The expression of non-alignment in British and German political interviews: Preferred and dispreferred variants

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


Political interviews are defined as question- and answer sequences in which interviewers and interviewees negotiate validity claims. Looked upon from an interpersonal angle, the interviewer sets up a position and requests the interviewee to ratify their claim by expressing alignment or non-alignment. This contribution examines the expression of non-alignment in a corpus of 12 interviews between journalists and the losers of the general elections in Britain (1997) and Germany (1998). The data share identical external parameters, very similar contextual features and almost identical argumentation strategies. In spite of that, the expression of non-alignment differs significantly. This is primarily due to language-specific preferences for the realization of turn-initial positions and their functions as interpersonal, topical and textual themes. In the British data, multiple themes are more frequent for the expression of non-alignment and thus assigned the status of a preferred variant; their sequential organization adheres to the sequence [[textual theme] [interpersonal theme] [topical theme]], which indicates that a negotiation of meaning is intended. Single topical themes are less frequent and therefore assigned the status of a dispreferred variant indicating that a negotiation of meaning is not intended. In the German data, the sequential organization of multiple themes does not display that kind of preference pattern and multiple themes do not necessarily indicate that a negotiation of meaning is intended. Regarding possible perlocutionary effects, the expression of non-alignment in British English is more process-oriented and thus more dynamic, while its German counterpart is more product-oriented and thus more abrupt.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFunctions of Language
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)35-63
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2008