Conversational framing by politicians on television: A means of fictive interaction?

Alan Cienki (
Dept. of Language and Communication Vrije Universiteit (VU), Amsterdam
Conversational framing has been described (Cienki 2009) as the use of behaviors in talk which take advantage of the affordances of an informal conversation. These can include the use of “local” pronouns (I, we, and you versus 3rd person), intonation units with few words, parallel syntactic structures, direct eye gaze, and more interactive gestures (Bavelas et al. 1995). While use of such behaviors is normal in a face-to-face informal conversation, it has marked effects if used in monologic discourse especially if it is mediated, e.g., via television.
One hypothesis is that ‘populist’ politicians may be more likely to use features of conversational framing than other politicians because of its potential for facilitating fictive interaction (Pascual 2008) with the viewing audience. I will report on an analysis (Cienki & Giansante, submitted) of the use of such features in televised interviews/debates before elections by two national politicians in the U.S. and Italy known as ‘populist’ – Sarah Palin and Silvio Berlusconi – and their respective competitors in 2008 – Joseph Biden and Walter Veltroni.
Abbreviated references:
Bavelas, J. et al. 1995. Gestures specialized for dialogue.
Cienki, A. 2009. Spoken language framing in political discourse. ECPR Joint Sessions, Lisbon, April 2009.
Cienki, A. & G. Giansante. Submitted. Conversational framing in televised political discourse.
Pascual, E. 2008. Fictive interaction blends in everyday language.
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