The words of history – Phraseology as a key to historical argument


Abstract - Over the last twenty years, the interest in the disciplinary practices of history has been documented by a wide array of works. However, in spite of the inspiring nature of these rich accounts, only tangentially have scholars become interested in the inherently textual dimension of historical argumentation. In an attempt to bridge some of the gaps left by existing research, this paper calls for phraseology as a suitable candidate for the study of the argumentative peculiarities of historical prose. The qualitative and quantitative study of recurrent phraseology in a synchronic corpus of research articles from a set of specialised journals provides evidence that historians appear to be keenly observant of the practice of speculating about their own job in terms of either a successful quest for research answers or its potential dead ends. Moreover, data show that historians position themselves as disciplinary experts at a variety of levels, as they attempt to establish their credentials in the eyes of their intended readership: first, when they compare sources and thereby carve out a niche of expertise from their interpretation of them; secondly, when they proceed to singling out what they see as a key-moment in the historical processes under investigation; and finally, in the act of shaping their discourse from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator.

Riassunto - Nel corso degli ultimi vent’anni, l’interesse per le pratiche disciplinari della storia è stato documentato da una vasta gamma di lavori. Tuttavia, a fronte del grande interesse suscitato da molti di essi, solo in parte gli studiosi si sono interessati alla dimensione più propriamente testuale dell’argomentazione storica. Nel tentativo di colmare parte delle lacune lasciate dalle ricerche condotte finora su questo aspetto, questo studio si focalizza sulla fraseologia quale candidato per lo studio delle peculiarità argomentative dalla prosa storica. Lo studio qualitativo e quantitativo della fraseologia più ricorrente identificata in un corpus di articoli di ricerca tratti da riviste specialistiche internazionali mostra la consuetudine dello storico di riflettere sul proprio lavoro di ricerca, soffermandosi sia sugli aspetti positivi che sulle criticità che lo caratterizzano. Inoltre, i dati mostrano che gli storici si pongano quali esperti della propria disciplina a più livelli, contestualmente all’atto di stabilire le proprie credenziali di fronte ai destinatari della loro scrittura: in primo luogo, quando essi confrontano le fonti e costruiscono la propria credibilità nell’atto di fornirne un’interpretazione; in secondo luogo, quando essi si sforzano di identificare i momenti chiave dei processi storici di loro interesse; ed infine, nel tentativo di modellare il proprio discorso dalla prospettiva di ‘narratori onniscienti’.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v12p147

Keywords: History; Argumentation; Phraseology; Corpus; Discourse


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