The Evolution of Communicative Strategies in the Discourse of the European Union
Piga, Antonio (2010) The Evolution of Communicative Strategies in the Discourse of the European Union. [Tesi di dottorato] (Inedito)
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Abstract The Evolution of Communicative Strategies in the Discourse of the European Union Following the negative outcome of the referendum on the European Constitution called in France and in the Netherlands in 2005, the European Union clearly recognized the need to find new ways to support the process of integration. In this respect, according to the “White Paper on a European Communication Policy” (2006), communication should become an EU policy in its own right, at the service of all EU citizens. Generally speaking, communication should be based on genuine dialogue between citizens and policymakers, and citizens from all ranks of social life should have the right to fair and full information about the European Union. In order to face this sense of alienation from Brussels, EU institutions are increasingly attempting to ‘close the gap’ with citizens by being more “responsive, open and accessible” (White Paper on a European Commission Policy), by implementing, for instance, the possibility of the citizens to understand and communicate with EU institutions. This kind of communication ‘revolution’ in the EU institutional discourse can be demonstrated by the fact that the EU has fundamentally increased the accessibility of information in favour of citizens; first, through the “easification” (Fairclough 1989: 221) of language-discourse, and second, by opening up the availability of this information in the ‘interactive’ world of the Internet and not just by the distribution of printed material. In addition, the recent trend of globalization has had a great impact on a variety of different domains: the economic and political spheres, and also educational and cultural values. The result being that our contemporary world has been fostering more and more the formation of a corporate-model to increase profit-making opportunities. This has given new impetus to the ‘sale’ of any kind of commodity as long as some form of benefit is produced. The objective of my project is, therefore, that of analysing the rhetorical and pragmatic-linguistic strategies, from the point of view of both verbal and visual semiosis adopted by the EU as far as the creation of its new ‘image’ is concerned. EU institutions are attempting to enter into direct contact with citizens, establishing a sort of time-space proximity, whose purpose is that of essentially promoting the process of integration and more importantly, re-building a European community. The Corpus is represented by the informative and explanatory publications of the EU. These publications are named “Europe on the move”, which is a series of booklets that sets out the key facts concerning the EU: for example, its origins, values, history, and also its achievements, goals, policies and the way the EU functions. Since these publications are conceived of for a wide audience, they are clearly written and do not employ a specialized language. Moreover, some of these booklets are regularly updated, although most of them are edited ex novo. From a multimodal perspective there are also plenty of colourful illustrations, making them ideal readings for the common European reader who wants to become better informed about the EU. These booklets have been selected for two main reasons in particular: i) first of all, they represent the most comprehensive overview of the EU audience on a large scale. ii) and secondly, since some of them have been republished, and some published ex novo after 2005, it enables a longitudinal linguistic analysis of the communicative modalities and of the discourse practices. In this respect, by comparing the more recent versions with the older ones, and by finding confirmation of the linguistic elements displayed in those published ex novo, it is possible to focus on some ‘diachronic’ changes in the EU discourse system. The booklets have been divided into two different periods: the booklets belonging to the ‘old’ type, which are dated 2001-2005, and those belonging to the ‘new’ generation, which are dated 2005-2009. As a main impetus behind these changes was considered the disappointing results of the referendum on the European Constitution called in France and in the Netherlands in 2005. The methodology adopted illustrates the practice of Critical Discourse Analysis through a discussion of ‘commodification-through-easification’ of the European Commission’s discourse. As a main instrument of Critical Discourse Analysis this research adopts Systemic Functional Linguistics, since Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) have contributed to the task of formulating a theory of a language which incorporates a kind of dialectical relationship between the semiotic in general (discourse), and the non-semiotic (social). SFL conceptualises language functionally, arguing that the grammar of a language is a network of systems corresponding to the three major social functions of a language: the construction of reality, as well as the enactment and negotiation of social relations and identities.
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