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Verb Phrase (VP) Analysis

The Verb Phrase (VP) consists of a main (lexical) verb with, optionally, a number of auxillary verbs in front. (AUX) VERB e.g. He might have been watching me

Noun Phrase (NP) Analysis

A Noun Phrase consists of a head noun, and optionally a determiner, some pre-modification and post-modification. Here is an analysis of a text to show you how to identify noun phrases.

Quote of the times

A book by Dr Michael Cribb

Hesitation, Equivocation and Pausing Unveiling the micro-world of political rhetoric and spin £2.99 (eBook) /£10 (paperback) on Amazon Every day we are bombarded with political rhetoric in the form of interviews, debates and statements from our political leaders and commentators,… Continue Reading →

The Grammar Family

The Grammar family has been around for as long as this sentence has. The family is headed by Grandma Syntax and her younger sister, Minnie Morphology.

MARR: “I know the answer”

Political interviewers like to pretend that they are are asking genuine questions to their political guests. But sometimes it is revealed all too clearly that their questions are really designed to try and steer the guest towards a particular answer.

“Can I explain why?” “No explain how.”

Andrew Neil interviewed Jeremy Corbyn on BBC television tonight. Neil is a forensic interviewer who usually pins his interviewees down to exact words and syllables. But Corbyn is know for his own brand of stubbornness, and there was one wonderful… Continue Reading →

Tone unit – worked example (L2)

When we speak, we tend to speak in ‘chunks’ – small groups of words. Each chunk has its own change in intonation and there is usually a brief pause before the next chunk. We call these chunks ‘tone units’ and… Continue Reading →

I AM answering your question

Politicians often get accused of not answering questions but sometimes they fight back as Andy McDonald did on Friday.

Eye fluttering

Politicians use all means to try and grab and hold the floor during interviews including non-verbal means. Nigel Farage has developed an interesting technique where he flutters his eyes for a few seconds, almost bringing them to a close, in… Continue Reading →

New species observed since Brexit referendum

Brexit has not only changed the political landscape but has also given rise to a number of new species in the Homo genus according to scientists. Here is a quick run through some of the newcomers.

Impolite conversation of the week

Sometimes being impolite and creating conflict doesn’t take much effort. All you need to do is raise your voice!

Grice’s maxim

Grice’s maxim of relevance states that: “expect a partner’s contribution to be appropriate to immediate needs at each stage of the transaction”.Leech (1983: 94) In the following turns, we see in line 01 that A signals to B that he… Continue Reading →

Fighting for control of the floor

Fight for control of the floor can sometimes produce odd utterances out of the mouths of the interlocutors. Here is Boris Johnson and Nick Robinson spluttering syllables like bird wings flapping in the air as they fight for the turn… Continue Reading →

Quote of the week

once again we're living above the shop!

Sajid Javid, Conservative Party Conference, 30th September 2019

In this quote, Sajid Javid references the fact that he is the Chancellor of the Exchequer living upstairs in No. 11 Downing Street. The Chancellor and h...

Interruptions at Prime Minister’s Questions

Interruptions at PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) are recorded in Hansard in a limited way, usually through the insertion of the word ‘[Interruption.]’ and are often followed by the Speaker’s call to order. The house however is collective body and background… Continue Reading →

Revealing ‘ah’ in PMQs

In a previous post I have argued that the house is a multi-faceted chamber with comments and background noise from members of the chamber combining with the current speaker to create a multi-modal discourse act. This is particularly important during Prime Minister’s… Continue Reading →


Hesitations are a natural part of unscripted spoken language. We all hesitate from time to time while speaking for various reasons: to plan what we want to say next, to correct errors or for dramatic effect. Hesitation is normally apparent… Continue Reading →

Grayling’s grilling

Political interviewing can be a frustrating affair when the politician being interviewed refuses to answer directly the questions put to them. John Humphrys, a BBC radio 4 presenter and interviewer, gave Chris Grayling, a Conservative MP, a grilling on the… Continue Reading →


Slips of the tongue can be embarrassing for anyone speaking in public, but when the slip occurs twice in quick succession, one has to ask whether the speaker subconsciously really wanted to say something different. David Cameron (DC) was outlining… Continue Reading →

The language of U-turns

We all have to make U-turns in our lives sometimes: reversing our car when we realise we’ve gone down the wrong road; changing our opinion on some topic; wearing something we swore we would never wear. For politicians, making a… Continue Reading →

Quote of the week

“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”.


Which maxim does this break? Does it flout or violate the maxim?

Chuntering from a sedentary position

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, likes to pick up on members who ‘chunter from a sedentary position’ – a slightly politer, and perhaps archaic, way of saying ‘shut up and stop muttering’.

Can I say s**t in the House of Commons?

Certain words in the House of Commons are normally taboo but sometimes it is possible to get away with using them by quoting someone and asking for ‘leave’ from The Speaker.

Exasperation and incredulity!

Political commentators and journalists all have their own idiosyncratic styles when interviewing politicians. Emily Maitlis, the BBC Newsnight  commentator, often shows exasperation and incredulity in her voice through sweeping intonation falls and facial expressions. Here is a brief analysis to… Continue Reading →

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