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Language use and gender in the Italian parliament

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2014
Number of pages383
Awarding Institution
Award date25/06/2014
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis deals with gender construction in the Italian parliament. The increase of female politicians in the public sphere in Italy and throughout the world justifies the investigation of their language use, in relation to that of their male counterparts. In this project, I analyse the use of three linguistic phenomena: 1. forms of address; 2. Noi forms; and 3. Violence metaphors. The common aim of the investigations into these three linguistic phenomena is to examine the construction of gender at its intersection with political roles in 13 parliamentary debates on the topic of violence against women occurred in the Camera dei Deputati (Lower Chamber) during Parliament XVI, which ran from 2008-2011.
The findings concerning the use of institutionalised forms of address reveal that both gender groups still tend to mostly use masculine unmarked terms when addressing female politicians (in singular and plural forms). More positively but still not wide-spread, the analysis shows that (semi-) marked forms are slowly appearing, e.g. Signora Ministro, where only the (marital) status form is replaced with the feminine form. The findings for noi forms indicate that both male and female MPs tend to associate themselves with other politicians. In addition, female MPs also tend to construct themselves as ‘female politicians’ and as ‘women’, perhaps in a quest for visibility and legitimation of their position in the Camera dei Deputati (and) in a male chauvinist society. The investigation of Violence metaphors is interesting for their relation to the topics of debate and the gender bias that describes these metaphors as ‘masculine’ (Philip, 2009; Koller, 2004; Koller & Semino, 2009). Female MPs employ more Violence metaphors than their male counterparts in these debates. The investigation of Ground Confrontation metaphors further reveals that the scenarios constructed by female and male politicians equally present violence as an abstract phenomenon for which no one seems to be responsible.