This article adopts a sociolinguistic perspective on a small corpus of written documents produced by the British diplomatic service for internal use in the post war years. The focus on internal documents is novel: most studies of language and diplomacy to date focus on interstate communication (Cohen-Wiesenfeld, 2004; 2009) or on forms of public diplomacy (Chilton, 1990; Donahue & Prosser, 1997; Wodak & Vetter, 1999; Vasta, 1999; Kurbalija & Slavik, 2003). The article is concerned with aspects of interpersonal meaning that shape the identity of a small community of diplomatists as they manage behind the scenes at the Foreign Office and Whitehall two historical events in the demise of the British empire: the Persian oil crisis and the independence of Kuwait. The language used in the continuous written exchange of information and opinions to this end is analyzed using Halliday et al’s (1964) distinction between register and dialect and Martin’s (1992) elaboration of the three components of Halliday’s (1985) situational variable of interpersonal tenor: status, contact and affect. The analysis shows how tensions between social, professional and discourse roles are resolved in linguistic choices that realize a generally high degree of contact, affect and solidarity, and which express a shared social background, ideology of empire, and level of personality dissonant perhaps with the official status of these documents as government property. These interpersonal choices include a strong presence of social dialect within a professional register, informing a distinctive language variety which tends to confirm the view of the diplomatic service at that time (Bromhead, 1985:22; Hughes & Platt, 2015) as amateurish and adopting recruitment procedures based on class and gender rather than on merit.

Parlando tra di noi. Tenore interpersonale nei documenti interni del Foreign Office nel dopoguerra

Swain, Elizabeth
2018-01-01

Abstract

This article adopts a sociolinguistic perspective on a small corpus of written documents produced by the British diplomatic service for internal use in the post war years. The focus on internal documents is novel: most studies of language and diplomacy to date focus on interstate communication (Cohen-Wiesenfeld, 2004; 2009) or on forms of public diplomacy (Chilton, 1990; Donahue & Prosser, 1997; Wodak & Vetter, 1999; Vasta, 1999; Kurbalija & Slavik, 2003). The article is concerned with aspects of interpersonal meaning that shape the identity of a small community of diplomatists as they manage behind the scenes at the Foreign Office and Whitehall two historical events in the demise of the British empire: the Persian oil crisis and the independence of Kuwait. The language used in the continuous written exchange of information and opinions to this end is analyzed using Halliday et al’s (1964) distinction between register and dialect and Martin’s (1992) elaboration of the three components of Halliday’s (1985) situational variable of interpersonal tenor: status, contact and affect. The analysis shows how tensions between social, professional and discourse roles are resolved in linguistic choices that realize a generally high degree of contact, affect and solidarity, and which express a shared social background, ideology of empire, and level of personality dissonant perhaps with the official status of these documents as government property. These interpersonal choices include a strong presence of social dialect within a professional register, informing a distinctive language variety which tends to confirm the view of the diplomatic service at that time (Bromhead, 1985:22; Hughes & Platt, 2015) as amateurish and adopting recruitment procedures based on class and gender rather than on merit.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/2928880
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