Frequency of active and passive verbs in history narratives
University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary
Agency – the ability to act effectively (Hamilton, 2007) – is a major component in social perception and identity studies. It makes a difference whether we see other people as actively shaping their life as opposed to being passive recipients of events. Similarly, our own capacity of agency or our group’s capacity to cope actively with challenges reflect important aspects of individual and group (national) identity. Activity appears in narrative texts mainly through the use of active and passive verbs. Implicit semantics of verbs has been studied previously in several psychological paradigms (LCM, Semin and Fiedler, 1989, 1991; LIB, Maas et al.). We have developed a verb dictionary with two major categories: active versus passive. We inserted this dictionary into the NooJ language technological device (Silberztein, 2008), that has the capacity to build local grammars for identifying language patterns in context. Our program is therefore not a mere dictionary, but performs morphological and grammatical analyses as well. Using this program we tested the ingroup–outgroup asymmetry phenomena in Hungarian history textbooks and narratives of Hungarian people. Results show that there appears much more agency for the ingroup in positive stories than in negative ones, while for the outgoup the situation is reversed.