Effective and Epistemic stance in British political discourse on immigration and refugee humanitarian crises

31 May 2024
Conference Room

Effective and Epistemic stance in British political discourse on immigration and refugee humanitarian crises

In recent years, Europe has witnessed a rapid succession of immigration and humanitarian crises involving refugees, which have prominently emerged in the heart of political discourse in Great Britain. The handling of immigrants and refugees within the European Union has drawn significant criticism and led to numerous issues in Britain. This discord has triggered political tensions and fractures in decision-making, notably exacerbated by the aftermath of Brexit, often justified by highlighting the perceived threat of illegal immigration.

Authorial stance permeates political discourse (Marín-Arrese, 2013, 2021b; Martín de la Rosa et al., 2020; Domínguez Romero & Martín de la Rosa, 2023) as speakers’ reveal their opinions, assessments, and feelings. With this in mind, this paper presents a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the expression of authorial stance in oral discourse across the political spectrum in Britain. More specifically, it aims to examine the two macro categories of effective and epistemic stance by focusing on the type of markers employed and their communicative purposes in addressing the intertwined issue of immigration and refugees’ crises. To this end, we compiled an ad hoc corpus of circa 240,000 words encompassing evidence from four parties on the right- and left-wing political spectrum: UKIP/Reform Party, Conservative, Labour and Green Party. Each of the 4 subcorpora totals 60,000 words which comprise data (up to 10,000 words each) on the three refugees’ crises of Syria (2015), Afghanistan (2021) and Ukraine (2022 onwards) and the related-illegal immigration crises happening at each of those periods.

Both effective and epistemic stance manifest language as an instrument of control and influence over the behaviour of others (Langacker, 2013; Marín-Arrese, 2021b). However, whereas effective stance concerns the realization of events, that is, changing the course of reality, epistemic stance concerns knowledge, that is, conceptions instead of realizations (Marín-Arrese 2013). As such, the two notions have been associated with authorial positioning in political discourse as they contribute directly or indirectly to persuasion (Marín-Arrese 2013, 2021a). Effective and epistemic stance markers in our corpus have been manually annotated and classified into the corresponding subcategories following Marín-Arrese (2013, 2021a, 2021b).

Results are expected to reveal distributional differences (1) between the subcorpora of immigration and refugees’ crisis, due to moral judgement (good vs bad; i.e. refugees fleeing their countries vs illegal migrants); 2) across different crises, due to reasons of geographical and ethnic distance (we vs us); 3) across ideologies, as migration is perceived differently by left-, centre- and right- wing parties (menace vs benefit).



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Marín-Arrese, J. I. (2013). Stancetaking and inter/subjectivity in the Iraq inquiry: Blair vs. Brown. In Marín-Arrese, J., Carretero, M., Arús, J., & van der Auwera, J. (Eds.), English Modality: Core, Periphery and Evidentiality (pp. 411-445). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Marín-Arrese, J. I. (2021a). Stance, emotion and persuasion: Terrorism and the Press. Journal of Pragmatics, 177, 135-148.

Marín-Arrese, J. I. (2021b). Winds of war: Epistemic and effective control in political discourse. Cultura, lenguaje y representación / Culture, language and representation, xxvi, 289-307.

Martín de la Rosa, V., Domínguez Romero, E., Pérez-Blanco, M., & Marín Arrese, J. I. (2020). Epistemic and effective stance in political discourse: The European refugee crisis. In L. Berlin (Ed.), Positioning and Stance in Political Discourse (pp. 141-156). Delaware, USA: Vernon Press.