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Alan Scott Partington


Department of Interpreting and Translation

Academic discipline: L-LIN/12 Language and Translation - English


My research interests range from corpus linguistics proper – the study of lexical grammar using corpus techniques - to Corpus-Assisted Discourse Studies – the use of corpora to study features of interactive discourse.

I have also published articles in the fields of phonetics, CALL, lexicology, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and the philosophy of language.

My research in the field of Corpus Linguistics proper focuses on the discipline of lexical grammar, in particular I analyse the relationship between phraseology and the systems of evaluative prosody (otherwise known as semantic prosody) and semantic preference (or semantic association, Hoey 2005). I also examine the two principles which underlie both the construction and comprehension of authentic communication, that is to say, the terminological and the idiomatic principles (Sinclair 2006) and how these interact in discourse with evaluation, understood as both a linguistic and as an ethologic phenomenon.

As regards my studies in the field of Corpus-Assisted Discourse Studies (CADS), one of the principle themes concerns an extremely recent linguistic-political-mediatic discourse type which evolved in the 1990s in the United States from press conferences, namely press briefings (Clayman 1993). Being a new genre, very little has been written about these briefings, indeed, previous work has focused on the genre as a site of political action: Maltese (1992) and Kurtz (1998) have examined for instance how the US government attempts to ‘spin' its message in times of conflict and the press's reaction to such attempts. Partington (2003) is the first book-length study to approach this discourse type using the full range of linguistic tools. One of the main points is that the briefings represent an excellent site for the study of the evolution of a new discourse type. Furthermore I address in some detail how the participants invent ex novo the rules of a novel interactive “role-play” and how they learn to behave both in cooperation but also in competition (the journalists with the podium and vice-versa) with the other participants.

Closely connected with the above is the work on political rhetoric, that is, methods of persuasion as realised in political discourse of various types. I have dealt with topics such as ways of evaluation (connotation and evaluative prosody), modality and attribution to other sources, metaphor an metonymy, satire, parody and irony in political debate (Partington 2006a). One more research theme is a consideration of the use in political discourse of what I have termed “laughter-talk”, that is, the discourse which precedes, prepares and therefore provokes episodes of laughter (Partington 2006b). I analyse a large number of examples contained in various corpora to discover precisely what is signalled, consciously or unconsciously, by speakers when they indulge in laughter-talk. In particular I have concentrated on social and strategic uses for achieving certain rhetorical goals, for example, to construct identity, underline parts of an argument, threaten or compliment or assuage the “face” of another participant or to save ones' own face (Brown and Levinson 1987). Other questions examined include: the role of play and of fantasy in laughter-talk, the relationship between irony and sarcasm, the phenomenon of self-deprecation and, given that laughter can express either aggression or solidarity, how both interlocutors and audiences tell which is actually meant on any given occasion. Although it must be stressed that laughter and humour are by no means co-terminous, I go on to consider the implications that the research into laughter-talk may have for humour studies in general.