Pragmatic strategies for follow-ups in US political debates

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Political debating in the United States forms a type of pragmatic act with a recognizable script. Within that script, the nature of the debate presents itself as rife with examples of follow-ups (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975) whereby candidates react to challenges to their prior assertions by reasserting, justifying, and/or mitigating their original claims. Follow-ups can be identified sequentially or functionally, and emerge in the linguistic and interactional context both intra- or interdiscursively when, in the latter case, speakers are called upon to follow up on an assertion they made in an earlier political discourse (e.g., in a political speech or campaign advertisement); that is, the previous assertion has been entextualized in the latter discourse. Using the Multilayered Model of Context (Berlin 2007, 2011) as a framework to conduct a critical discourse analysis, pragmatic strategies are identified within selected debates which occurred during the final days of the 2010 US Midterm Elections. The integration of Positioning Theory (Harré and van Langenhove 1991, 1999) in the analysis also emerges as instructive in classifying those strategies as affirmative versus negative.


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