“I don’t think you sound sorry about that at all!”

Posted on February 14, 2014 by

On Tuesday 18th Feb, LEL PhD student James Murphy will be giving a Langwidge Sandwidge talk with the title “I don’t think you sound sorry about that at all!”: Politicians and their apologies at Leveson and in news interviews. 1pm, Sam Alex A202. Here’s the abstract:

Political apologies have caught the attention of a number of discourse analysts (e.g. Harris et al 2006, Augustinos et al 2011, Kampf 2009), but the focus to date has been on pre-planned, public apologies which are monologic in nature. Such studies have shown that these apologies are performed very differently to apologies found in everyday talk. This raises a question: are political apologies performed differently because they are political or because they lack the interactive element of a ‘normal’ apology? By looking at political apologies which occur in the presence of an interlocutor (such as at news interviews and public inquiries), I hope to provide an answer to this question.

I will give some background to the nature of interaction in these two settings, discuss the offences which trigger apologies therein and explore the form of the apologies produced. I will also discuss how apologies in these settings frequently lack uptake, which suggests that they do not form adjacency pairs as is the case in quotidian conversation (Robinson 2004). How apologies are triggered and avoided will also be outlined. Finally, I give examples of how utterances which share the form of apologies are used in the performance of other actions — this may indicate a cline of pragmaticalisation.

All of these examples support the idea that apologies in the political sphere, while sharing similarities with the speech act in everyday life, are different. I suggest this is partly because of their higher stakes in this setting.