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

    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
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
    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
    CountryDenmark
    CityCopenhagen
    Period9/9/179/11/17

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

    Cite this

    Zhang, J., Spirling, A., & Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, C. (2017). Asking too much? The rhetorical role of questions in political discourse. In EMNLP 2017 - Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings (pp. 1558-1572). (EMNLP 2017 - Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings). Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL).