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A field test of equivocation theory: Apologies by Canadian churches to indigenous people
Unformatted Document Text:  15 students of the Indian Residential Schools  in which The United Church of Canada was involved, < I offer you our most sincere apology. < You did nothing wrong. < You were and are the victims of evil acts  that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused. < We pray < that you will hear the sincerity of our words today < and that you will witness the living out of this apology in our actions in the future. Because the texts varied considerably in length, from 7 clauses (Oblate 1991) to several pages (Presbyterian 1994), the shorter and longer texts were treated somewhat differently. The short apologies (United 1986, Oblate 1991, Catholic 1991) were analyzed in full. In the long apologies (Anglican 1993, Presbyterian 1994, United 1998), the focus was on the excerpts describing the offences; these were highlighted and analyzed along with their immediate or connecting context. For each clause, there were either two or four grammatical decisions. (i) Identify the grammatical subject of the clause. (Note that this is not necessarily the agent of the action, for the reasons given above.) (ii) Identify the verb form in the clause (e.g., active + infinitive). If the clause was about something other than an offense, the analysis was then complete. If the clause included reference to an offense, the analysis shifted to the description of the offense, specifically (iii) the agent of the offense and (iv) the form used to describe the action constituting the offense (e.g., active voice, noun, etc.). When the main verb was in active voice and described the offense with the

Authors: Bavelas, Janet.
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background image
15
students of the Indian Residential Schools

in which The United Church of Canada was involved,
<
I offer you our most sincere apology.
<
You did nothing wrong.
<
You were and are the victims of evil acts

that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused.
<
We pray
<
that you will hear the sincerity of our words today
<
and that you will witness the living out of this apology in our actions in the future.
Because the texts varied considerably in length, from 7 clauses (Oblate 1991) to
several pages (Presbyterian 1994), the shorter and longer texts were treated somewhat
differently. The short apologies (United 1986, Oblate 1991, Catholic 1991) were
analyzed in full. In the long apologies (Anglican 1993, Presbyterian 1994, United 1998),
the focus was on the excerpts describing the offences; these were highlighted and
analyzed along with their immediate or connecting context.
For each clause, there were either two or four grammatical decisions. (i) Identify
the grammatical subject of the clause. (Note that this is not necessarily the agent of
the action, for the reasons given above.) (ii) Identify the verb form in the clause (e.g.,
active + infinitive). If the clause was about something other than an offense, the
analysis was then complete. If the clause included reference to an offense, the analysis
shifted to the description of the offense, specifically (iii) the agent of the offense and (iv)
the form used to describe the action constituting the offense (e.g., active voice, noun,
etc.). When the main verb was in active voice and described the offense with the


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