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Tracing facework over time using semi-automated methods

Archer, DE and Malory, B (2017) Tracing facework over time using semi-automated methods. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 22 (1). pp. 27-56. ISSN 1384-6655

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Abstract

Impolite behaviour tends to attract more evaluative comment than other facework, making it easier to investigate synchronically and diachronically. A reliance on metapragmatic commentary is not optimum for UK parliamentary studies, however, as MPs cannot use “insulting or rude language” that breaks the chamber’s “rules of politeness” (www.parliament.uk). The work reported here thus offers three innovative methods of tracing MPs’ facework as they negotiated the “unparliamentary language” prohibition, and the results gleaned when the methods were applied to Hansard records (1812–2004). Method 1 prioritises portmanteau tags made up of USAS semtags. Method 2 prioritises themes derived from the HTOED. Method 3 draws on ‘meaning constellations’ (i.e. simultaneous searches of multiple tags). The UK parliamentary website highlights the “considerable ingenuity” displayed by MPs in order to circumvent their unparliamentary language prohibition. All methods have found examples of such ingenuity, many of which are characterized by multiple facework intentions (Archer 2015).

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