Political Discourse

Find further details of each talk in the Book of Abstracts here.

Those marked with are eligible for nomination to a student researcher award. Find the full list of awards here.

You are welcome to use the comment function at the bottom of the page to comment on papers you have seen and/or submit questions that you would like to see raised in the discussion panel. If replying to an individual paper, please specify who you are talking to.

Panel chaired by Roberta Piazza (@RobertaPiazzaSx).

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East, West and Westminster: A Corpus-Based Study of UK Parliamentary Discourse about the Unification of Germany ★

Stephen Appleton University of Birmingham

saa777@student.bham.ac.uk

[long paper]

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Political discourse in the era of digital communication: a corpus-assisted discourse analysis of Italian and American populism on Twitter ★

Ester di Silvestro University of Catania

ester.disilvestro@phd.unict.it
http://www.disum.unict.it/dottorandi/ester.disilvestro

[short paper]

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Strategic presupposition in the U.S. Congressional reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

Kristen Fleckenstein Coastal Carolina University

kfleckens@coastal.edu
@keflecks

[long paper]

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The Russian adjectives antiasadovskij, antibuševskij, antilukašenkovskij, antiputinskij, antisaddamovskij and antitrampovskij in Russian media in the beginning of the 21st Century ★

Thomas SamuelssonStockholm University

[short paper]

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“The truth is, as you know, I’m definitely not lying, believe me.” The linguistics of Donald Trump’s epistemic management strategies. A corpus-based study

Georg Marko Karl-Franzens-University Graz

[long paper]

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“There’s only one pot of money it can come from”: A corpus based analysis of the International Baccalaureate in Canada’s provinces

Saira FitzgeraldLancaster University

s.fitzgerald@lancaster.ac.uk

[long paper]

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Understanding Populism: A Linguistic Analysis of Czech Parliamentary Discourse

Martina Berrocal, Václav Cvrček & David LukešInstitut für Slawistik und Kaukasusstudien

@MartuBerro

[long paper]

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US State Departments press briefings and China Foreign Affairs Ministry. Differences and similarities in what they say and how they say it.

Alison Duguid Siena University
Alan Scott Partington Bologna University

alanscott.partington@unibo.it
http://www.lilec.it/clb/
https://www.facebook.com/corpuslinguisticsSiBol/

[long paper]

30 thoughts on “Political Discourse

  1. Roberta Piazza June 17, 2020 — 1:10 pm

    These are questions for G. Marko. Very promising study, I hope you will continue! The idea of a correlation btw epistemic management and genres is great. Do you expect to find lower evidentiality and less epistemic expression in shorter texts? Do you foresee difficulties in differentiating btw formulaic and creative epistemic expressions?

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    1. Thanks for the question.

      I hope so, too (even though I normally prefer focusing on the politics of non-political discourses).

      I do expect more epistemic management in the shorter texts, not because they are shorter but because they tend to be the more interactive ones (where DT has to react to epistemic challenges) and the less prepared/scripted ones.

      The distinction between formulaic and creative constructions is definitely a matter of degree rather than one of either/or. So it is not even a question of foreseeing difficulties, but one of seeing them. :-/

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      1. Georg, Have you come across Mark Thompson’s notion of “authenticism”, that is, “the single-minded belief that all that really matters in public language is the supposed authenticity of a given speaker” (Thompson 2016: 152)?

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  2. Tamsin Parnell June 17, 2020 — 2:38 pm

    I have a question for Alison Duguid and Alan Partington. Really interesting work – thank you. I wonder if you think that we could expand the idea of face-work to multinational entities like the EU and the Commonwealth too? Could there be more complexities in the face-work of multinational entities to account for the differences between constituent nations/member states, or do you think there would be one collective, institutional ‘face’?

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    1. See two papers by Magistro on EU face-work:

      Magistro, Elena. 2007 Promoting the European Identity: Politeness Strategies in the Discourse of the European Union, Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines 1 (1): 51-73.

      Magistro, Elena. 2011. National Face and National Face Threatening Acts: Politeness and the European Constitution in B. Davies (ed.) Situated Politeness, 232-252.

