democracy. eJournalist, 9(1), 1-10.

Access the Journal's homepage.

© Copyright Krystina Benson, 2009
Citation Information
Krystina L Benson. "Truth, obligation and ethics in the propagation of democracy" eJournalist Vol. 9 Iss. 1 (2009)
Available at: