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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 5 Closing Credits: Implications and Applications 117


117 Chapter 5 Closing Credits: Implications and Applications 5.1 Authentic Movie Language In the introduction to this study I pointed out that I wanted to examine the linguistic features characterizing American face-to-face and movie conversation, two domains which are usually claimed to differ espe- cially in terms of spontaneity. It has already been recalled in Sections 1.1, 1.3, and 3.1 that natural conversation is considered the quint- essence of the spoken language (Sinclair 2004b) as it is totally spon- taneous, whereas movie conversation is usually described as non- spontaneous, being artificially written-to-be-spoken (Nencioni 1976, Gregory and Carroll 1978, Taylor 1999, Rossi 2003, Pavesi 2005) and, thus, not likely to represent the general usage of conversation (Sinclair 2004b). My objective was to investigate authentic movie data (and not webscripts) to compare these two different linguistic provinces of dis- course, as Sinclair (2004b: 80) advocates: In summary I am advocating that we should trust the text. We should be open to what it may tell us. We should not impose our ideas on it, except perhaps just to get started. Until we see what the preliminary results are, we should apply only frameworks that are loose and flexible, in order to accommodate the new information that will come from the text. We should expect to encounter unusual phenomena; we should accept that a large part of our linguistic behaviour is subliminal, and that therefore we may find a lot of surprises. We should search for models that are especially appropriate to the...

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