Evaluation through Emphasis: Initial Roadblocks in Analysis

The main purpose of my research is to explore the different methods of evaluation vegans use according to the Appraisal framework developed by Martin and White (2005). This framework identifies three main ways that individuals can positively or negatively assess some item: through affect (emotion), appreciation (aesthetic values), and/or judgment (relating a behavior to some social norm). I’ve noticed some general differences in how often my participants use each of these methods, but as I’ve begun to peruse through my transcripts and try to draw some conclusions, I’ve decided that the easiest method of analysis will be to break down my transcripts into individual themes. Unlike last summer, when I created spreadsheets and counted the individual tokens of evaluation for each speaker, because of the large number of speakers I have this summer, breaking it down into parts and exploring those parts across speakers seems to be a better method of analysis.

There are so far two major issues that I have continued to run into during my analysis. First, how do I classify evaluations that are made through the use of tone and sarcasm, and two, how do I classify evaluations made through reported speech and constructed dialogue? In several of my interviews, I have come across passages that contain no explicit moments of judgment, affect, or appreciation, yet it is still obvious to me that an evaluation is taking place. I just can’t pin down the category it should belong to.

For example, I came across this issue several times while analyzing my interview with Amy, a nurse who has been vegan for about five years and is a strong animal activist. When I asked her for her “how I became a vegan story,” she began to explain how she grew up in a house with a father who was a butcher. Thus, most of the meals in her house contained meat. In line 9 of her transcript, she makes a statement about her family dinners by saying, “and like EVERY meal was very meat heavy.” I have spent quite a lot of time considering this line, especially the word “every.” In sociolinguistic transcripts, capitalization indicates emphasis on a word, and it is this emphasis specifically on “every” that makes me think an evaluation is taking place. Emphasizing this word specifically seems to indicate a negative evaluation of the fact that her family was eating meat at every meal, but I have struggled over what category to put this evaluation into. In some ways, saying that every meal contained meat is simply a token of appreciation. In other ways, it is assessing the family’s behavior and is therefore a judgment. But at its core, I feel like it might also simply be a way of manifesting the speaker’s emotion, and would therefore be a token of affect.

Although this line specifically doesn’t matter too much in the long run, because this is an issue I have been running into across all my interviews, I am hoping to do some more reading about how these instances might be classified, and to finally make a decision about how I want to go about handling them. I’m very excited to continue my analysis this summer and discover more interesting aspects of evaluation!


Works Cited:

Martin, J.R. and White, P.R.R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.