Speaker Involvement in Political Interviews

by Jana Kozubíková Šandová (Author)
©2015 Monographs XII, 244 Pages


This book offers a pragma-semantic analysis of linguistic means expressing speaker involvement in the genre of political interview. The research is based on an analysis of 40 interviews with British and American politicians. The aim of this work is to confirm or reject the claim that the genre of political interview is detached and impersonal as is typical of any other type of formal interaction. The study also investigates whether female politicians are more indeterminate in their expression than male politicians, and whether the expression of males is matter-of-fact and more precise. The book provides new insights into the genre of political interview and contributes to the study of speaker involvement and means of its expression.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Delimitation of Involvement as a Linguistic Category
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Involvement in Interactional Sociolinguistics
  • 2.3 Involvement in Discourse Analysis
  • 2.3.1 Basic Hypotheses of Discourse Analysis
  • 2.4 Tannen’s “Relative Focus on Involvement”
  • 2.4.1 Contextualization Hypothesis
  • 2.4.2 Cohesion Hypothesis
  • 2.5 High Involvement vs. Low Involvement
  • 2.6 Relationships and Differences between Spoken and Written Discourse
  • 2.7 Chafe’s Approach to the Notion of Involvement
  • 2.8 Involvement in the Prague School
  • 2.9 Linguistic Strategies of Involvement
  • 2.10 Conceptual Problems Associated with Involvement
  • 2.11 Speaker Involvement in this Study
  • 3 Political Interview as a Discourse Genre
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Pragmatic Approach to the Language of Politics
  • 3.3 Defining “Genre” and “Political Discourse”
  • 3.4 Political Interview and Its Features
  • 3.5 Conversationalization of Media Discourse
  • 3.6 Conclusion
  • 4 Illocutionary Force and Speech Act Theory
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Illocutionary Force
  • Ad a) illocutionary point
  • Ad b) degree of strength of the illocutionary point
  • Ad c) mode of achievement
  • Ad d) propositional content conditions
  • Ad e) preparatory conditions
  • Ad f) sincerity conditions
  • Ad g) degree of strength of the sincerity conditions
  • 4.3 Speech Act Theory
  • 4.4 Conclusion
  • 5 Corpus Description
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 Extent of the Corpus
  • 5.3 Sources of the Data for the Analysis
  • 5.4 Politicians Appearing in the Corpus and their Positions
  • 5.5 Topics Discussed, Setting and Function of the Interviews
  • 5.6 Subject of the Analysis
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 6 Boosting and Hedging
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Boosting
  • 6.3 Hedging
  • 6.4 Conclusion
  • 7 Intensification of the Illocutionary Force
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Classifications of Boosters
  • 7.2.1 Quirk et al.’s Classification of Boosters
  • 7.2.2 Classification of Boosters by their Relationship to Discourse Meaning
  • Hearer-oriented Boosters
  • Speaker-oriented Boosters
  • Ad a) assurances
  • Ad b) agreement/understanding-showing boosters
  • Ad c) attitudinal boosters
  • Ad ci) attitudinal boosters expressing the degree of certain quality
  • Ad cii) attitudinal boosters expressing beliefs
  • Discourse-organizing Boosters
  • 7.3 Frequency of Boosters in the Corpus of Political Interviews
  • 7.3.1 Frequency of Boosters Classified by their Contribution to Discourse Meaning
  • 7.3.2 Occurrence of the Most Frequent Boosters
  • Approaches to “Discourse Markers”
  • 7.4 Pragmatic Functions of Boosters
  • 7.4.1 Content-oriented Emphasis
  • 7.4.2 Subjectivity
  • 7.4.3 The Degree of a Certain Quality
  • 7.4.4 Assurance
  • 7.4.5 Intensification by Repetition
  • 7.4.6 Hearer-oriented Emphasis
  • 7.4.7 Agreement
  • 7.5 Conclusion
  • 8 Attenuation of the Illocutionary Force
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Classifications of Hedges
  • 8.2.1 Quirk et al.’s Classification of Hedges
  • 8.2.2 Brown and Levinson’s Classification of Hedges
  • Ad a) hedges on illocutionary force
  • Ad b) hedges addressed to Grice’s Maxims
  • Ad bi) quality hedges
  • Ad bii) quantity hedges
  • Ad biii) relevance hedges
  • Ad biv) manner hedges
  • Ad c) hedges addressed to politeness strategies
  • Ad d) prosodic and kinesic hedges
  • 8.2.3 Classification of Hedges by their Relationship to Discourse Meaning
  • Speaker-oriented Hedges
  • Hearer-oriented Hedges
  • Content-oriented Hedges
  • 8.3 Frequency of Hedges in the Corpus
  • 8.3.1 Frequency of Hedges Classified by their Contribution to Discourse Meaning
  • 8.3.2 Occurrence of the Most Frequent Hedges
  • 8.4 Pragmatic Functions of Hedges
  • 8.4.1 Attenuation of the Forthcoming Message
  • 8.4.2 Assumption
  • 8.4.3 Hearer-oriented Uncertainty
  • 8.4.4 Unspecified Reference
  • 8.4.5 Hesitation
  • 8.4.6 Content-oriented Uncertainty
  • 8.4.7 Negative Politeness
  • 8.4.8 Detachment
  • 8.4.9 Evasiveness
  • 8.5 Conclusion
  • 9 Modality
  • 9.1 Introduction
  • 9.2 Mood and Modality
  • 9.3 Evidentiality
  • belief
  • induction
  • hearsay evidence
  • deduction
  • 9.4 Subjectivity vs. Objectivity
  • 9.5 Types of Modality
  • 9.5.1 Epistemic Modality
  • 9.5.2 Deontic Modality
  • 9.5.3 Dynamic Modality
  • 9.6 Other Classifications of Modality
  • 9.7 Classification of Modality in this Study
  • 9.8 Expressions of Modality
  • 9.9 Frequency of Occurrence of Modal Expressions and Types of Modality
  • 9.9.1 Epistemic Possibility
  • 9.9.2 Deontic Necessity
  • 9.9.3 Epistemic Attitudinal Modality
  • 9.9.4 Circumstantial Possibility
  • 9.9.5 Epistemic Necessity
  • 9.9.6 Deontic Possibility
  • 9.10 Gender-Specificity and Modality
  • 9.11 Modal Combinations
  • 9.11.1 Modally Harmonic and Modally Non-harmonic Combinations
  • 9.11.2 Modal Combinations in the Corpus
  • modal verb + modal adverb
  • pragmatic particle + modal adverb
  • modal adverb + modal adverb
  • modal verb + periphrastic verb
  • 9.12 Conclusion
  • 10 Conclusions
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • References
  • Material Analysed
  • List of Boosters
  • List of Hedges

