Asking too much? The rhetorical role of questions in political discourse

Justine Zhang, Arthur Spirling, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Questions play a prominent role in social interactions, performing rhetorical functions that go beyond that of simple informational exchange. The surface form of a question can signal the intention and background of the person asking it, as well as the nature of their relation with the interlocutor. While the informational nature of questions has been extensively examined in the context of question-answering applications, their rhetorical aspects have been largely understudied. In this work we introduce an unsupervised methodology for extracting surface motifs that recur in questions, and for grouping them according to their latent rhetorical role. By applying this framework to the setting of question sessions in the UK parliament, we show that the resulting typology encodes key aspects of the political discourse—such as the bifurcation in questioning behavior between government and opposition parties—and reveals new insights into the effects of a legislator’s tenure and political career ambitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEMNLP 2017 - Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Pages1558-1572
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781945626838
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2017 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: Sep 9 2017Sep 11 2017

Publication series

NameEMNLP 2017 - Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings

Conference

Conference2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2017
Country/TerritoryDenmark
CityCopenhagen
Period9/9/179/11/17

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics

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