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Book: On Verbal Art

Chapter: Software-assisted Systemic Socio-Semantic Stylistics – Appraising tru* in J.M. Coetzee’s Foe

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.29808


This paper reports recent findings in ongoing research into the limits of applying the methods of corpus linguistics (CL) to the analysis of ‘verbal art’ using Hasan’s Systemic Socio-Semantic Stylistics framework (SSS), a knowledge of which will be in part presumed and where possible cross-referenced in the volume. The text investigated is Coetzee’s novel Foe – a post-colonial rewriting of Robinson Crusoe (RC). Focus is on the evaluation of the notion of truth in Foe by means of appraisal systems and identification of appraisers, appraisees/eds, and what Thompson calls the ‘Russian Doll’ dilemma. The comparative word and keywordlists compiled, for both Foe and RC as reference corpus, reveal potentially relevant lexical items, including silence/word/story/tru* (truth/true/truly), subsequently analyzed in concordances for meaningful clause as exchange/interaction patterns and significant textual location. Such bases for comparison entailed carefully developed annotation schemes tested by significant inter-rater reliability. Findings bring us closer to the novel’s Theme, tentatively formulated as the complex and relative connection between silence/words, authorship (in both fiction and history) and veracity. They also show how CL plays a valuable instrumental role in SSS: a means for identifying significant features which, however, call for further ‘armchair’ scrutiny and the vital linking up to the text’s ‘context of creation’.

Chapter Contributors

  • Donna R Miller ( - dmiller) 'University of Bologna'
  • Antonella Luporini ( - aluporini) 'University of Bologna'