The Emotionality and Complexity of Public Political Language in Canada’s Question Period

Cynthia Whissell


Purpose: In order to better understand the impression conveyed by the language of public political discourse occurring in highly regulated settings, it was decided to study words used by politicians from four parties in a random sample of 10 Question Periods from Canada’s 39th Parliament. Data were downloaded from the Hansard Report. In a quantitative textual approach, the language used by speakers was analyzed in terms of its emotional content and linguistic complexity. Findings: In comparison to everyday English, the language of Question Period was complex and emotionally negative. Members of opposition parties asking questions used more negative and arousing words than government members answering them. Women spoke in more pleasant language than men, and addressed different topics. There were also differences among the opposition parties.

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English Language and Literature Studies   ISSN 1925-4768 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4776 (Online)   E-mail:

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