Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Book sections

The discursive construction of the people in European political discourse: Semantics and pragmatics of a contested concept in German, French, and British parliamentary debates

Abstract : Who are the people? As a semantically underspecified noun, the lexeme “people” and related terms such as “citizen(s)” or “constituent(s)” lead to various representations and are filled with competing meanings. By undertaking a cross-linguistic analysis of the semantic value of nouns denoting human referents in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, this paper investigates how the “people” (people in English, Volk in German, peuple in French) and related linguistic expressions (notably Mensch, Bürger, citoyen) are discursively staged in national parliamentary debates on Europe. The people represent the entity Members of Parliament (MPs) speak to, about, and on behalf of. In political sciences, mentioning the people immediately raises concerns about a populist message or stance. To which extent, then, does the reference to “the people” or “a people” pertain to a populist stance? Based on an annotated corpus of forty-four national parliamentary debates between 1998 and 2015, this paper uses mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) to assess how the “people” are referred to across the political spectrum in the British House of Commons, the German Bundestag and the French Assemblée nationale. By taking into account a large amount of speakers across different times and cultures, the analysis shows that the reference to “the people” – partly in opposition to “a people” – is a basic component of political discourse, thus indicating that the mere mention of the “people” cannot be regarded as a feature of populist rhetoric.
Complete list of metadatas

Cited literature [44 references]  Display  Hide  Download

https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-02376399
Contributor : Naomi Truan <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - 2:25:21 PM
Last modification on : Monday, December 9, 2019 - 11:11:19 AM
Document(s) archivé(s) le : Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - 7:39:52 PM

File

Truan 2019, The discursive con...
Files produced by the author(s)

Identifiers

Collections

CNRS | CMB

Citation

Naomi Truan. The discursive construction of the people in European political discourse: Semantics and pragmatics of a contested concept in German, French, and British parliamentary debates. John Benjamins. Imagining the Peoples of Europe: Populist discourses across the political spectrum, 83, pp.201-228, 2019, ⟨10.1075/dapsac.83.09tru⟩. ⟨halshs-02376399⟩

Share

Metrics

Record views

79

Files downloads

76