Formulaic Forms of Address as (Im)politeness Markers in Prime Minister’s Questions: Margaret Thatcher Versus Theresa May

  •  Veronica Bonsignori    
  •  Denise Filmer    


Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) is a political discourse genre with a long and distinguished history. Framed by formulaic forms of address, the exchanges follow a set of turn-taking “rules” that has evolved over time. The study presented here examines the (non)use of honorifics and other polite forms intrinsic to PMQs during interactions between two female Prime Ministers and their respective Leaders of the Opposition: Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. From diachronic and gendered perspectives, the study implements a mixed methods framework to address the following research questions: 1) has the use of formal politeness markers decreased over time? 2) Do gender dynamics influence impoliteness strategies in the context of PMQs? 3) In the shift from verbal to written discourse, what diamesic transformations appear in the official parliamentary transcriptions? The self-built corpus includes selected video recordings of PMQs from each of the Prime Ministers’ mandates, and the corresponding official transcripts published online by Hansard. The audiovisual texts were viewed and examined, the speech was manually transcribed, and then compared to Hansard’s version. Initial findings suggest that over time, across genders, and in Hansard’s digital transcripts, the use of politeness forms in PMQ exchanges appears to be diminishing as formulaic expressions are omitted or substituted with pronouns.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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