Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.400
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.750

CiteScore 2018: 0.61

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.305
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.670

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 36, Issue 4


A discursive analytical path of appellate court opinions: evaluation of ideological positioning in Bush v. Gore 2000

Ruina Chen
  • Department of Foreign Languages, Guizhou University, Guiyang, China
  • Department of Linguistics, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Haitao Liu
Published Online: 2016-06-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2016-0018


Appellate court opinions are written records based on the debates and discussions on hard cases among nine Justices in the US Supreme Court. This important genre type resists any easy paradigm of examination due to its extreme complexity in both language and law. In this paper, we propose an analytical path built upon White’s framework (2006) of “evaluative semantics and ideological positioning.” In particular, we attend to evaluative mechanisms employed by Supreme Court Justices to legitimize their decision and interpretation of complicated jurisprudences. The functionality of these mechanisms and their rhetorical potential are elaborated in the context of multiple opinions of Bush v. Gore 2000. The analysis in this paper complements Miller’s (2002) pioneering endeavor to analyze this case. In addition, it bears out Crompton’s (2004) prediction of the existence of Rhematic Progression (RP) in the discourse, and beyond which, its intensified form – Rhematic Progression with Derived Rhemes (RPDRs) – occurs in the dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens.

Keywords: discursive analysis; appellate court opinions; evaluation; Rhematic Progression with Derived Rhemes (RPDRs)


  • Crompton, Peter. 2004. Theme in discourse: Thematic progression and method of development re-evaluated. Functions of Language. 11(2). 213–249.Google Scholar

  • Daneš, Firbas. 1974. Functional sentence perspective and the organization of the text. In: Firbas Daneš (ed.), Papers on functional sentence perspective, 106–128. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar

  • Dershowitz, Alan M. 2001. Supreme injustice: How the high court hijacked Election 2000. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Finegan, Edward. 2012. Discourses in the language of the law. In: James Paul Gee & Michael Handford (eds.), The Routledge handbook of discourse analysis, 482–493. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely, and Joel B. Grossman. 2005. BUSH v. GORE. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, 126–127. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood. 1994. An introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar

  • Hobbs, Pamela. 2007. Extraterritoriality and extralegality: The United States Supreme Court and Guantánamo Bay. Text & Talk 27 (2). 171–200.Google Scholar

  • Hobbs, Pamela. 2011. Defining the law (Mis) using the dictionary to decide cases. Discourse Studies 13(3). 327–347.Google Scholar

  • Kaehler, Lorenz. 2013. First-person perspectives in legal decisions. In Michael Freeman and Fiona Smith (eds.), Law and language, 533–556. Oxford, UK: Oxford University.Google Scholar

  • Martin, James Robert. 1992. English text: System and structure. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Martin, James Robert. 2000. Beyond exchange: Appraisal Systems in English. In: Susan Hunston & Geoffrey Thompson (eds.), Evaluation in text: Authorial stance and the construction of discourse, 142–175. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Martin, James Robert & David, Rose. 2003/2007. Working with discourse: Meaning beyond the clause. London & New York: Continuum.Google Scholar

  • Martin, James Robert. 2005. Sense and sensibility: Texturing evaluation. In Joseph A. Foley (ed.), Language, education and discourse: Functional approaches, 270–304. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar

  • Miller, Donna Rose. 2002. Multiple judicial opinions as specialized sites of engagement: Conflicting paradigms of valuation and legitimation in Bush v. Gore 2000. http://www.grammatics.com/appraisal/millerD/miller-bush-gore.pdf (accessed 12 November 2015).

  • Thompson, Geoff & Huston, Susan. (2005). Evaluation in context. Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, vol. 4, 305–312.Google Scholar

  • Tracy, Karen. 2012. Dogmatic dialogue: Essential qualities of judicial opinion -writing. In Alain Letourneau & Francois Cooren. (eds.), (Re) Presentations and dialogue, 37–58. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • White, Peter R. R. 2006. Evaluative semantics and ideological positioning in journalistic discourse. In Inger Lassen, Jeanne Strunck & Torben Vestergaard. (eds.), Mediating ideology in text and image: Ten critical studies, 37–67. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

About the article

Ruina Chen

Ruina Chen is Associate Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages at Guizhou University, and she is also a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics at Zhejiang University. Her research interests are discourse analysis, forensic linguistics and quantitative linguistics. Her most recent publications are in the Journal of Quantitative Linguistics and Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.

Haitao Liu

Haitao Liu is a Qiushi-distinguished Professor of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at Zhejiang University and Chair Professor of Linguistics at Ningbo Institute of Technology. His research interests include text quantitative analysis, quantitative linguistics and language complex networks. He is the author of over 150 scientific publications about language and linguistics, more than 40 publications indexed within the Web of Science.

Published Online: 2016-06-21

Published in Print: 2016-07-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 36, Issue 4, Pages 391–415, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2016-0018.

Export Citation

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in