Monday, April 22, 2013

My PhD dissertation has been published

Here's the link to my publication at More Books.

And here's a short abstract of the thesis:

Abstract of the doctoral thesis
“Linguistic markers of stance in Latvian parliamentary debates”
Joanna Chojnicka

The present doctoral dissertation is concerned with linguistic means of marking the speaker’s stance in the genre of Latvian parliamentary debates on the basis of approx. 50 hours of recordings of parliamentary sessions from the year 2009. It is one of the few empirical analyses of contemporary spoken Latvian discourse based on a large corpus of authentic data and possibly the first linguistic analysis of Latvian discourse written in English.
The thesis regards the phenomenon of stance in two different ways. First, stance is defined as a “public act by a social actor” (Du Bois 2007: 163). From this perspective, stance is an act taken by members of the Latvian parliament as a part of their political activity and serves real-life goals of argumentation and persuasion; it is a means of presenting one’s beliefs and convictions in a certain (“face-saving”) way. This discourse-oriented perspective embeds the doctoral dissertation in the framework of political discourse analysis in the vein of van Dijk 1993, Wodak 2002, Fairclough 2003. Second, the thesis regards stance as a collection of linguistic means (markers) used to introduce (mark) one’s beliefs as beliefs and not as facts. This language-oriented part of the research is based on theoretical literature about linguistic approaches to stance written in English about English (e.g. Du Bois 2007, Clift 2006, Hyland 2005, White 2003) and, to a lesser extent, about other languages (e.g. Faller 2002 on Cuzco Quechua), as the literature on the topic relating to the Latvian language is insufficient.
Chapter One – “Linguistic approaches to stance” – examines the current state of the art of linguistic literature on stance and related phenomena. On this basis, it introduces the following stance categories: epistemic modality (encoding the speaker’s degree of certainty or assessment of the validity of the claim, e.g. possibly, probably), evidentiality (concerned with source of knowledge or type of evidence the speaker has for making a claim, e.g. allegedly), hedging (expressions that make a claim less categorical and authoritative, e.g. kind of, sort of), mirativity (encoding the speaker’s surprise at new information). It also introduces two peripheral stance categories of reported speech and irony. Additionally, the Chapter presents the hypothesis of stance as distance, according to which stance-marked utterances contain a claim open to alternative viewpoints, offered as an opinion rather than a fact, and reducing the speaker’s responsibility for its validity, thus keeping the speaker’s “face” – i.e., the speaker’s social image – safe, in case the claim shall turn out false or imprecise. For example:
            grozījumi var būt spēkā jau šajā Saeimā
            ‘the amendments may be in force already in this parliamentary term’
Both in Latvian and English, this utterance has two possible meanings: (1) ‘it is probable that the amendments will be in force’, and (2) ‘the amendments are allowed to be in force’ (e.g. according to the law). In the case of interpretation (1), the verb phrase var būt (‘may be’) expresses the speaker’s subjective assessment of the probability of the claim; thus, it marks (epistemic) stance. In the case of interpretation (2), the same phrase assesses objective reality (the Latvian legal system) – thus, it does not mark stance.
In Chapter Two – “Latvian parliamentary discourse” – a brief description of the language of parliamentary debates is given. Parliamentary discourse is presented as formal, institutional, public, influenced by the written language conventions, predictable and ritualized. Along with the genre of parliamentary debates, it also analyses two other genres distinguished in a parliamentary session: Chairperson’s discourse (template utterances) and expert speeches.
Chapter Three – “The core of stance” – presents findings of the empirical study. It examines the use of 35 lexical markers (mainly adverbs, e.g. iespējams ‘possibly’, visticamāk ‘most probably’; and verbs, e.g. domāju ‘I think’, saka (ka) ‘they say (that)’) and two grammatical forms (the oblique and the debitive) in epistemic, evidential, hedging and mirative functions. Additionally, it analyses the so-called “border cases” – i.e., markers that may be interpreted as both epistemic and evidential (epistentials, e.g. liekas/šķiet ‘it seems/it appears’, acīmredzot ‘apparently’) or expressions of stance that may have more than one of the four possible stance values (e.g. tā saucamais ‘so called’, which is an evidential and a hedge).
The Chapter also reveals specialized pragmatic functions of the Latvian stance markers. For example, the adverb noteikti ‘definitely’ is often used with declarations, promises, intentions, etc., made by the speaker in the first person (e.g. es to noteikti izdarīšu ‘I will definitely do it’); the adverb laikam ‘maybe’ specializes in unpleasant, offensive, impolite, critical statements and is often used in rhetorical questions and irony; and the verb form nešaubos ‘I do not doubt’ often accompanies the speaker’s guesses about other people’s mental states, acts or intentions, or when the speaker invokes emotional rather than rational arguments.
There are two main goals of Chapter Three. First of all, it ventures out to find confirmation for the hypothesis that stance means distance. Second, it looks for evidence for the validity and applicability of the way stance is defined and categorized in the study. Both goals are believed to be fulfilled: the hypothesis, backed up also by claims in other works (e.g. White 2003), is confirmed by the analysis of context and pragmatic effects of stance-marking (e.g. the use of stance markers to introduce controversial statements); the definition and categorization of the phenomenon find their evidence in the close relationship between Latvian stance markers (e.g. the verb izrādās ‘it turns out’ is located at the edges of evidentiality and mirativity; the particle it kā ‘as if’, ‘as though’ may be employed in all stance functions, bringing them conceptually closer).
Chapter Four – “The periphery of stance” – analyses linguistic phenomena (reported speech, irony and rhetorical questions) that do not enter the network of stance in Latvian, but complement it by providing more links to bind stance categories together in notional terms. Notably, reported speech (defined as a set of various tools and strategies used to quote or rephrase what someone else has said) and evidentiality share a marker – the verb form called the oblique. Irony (understood as a contemptuous, hostile, sarcastic or jocular manner of stance-taking) and rhetorical questions often occur together with Latvian stance markers, especially epistemic markers such as varbūt and laikam ‘maybe, possibly’, but also the epistential liekas ‘it seems/it appears’ or the hedge teiksim ‘let’s say’.
Additionally, the section on rhetorical questions makes use of the comparative potential of the genre chosen for this study, by comparing the forms and functions of questions in Latvian and Polish parliamentary debates. In this genre, questions serve rhetoric and argumentative purposes rather than e.g. as requests for information[1].
Chapter Five – “Concluding remarks” – summarizes the most relevant findings of the study against the backdrop of political discourse analysis. In this framework, stance is a face-saving device that protects the speaker from consequences of presenting his/her opinions in a direct way. Stance markers turn a claim into an opinion (rather than a fact), while reducing the speaker’s responsibility for it at the same time. For this reason, stance is a powerful tool in political discourse, in which speakers are especially concerned about getting their message across without the risk of losing their authority and sounding too arrogant all at once.

