Pursuing multiple goals in European Parliamentary Debates

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In this chapter I shed light on the multi-purposive nature of debates in the European Parliament. As a case in point, I examine a debate on immigration in the wake of a migratory crisis in the Italian island of Lampedusa in early 2011. I analyze the points of view argued for by MEPs, aiming at identifying the different institutional goals that are typically pursued and characterizing the ways in which these goals shape the argumentative exchanges. The link between the multiple goals communicators have and the discourse choices they make can be assumed on the basis of previous research (see Craig 1990; Jacobs et al. 1991; Tracy 1984; Tracy and Coupland 1990). In line with the pragma-dialectical view of argumentative discourse taking place in the context of more or less institutionalized argumentative activity types (van Eemeren 2010), institutional goals are understood as those goals that can be attributed to arguers on the basis of the type of activity in which they are engaged. In identifying the institutional goals, I follow Craig (1986, 1990) and consider not only goals which are intentional, formal, and directly responsible for a certain discourse choice, but also goals which are functional, strategic, and only indirectly responsible for discourse choices. The analysis shows that the MEPs pursued three kinds of goals: goals that are 1) assigned to them by the occasion of the debate; 2) related to the powers of Parliament; and 3) associated with the different identities they assume in Parliament. While the pursuit of the occasion-related and powers-related goals gave rise to multiple simultaneous discussions, the pursuit of the identity-related goals guided the MEPs’ choices and formulations in these discussions.


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