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Negotiating difference in political contexts: An exploration of Hansard

Archer, Dawn (2018) Negotiating difference in political contexts: An exploration of Hansard. Language Sciences, 68. pp. 22-41. ISSN 0388-0001


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This paper explores the language of MPs and Peers, when negotiating their differences in times past. Specifically, I draw upon Historic Hansard data (1803–2005) representative of the two Houses (Commons and Lords), paying particular attention to exchanges involving expressive politeness features (deferential terms, polite preludes, etc.). I demonstrate how such features enabled parliamentarians to “do” deference and respect, but sometimes at a surface level only. For example, utterances containing expressive politeness features functioned as implicit accusations relating to another’s inaccurate or misguided views on a particular issue and/or as a means of claiming a conflicting position. I suggest that, because such behaviour was (and remains) institutionally sanctioned and deliberately ritualistic, it did not then nor does not now constitute systematic impoliteness, in the main (cf. Harris, 2001). Rather, we witness a range of facework behaviour in parliamentary debates: from face enhancement to face aggravation, and everything between (Archer, 2015).

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