Chapter 5. Entertaining and enraging

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This article advances a theoretical proposal on the pragmatics of verbal violence, which promotes humour in televised political debates. Its underlying objective is to contest the well-entrenched assumption that the viewer should be conceptualised as an overhearer, in favour of a new theoretical construct, namely the recipient. Interlocutors in a political debate talk not only with each other, but also, if not primarily, communicate meanings to the recipient. By employing verbal aggression, a politician may have a twofold communicative intention with regard to two different ratified hearers: s/he aims to disaffiliate from the conversationalist, thereby entertaining, and fostering solidarity with, recipients. The theses put forward are illustrated with examples from Polish pre-election debates televised in October 2007.


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