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When “We Believe that ...”: The Role of Collective “we” in the Dialogic Negotiation in Hard News Discourse

Authors
  • Nádraská, Zuzana
Type
Published Article
Journal
Prague Journal of English Studies
Publisher
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2020
Volume
9
Issue
1
Pages
157–196
Identifiers
DOI: 10.2478/pjes-2020-0008
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

The present paper examines the occurrence of collective self expressed by the first person plural “we” in British broadsheet hard news reports. Given that “we” typically embraces “I” and the “non-I”, and is viewed in contradistinction to “others”, it is subjective and dialogic (inter-subjective) in nature (Baumgarten et al.; Benveniste). This study, grounded in Systemic Functional Linguistics and the theory of engagement, examines the coupling, i.e., co-occurrence, of one dialogic signal “we” with other dialogic meanings (entertain, proclaim and disclaim) used for the dialogic negotiation of content and writer-reader engagement (Martin, “Beyond Exchange”; Martin and White). Couplings are interpreted from the point of view of the overall rhetorical strategy they are put to, referred to as syndromes of meaning (Zappavigna et al., “Syndromes”; Zappavigna et al., “The Coupling”). The rhetorical functions of syndromes reflect the basic dialogic meanings of the examined engagement categories such as a tentative suggestion of an opinion (entertain), a strong statement of an opinion (proclaim) and a rejection of a dispreferred opinion (disclaim). Finer variations within the individual rhetorical strategies are related to the difference in the source of dialogic positioning (an individual versus collective voice) and the referential scope of the pronoun (a precisely defined reference versus reference with a more general and diffused scope).

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