The use of boosters and evidentials in British campaign debates on the Brexit referendum

María Luisa Carrió-Pastor and Ana Albalat-Mascarell
Universitat Politècnica de València


Little attention has been given to the role of metadiscoursal devices in non-academic discourses with an overtly persuasive component such as political discourse. We address this gap by analysing the presence and function of evidentials and boosters in the 2016 campaign debates on the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum (also known as the Brexit referendum). In this vein, our objectives are first, to analyse the evidentials and boosters most frequently used in these debates and relate them to the speakers’ goals, and second, to contrast the use of these devices with the results of the referendum. Data were quantitatively analysed with METOOL, a tool specifically developed to detect metadiscoursal strategies. The results showed how the strategies identified here tended to work in combination towards the representation of a credible self, challenging opposing views on the same issue. Finally, conclusions were drawn.

Publication history
Table of contents

Speaking a language is an individual act that may be performed in different ways depending on the intentions of the speaker. This can be observed in politics (Albalat-Mascarell and Carrió-Pastor 2019), in academic English (Carrió-Pastor 2014; Alonso-Almeida and Carrió-Pastor 2017), in digital comments on news (Moya Muñoz and Carrió-Pastor 2018), in newspapers (Dafouz 2008; Alonso-Almeida and Carrió-Pastor 2019), etc. All these studies reflect on the variation of language and the dissimilarities in the way communication is carried out by different language users in specific contexts. This can be witnessed when speakers choose one term over another, use specific words to express their thoughts or overuse assertive phrases. This results from the fact that we conceptualize ideas in different ways, and this is reflected in speech. We believe that every speaker processes reality in their own way, and the transmission of this reality is, in turn, bound by a degree of subjectivity. This practice is quite common in political talk (Friedman and Kampf 2014; Kampf 2016).

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