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A field test of equivocation theory: Apologies by Canadian churches to indigenous people
Unformatted Document Text:  12 None of these descriptions tell us who was responsible for the abuse. Avoiding actions We can now turn to an examination of the verb or other form that described the actions constituting the offense. Again, the options seem to fall on a continuum of increasing avoidance. The most straightforward acknowledgement of the actions for which one is apologizing would be in simple active voice: [we] have thus misrepresented Jesus Christ. (Presbyterian 1994) A slight avoidance may occur in the use of active voice with an infinitive: ... and in doing so we helped to destroy the vision that made you what you were. (United 1986) There is some avoidance in this example because the offense (“to destroy”) appears in the infinitive, while the mitigating aspect (“helped”) is the main verb in active voice. Passive voice does describe an action, but even when the agent is present, there is a subtle shift of focus to the receiving of the action rather than the doing of it: the way the native peoples of Canada have been treated by civil governments and the churches. (Oblate 1991) All other forms omit any actions at all and recast them in various ways. Linking verbs simply create an equation, usually one followed by an adjective or adjectival phrase, which is a property, not an action: ... disciplinary practices that were foreign to Aboriginal peoples. (Presbyterian 1994) Finally, as this example also illustrates, nouns (or noun forms, such as gerunds) are the most indirect way of describing an offense because they remove it entirely from

Authors: Bavelas, Janet.
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12
None of these descriptions tell us who was responsible for the abuse.
Avoiding actions
We can now turn to an examination of the verb or other form that described the
actions constituting the offense. Again, the options seem to fall on a continuum of
increasing avoidance. The most straightforward acknowledgement of the actions for
which one is apologizing would be in simple active voice:
[we] have thus misrepresented Jesus Christ. (Presbyterian 1994)
A slight avoidance may occur in the use of active voice with an infinitive:
... and in doing so we helped to destroy the vision
that made you what you were. (United 1986)
There is some avoidance in this example because the offense (“to destroy”) appears in
the infinitive, while the mitigating aspect (“helped”) is the main verb in active voice.
Passive voice does describe an action, but even when the agent is present, there
is a subtle shift of focus to the receiving of the action rather than the doing of it:
the way the native peoples of Canada have been treated by civil governments and the
churches. (Oblate 1991)
All other forms omit any actions at all and recast them in various ways. Linking
verbs simply create an equation, usually one followed by an adjective or adjectival
phrase, which is a property, not an action:
... disciplinary practices that were foreign to Aboriginal peoples.
(Presbyterian 1994)
Finally, as this example also illustrates, nouns (or noun forms, such as gerunds)
are the most indirect way of describing an offense because they remove it entirely from


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