The role of evaluation in telling and reading the “real-life stories” of asylum seekers

Rachel Hanna

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In the UK asylum process, asylum seekers are denied the right to tell their story in their own words as the “substantive interview” limits the applicants’ freedom to construct an authentic experiential narrative in their own words. Thus, the institutional report often fails to reflect the applicant’s experiences and feelings (Maryns and Blommaert, 2002). As institutional reports are primary evidence for credibility judgments in the asylum process, the authentic representation of an applicant’s story is often a matter of life and death. This paper argues that the absence of evaluation in institutional reports not only inhibits the speaker from producing experiential narratives, but also constrains a reader’s ability to empathise with the speaker, who may appear to be flouting culturally defined perceptions of cooperativeness and coherence.
The collected data from semi-structured interviews with asylum seekers will be presented as “real-life stories” in reading group discussions. The uniqueness of each text will provide a stimulus for examining the function of evaluation as a resource for identification and empathy, allowing readers access to the cognitive world of the narrator. The stories and readers’ responses to them will be analysed using the appraisal model for evaluation in texts (Martin and White, 2005) and contextualised further by integrating aspects of Text World Theory (Werth, 1999) and Interactional Sociolinguistics (Gumperz, 1999). Preliminary analyses have indicated that a higher proportion of evaluative language in narratives invokes positive evaluation from readers, demonstrating an increased capacity for empathetic responses.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 05 Jan 2017
EventPoetics and Linguistics Association Annual Conference 2016: In/Authentic Styles: Language, Discourse and Contexts - University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
Duration: 26 Jul 201629 Jul 2016


ConferencePoetics and Linguistics Association Annual Conference 2016
Abbreviated titlePALA 2016
Internet address


  • narrative
  • asylum seekers
  • reader response
  • appraisal theory
  • stylistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of evaluation in telling and reading the “real-life stories” of asylum seekers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Palgrave Prize

    Hanna, R. (Recipient), 22 Jul 2017

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Santander Mobility Scholarship

    Hanna, R. (Recipient), 26 Jul 2016

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Cite this