Dialects of Discord. Using word embeddings to analyze preferred vocabularies in a political debate: nuclear weapons in the Netherlands 1970-1990

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


In this paper, we analyse the debate about the placement of nuclear‐enabled cruise missiles in the Netherlands during the 1970s and 1980s. The NATO “double‐track decision” of 1979 envisioned the placement of these weapons in the Netherlands, to which the Dutch government eventually agreed in 1985. In the early 1980s, the controversy regarding placement or non‐placement of these missiles led to the greatest popular protests in Dutch history and to a long and often bitter political controversy. After 1985, due to declining tensions between the Soviet Block and NATO, the cruise missiles were never stationed in the Netherlands. Much older nuclear warheads, in the country since the early 1960s, remain there until today.

We are using Word Embedding Models (WEMs) and an innovative approach to make them suitable for diachronic research (over time) to analyse this acrimonious debate in the proceedings of the Dutch lower and upper house of Parliament. The official political positions either for or against deployment, as expressed in party manifestos and voting behavior inside parliament, were stable throughout this period. We demonstrate that in spite of this apparent stability, the vocabularies used by representatives of different political parties changed significantly through time.
Periode07 mrt. 2018