The effect of irony in radio talk-back programmes in Israel

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Although generally considered to be highly influential, the discourse structure and practices of political talk radio have not yet been the subject of significant research. This paper examines one discursive practice, the use of irony, and how it functions in dialogues excerpted from an Israeli radio talk-back programme. By employing a fine-grained, turn-by-turn analysis of 17 interactions, we discuss ironic utterances by the host that target either the caller or a third party. In both cases, the host uses irony to control the programme, maintain his superiority, demonstrate his agenda and display his public persona. His utterances echo the callers’ explicit utterances as well as their assumed position; he also echoes their style, assigns them stereotypical views and pretends to agree with them. Since politeness is secondary at best in the context of political talk radio, irony here realizes its critical, confrontational and aggressive potential, and is hence used to “salt the wound” rather than “sugar the pill”. Thus, we demonstrate how the use of irony, as one discourse practice, perfectly fits the specific context of political talk-back radio in Israel.


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