• Losing people: a linguistic analysis of minimisation in First World War soldiers’ accounts of violence

      Penry Williams, Cara; ; Rice-Whetton, John; La Trobe University (Victoria, Australia); University of Derby; University of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) (Palgrave, 2019-10-05)
      This chapter examines the First World War letters and diaries of Australian soldiers for insights into the relationships between language and violence, focusing on accounts of violent actions and the deaths these caused. Analysis from a corpus of writings from 22 soldiers demonstrates around two-thirds of accounts utilise linguistic resources to minimise or downplay the realities of violence. Two main approaches are generally used: figurative language (euphemism and metaphor) and language that downplays human involvement (passive voice, simplified register, nominalisation/light verb constructions, and the use of inanimate nouns in place of people involved). Our exemplification and analysis of these strategies provides insight into both soldiers’ experiences of violence and death and how they made sense of these experiences. The chapter thus adds to the understanding of First World War vernacular writing, contributes to existing scholarship by using a linguistic method of analysis, and more broadly considers the way violence is discussed.