| IX →

1 Introduction

This study presents a pragma-semantic analysis of linguistic means expressing speaker involvement in the genre of political interview. It is often claimed that formal interaction represents a low-involved style, while informal conversation typically displays a higher degree of involvement (cf. Tannen 1985; Chafe 1982, 1984; Elias 1987; Besnier 1994; Katriel and Dascal 1989, Gumperz 1992, among others). Political interview belongs to a genre of public discourse which should be characterised by a low degree of involvement. Additionally, it is generally thought that the language of female speakers is more indeterminate and vague, that females speak more than male speakers and do not speak to the point. And, by contrast, it is usually maintained that males express themselves more directly and matter-of-factly.

Based on the literature dealing with involvement (Tannen 1984, 1985; Chafe 1982, 1984; Gumperz 1992) and with language and gender (Holmes 1995; Coates 1993; Lakoff 2003), the following hypotheses can be formulated:

hypothesis I

The genre of political interview is detached and impersonal and it shows features of a low-involved style as is typical of any other type of formal interaction.

hypothesis II

Female politicians are more indeterminate and vague in their expression and they do not speak to the point. The expression of male politicians is matter-of-fact and they express themselves more precisely than female politicians.

The aim of the present work is to confirm or reject these hypotheses.

The research is based on an analysis of a corpus of 40 interviews with British and American politicians. The illocutionary force of utterances in the genre of political interview is modified by linguistic means expressing involvement. Means that accentuate this force are commonly called boosting devices, and linguistic means of attenuation of illocutionary force are commonly called hedging devices. Apart from boosters and hedges, modal expressions may also modify the illocutionary force of speech acts. All these means are quantitatively and qualitatively analysed in this study. Since the majority of linguistic means of speaker involvement are context-sensitive, the methods of analysis of these means are pragmatic and semantic.

This study consists of ten chapters. After the introduction, Chapter 2: The Delimitation of Involvement as a Linguistic Category provides the theoretical ← IX | X → background for the investigation of speaker involvement in political interviews. It describes the approach to involvement within the framework of interactional sociolinguistics and discourse analysis. Involvement has also been studied by scholars of the Prague School, which is also included in this chapter.

