The Open UniversitySkip to content

The Voices of History: theorising the interpersonal semantics of historical discourses

Coffin, Caroline (2002). The Voices of History: theorising the interpersonal semantics of historical discourses. Text, 22(4) pp. 503–528.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (258kB) | Preview
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


‘The individual consumer, the learner of history, is offered an impressive array of discursive products geared to catch his or her attention, to persuade him or her of the truth of whatever message is transmitted’ (Blanco and
Rosa 1997: 197. In this article I examine these discursive products from the perspective of ‘voice’. I do this as a way of bringing to conscious attention the strategies that historians use in order to persuade and position the ‘consumer’. ‘Voice’ in recent systemic linguistic theorizing refers to distinctive configurations of APPRAISAL choices. Within the domain of history, research to date has identified three main configurations or
voices—‘recorder’, ‘interpreter’, and ‘adjudicator’.
Central to the research reported on in this article is Martin’s APPRAISAL framework (Martin 1997, 2000). APPRAISAL
1 systems are the semantic resources used to negotiate emotions, judgments, and valuations. In this article I will examine how choices from these systems vary in ways that are systematic — different history texts speak with different ‘voices’. These voices, I argue, are a key rhetorical strategy in history discourse. Different combinations of APPRAISAL resources are drawn on to negotiate the heteroglossic positions of their audiences. As such they are a key resource for both the professional and apprentice historian in their assessment of
interpretations of the past.

Item Type: Journal Item
ISSN: 0165-4888
Keywords: discourse of history; functional linguistics; appraisal evaluation; interpersonal meaning; history education
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Research Group: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Item ID: 374
Depositing User: Users 12 not found.
Date Deposited: 12 May 2006
Last Modified: 02 May 2018 12:29
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU