Publication details [#63652]

Rieger, Caroline L. 2017. “I want a real apology”. A discursive pragmatics perspective on apologies. Pragmatics 27 (4) : 553–590.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


Research on the apology spans over half a century and has been quite prolific. Yet, a major issue with numerous studies on apologies is a lack of findings from naturally occurring interaction. Instead many studies examine written elicitations. As a result they research how respondents think they apologize, not how they do apologize. This project, in contrast, stresses the importance of studying the apology as a dynamically constructed politeness strategy in situated interaction. Apologies are part of the ever-present relational work, i.e., co-constructed and co-negotiated, emergent relationships in a situated social context. Hence, the focus is not on the illocutionary force indicating device (IFID) alone, nor on the turn in which the IFID is produced, but on the interactional exchange in situ. Naturally, data eliciting produces a larger sample size of apologies than the taping and transcribing of naturally occurring interaction does. To remedy the issue, this study uses interactions from situation comedies, which provide a large sample of apologies in their interactional context. Sitcom interactions constitute a valid focus of pragmatic research as they share fundamental elements of natural interactions (B. Mills 2009; Quaglio 2009). The validity of this approach is tested using findings from published conversation analytic studies on apologies. The analysis is set within the framework of discursive pragmatics and leads to new insights on apologies and responses to apologies.