“I Feel a Deep Sense of Responsibility for the People we have Hurt…” – Explicit Stance Attribution in Crisis Communication Contested

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The theme of crisis, and consequently of crisis response, has been extensively studied within the disciplines of crisis communication (see Rachfał (2013a) for an overview of crisis communication as an independent academic discipline and its place among other allied sub-disciplines of public relations) and public relations with the aim of protecting organisations or reducing the damage caused by a crisis episode (Fediuk, Pace and Botero, 2010). Nowadays, with the growing recognition of crisis response as persuasive communication there is a need for an interdisciplinary approach which would help researchers understand the effects that crisis messages have on the perceptions and behaviours of stakeholders. Therefore, this paper seeks to bridge the aforementioned disciplines and examines crisis from the perspective of linguistics. Thus, it analyses grammatical stance-marking devices (Biber, et al., 1999), which might provide insights into how speakers manipulate linguistic resources for persuasive purposes. The paper focuses on explicit stance attribution and explores how the first-person plural pronoun we is used in crisis response to alter the stakeholders’ perceptions concerning people and events. The analysis draws on statements issued in 2011 by people in top public positions in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.

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