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Movie Language Revisited

Evidence from Multi-Dimensional Analysis and Corpora


Pierfranca Forchini

This book explores the linguistic nature of American movie conversation, pointing out its resemblances to face-to-face conversation. The reason for such an investigation lies in the fact that movie language is traditionally considered to be non-representative of spontaneous language. The book presents a corpus-driven study of the similarities between face-to-face and movie conversation, using detailed consideration of individual lexical phrases and linguistic features as well as Biber’s Multi-Dimensional Analysis (1998). The data from an existing spoken American English corpus – the Longman Spoken American Corpus – is compared to the American Movie Corpus, a corpus of American movie conversation purposely built for the research. On the basis of evidence from these corpora, the book shows that contemporary movie conversation does not differ significantly from face-to-face conversation, and can therefore be legitimately used to study and teach natural spoken language.


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Chapter 3 Shot 1: Multi-Dimensional Analysis of Face-to-Face and Movie Conversation 61


61 Chapter 3 Shot 1: Multi-Dimensional Analysis of Face-to-Face and Movie Conversation 3.1 Introduction In this chapter, Multi-Dimensional Analyses verify the extent to which face-to-face and movie conversation differ or resemble each other in terms of the linguistic features which characterize spoken discourse. As pointed out in Chapter 1, it has been said that these two domains differ in terms of spontaneity: face-to-face conversation, which is to- tally natural and spontaneous, is described as the “quintessence of the spoken language”, whereas movie conversation, which is artificial and non-spontaneous, is considered “not likely to be representative of the general usage of conversation” (Sinclair 2004b: 80). Interestingly, contrary to what has been maintained for about thirty years (cf. Chapter 1), the empirical data presented here reveal that face- to-face and movie conversation do not differ to any great extent. The most frequent linguistic features in both corpora, identified statisti- cally through factor analysis (cf. Table 4), are, for example, verbs (in particular, uninflected presents, imperatives and third persons – pres in the tables), second person pronouns and possessives (pro2), first person pro- nouns and possessives (pro1), nouns (n), and prepositions (prep). In addi- tion, the least frequent features are wh-pronouns functioning as rela- tive clauses in object position (rel_obj), as relative clauses in subject position (rel_subj), and as relative clauses in object position with prepo- sitional fronting (rel_pipe), suasive verbs (e. g. ask, command, insist – sua_vb), passive verbs + by (by_pasv), and passive postnominal modifiers (whiz_vbn). The...

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