July 15, 2009
This paper examines impoliteness in a discourse context marked by double articulation (i. e., broadcasting), specifically in the television show Dragons' Den (BBC2, UK). Like past work on impoliteness within ‘exploitative’ reality television, this study explores face-threatening behaviour by those involved in the interaction within the studio. Analysis of five hours of broadcast material reveals a number of patterns underlying both the interactional structure of impoliteness containing sequences and the linguistic realizations of impoliteness in Dragons' Den . These patterns point to a clear interactional power imbalance between the expert (‘the dragon’) and lay (the contestant) person in the studio. They also highlight the interactional power held by the show's presenter, whose voice-overs set the interactions against the contestant, dictate their development and, importantly, close off impoliteness containing sequences in such a way that the dragon invariably has the upper hand. In addition, and unlike any other study to date, this paper links the findings of the discursive realization of impoliteness in Dragons' Den to viewer interpretations of impoliteness within two representative samples from the corpus. Responses (N = 85) to a questionnaire on (im)politeness show high agreement levels regarding assessment of dragon and contestant behaviour. They also suggest, however, that isolated instances of marked face-threatening behaviour determine overall scores of impoliteness for given speakers and that individual speakers are seen as more or less impolite depending on their co-interactants' behaviour. What is more, respondents' reasons for their assessments reveal the importance of local and cultural norms in ascribing impoliteness to certain communicative behaviour.