‘Well, I answer it by simply inviting you to look at the evidence’
The strategic use of pronouns in political interviews
In the discourse of political interviews, references to participants can be expressed explicitly by proper nouns and forms of address, and they can be expressed implicitly by personal pronouns and other indexical expressions. The meaning of personal pronouns is context-dependent and retrievable only by inference, and therefore is less determinate. Furthermore, it can shift according to the status of the participants in interaction. This may occur both in terms of social roles and in terms of roles in talk and footing. In this context, an analysis was conducted of televised political interviews broadcast during the 1997 and 2001 British general elections and just before the war with Iraq in 2003. Question-response sequences were identified in which politicians made use of pronominal shifts as a form of equivocation. These sequences were analyzed in the context of Bavelas et al.s (1990) theory of equivocation and Goffmans (1981) concept of footing. The polyvalent function of pronominal shifts, their potential perlocutionary effects and strategic advantages are discussed.
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