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Discourse and Metadiscourse in Parliamentary Debates

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Oral metadiscourse is envisaged in the present study as a set of rhetorically structured communicative and interactional strategies used by speakers to signal, highlight, mitigate, or cancel parts of their ongoing discourse and their varying relevance to different addressees and/or audience members. Parliamentary metadiscursive strategies are typical manifestations of MPs’ joint negotiations of the degree of directness, explicitness, appropriateness, etc., of the interlocutors’ discursive representations, interpretations and evaluations of events, processes, as well as people’s ideas and actions. One important consequence is that institutional adversariality co-occurs with interpersonal adversariality.

Metadiscourse does not simply consist of distinct fragments of discourse and discursive patterns. Some of the rhetorically most effective strategies of parliamentary metadiscourse operate simultaneously on several levels of discourse. These strategies include various manifestations of the participants’ cognitive and inter-relational acts aimed at controlling, evaluating, adjusting and negotiating the goals and the effects of their and of their interlocutors’ ongoing talk.

The metadiscursive levels of parliamentary discourse help to articulate particular aspects of speaker-interlocutor relations and/or speaker-audience relations. This involves particularly speaker role shifts, discursive scope widening/narrowing, multiple-audience targeting, re/definition of terms and concepts, minimising/maximising accountability and merit, challenging facts and statistics. Metadiscursive statements may convey simple, double or multiple messages.
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Keywords: Parliamentary discourse; interlocutors; oral metadiscourse; parliamentary metadiscourse; rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Örebro University

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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