Exercising Accountability in European Parliamentary Debates on Statements: An Argumentative Perspective

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In this chapter, I examine the argumentative discursive process through which accountability is exercised in debates that follow statements by Commissioners in the European Parliament (EP). The accountability practice is characterised as an activity type (van Eemeren in Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse: Extending the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2010), based on a careful examination of the institutional setting and combined with the analysis of actual debates. The characterisation highlights the conventionalised elements of the practice, offering us some indications on what to look for when examining the argumentative pursuit of accountability in these debates. In the characterisation, I pay special attention to the linguistic indicators associated with different argumentative aspects of the process. Following van Eemeren et al. (Argumentative indicators in discourse: a pragma-dialectical study, Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 2007), I take it that identifying argumentative indicators is in principle fruitful as it refines the analytic tools used to examine argumentative practices. However, as the examination in this chapter shows, as a result of the highly institutional nature of the practice, the multiple purposes it has and the consequent indirectness and implicitness, argumentative indicators are less straightforward than they are in other practices. The examination of EP debates on statements suggests we may need to think of different types of indicators to help us navigate more complex institutionalised argumentative practices.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArgumentation and Language
Subtitle of host publicationLinguistic, Cognitive and Discursive Explorations
EditorsSteve Oswald, Tierry Herman, Jaquin Jerome
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-73972-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-73971-7, 1566-7650
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameArgumentation Library
ISSN (Print)1566-7650
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1907


  • Accountability
  • Activity type
  • Argumentative indicators
  • European parliamentary debates
  • Institutionalised argumentation


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