Chapter 3: Political Interview as a Discourse Genre explains why this work understands political interview as a genre and gives its basic characteristics. The research of authentic data has shown that there is a growing tendency towards conversationalization of political interview, which is also dealt with in this chapter.

Chapter 4: Illocutionary Force and Speech Act Theory offers a brief introduction to the concept of illocutionary force and its components and an explanation of the speech act theory, which was proposed by Austin (1962) and further developed by Searle (1969). Since this chapter focuses on the modification of the illocutionary force of speech acts, the explication of these concepts is appropriate.

Chapter 5: Corpus Description provides details about the extent of the corpus, the subject of the analysis, sources of the data for the analysis, as well as information about the speakers and topics discussed.

Chapter 6: Boosting and Hedging may be regarded as an introduction to the research presented in this study. It acquaints the reader with the basic distinction between boosting and hedging and explains why it is important to take into account the context in which the given utterance occurred.

Chapter 7: Intensification of the Illocutionary Force provides classifications of boosters, quantitative and qualitative analyses of boosting devices. It also identifies pragmatic functions of boosters that appear in the corpus.

Chapter 8: Attenuation of the Illocutionary Force is very similar in structure to Chapter 7. It introduces several classifications of hedges, namely Quirk’s classification, Brown and Levinson’s classification, and also classification of hedges by their relationship to discourse meaning. It looks into the frequency of occurrence of hedges in the corpus and, as with boosters in Chapter 7, pragmatic functions of hedges are discussed.

Chapter 9: Modality discusses another means of modification of the illocutionary force of speech acts in the corpus that also shows the speaker involvement. This study offers a wider insight into the concept of speaker involvement. Therefore, it also analyses modal means that contribute to a higher degree of involvement. It will be shown that pragmatic functions of boosting and hedging devices are interrelated with modal expressions very closely. In the introductory sections of Chapter 9, the difference between mood and modality, and between evidentiality and modality is explained. Further, particular types of modality are described. This chapter also comprises quantitative and qualitative analyses ← X | XI → are not missing even in this chapter. An interesting issue that is discussed in connection with modality is gender-specificity. It is shown that an interpretation of quantitative results should take into account not only the types of modality but also the separate means that express particular types of modality. Concluding sections of this chapter are devoted to modal combinations occurring in the corpus.

Finally, Chapter 10: Conclusions summarizes the outcomes of the research present in this work into the means of expressing speaker involvement in the corpus of political interviews, and compares them with the proposed hypotheses.

| 1 →

2 The Delimitation of Involvement as a Linguistic Category

2.1 Introduction

This chapter provides the theoretical background for the present analysis of involvement in political interviews. Involvement in two areas of linguistics, namely, in interactional sociolinguistics and in discourse analysis, will be described in Sections 2.2 and 2.3. Influential studies of involvement have been presented by Tannen (1985) and by Chafe (1982, 1984). These analyses are dealt with in greater detail in Sections 2.4 and 2.7. The concept of involvement has also been discussed in the Prague School, which is referred to in Section 2.8. Linguistic strategies of involvement in general and conceptual problems associated with this phenomenon are presented in Subchapters 2.9 and 2.10.

The concept of involvement is very broad in scope and although it has been described in the relevant literature, there have been few attempts to give its precise definition and delimitation (cf. Tannen 1985; Besnier 1994; Chafe 1982). Besnier (1994:279) points out that it was originally mentioned as a category in interactional sociolinguistics and in discourse analysis. The following chapters will explain the approach of these linguistic disciplines to this phenomenon.

2.2 Involvement in Interactional Sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics is a branch of linguistics which studies all features of the relationship between language and society. As Crystal points out, this term overlaps to some extent with ethnolinguistics and anthropological linguistics because it covers partly the interests of the disciplines such as sociology, ethnology and anthropology. When the stress is laid on the language of face-to-face communication, “the approach is known as interactional sociolinguistics” (Crystal 2003a:422, my emphasis). It studies the conventions and strategies of everyday interaction, and “is characterized by detailed transcriptions of taped interactions, with particular reference to [...] prosody, facial expression, silence and rhythmical patterns of behaviour between the participants” (2003a:238).

Involvement in interactional sociolinguistics focuses on “conversationalists’ willingness and ability to initiate and sustain verbal interaction. Involvement is seen as a prerequisite to the success of any conversational encounter, and is rendered possible by the presence of a shared body of linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge among conversationalists” (Besnier 1994:279). ← 1 | 2 →

The main representative of interactional sociolinguistics is the linguistic anthropologist John Gumperz (1982, 1992, 2001), who merged the findings of linguistics, anthropology, pragmatics, and conversation analysis. He describes interactional sociolinguistics as “an approach to discourse that has its origin in the search for replicable methods of qualitative analysis that account for our ability to interpret what participants intend to convey in everyday communicative practice” (Gumperz 2001:215).

