Analyzing stance in parliamentary debates: a corpus-assisted study using the APPRAISAL Framework

Al-Busafi, Rahma (2023). Analyzing stance in parliamentary debates: a corpus-assisted study using the APPRAISAL Framework. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The current study investigates the language of stance, stance-taking and intersubjective stance in parliamentary discourse by analysing the Appraisal resources used by MPs in the UK Parliament. Focusing in particular on the attitudinal and dialogistic (ENGAGEMENT) resources used by parliamentarians in debates on the subject of flooding, the Thesis explores the role that these resources play in the construction of stance and intersubjective stance in parliamentary debates. Using Appraisal Framework of Martin and White (2005) and conducting a corpus-assisted discourse study (CADS), this study shows that the relationship between language and political stance is complex and not always straightforward due to the nature of political discourse as it unfolds in the highly specific context of parliamentary debating, which is a subgenre of political discourse that has its own rules and conventions. Further, it is argued that political stance cannot always be read directly from surface language forms in parliamentary debates. Politicians might express a public stance that is different from, if not diametrically opposed to, their real stance. They do so to achieve certain diplomatic and political ends particularly if exposing their real stance would harm their relations with their own political party affiliations.

While this Thesis demonstrates that the Appraisal Framework can be a practicable framework for analysing stance in parliamentary debates, it also reveals some features of stance-taking in parliamentary instances that the Appraisal Framework fails to detect. The Thesis proposes to rectify this by introducing two new sub-categories – ACCLAIM and DENOUNCE - within the ENGAGEMENT system. Another innovative contribution of this study relates to the ATTRIBUTION sub-system of the Appraisal Framework. The current distinction between ATTRIBUTION subcategories is mainly based on its dialogistic role in text (contractiveness and expansiveness). This Thesis proposes to consider the criterion of relevance between authorial stance and attributed stance in analysing ATTRIBUTION cases. If this relevance is positive, then ATTRIBUTION is supportive, whereas if the relevance between the authorial stance and the attributed stance is negative, then ATTRIBUTION is confrontational. Applying this distinction to parliamentary debates, the Thesis finds that confrontational types of ATTRIBUTION are mostly detected in ATTRIBUTE + COUNTER sequences. Therefore, another proposal of this Thesis is to view ENGAGEMENT values as sequences, rather than self-standing units. Applying this view to the empirical data collected for this Thesis, it is established that ENGAGEMENT values do not operate separately in parliamentary debates, and consequently there is a need to analyse them as sequences to better understand their meanings and dialogistic effects in text.

The analysis is also extended to include a comparative analysis between Government MPs and Opposition MPs in their use of attitudinal language and ENGAGEMENT resources. The results suggest that there is a strong correlation between the parliamentary role of MPs and the type of attitudinal and ENGAGEMENT sequences they use. It is argued that the recurrence of argumentative polarized stance among MPs is problematic in that it has the potential to damage the authenticity of parliaments as deliberative institutions. Thus, this Thesis identifies reform of the linguistic conventions of parliamentary debating as a crucial part of any attempt to reform parliamentary institutions more generally.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Language and Linguistics
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Ministry of Higher Education, Oman
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics


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