The use of key in projecting face-threatening acts in televised political debate

Gerard O'Grady
2014 Text & Talk  
AbstractBefore the 2010 UK general election the leaders of the three major political parties engaged in three televised debates. In the debates they were prohibited from directly engaging with one another and from infringing on their rivals' speaking rights. The leaders attempted to exercise power through positive face attacks. Previous evidence has indicated that in the United Kingdom quality face attacks are more severe than social-identity face attacks. I investigate the communicative value
more » ... ommunicative value of key, the pitch height of the initial onset syllable, in which the leaders pitched their face attacks, and illustrate that the type, amount, and key of face attacks changed across the debates. In the final debate there was an increased use of high key, which added salience to positive face attacks. It was noticeable that only the candidate behind in the polls consistently selected high key to boost his quality face attacks. The others tended to pitch quality face attacks with mid key. I illustrate that selection of key established the context in which the face attack was to be understood and show that a fuller understanding of face work in political debate requires an account of the implicatures generated by prosodic selections such as key.
doi:10.1515/text-2014-0025 fatcat:livozae7kvcybne2oc2zxq7qha