Very unparliamentary language ; On multimodality and processes of transcription

For the past two weeks I’ve been spending an untoward amount of time with sixty seconds worth of Paul Gogarty, ex deputy of the now defunct Green Party. Unfortunately for Mr.Gogarty, on a December afternoon post-budget 2010, his ‘unparliamentary’ outburst at another deputy in the Dail survived both his own position in the Dail and the existence of his political party.

The man, the myth, the metadata.

By The Green Party of Ireland Comhaontas Glas (Flickr: Paul Gogarty TD) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Sorry, I realise that image is absolutely huge, but I really think it adds something. Anyway, you might wonder why I’d be re-watching this minute-long clip so many times, and that will be explained after this next section (skip ahead if you have no interest multimodality). I mentioned in my last post that I would be taking a ‘multimodal’ approach in my internship to discourse analysis. But what does that mean?


Well, much of the focus of this project lies in the examination of the differences between spoken and written language, in this case focus of a corpus of transcribed debates in Dail Eireann. Beaman (1984), writes extensively on the subject of subordination, an index of structural complexity in language that is of central importance to these differences. Research in this field has predominantly drawn as it’s conclusion that  much of the difference between spoken and written language lies in register and formality. The oratory style of the speaker, or contextual location of the written language are also key to how language is expressed, and to what end, as the wrong structure conveys the wrong emphasis. In a corpus based on transcription, some reflection must be made with regard to the formation and structure of these discourses.

What is ignored from automatic transcription as offered by the Oireachtas records website, are the aspects of communication that transcend verbal communication. These include, but are not limited to;

  • formality of register
  • oratory style of speaker
  • discursive ramifications of public sphere/private sphere
  • size and scope of audience oration is aimed at
  • gaze direction
  • gesture
  • body language and posture
  • expression

In order to take into account some of these aspects, I have been working with manual transcription of video clips versus automatic transcription services (of both the official record and

So back to why this particular moment to begin with. As one of my mentor’s suggested, this particular moment in parliamentary history might be an interesting stepping point, and it is. Gogarty’s outburst is, of course, infamous in that he uses an expletive towards a member of the opposition, Deputy Emett Stagg. This is unusual due to the constructed nature of parliamentary oration; whilst some responses may seem off the cuff, the majority of what we witness, through modern live-streaming and public television broadcasts, the Dail is largely scripted and prepared. This means that, largely, the discourse that is evident through these speeches adheres to ‘party politics’, or the accepted discourse of an individual’s political affiliations. Emotional outbursts are a sign that the speaker’s personal opinions are prominent in the speech act. In this case, we thought the examination of how the automatic, official transcription program of the Oireachtas might differ to a manual transcription of the video. Predominantly, because we could check for simple errors, corrections to exact speech and examine the aspects of language that cannot be automatically transcribed. In this case, both gesture and gaze direction are important for emphasis and understanding, yet both are absent from the original transcription. Below is the clip in question, which can be sourced from both the official website, news sites and YouTube dues to it’s popularity.

Below is an example of the differences in transcription. Regular text is the official record, bold is my manual analysis.


Deputy Paul Gogarty: I respected the Deputy’s sincerity and I ask him to respect mine.

Deputy Paul Gogarty: I respected your…[gestures at E.S with left hand] sincerity [clasps hands, sets jaw] I’d ask you respect mine.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: The Deputy does not seem very sincere from what he has been saying.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: [off-camera, moderate-level voice] you don’t seem very sincere from what you’ve been saying.

Acting Chairman:  Deputy Stagg will have his opportunity in a few minutes.

Acting Chairman:  [off-camera,simultaneous with above] Deputy Stagg will have his opportunity in a few minutes.


Deputy Paul Gogarty:  With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, fuck you Deputy Stagg. Fuck you.

Deputy Paul Gogarty:  [gaze levelled at chairman] With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language,[curls lip,changes gaze direction towards E.S] fuck you Deputy Stagg. Fuck you.


Acting Chairman: Hey. Excuse me, Deputy Gogarty, that is most unparliamentary language.

Acting Chairman: [off-camera] Hey! Hey! Hey! E-E-Excuse me, [on camera, shaking head slowly] Deputy Gogarty, that is most unparliamentary language.

Deputy Róisín Shortall:  Excuse me?

Deputy Róisín Shortall:  [There is no audible interruption here]

Deputy Paul Gogarty:  I apologise now for my use of unparliamentary language.

Deputy Paul Gogarty:  [looking at chairman, clasped hands] It is most unparliamentary language. And I – I now withdraw it and apologize for it.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: How dare he.

Deputy Róisín Shortall:  [muffled, off-camera] How dare he.


Deputy Paul Gogarty:  [simultaneous with R.S] but I am outraged that someone dares question my sincerity on this issue.


Acting Chairman:  Could the Deputy please withdraw that?

Acting Chairman: [nothing]


Deputy Paul Gogarty: I do not like what has to be done, but I will take responsibility, take it on the chin, get the unpopularity and lose my seat because it is the only thing we can do to get this country out of the state we are in.

Deputy Paul Gogarty:I don’t like [body jerks forwards in a stamping motion, staring at opposition, jaw set] what has to be done, but I’m gonna take the responsibility and get it on the chin and get the unpopularity and lose my seat because it is the only thing we can do to get this country out of the state we are in.


We had originally wondered, casually, if expletives would be corrected. Evidently, they are not. As we can see, the transcription is still corrected, it is not verbatim. There are aspects that are correction to make grammatical sense, and other moments that I could not detect by ear, but that were automatically transcribed (although it is possible that these are audible from other mics that this video does not pick up). Predominantly, I think we can agree that the main source of interest here is on the emphasis that the body and movement of the speaker add to the discourse of the speech act. Obviously this is just a first test, soon I’ll be moving on to other examples of discourse and cross-examining them (less ‘evocative’ instances, prepared speeches, leaders’ questions etc.)


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