ABOUT Verbal Violence as Space of Social Identity Affirmation

Verbal violence is a widespread notion in everyday communication, media and the social sciences approaches such as linguistics, psychology, pedagogy, sociolinguistics, law, or cultural anthropology. This can be explained by the complexity of the phenomenon, which is not limited to linguistic productions (speech acts) with a destabilizing, aggressive effect, but it also has an important social and psychological significance, as proven by its possible legal effects and undeniable psychological consequences. Given this social and psychological dimension of the verbal violence, the understanding of the phenomenon in terms of the mechanisms of its production and functioning makes possible the perspective of preventing and/or resolving verbal conflicts, and has direct consequences on the 10 construction/deconstruction and re-construction of a social individual or group identity. This is why our project intends to be an approach of violence as a space for confrontation and affirmation of a social identity via an analysis of certain representations of aggression and violence in everyday language in school environment and media (Internet), but also in literary discourse, based on a bilingual Romanian-French corpus. The perspectives from which we address the verbal violence (pragmatics of the verbal interaction, speech acts theory, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics) are adapted to the specificities of the interaction in the three specified contexts: the school environment, virtual space and literature. The study of verbal violence manifestations that we will undertake is based on the analysis of a bilingual corpus (Romanian-French) pieced together as follows: a) the audio recording of certain verbal interactions with violent potential in schools and the transcription of these corpora by taking into account the prosody; b) the selection of an online written corpus of verbal violence from YouTube and Facebook accounts, blogs, forums; c) the selection of a written literary corpus (drama and novel). (2) The assembling of a corpus specific for the discursive manifestations of verbal violence in Romanian and French represents one of the first objectives of our project and at the same time a first element of difficulty of the problems. Among these difficulties we underline the access to the sources (getting the permission to record certain persons in educational institutions), a possible falsification of the results of the research due to the influence of the researcher on the verbal behavior and not only of the informants, the difficulties related to the transcription of an oral corpus. (3) If in France, part of such a corpus (school corpus) has already been compiled by a research team (Groupe de recherche sur la violence verbale), in Romania, our initiative is a first. The corpus of insults uttered by Romanian adolescents, assembled on the basis of a psychosociological questionnaire submitted in schools by the director of the project in collaboration with a psychologist (Mateiu & Florea, 2010), is a good starting point for a semantic and lexical analysis and therefore, cultural and ideological, but is unsatisfactory for an analysis of violent verbal interactions. In the Romanian language area, the contributions on this particular topic are rather circumscribed, focusing either on the political and literary discourse (see L.-S. Florea, 2006; R. Zafiu, 2007; I. Milică, 2011; A. Momoc, 2011, A. Rădulescu, 2013) or on the cultural and ideological aspects (see R. Cesereanu, Imaginarul violent al românilor). In one paper from 2006, R. Zafiu suggests a more general approach (a typology of verbal aggression acts), but she does not comment on their specificities in the Romanian language. 11 In the French-speaking area, the questioning of the verbal violence goes back to the 70s, due to its complexity and the need of a multidisciplinary approach. In the 90s, the violence, as the result of a social construct, becomes the object of scientific study and thus a discourse object. The notion of verbal violence develops then beyond specific language facts, such as the obscenities (gros mots). Thereby, the notion of discursive verbal violence appears. In the 2000s, the French Groupe de recherche sur la violence verbale begins the study of the phenomenon in the private and public sphere, inside and outside an institutional environment, in verbal asymmetric and symmetric interactions, from interactional, pragmatic, enunciative, sociocultural and sociolinguistic perspectives. In 2003, the research group on verbal violence coordinated by Claudine Moïse organizes the first international multidisciplinary conference on the following subject: De l’impolitesse à la violence verbale, the proceedings being published in 2008 in 2 volumes: La Violence verbale, Claudine Moïse (ed.) et al. In 2006, Dominique Lagorgette organizes the conference Les insultes en français: de la recherche fondamentale à ses applications (linguistique, littérature, histoire, droit), the proceedings being published in 2009. In 2007, another conference is organized Outrages, insultes, blasphèmes et injures: violences du langage et polices du discours, the proceedings being published in 2008 by the L’Harmattan publishing house. In 2009, D. Lagorgette and the team of Pragmasemantics of insults from the University of Chambéry organize the conference Les insultes 3: bilan et perspectives. To the contributions of these conferences we can add the works of Évelyne Larguèche on insults and gossip (1983, 1993, 2009), Laurence Rosier and Philippe Ernotte on insults (2000, 2006 and 2009), and those of Olga Galatanu and A. Bellachhab (2012), O. Galatanu, A.M. Cozma and A. Bellachhab (2012) on the semantics of “threatening” acts, and a series of papers on insults, swear words, curses in different contexts. The approaches of verbal violence phenomenon in these communications/ papers vary from semantic and pragmatic approaches (illocutionary, interactional) to multidisciplinary approaches (sociolinguistic, socio-cultural, psychoanalytical, legal, historical and literary). The limitations of these approaches with respect to the problems of our project consist of ignoring certain discourse manifestations from online communication such as trolling, flaming, cyberbulling and the study of verbal violence on social networks (Facebook, YouTube). The Anglo-Saxon literature on violence includes several contributions on these discourse practices, but does not offer an operational framework of analysis. This is why another element of difficulty of the problems consists of the operationalization of certain notions that designate violent discourse practices on the Internet (trolling, flaming, cyberbulling) starting from some existing definitions and the examples identified/described as such on certain blogs in order to build up the corpus. Regarding a comparative approach of the discursive forms of the verbal violence in the two languages and cultures, this has already made the object of analyses undertaken by the project 12 leader in the last years (Mateiu & Florea, 2011, 2012, 2014) and may be developed in the exploitation of a contextualized corpus of interactions.

The establishment of an illustrative corpus would open up the perspective for new research, both linguistic stricto sensu, by applying different point of views (lexical, grammatical, stylistic, pragmatic) on the same discursive manifestations, as well as interdisciplinary (sociolinguistic, psychological or cultural) approaches of this phenomenon. 

The study of certain forms of communication in online medium, as is the case, for instance, of comments and video clips, divided between attack and support, posted on some public personalities’ Facebook pages during the presidential elections in Romania are of interest for the analysis of the internet’s impact on the Romanian social and political life, but also for the study of certain civic and social contemporary movements. 

The topic proposed by our team has a pioneering character in the context of the Romanian research environment. Given the fact that in France there are already two research groups that focus on verbal violence: Groupe de recherche sur la violence verbale, coordinated by Claudine Moïse (www.violenceverbale.fr) and the team Pragmasémantique de l’insulte (coordinated by Dominique Lagorgette), we intend to establish and maintain a permanent contact with at least one of them, in order to create a profitable exchange, a prolific communication and the possibility of a joint initiative in the future.