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Swearing, discourse and function in conversational British English
Time: Mar 04.2024

Title: Swearing, discourse and function in conversational British English

Speaker: Prof. Tony McEnery


In this paper we look at the role that macrostructures in discourse have to play in the study of swearing. While studied in isolation, such macrostructures have not yet been studied comprehensively and the range of macrostructures studied has been small. By contrast, work on microstructures is much better developed. In response to this, using spoken corpus data from the BNC2014, we take two approaches to studying discourse in this paper. In the first approach, we explore spoken data which has been annotated with a functional discourse coding scheme that shows, across the corpus, the distribution of a set of macrostructures, discourse units, that generally characterise conversation. Our goal is to see how swearing distributes according to discourse unit function and to account for any observations made. Following from that, we explore a single macrostructure of discourse - narrative, including its sub-elements - to see whether swearing interacts with this macrostructure and its component parts. We conclude by arguing that discourse is an important dimension along which the use of swearing may vary, that such variation is likely to relate to emotion, and that the different perspectives on macrostructure taken in the paper are complementary.

Speaker Bio

Tony McEnery is Distinguished Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University and advisory professor at Shanghai International Studies University. He has worked since the late 1980s on studying language using corpus data. He has published widely on a range of languages, topics and methods, with notable publications including Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2011, with Hardie).

Date: 2024-03-05

Time: 13:30-14:50

Venue: Auditorium 136, Institute of Corpus Studies and Applications