What is a rhetorical question?
A B S T R A C T
The article summarizes various definitions of the so-called rhetorical question from the ancient rhetoric to the contemporary modern linguistic theories, in particular it is interested in the treatment of this phenomenon in the Speech Act Theory (known as the communicative function of the utterance in Czech linguistics) and in Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis. Despite being a very common means of communication in various speech genres, the rhetorical question has not received much attention to in linguistics literature, and its definitions vary considerably. The aim of the study is to find a definition of the rhetorical question which is applicable to the analyses of dialogue, particularly to the analysis of TV talk shows and political debates. Contrary to the commonly-held opinion, which is also reflected in much of the literature, the study shows that there could be answers to rhetorical questions in a dialogue, and, in fact, an answer could even be required by the dialogue participants. The understanding of an utterance as a rhetorical question depends on the knowledge the communicative partners share. But their presuppositions about the world could differ, hence varying reactions to a “would be” rhetorical question may occur in a dialogue.
Key words: rhetorical question, speech acts, communicative functions, conversation analysis
Klíčová slova: řečnická otázka, teorie mluvních aktů, komunikační funkce výpovědi, konverzační analýza
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