Monday, November 14, 2011

Seminar Series Talk by Eric Acton, November 24

We are pleased to have Eric Acton (a PhD student at Stanford University) in town on November 24th to give us "That straight talk": Demonstratives, solidarity, and Sarah Palin. (Co-authored with Christopher Potts). All are welcome to attend. Time:  3:30. Location: SN 2098. 


Sarah Palin’s manner of speaking has been the subject of both fervent praise and impassioned criticism.  Supporters find Palin’s speech to beaccessible, engaging, and “real” while opponents label her manner ofspeaking presumptuous, inauthentic, and “pseudo-folksy.” This talk focuses on one salient feature of Palin’s speech—namely, that characteristic use ofdemonstratives, as in the quote below from the 2008 vice-presidentialdebate:
 (1)   Americans are craving that straight talk. 
Echoing Lakoff (1974), Liberman (2008, 2010) claims that such “affective demonstratives…carry an emotional as well as demonstrative load,” byimplying a degree of “shared familiarity” between interlocutors.  In thistalk, I will present the results of two corpus-based experiments that speakto this claim.  The first, based on users’ responses to posts on a socialmedia web site, provides quantitative support for the notion thatdemonstratives can foster or manufacture a sense of familiarity, empathy,and solidarity.  The second examines the 2008 vice-presidential debate,showing that Palin used demonstratives at a much higher rate than heropponent, Joe Biden.  The results of the study further suggest that Palin’suse of demonstratives was part of a broader stylistic approach for engagingand aligning with her audience.The talk concludes by reflecting on how Palin’s use of demonstratives mayhelp to explain why her speech is so polarizing.

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