His work on discourse strategies claims that “once involved in a conversation, both speaker and hearer must actively respond to what transpires by signalling involvement, either directly through words or indirectly through gestures or similar nonverbal signals. The response, moreover, should relate to what we think the speaker intends, rather than to the literal meanings of the words used.” (Gumperz 1982:1).

Furthermore, Gumperz states that “understanding presupposes conversational involvement” (1982:2). If conversational involvement is to be preserved, linguistic and sociocultural knowledge among interlocutors must be shared. This kind of knowledge is internal to interaction, it constitutes an integral part of interaction itself. Additionally, Gumperz shows that involvement in a conversational exchange is not only a matter of passive understanding. Participants in a conversation should be able not only to decode the meaning of an utterance but also to anticipate its development (1982:2–3). He also points out that “almost all conversational data derive from verbal interaction in socially and linguistically homogenous groups. There is a tendency to take for granted that conversational involvement exists, that interlocutors are cooperating, and that interpretive conventions are shared” (1982:4). However, Gumperz emphasizes the importance of employing cross-cultural communication as the basis of research into interactional practices because it tends to be neglected although it may reveal surprising facts.

When communicating, interlocutors accompany their utterances by verbal and non-verbal signals to connect what is said with “knowledge acquired through past experience, in order to retrieve the presuppositions they must rely on to maintain conversational involvement and assess what is intended” (Gumperz 1992:230). Gumperz labels this as “contextualization”. Contextualization relies on “contextualization cues” that include prosody, paralinguistic signs, choice of lexical forms, and code choice.

Contextualization cues are employed and perceived by speakers habitually and automatically rather than consciously and serve to foreground certain lexical forms or phonological strings. They are not talked about directly, and for that reason they must be examined in context rather than on a theoretical level (Gumperz 1982:131). ← 2 | 3 →

In this connection, Tannen (1984:xvi) states that whereas speakers aim at conveying the meaning and attaining their interactional goals during a conversational exchange, they are judged by their conversational partners on the basis of the use of contextualization cues. “When expectations regarding the use of contextualization cues are relatively similar, utterances are likely to be interpreted more or less as intended. But when such expectations are relatively different, speakers’ intentions and abilities are likely to be misevaluated” (Tannen 1984:xvi–xvii).

Interactional sociolinguistics deals not only with the way how meaning is conveyed and negotiated, and with methods of achieving interactional goals in communication. It also focuses on “the inherent linguistic and cultural diversity of today’s communicative environments” (Gumperz 2001:218).

Additionally, Gumperz claims that interactional sociolinguistics attempts to find the way how to link two differing theoretical approaches: one sees the nature of diversity in the “macrosocietal conditions, political and economic forces, and relationships of power in which they were acquired” (Gumperz 2001:218), the other is a constructivist approach asserting that since our social worlds are formed in interaction, first of all it is necessary to inquire into the way how interactive processes work, and then we can deal with diversity. Owing to the fact that these two approaches differ in what to consider as relevant data and in the methods of analysis, the results of their research are incomparable. Thus, interactional sociolinguistics tries to join these approaches by concentrating on “communicative practice as the everyday-world site where societal and interactive forces merge” (Gumperz 2001:218).

Goffman was another researcher who made a contribution to the development of involvement within the framework of interactional sociolinguistics. Since he is a sociolinguist, his primary attention is devoted to social interaction and interactive processes rather than to language as such. His concept of involvement is, therefore, based on the social organization of this phenomenon. As he puts it: “To be engaged in an occasioned activity means to sustain some kind of cognitive and affective engrossment in it, some mobilization of one’s psychological resources, in short, it means to be involved in it” (1963:36).


XII, 244
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (January)
Modalität illokutionäre Kraft Geschlechterunterschiede Ausdrucksweise
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. XII, 244 pp., 45 tables, 8 graphs

Biographical notes

Jana Kozubíková Šandová (Author)

Jana Kozubíková Šandová is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Bohemia in České Budĕjovice (Czech Republic). Her research interests include topics on the interface between pragmatics and semantics, e.g. pragmatic functions of linguistic means in political interviews, intersubjective positioning in political and scientific discourse. Her latest publications deal with pragmatic aspects of political discourse.


Title: Speaker Involvement in Political Interviews
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
514 pages