      Sovranational bodies too have face. Magistro (2007, 2011) describes the complex facework performed in a collection of European Union documents addressed to EU citizens, whose perlocutionary intent is not simply to inform but also to persuade. First of all she notes that the EU has to navigate an existential politeness problem, namely, that any EU attempt to legislate the affairs of member states constitutes a threat to the negative face of those states. She lists a considerable number of the techniques used to boost the EU’s own positive face, from outright bragging (competence face):
      (2) SOLVIT: Effective problem solving in the Internal Market (European Communities 1995-2005b)
      to swearing commitment to attractive ideals (both competence and affective face):
      (3) The European Personnel Selection Office is firmly committed to the principle that the organisation must be a true reflection of the society it serves (European Communities 2003)
      Other techniques are designed to massage the reader’s positive face, for example, to ‘Presuppose/raise/assert common ground’:
      (4) Your voice in Europe (European Communities 1995-2005c)
      Magistro also notes a number of linguistic strategies employed by the EU text producers to eliminate any semblance of imposition, any potential threats to reader’s negative face. Firstly, she notes the frequent use of we and you, used, as Fairclough noted, to suggest a ‘relatively personal, informal, solidary and equal relationship’ (1995: 145) between the Institution and the reader. Thus an Institution with considerable powers of coercion is recast as a friend, and ‘friends’, of course, do not make the kind of negative face impositions normally associated with laws and regulations. We even find the use of inclusive our:
      (5) The Euro, our money (European Central Bank [n.d.])
      where all social distance and power differential is absent.
      Another face-work strategy is to appropriate the reader’s voice in the recurrent use of FAQs (supposedly Frequently Asked Questions)
      (6) Who else could help me? (European Ombudsman, 2005)
      (7) What are my chances of success? (European Communities, 2003)
      Magistro quotes Fairclough who claims that the act of ’asking, be it for action or information, is generally a position of power, as too is giving information – except where it has been asked for’ (1989: 126). FAQs then hide the institutional power to impose questions and require answers and pretend that the questioning imposition has been made by the reader, all of this disappearing any apparent threat to the reader’s negative ‘respect my face’ needs. Note the common use of the first person singular me, my.
      Still another strategy is passivisation, often implying the absence of agency and of responsibility as in: ‘Nevertheless, if a problem goes unresolved […]’ (European Communities 1995-2005b), ‘If the case is not resolved satisfactorily’ (European Ombudsman 2005). The following is especially interesting:
      (8) On January 1 2002 the euro banknotes and coins were put into circulation. (European Central Bank,[n.d.])
      As Magistro comments ‘This agentless passive obfuscates the actual performer of the action and attributes the responsibility for the circulation of the Euro to an unclear subject. This strategy attends to the readers’ negative national face as it reduces the perception of top-down imposition’ (2007: 61) which, she adds, in the case of the Euro had indeed been felt by many EU citizens as an unwelcome imposition when first introduced, a real intrusion upon their space. Magistro implies that the EU’s Institutional, Supranational face-work strategies in texts addressed to its citizens can be quite manipulative in the sense described by Fairclough (1989) and serve to give the EU Institutions a low impositional profile: an implied absence of power differentials between Institution and people, absence of imposition and therefore of threat to the citizens’ negative face, even and including the disappearing of agency for the imposition of currency union and entire treaties .

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      1. These are so, so useful. Thank you so much!

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  3. Elvis Coimbra Gomes June 17, 2020 — 2:41 pm

    Also a question for Georg Marko: Do you think that there can be a correlation between certain epistemic moves and Trump’s lies? If so, how could you track that down? I’m especially thinking of when he says “Believe me”

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    1. A very good question, but I’m not sure there really is a satisfactory answer.

      Data-driven answer 1:
      If I am not making any mistakes (I’m a bit suspicious), Trump used “believe me” just six times in the last months.
      Here is the concordance (I hope it works)

      While many of the statements to which the discourse marker is added appear questionable, I’m not sure to what extent they qualify as lies.

      Data-driven answer 2:
      Actually, it is more a question or a request: does anyone remember statements by Donald Trump from the past 5½ months that were outright lies? Because then we could check to see whether there were any epistemic moves that were used together with them.

