Appraisal and the resources of intersubjective stance

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  1. Appraisal and the resources of intersubjective stance.

(Version of Feb 03. For a full account please see the forthcoming special edition of Text, the forthcoming new edition of the Handbook of Pragmatics and Martin & White to appear )
In its modelling of the resources of intersubjective stance, the appraisal framework is concerned with formulations which have traditionally been analysed under such headings as modality (see for example Palmer 1986), polarity (see for example Pagano 1994), evidentiality (Chafe &Nichols 1986), hedging/boosting (Markkanen & Schröder 1997, Hyland 1996, Myers 1989, Meyer 1997), vague language (Channell 1994), intensification (Labov 1984), and meta-discourse (Crismore 1989). Under the appraisal framework, these lexico-grammatically diverse wordings are brought together on the grounds that they are all resources which vary the terms of the speaker’s engagement with propositions and proposals, which vary what is at stake interpersonally both in individual utterances and as the texts unfolds cumulatively.

The approach taken to accounting for the intersubjective functionality of these values of Engagement is informed by Bakhtin's now widely influential notion of dialogism and heteroglossia under which all verbal communication, whether written or spoken, is 'dialogic' in that to speak or write is always to refer to, or to take up in some way, what has been said/written before, and simultaneously to anticipate the responses of actual, potential or imagined readers/listeners. As Voloshinov states,

The actual reality of language-speech is not the abstract system of linguistic forms, not the isolated monologic utterance, and not the psychological act of its implementation, but the social event of verbal interaction implemented in an utterance or utterances.

Thus, verbal interaction is the basic reality of language.

Dialogue…can also be understood in a broader sense, meaning not only direct, face-to-face, vocalised verbal communication between persons, but also verbal communication of any type whatsoever. A book, i.e. a verbal performance in print, is also an element of verbal communication. …[it] inevitably orients itself with respect to previous performances in the same sphere… Thus the printed verbal performance engages, as it were, in ideological colloquy of a large scale: it responds to something, affirms something, anticipates possible responses and objections, seeks support, and so on. (Voloshinov 1995: 139)

The approach adopted by the appraisal framework holds that the functionality of these resources can only be adequately explained when such dialogistic effects are taken into account. That is to say, it holds that by the use of wordings such as 'possibly', 'It is my contention that…', 'naturally…', 'admittedly', 'I believe…', the textual voice acts first-and-foremost to acknowledge, to engage with and to align itself with respect to positions which are in some way alternatives to that being advanced by the text.

In this, the appraisal framework represents a departure from much of the modality and evidentiality literature (see for example, Lyons 1977, Palmer 1986 or Chafe &Nichols 1986) and at least some of the hedging literature (see Markkanen &Schröder 1997) where accounts of epistemic modals and similar resources, for example, often assume that the sole function of these wordings is to reveal the writer/speaker's state of mind or knowledge, to indicate that the speaker/writer is uncertain or tentative and is not committed to the truth value of the proposition.

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