Chapter published in:Questioning and Answering Practices across Contexts and Cultures
Edited by Cornelia Ilie
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 323] 2021
► pp. 35–69
Evasive answers vs. aggressive questions
Parliamentary confrontational practices in Prime Minister’s Questions
The goal of this investigation is to scrutinize the interplay of parliamentary questions and answers in the notoriously polarized PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), in terms of three pragmatic criteria: topical focus, addressed target(s), and pursued goal(s). A pragma-rhetorical analysis explores the interrelatedness between the confrontational question-asking behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition (LO) and the evasive question-answering behaviour of the Prime Minister (PM). The findings indicate that (i) the LO Jeremy Corbyn strives to hold the PM accountable not through straightforward questions, but rather by calling into question and attacking the PM Theresa May, her decisions and actions; (ii) the PM, in her turn, rather than providing straightforward answers, confronts the LO’s aggressive questions by partly or fully evading them, by rejecting the questions’ presuppositions, or by counterattacking. The interrelatedness between parliamentary questions and answers provides evidence that both MP Blackford and the PM are pursuing double agendas: on the one hand, an issue-oriented agenda with well-established political goals, and on the other, an audience-oriented agenda adjusted to presumed audience expectations.
Keywords: question, answer, parliamentary, PMQs, argument, pragma-rhetorical, audience, government, opposition, Prime Minister, leader of the opposition
Published online: 26 July 2021
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