      Philosophical answer:
      I’m not sure I have a clear point here. But I think for assessing the use of epistemic management and lying we would probably have to make assumptions about Trump’s state of mind at the time and not just compare the truth values of his statements to the facts. So I guess Trump often makes claims for which he does not have sufficient or any evidence or for which there are no objective truth values makes hyperbolic evaluative statements that are not based on any objectifiable criteria. And even though he suspects them to be false, he wants them to be true. And the best way to succeed in making them true is to make others believe them. And I suspect this is where we would see most epistemic moves (which of course would need to be investigated). The prototypical lie, i.e. where Trump believes A but says non-A, is probably where he would use evasive strategies rather than epistemic management. I think what I actually wanted to say is that there probably is no epistemic marker that could be used as a diagnostic tool that tells us “Oh, here he is lying and the opposite is the case”, i.e. as a kind of linguistic polygraph.

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      1. Given the encouragement for interdisciplinary collaboration that has come out of some panel discussions so far, I bet Marko could benefit from a whole team of psychologists when sorting through Trump’s discourse! …
        On a serious note, this is a very interesting project with well-founded methodological planning. We look forward to you seeing it to completion.

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  4. Interesting presentation by Alison Duguid and Alan Partington comparing US and China press briefings. I found it striking how the wording of the self-reported objectives of the two bodies (“communicating [policy]” for the US State Dept and “to release [information]… and take charge …” for the PR China Foreign Affairs Ministry) foreshadowed the patterns to be found in the spoken discourse.

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    1. Thanks, we’re very glad you found it interesting. We came across the explicit policy statements at a late stage in the research, that is, after we’d made most of our corpus-assisted analyses. So for us it was a rather intersting corroboration of our findings.

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  5. Thank you Alison Duguid and Alan Partington for such an interesting talk. In response to the question raised in the presentation about the “so-called” token used in CMFA, 1) so-called is the translation of “所谓的” in Mandarin Chinese which is rather colloquial. It is often used to initiate reporting what the prior speaker has said, namely, what follows “so-called” is the topic mentioned in the prior context. And the second and most important usage of this phrase “所谓的” is to imply disapproval of the prior proposition. 2) In “Turning the Q and A Tables”, it struck me that “so-called” is used as stance-taking marker which is disapproval, the series of rhetorical questions followed are used to substantiate the proposition: a list of evidence as to why the prior “so-called” resources cannot be trusted. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for this. Certainly out impressions were that ot was always used abou soem entity whose actions the CMFA podium disapproved of and wished to delegimitimise.

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  6. Roberta Piazza June 18, 2020 — 6:53 am

    Question for Stephen Appleton. Extremely interesting presentation. Fascinating how you unveiled through the language of foreign policy, the inward looking tendencies of the UK (we have to be cautious about Germany unification, we welcome it on condition our interests are safeguarded). Do you think your study concerns political attitudes rather than word disappearance?

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    1. Stephen Appleton June 18, 2020 — 9:15 am

      Hi Roberta, thanks for your question. I agree that the caution expressed in the discourse reflects some inward-looking tendencies, but I think there is a sub-text to the conditional welcome for unification. Prime Minister Thatcher almost certainly opposed unification, whereas Foreign Secretary Hurd supported it and believed the UK should not stand in the way of history. One could read the conditional welcome a strategic move led by Hurd to make unification acceptable to Thatcher, or at least to make it extremely difficult for her to maintain her opposition. An interview with the UK Ambassador to West Germany at the time makes interesting reading on this point: https://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/media/uploads/files/Mallaby.pdf (pages 23-24).

      On the question of whether my study concerns political attitudes or word (dis)appearance, my answer is ‘both’. The concept of the research is to take the tool set of corpus linguistics and use it to gain new insight into political attitudes, policies and conceptualisations of foreign policy. The first part is the linguistics; the second part is the applied linguistics. In my opinion linguistic analysis of political discourse is greatly enhanced by understanding perspectives from political science. For example Bates and Sealey (2019) is a collaboration between a political scientist and a linguist, combining their skills and knowledge to interpret a corpus from ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ sessions in the UK. So reading contextual literature and discussing my emerging findings with political scientists is an important part of my approach.

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  7. Roberta Piazza June 18, 2020 — 7:02 am

    Question for Ester Di Silvestro. Thanks for a stimulating short paper. Are you sure there is no equivalent to Salvini’s #Italiansfirst strategy in Trump’s discourse, albeit formulated in a different way?

