Developing Cultural and Metalinguistic Competences by Extracting Implicit Contents from Political Tweets: a Comparative Italian and Polish Project


  • Dr. Nicola Brocca (Heidelberg School of Education, PostDoc bis 12/2018)


  • Ewa Kuçelman (Pedagogical University of Kraków)
  • Viviana Masia (University Roma Tre)


Today, social media have come to wield a far-reaching influence on the way people get informed about world facts. For this reason, schools need to train students to discover the “traps” of online fast communications (in German Context KMK §.6.2.5). Political communication is an interesting example where one can sensitize students to decipher unsaid contents which traditionally political texts are often likely to exploit in order to persuade and construct ideological consensus. To this end, a solid linguistic background can help building an accurate analysis that can be used to better distinguish more reliable from less reliable information.


Our project aims to improve:

  1. Mediatic competences: Critically reading a “political message” and unravel all the implicit contents associated with its linguistic structure; it is important to boast sensitivity towards hidden communicative intentions, whose comprehension is fundamental to ensure democratic choices and social stability thus strengthening one’s citizenship.
  2. Linguistic Competence: (i) morpho-syntactic signals hinting at implicitly conveyed meanings (i.e. presuppositions or implicatures) in a message, (ii) how they differ in typologically different languages.

Considering the political maturity and the language level required, the research will apply to a university students’ population.


In a linguistic workshop, students will be taught the lexico-grammatical structures available to the implicit encoding of meanings in sentences (i.e. use of definite/indefinite articles, word order, syntactic subordination, etc.). Although Impliciness can be considered a phenomenon shared by many languages (so it is at least in the case of Polish and Italian) its structural manifestation in languages differs.
In a second step students will practice with their metalinguistic knowledge in a task detecting the twitter message containing implicit meanings and extract implicit contents as in the following example:

I)           Tony Blair, 23.03.2015: You have to give a real solution; not one which is populist but false
(IMPL = the ruling party is offering solutions that are populist but false)
In a third step, students’ behavior in response to tweets containing implicitly conveyed information will be evaluated. This assessment will be carried out drawing on the methodology discussed in Drai & de Saussure (2016) to test the retention rate of implied contents. Similarly to their experiment, we will present students with ecological and carefully selected tweets and will ask them whether certain content encoded as presupposition or as implicature was actually provided by the tweet.  
Moreover we will compare the behavior of the two groups (It. and Pol. students) verifying whether the retention of implied content differ between the languages considered due to language specific structural manifestations.
Reflexion and didactical output
To conclude, we would like to stress the importance of our study for brighter educational aims. The developing of reading-comprehension competences from a school age are considered by many national and international Assessment (as for instance PISA) as basic competences in the age of digital information. Thanks to the proposed meta-reflection on implicitness, we expect positive results as for Reading-Comprehension Skills in the considered groups. Thus, our didactical approach can be extended to other students’ groups and eventually adapted in (upper) secondary education level.


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