Conversationalisation and Language

Accent and Delivery

A message is encoded with particular meanings so it can be decoded by the receiver. However, while message does not change, its delivery can influence how it is received.

Fluency Effect refers to the idea that the easier the message is to understand, the more truthful it is perceived. A person from Dublin may consider a news broadcast to be truthful if it reported by a clear spoken, native Irish person rather than a person with a foreign accent.

Conversational analysis: Interviews

Formulation is a method of managing an interview. Usually performed by the interviewer, formulation involves the audience in the interview by summarising what the interviewee is saying. While this may be seen as ‘stupification’ it is a tool to ensure that the content of the interview is controlled and understood by the audience.

Violation is when the interviewee defies the interviewer and doesn’t answer the question asked. This violation can result in the interviewee changing the topic and discussing their own talking points.

An example of this:

Is the interviewer maintaining a stance of ‘formal neutrality’? Or can we see some form of bias?

We can see some form of bias in Paxmans interview. Paxmans questioning leads in such a way that Howard is now in a corner and must answer the question “Did you threaten to overrule him?”. It is clear that Paxman and his show had an agenda to get Howard to answer that question and incriminate himself.

How are the questions being answered by the interviewee?

It doesn’t appear as those Howard is reading from a script. He may have had set talking points but he does speak as if he hasn’t rehearsed. His communication feels natural as if he is speaking with a friend about arbitrary things.

Has the interviewee answered the specific question that has been asked?

No. Howard’s answers dance around the question, without actually answering it.

What approach is the interviewee using, if any, to avoid an answer to a specific question?

After Paxman asks “Did you threaten to overrule him?” numerous times, we can see Howard begins changing the narrative. Instead, Howard points out that the question is “what was I entitled to do”. This is clearly not the question Paxman continually asks, but Howard answers his own question and the interview moves on.

Is the interviewer allowing this to happen (violation) or are they pushing for an answer to a question? 

Paxman is pushing for an answer to his question. At one point, Paxman insists “I’m looking for a yes or no” in an attempt to get his answer.

Can we see the use of language within the interview being influenced by the perceived social context of the ‘target audience’

The language is, although it feels conversational, quite formal. Howard speaks as though his audiences are more than aware of political jargon and the names of figures involved in the recent events. This suggests that the target audience would be those educated in political issues with an interest in these stories.


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