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    1. Ester Di Silvestro June 18, 2020 — 9:28 am

      Thank you Roberta! For sure we can find an equivalent to Salvini’s #Italiansfirst strategy in Trump’s #Americafirst strategy. However, I think there are some important differences between their strategies that are due to (geopolitical and economic) context.

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  8. Roberta Piazza June 18, 2020 — 7:53 am

    Comment for Alison and Alan. Thanks for a very stimulating paper. Do you think the differences in face-work are political or cultural? What can be done to ascertain this point? can we create a historical corpus of both countries? Also, certainly when Trump is involved in press briefings his face work is similar to what happens in China does it not?

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    1. Many thanks. The question may be a bit above our remit. We are presenting a strictly linguistic comparative analysis which would seem to indicate a difference in power differential, in politeness terms between podium and journalists, in this particular discourse type. We were not surprised to find this, but the ways in which it is realised linguistically are interesting. Personally, not being a cultural anthropologist, I would be on thin ice if I attempted wider inferences about differences in culture.

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  9. If anyone else has a problem with watching Martina Berrocal’s presentation, try this direct link (it worked for me at least): https://videos.files.wordpress.com/WB4CPInO/berrocal_mda_parlamentary_speeches.mp4

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    1. Martina Berrocal June 18, 2020 — 9:04 am

      Thank you, Irene

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  10. I have a question for Ester concerning the two strategies “Topos of danger” and “Lack of agency”: to what extent are these contradictory if applied ot the same group (you probably have to assign a certain agency to someone to portray them as dangerous, so they must somehow be represented as doing or as capable of doing bad things) and/or do Trump and Salvini acknowledge this contradiction?

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    1. Ester Di Silvestro June 18, 2020 — 10:03 am

      Thank you Georg! It’s a good observation. I am still trying to address how they acknowledge this contradiction. Starting from my prelimirary qualitative results, it seems that there is a double representation of immigrants. The first one involves a lack of agency and an implicit or explicit connection with the topos of danger. The second one involves a representation of immigrants as active social actors.

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  11. A question which has bugged me for a while is how to define ‘populism’ and who or what a ‘populist politician’ is. Different media sources seem to apply the terms in different ways and to different people. What do people’s corpora say?

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  12. A question to Georg: Have you come across Mark Thompson’s notion of “authenticism”, that is, “the single-minded belief that all that really matters in public language is the supposed authenticity of a given speaker” (Thompson 2016: 152)?

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    1. A very important point, Alan.
      It seems to be the case that enacting the true self is more important stating true things. And authenticity, too, is probably managed, e.g. by moves of subjectification because they allow addressees access to this ‘true’ self. This is why self-centred evidentials may undermine the factuality of a statement, it may enhance one’s authenticity.

      “You know, it ‘s out for a different reason. But we have reason to believe, you know, you ‘ve seen the same tests. I ‘ve seen tests in, you know, in France and other places, Italy.”

      Just to give one example of how Trump presents… research? Not “the studies say/show/prove”, but “I’ve seen tests”

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  13. A question which has bugged me for a while, for the whole panel and anyone listening. Is there a shared definition of ‘populism’ and who or what a populist politician is? Different media seem to apply the terms is different ways and to different entities. What do people’s copora say?

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    1. I posted that in the chat during the session. But I think that the way I understand populism it is a strong polarization of us vs. them (on different levels) and that it mapped onto a populist epistemology undermining traditional ways of knowing, gaining knowledge and distributing knowledge (somehow anti-Enlightenment) and a populist ethics undermining traditional values of equality and solidarity (anti-Humanist, if you will, or anti-PC on a different plane). And the mapping means that you associate the Us with the non-established sides.

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  14. And one question for Martina (et al.): What were the underlying assumptions or expectations about register shifts and the rise of populism? What would have been the interpretation had a shift towards more dynamicity (can this be simplified as ‘more stories, less description and argumentation’?) been directly attributable to populists speaking in the Czech Parliament?

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  15. I have two questions for Alison Duguid and Alan Scott Partington. 1. Where did you collect the briefings by China Foreign Affairs Ministry? Are they transcriptions or video recordings? Are they in Chinese or in English? 2. Do you consider including cultural and first language influences into your analysis? I think Chinese use longer n-grams, have formal openings, listing adjectives and verbs in one sentence, and so on are all features in Chinese formal speech.

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