‘My Husband Always Crosses the Line’: Textual Identity and Presentation of ‘the Self’ in Family Conflict Communication

Document Type : Research Article


1 College English Department, College of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Xiamen University, China; School of the Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, University of New South Wales, Australia

2 School of the Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts, Design, & Architecture, University of New South Wales, Australia



This paper is a contribution to appraisal-based scholarship concerned with the discursive performance of what is variously termed ‘identity’ or ‘persona’—specifically the scholarship which proposes that key aspects of textual identity/persona can be related to tendencies in speakers’i deployment of the resources for conveying evaluative meanings. Our contribution is via an analysis of similarities and differences in the use of meanings which convey attitudinal assessment by couples participating in a Chinese ‘reality TV’ family dispute resolution program; we formulate identity/persona as involving ways of presenting ‘the self,’ specifically those aspects of ‘the self’ associated with what attitudinal meanings the speaker advances and with how those meanings are advanced. We demonstrate a methodology which classifies expressions of positive/negative assessment by reference to the subtype of attitude, its valency (positive or negative), whether the assessment is explicitly or implicitly conveyed, and the type of the assessment target (who or what is being evaluated). Via this methodology, we show how these ways of self-presentation can be characterised, compared, and grouped into subtypes (i.e., ways of self-presentation which, broadly speaking, are repeated across speakers). We report findings that, in their self-presentations, the participants in this programme were broadly similar in their deployment of some options for conveying positive or negative assessment (e.g., in a preference for implicitly rather than explicitly conveying their attitude), but that there were also significant individual differences (e.g., in terms of readiness to report their own experiencing of negative emotions). Also, we offer an exploration of how computational tools for multivariate cluster analysis might be deployed to develop more abstract characterisations and comparisons of ways of self-presentation—characterisations which reference tendencies across multiple options for attitudinal assessment.