drs. A.R. (Bertie) Kaal, MA

  • Room nr:13a00
  • E-mail:a.r.kaal@vu.nl
  • Unit:fac. der geesteswetenschappen ( taal,lit.&comm. )
  • Position:Phd Student

My background is in academic publishing in the fields of Linguistics, Information Design, Organisation Studies and Consciousness Research. After two decades of attending conferences and conceptualising publishing projects with academics I am now applying this broad knowledge in an interdisciplinary research project on Political Discourse. Many disciplines converge in political communication: rhetoric and argumentation skills go hand in hand with dynamic social and cognitive processes, as well as issues of social identity and the role of the media. We cannot do politics without language. My interest lies in the fact that analysis for deeper levels of meaning-in-context will shed light on volatile mechanisms of political party positioning.

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interest

Critical Discourse Analysis, Cognition, Corpus Linguistics (CCC)


  • 2006 English proficiency, academic writing and presentation skills
  • 2008 BA Thesis supervision
  • 2010 English Writing and Written Language (academic writing)
  • 2010-2011 Academic Skills (writing) and English Writing and Written Language
  • 2011-2012 Academic skills (writing) 



My research project ‘Positions in Political Texts: Integrating Cognitive Linguistics, Critical Discourse- and Corpus Linguistic analysis’ (CCC) is part of the CAMeRA research project From Text To Political Positions:From Sentiments and Opinions in Texts to Positions of Political Parties. Three PhDs: Annemarie van Elfrinkhof (Political Science), Bertie Kaal (Language and Communication), and Isa Maks (Computational Linguistics and Lexical Semantics). Supervised by: Dr. A. Cienki, Dr. A. Krouwel, Prof. Dr. P. Vossen, Prof. Dr. Liesbet Hooghe.

A major problem faced by researchers of political communication is to systematically identify the policy positions of political candidates and parties from the written and spoken texts produced by them and written about them. Existing methods involve either manual text coding, or techniques of computational analysis at the word and sentence level.  The former method is time-consuming and therefore not suitable for large text databases, and it is subject to human errors.  The computational method has the downside that one loses the connection between the words counted in the data and the significance of the context in which they occur, including the social context in which a text is produced and interpreted.

These areas have been developing in the past few decades, addressing different aspects of the problems described above from a Linguistic or Political Science point of view. My project involves:

  • Cognitive aspects of language usage – a collection of theories and methods which strive for explanations of language structure and use that are based on what is known about conceptualization and expressions of human thought and reasoning. 
  • Critical discourse analysis (CDA) – an interpretive means of analysing priorities and power structures in social groups as revealed through language use by them and about them. Thus it combines sociological, rhetorical and linguistic approaches.
  • Corpus linguistics – can measure salience of discourse- and cognitive markers in large collections of machine-readable texts (corpora) in order to reveal characteristic phenomena such as patterns of language use of different groups of people over various text types. 

These approaches have largely been followed independently of each other. The possibility of integrating all three has just begun to be explored, and so far only in projects with limited scope, such as small-scale metaphor analysis. The potential benefits of bringing together their complementary insights are immense.

The approach involves finding worldviews as a ground for political reasoning: from worldview to policies to a better society. I apply and develop a model to identify time and space as a deictic, ideological location from which a political program unfolds. 

My contribution will complement the research of my colleagues, adding insights from discourse and cognition to create semantic models for political party positioning. This should lead to an automated model for the analysis of political texts that will initially be applied to enhance the KiesKompas (Electoral Compass).

Other activities


  • Kaal, Bertie, Isa Maks, Annemarie van Elfrinkhof and André Krouwel (2009). "De politieke strijd om veiligheid: Regulering versus spontaniteit in de partijprogramma's.” In H. Boutellier et al. (Eds), Omstreden Ruimte: Over de organisatie van spontaniteit en veiligheid (TSS Jaarboek 2009). Amsterdam: Van Gennep. pp. 79-95. http://hdl.handle.net/1871/15836


  • Kaal, Bertie (2009). Political Discourse Analysis and Genre, CAMeRA Genre SIG, April 2009.
  • Kaal, Bertie (2009). Combining CDA, Cognition and Copus Linguistics with content analysis and computational linguistics in the project From Text to Political Positions. Lancaster University, FASSWorkshop on Discourse Analysis, May 2009.
  • Kaal, Bertie and Maks, Isa (2009). T2PP en het Immigratie/Integratie vraagstuk. Analyse Kamerdebat over Financiële gevolgen van Immigratie, 10 September 2009. In collaboration with Annemarie van Elfrinkhof.
  • Kaal, Bertie (2009). What’s the Point of Critical Discourse Analysis? CDA beyond Fairclough and Van Dijk. Language, Communication and Cognition (LCC) discussion group, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, December 2009. In collaboration with Danièle Torck and Irene Costera-Meijer.
  • Kaal, Bertie (2010). Party perspectives on the world and its actors: Party identity and legitimation for security policies. Workshop: From Text to Political Positions, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, April 2010.
  • Kaal, Bertie (2010). Spatial metaphor and worldview in political party positions. Workshop Metaphor and Narrative in the dynamics of Discourse (ESRC ‘Living with Uncertainty’), York University, June 2010.
  • Cienki, Alan, Bertie Kaal and Isa Maks (2010). Mapping world view in political texts using Discourse Space Theory: Metaphor as an analytical tool. RaAM 8 (Metaphor conference), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, July 2010.
  • Kaal, Bertie and Alan Cienki (2011). A discourse space model for identifying perspective in Dutch party manifestos. PLM 42, Poznan, May 2011.
  • Kaal, Bertie (2011). From Worldview to Ideology: A discourse space model for determining party perspectives. IPA 6, Cardiff, Panel Framing stories, telling frames. June 2011.
  • Kaal, Bertie and Isa Maks (2011). Stylistics in context: Semantic and discursive aspects of subjectivity in political texts. SAD 2011, Leiden, June 2011.  

Summaries of selected presentations on http://vu-nl.academia.edu/BertieKaal

 Work in Progress

  • Kaal, Bertie, Isa Maks, Annemarie van Elfrinkhof and André Krouwel (2009).  De politieke strijd om veiligheid: Een analyse van veiligheidsvraagstukken in partijprogramma’s [Vying for security: An analysis of security issues in election manifestos]. Unpublished research report: From Text to Political Positions, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
  • Kaal, Bertie (2010). Spatio-temporal reasoning in political party positioning: The issue of Security in Dutch political party manifestos. CADAAD conference, Lodz, September 2010.
  • T2PP team (Eds) (In Preparation). From Text to Political Positions: A Meeting of Qualitative and Quantitative approaches. Papers from the workshop: From Text to Political Positions, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, April 2010.

In 2011 we started the Amsterdam Critical Discourse Community (ACDC) at the VU University and organise monthly discussions. In 2012 I will spend 3 months at Lancaster University as an Erasmus visiting scholar. 





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