The "Unseen engineer": linguistic patterning in war discourse

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    Abstract

    A number of linguistic studies in recent decades have sought to explain the nature of war discourses, and a number of recurring features have been identified (van Leeuwen, in press). Taking a corpus of press briefings by Coalition military spokesman from the beginning of the Iraq invasion, this paper combines detailed grammatical analysis (based on four days of briefings), with an excursus into prosodic motifs created through certain lexical tendencies (based on seven days of briefings), in order to explore the kind of ‘existential fabric’ (Butt, 1988) this discourse creates in its particular representation of the phenomenal realm of war. The grammatical method involves the analysis of the experiential function of language, using systemic functional grammar. An additional resource drawn on is Roget’s Thesaurus, against which particular elements of the discourse – such as the lexical verbs which construe material action – are mapped. The analysis reveals the lexical and grammatical patterns which function as resources for muting the intensely violent nature of war.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-87
    Number of pages29
    JournalLinguistics and the human sciences
    Volume2
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Keywords

    • systemic functional linguistics
    • war discourse
    • discourse analysis
    • Iraq war

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