Lexical features of political discourse: a corpus-based analysis of speeches about the European Union
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Author
Monica Cascone, Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, 2002-03
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Academic area
Humanities
Abstract
This thesis provides an analysis of the meaning and use of some words, which seem to represent key concepts in the discourse of the European Union. The data collected, the EUSC (European Union Speeches Corpus), consist of 45 public speeches, held by 23 different speakers from the European Union setting. The EUSC contains a total of 97,708 words. The tool I used to analyse the corpus is WordSmith Tools (Scott 1999). The idea of choosing the future of the European Union in particular, was suggested by the fact that my experience as an undergraduate student in European studies has provided me with several occasions to deal with political and economic problems concerning the future of the European Union, under different perspectives. As a language student, however, my curiosity was that of understanding the conventional structures of meaning, which are used in texts produced inside and for the European area. I decided to focus on speeches first because they are easily available from the Internet (and in large quantity too), second because they seem to be one of the major means through which discussion of issues related to the future of European Union is achieved. Books and research papers seem to be more specialised economical types of texts. A third reason was that I was interested in spoken rather than written language and in the way these speakers achieve confidence and trust from the public. A further aim of this thesis is more simply to show that a corpus of this type can help a language student to develop some language knowledge connected to a specific subject area, whose nature is established by personal interests on the basis of, e.g., future working opportunities. The thesis is organised as follows. In the first chapter, I deal with some theoretical background concerning corpus analysis. I briefly report on the debate between rationalists and empiricists, which has developed in the 1950s and 1960s following strong criticism by the linguist Noam Chomsky, one of the main supporters of rationalism, against empiricist theories. I discuss the role of Corpus Linguistics inside linguistic theories and its expansion after the 1980s. In the second part of chapter 1 I provide the basic information about corpora and I illustrate the main advantages of corpora in investigating a language. Again in chapter 1 I deal with the differences between large and small corpora, with a particular focus on the latter ones. I conclude the chapter with a brief description of some studies concerning possible uses of small corpora. In the second chapter, I deal with issues in the methodology of corpus analysis and criteria to select the words from my corpus, which I then analyse in the third chapter. In the first part I describe the criteria of corpus design. In the second and third part I illustrate respectively the compilation of the EUSC, following the criteria of representativeness suggested by Biber (1993), and a description of the tool used to analyse the corpus, WordSmithTool, Version 3.0 (Scott 1999). Part four deals with a couple of theoretical issues, which I found of particular interest in my work: these are mainly connected to a re-discussion of “Units of meaning”, particularly following Sinclair (1991, 1996). I conclude the chapter identifying a procedure to select the 9 words from my corpus, which I analyse in details in the following chapter. In chapter 3, I deal with the analysis of 9 words I selected from a KeyWord List calculated through a comparison of my corpus and the BNC Sampler. The words are: UNION, ENLARGEMENT, STATES, INTEGRATION, FUTURE, APPLICANT, OPENNESS, PILLAR and TRANSPARENCY. In chapter, 4 I draw the conclusion of this research, going through the different steps taken. I will therefore re-define the starting point applied for the analysis, the methodology followed and in the end I will sum up the main results obtained investigating the 9 words in the EUSC. In the last paragraph I will give a personal concluding opinion regarding the thesis and the subject area in which it is collocated.
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