Knowledge types and presuppositions: An analysis of strategic aspects of public apologies

Jocelyn A. S. Navera and Leah Gustilo


Public apologies are so prevalent in our social lives that they have become a subject of scholarly investigation all over the globe. The present study, which involves coding, frequency counting, and qualitative analysis, examines the strategic aspects of 16 public apologies issued to Filipino apologizees. The results of our analysis indicate that apologizers often choose varied knowledge types and draw upon presuppositions to strategically omit details that can negatively influence their credibility and the reception of their apology. More specifically, apologizers use the audience’s presuppositions to avoid presenting common knowledge of the offense that may incriminate them further; they also omit the mention of future action that may hold them more accountable for their transgressions. Our present analysis bolsters the view that although the sincerity of public apologies cannot be exactly measured, they are still performed as part of image repair and management of interpersonal relationships.

Publication history
Table of contents

In a world where social media reigns, every small action is documented. What was once private, only for those who are close enough to be privy to one’s littlest movements, is now public, where one’s remotest acquaintance can get a glimpse and even comment on any move one makes. It is no surprise then that apologies, which used to be interpersonal events that happen in the most private of spheres, have now gone public. From motorists who err on the highway to presidents who sin on the national stage, public apologies are even more relevant now than when they first became an important focus of investigation in the 1980s among discourse analysts and sociolinguists (Gonzalez-Cruz 2012, 543; Kampf 2013, 148; Maclachlan 2015; Zhanghong and Li 2020).

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