The Discourse of Social Achievement
  • ISSN 1878-9714
  • E-ISSN: 1878-9722
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This paper considers the terms used for designating parents in reports dealing with child protection, and explores the pragmatic impact of the reports’ extremely cautious choice of words. I test the hypothesis that, even if words are not argumentative in themselves, they can become argumentative in the context of a particular discourse. To this end, this paper develops a two-pronged analysis, combining lexical description (both from a paradigmatic and from a syntagmatic perspective) with quantitative as well as qualitative methodologies. The findings suggest that lexis is argumentative not only because of its paradigmatic dimension (a word’s meaning), but also because of its syntagmatic dimension (through the lexical co-occurrence and syntactic patterns within which a word is embedded). The results may find a practical application when training social workers in how to write their reports.


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