This paper considers the notion of impoliteness through a detailed analysis of questioning and answering in confrontational television interviews. The paper first discusses the notions of politeness and impoliteness in discourse on the basis of previous research, paying particular attention to work generated by Brown and Levinson’s model (e. g., Culpeper 1996; Harris 2001) and recent critiques and alternatives to the dominant ‘paradigm’ (e. g., Arundale 1999; Eelen 2001; Watts 2003). The second part of the paper offers a close analysis of some resources through which participants manage adversarial questioning in television interviews. The analysis focuses on (i) the micro-level practices through which interviewers build question turns so that they impose particular agendas, carry damaging implications, or serve as vehicles of accusation and (ii) practices of answering through which interviewees address the implications of questions and resist the IR’s attempts to control the topical agenda of the interview. The analysis calls into question the usefulness of the notion of impoliteness for the analysis of confrontational discourse. The paper argues that if politeness research seeks to describe how utterances and interpretations are generated in interaction, empirical investigations in this field should be based on premises that are consistent with work in conversation analysis.
© Walter de Gruyter