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Theory and praxis of parliamentary record construction. Towards a 'universal grammar' of parliamentary reporting?

Roberto la Rocca (The Netherlands)
comments by Eero Voulitainen (Finland)

report by Jasmin Geijteman

Roberto la Rocca, a reporter at the Dutch Parliament, researched differences and similarities in reporting in parliaments of different countries. Although the practical day-to-day work is essentially the same (i.e. transforming spoken word into written texts that become official documents) there are differences too, due to differences in political culture, speech cultures, methods and procedures used by reporting offices and of course language.

In his search for general universal parliamentary editing practices Roberto compared Dutch and Finish reports. He found four common features of parliamentary reporting: Remove, Repair, Recognize and Render service. Parliamentary reporters generally remove things, for example interjections, meaningless repetitions and self-corrections of members of parliament. They also repair things like grammatical errors and procedural mistakes. In The Netherlands factual errors and incorrect quotations are usually corrected too. Reporters reorganise spoken word too by rearranging sentences and syntax. And finally they render service, describing non-verbal actions and providing context.

The question is: is the verbatim report a perfect picture? Things change, transferring speech into text. These changes are inevitable and inescapable, some to more extent than others. The amount of changes is dependent on the rules applied in the specific reporting office.

Eero Voutilainen, parliamentary reporter at the Finnish Records Office and researcher, comments on Roberto la Rocca’s presentation. He emphasises authenticity in parliamentary reporting. Unlike in The Netherlands, in Finland incorrect quotations and mistakes in factual data are not corrected. In parliamentary reporting authenticity, readability, clarity, dignity, decorum and correct use of language are important factors. But which aspect prevails? A fear is to create two realities by editing the spoken word: the spoken word one and the written text one. This can happen by correcting too much of the spoken word.

The presentation slides and notes for this presentation are available on our Downloads page.

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