Rhetorical questions in televized debates
A B S T R A C T
The article analyzes the usage of so-called rhetorical questions in Czech televised debates about politics or other public topics such as culture. The author considers a rhetorical question to be an utterance which has the form of an interrogative, but whose communicative function is that of a statement, or – to be more exact – a statement which contains some personal commitment of the speaker, i.e. an opinion, argument, accusation, reproach, self-defense, etc. As the understanding of an utterance as a rhetorical question depends on its context, mainly on the knowledge the communicative partners share, the analysis focuses on the features of the context which are relevant for communicants in deciding whether an utterance is a rhetorical question or a genuine one. The analysis reveals that the rhetorical question is a common device used by both the guests and the hosts of these programs, even though the strict observance of the media debates’ rules should exclude using it. Contrary to the commonly-held opinion, which is also reflected in much of the literature, the analysis 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.
Key words: rhetorical question, communicative functions, media talk, conversation analysis, context
Klíčová slova: řečnická otázka, komunikační funkce výpovědi, mediální dialog, konverzační analýza, kontext
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Slovo a slovesnost, volume 71 (2010), number 3, pp. 192-214
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