As a subgenre of political debates, parliamentary
debates are meant to achieve a number of institutionally specific
purposes, namely position-claiming, persuading, negotiating, agenda-setting,
and opinion building, usually along ideological or party lines.
One of their major functions is to contribute to problem-solving
tasks regarding legal and political deliberation, as well as decision
making processes. The problems under consideration often require
generating acceptance and, ideally, getting support for a specific
policy or reaching consensus or some form of agreement. The parliamentary
debate as a cognitive process is basically about jointly deciding
upon a suitable line of action. This is typically done by arguing
the pros and cons of available alternatives as a collective discursive
In order to carry out a cross-cultural investigation
of parliamentay conceptualizing and confrontational strategies,
we have examined two sets of trancripts, namely several transcripts
of debates in the House of Commons (selected from the Hansard
records), and transcripts of debates in the Swedish Riksdag (selected
from the Rixlex records). Our approach is located at the interface
between cognitive pragma-semantics and discursive argumentation
analysis. It draws on insights about human thought and meaning
construction (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Lakoff, 1988; Fauconnier,
1994/85), critical institutional discourse analysis (Van Dijk,
1995), use and misuse of political cognitive frames (Morgan, 1997),
and linguistic and rhetorical analysis of argumentative structures
(Perelman-Tyteca, 1969, Ducrot, 1996).
The institutionally based dialogue of parliamentary
debates is envisaged in our study as a form of cognition process,
which reflects culture-specific social and political thinking
patterns, while at the same time it plays an important role in
shaping beliefs and attitudes, in imposing certain norms and values,
and in putting forward short-term and long-term goals. We propose
a multi-level interdisciplinary analysis, focusing on semantic
and textual markers of cognitive argumentation, such as management
of agreement and disagreement, accountability and evidentiality,
mental state attribution, recurrent discursive topoi, on the one
hand, and institutional constraints, such as frames of self-presentation,
role distribution, the sharing and transfer of responsibilities,
questioning and answering conventions, on the other.
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Key words: parliamentary debate, joint problem-solving, cognitive process, agreement-disagreement