CIDRAL Public Lecture by James Murphy

Posted on March 11, 2021 by

Manchet is delighted to announce that the next CIDRAL Public Lecture will be given by an LEL alumnus, James Murphy. James received a PhD from Manchester in 2014, and he has since worked at UWE Bristol. He is now Acting Director of the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, joint Associate Head of Department for Linguistics & Writing and Programme Leader for English Language programmes. You may also know him as the poster child for our own Phonetics Lab (see featured image). The fact is, no one wears that ultrasound headset better than James.

The lecture will take place next Tuesday, 16th March, at 5pm. The abstract is below.

Historical Apologies: Legitimate Means to Recover from Crises?

In this talk, I want to explore apologies made by governments for historic events. Whilst such events may have taken place long in the past, the traumas that they are frequently tied to remain visceral for many of the intended recipients of such state apologies. Historical apologies may be seen as an attempt to remedy a crisis of citizenship caused by the wrongdoing of the state at some time in the past. Indeed, I have previous argued that:

public statements of contrition can be viewed as a means for the state to (try to) welcome a marginalised group back into civic society; in other words, they are a starting point for a normalisation of relations between the transgressing state/state actors and people who were badly affected by their negative actions (Murphy, 2019: 261).

The purpose of this seminar is two-fold: firstly, to explore the (linguistic) nature of these historical apology statements and secondly, to defend such actions as being a legitimate and necessary ritual act which allow for the possibility of recovery from crises.

I will do this by presenting historical apologies made in the House of Commons and in the Dáil Éireann, drawing comparisons between the rhetorical styles found in the discourses of British Prime Ministers and Irish Taoisigh and exploring. I will highlight the commonalities found in the ritual of apology in both nations and seek to motivate these ritual elements from both a linguistic, legal and societal perspective. In addition, the lexicon of apology will be explored and compared to what we find in quotidian apologies. We shall spend some time looking at reactions to historical apologies and what they can tell us about their social value.


Murphy, James. 2019. The discursive construction of blame: The language of public inquiries. London: Palgrave.

Posted in: alumni, pragmatics