Lexical change in the parliamentary contributions of UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministers, 1989-2015: a corpus linguistic analysis

Appleton, Stephen Andrew (2023). Lexical change in the parliamentary contributions of UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministers, 1989-2015: a corpus linguistic analysis. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis explores lexical change in the parliamentary contributions of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministers between 1989 and 2015. It focuses on words and phrases that display large changes in frequency during that period, suggests factors driving those changes and considers what they indicate regarding the evolving scope of the UK’s foreign policy. The source material for this thesis is a corpus of 16.5 million words drawn from the ‘Hansard’ transcripts of the UK parliament. Methodologically, the research is highly data-driven and descriptive. It may be considered an example of Corpus-Assisted Discourse Studies. To avoid the limitations of existing interfaces and tools, the corpus was assembled and analysed using scripts written specifically for the purpose.

The analysis focuses on 47 words, each of which displays a particularly large rise, fall or spike in frequency. Nine of these are grammatical words; the remainder relate to the content of foreign policy discourse and their grouping into themes is informed by data on their co-occurrence in the same parliamentary contributions. The changing context of each word’s use is analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. This analysis shows a net increase in the scale and scope of the UK’s foreign policy discourse, with particular growth in discussion of human rights; matters of security and intelligence; and Europe. Ministers increasingly discuss matters affecting women and this change is accompanied by a rise in the use of feminine pronouns. The frequency of modal verbs and words of negation declines.

A range of factors are identified as drivers of these changes. In addition to the priorities of ministers, the discourse is shown to be strongly driven by world events, the influence of opposition and backbench members and changes in how the government structures and organises its work. The thesis proposes a framework for categorising such influences which could be applied to the study of other types of parliamentary discourse.

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: Department of English Language & Applied Linguistics
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
J Political Science > JZ International relations
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13354


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