Demonstrative questions and epistemic authority management in medium-sitter interactions
Some examples from an Italian “public mediumship demonstration”
Although paranormal experiences have been broadly investigated, medium-sitter interactions have been studied much less. In this article, five excerpts from an Italian “public mediumship demonstration” are presented with the main aim to answer the following research questions: (1) what are the linguistic strategies used by the medium to manage her epistemic authority and by the sitters to acknowledge, strengthen, resist or contest it? (2) how do these strategies affect the sequential structure of interaction? The analyses reveal that: the medium mainly uses demonstrative questions; sitters generally confirm what the medium discloses, acknowledging her epistemic authority; when sitters do not confirm, the medium resorts to three main linguistic strategies attempting to (re)establish her authority; when the medium has to manage confirmation failures, the sequential structure becomes more complex.