Chapter published in:The Discourse of Indirectness: Cues, voices and functions
Edited by Zohar Livnat, Pnina Shukrun-Nagar and Galia Hirsch
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 316] 2020
► pp. 203–230
“The hon. Gentleman says this is rubbish; it is absolutely true”
The strategic use of references to truth in Prime Minister’s Questions
This chapter reports on an analysis of references to truth and compares their discursive value with references to fact and to reality as argumentative and rhetorical resources in the context of Prime Minister’s Questions. Truth is assigned a dual status in the analysis: it is a fundamental premise and can thus be assigned the status of a presupposition to which participants are committed. The research is based on 240 question-response sequences between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The analysis shows that references to truth are utilised by both participants with the Prime Minister referring more frequently to truth and fact, and the leader of the opposition referring more frequently to reality. References to truth insinuate its gradient conceptualisation with higher and lower degrees of truthfulness. The conversational implicature allows the speaker to act at face level in accordance with the rules of conduct of the speech event.
Keywords: truth, implicature, interactional achievement, challenge, maxim of quality, Prime Minister’s Questions
Published online: 29 October 2020
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