Chojnicka, J. 2012. Linguistic markers of stance in Latvian parliamentary debates. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing
Clift, R. 2006. “Indexing stance: reported speech as an interactional evidential”. In: Journal of Sociolinguistics 10 (5): 569-595
Du Bois, J.W. 2007. “The stance triangle”. In: Englebretson, R. (ed.) Stancetaking in discourse. Subjectivity, evaluation, interaction. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 139-182
Fairclough, N. 2003. Analysing discourse – textual analysis for social research. New York: Routledge
Faller, M. 2002. Semantics and Pragmatics of Evidentials in Cuzco Quechua. PhD dissertation. Stanford: Stanford University
Hyland, K. 2005. “Stance and engagement: a model of interaction in academic discourse”. In: Discourse Studies 7 (2): 173-192
van Dijk, T.A. 1993. “Principles of critical discourse analysis”. In: Discourse & Society 4 (2): 249-283
White, P.R.R. 2003. “Beyond modality and hedging: A dialogic view of the language of intersubjective stance”. In: Text 23 (2): 259-284
Wodak, R. 2002. “Aspects of critical discourse analysis”. In: Zeitschrift für Angewandte Linguistik 36: 5-31

[1] The section “Questions in Latvian and Polish parliamentary debates” has not been included in the published version of the doctoral dissertation (Chojnicka 2012).

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