The Voices of the Foreign Ministers: a Corpus-assisted Study of Ideological Positioning in the Language of Diplomacy

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“One of the major aims of a politician is to gain the people’s allegiance, to have them believe that the decisions that are being made are the right ones” (Wilson 1990: 76). The basic idea is that the way we see the world, think about it and act on it, is largely determined by how we 'frame' it, and this in turn may be influenced by our choice of rhetorical device. In the context of diplomacy, language choices, which carry significant communicative intent, are regularly made “to galvanize the audience to achieve a commonality of purpose” (Burhanudeen 2005: 37) through the enactment of specific linguistic mechanisms. This work is part of an ongoing research into register-specific features of ideology and stance in the language of diplomacy seen as expressing the foreign policy of a country. Register is intended here in Ghadessy’s words as “a tendency to select certain combinations of meanings with certain frequencies” (1993: 6).My rationale in this paper is fairly simple in that I shall be investigating how the ‘voices’ of the foreign ministers are expressed in current foreign policy by looking at those mechanisms which express the point of view of the speakers (Stubbs 1996: 20), namely their way of projecting the world, their way of positioning their audience to accept what they say. The perspective is phraseological in that this paper tries to uncover those phrases/concgrams which tend to occur with attitudinal meaning even though they do not show evaluation themselves. In other words, this work investigates some ‘attitudinal predicting’ (Hunston 2009) phrases (e.g. one of the;) seen as pointers to negotiations of emotions, valuations and judgements. From a methodological perspective, this study is set in the recent tradition that combines corpus linguistics and discourse analysis (Koller and Mautner 2004; Miller 2007; Bayley 2008), in particular the Appraisal Theory (Martin and White 2005) pointing out how corpus studies can assist discourse analysis.The data for the analysis come from a specialized corpus of about 650,000 running words of the speeches delivered from the British foreign ministers from 1997 to 2010. The corpus was interrogated using primarily two pieces of software ConCgram (Greaves 2008) and Wordsmith Tools (Scott 2007) so as to look also at non-contiguous association of words. Variations due to political party were also probed.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine9
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2012

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