European parliaments under scrutiny

European parliaments under scrutiny: Discourse strategies and interaction practices. Ed. by Cornelia Ilie. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture 38.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. vi, 378. ISBN 9789027206299. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Andy Van Drom, Université Laval, Québec

This volume starts with the idea that parliaments are at the heart of the daily (re)constructing, (re)framing and (re)shaping of the issues, ideologies, and identities that make up democracy. Discourse analysis is then proposed to gain insight into parliamentary practice by focusing on the linguistic and discursive strategies that characterize both regulated debates and more spontaneous interactions.

Part 1 opens on a broader, discursive-psychological perspective as it explores the discursive construction and negotiation of ‘Parliamentary roles and identities’. The first two chapters offer the most substantial theoretical contributions to the volume. Teun van Dijk (29–56) uses his own theory of context to examine how parliamentarians construe a political identity as part of their social identities. In Ch. 2 (57–78), Cornelia Ilie draws heavily on Erving Goffman’s work on identity construction to elaborate a typology of parliamentary participants based on their dialogue roles and institutional identities. Finally, Maria Aldina Marques presents a case study (79–108) of the use of personal deictic markers to construct individual and collective political identities.

The three chapters in Part 2 analyze ‘Ritualised strategies of parliamentary confrontation’—particular interactive patterns that result from parliamentary procedures. While Donella Antelmi and Francesca Santulli (111–34) compare how representatives of the Left and the Right exploit the speech presenting a new government to the Italian parliament, the two other articles focus on the discursive features of the conventionalized mechanisms of control in parliamentary debates (Clara-Ubaldina Lorda Mur on ‘questions au gouvernement’ in France) or the lack thereof (Elisabeth Zima, Geert Brône, and Kurt Feyaerts on ‘unauthorized interruptive comments’ in Austria).

Part 3 contains three chapters on ‘Procedural, discursive and rhetorical particularities of post-Communist parliaments’ that focus on changes in parliamentary discourse across the Communist, transitional, and post-Communist periods. The articles concern the management of interpersonal relationships through (dis)agreement strategies in the Romanian Parliament (Cornelia Ilie), occurrences of applause and laughter in the Polish Sejm (Cezar Ornatowski), and the discursive construction of the addressee in the Czech Parliament (Yordanka Madzharova Bruteig).

Part 4 contains crosscultural studies of parliamentary discourse. In his contribution (305–28), H. José Plug seeks to determine whether the different institutional characteristics of the Dutch and European Parliaments have an impact on how personal attacks are discursively managed, whilst Isabel Íñigo-Mora (329–72) explores the rhetorical strategies of British and Spanish MPs in discussing the Iraqi conflict.

The strength and relevance of this volume undoubtedly lies in the fact that through a rich collection of case studies, focusing on an important selection of parliamentary institutions and applying diverse analytical approaches (including discursive psychology and (critical) discourse analysis), the authors lay a sound foundation for further linguistic research on the impacts of parliamentary interaction on current political action.