Sie sind auf Seite 1von 32

Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

Argumentation in political talk show interviews

Gerda Lauerbach
Institute of English and American Studies, Goethe University, Gruneburgplatz 1,
D-60629 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

This paper is about how argumentation theory can aid discourse analysis-not only in describing the
types of argumentation found in discourse data, but also in evaluating the soundness of the arguments.
Being able to evaluate the quality of argumentation is important for analysing particular types of media
interview formats which do not favour dialectical argumentation. A case in point is the political celebrity
talk show interview. While in the political news interview, the interviewee is ideally confronted with the
whole spectrum of public opinion through the interviewers questions, in the soft and feel-good genre
(Clayman and Heritage, 2002:340) of the celebrity talk show interview, interviewer and interviewee
collaboratively produce a consensual point of view. The paper presents an attempt to describe how this is
done within the framework of argumentation theory, discourse analysis and Goffmans (1974, 1981)
model of frames and footings. The data are two interviews from the American Larry King live-show,
broadcast during the US 2000 post-election controversy. The first interview is with an expert, the second
one with a politician; the interviews are connected by sharing the same topic. The results show an
intertextual argument structure overarching the two interviews: in the expert interview a claim is made,
the validity of which depends on the fulfilment of a number of conditions. The second interview
represents an attempt to satisfy those conditions. The evaluation of the argumentation shows a number of
weaknesses that would be fallacious in the discourse types of rational discussion or political interview. In
the genre of the talk show celebrity interview, however, such argumentation has to be considered part of
the feel-good generic style. Findings show that, even in the context of a political controversy, the
genre of the political celebrity talk show interview is a format which disprefers an attitude of critical
doubt. It lends itself to exploitation by the politician who is able, through subtle changes of footing, and
with the support of the host, to pursue his political agenda. The analysis bears witness to the usefulness
of an integrated approach.
# 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Talk show; Political argumentation; Political talk show interview; Generic hybridity; Frames and footings

E-mail address:

0378-2166/$ see front matter # 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


1. Introduction
Compared to the large body of research on political news and current affairs interviews
(cf. Clayman and Heritage, 2002), little is known about the practices of hosts and politicians in
talk show interviews (see however, e.g. Bell and van Leeuwen, 1994; Holly, 1990 for some
analyses). This is remarkable at a time when political talk show interviews and other formats of
broadcast talk like discussion and debate shows are gaining ground on the traditional news
interview, a state of affairs which prompts Heritage and Clayman to rhetorically ask Is the news
interview dead? (Clayman and Heritage, 2002:340341). In their subsequent discussion they
concede that for politicians, talk show interviews may be seen as more relaxed and feelgood
alternatives to the traditional heavyweight adversarial news or current affairs interview. They
note however, that politicians participation in talk show interviews tends to be primarily limited
to election times, when they are an ideal vehicle to reach audiences who do not normally watch
news or current affairs programmes. One of the reasons for politicians reticence in this regard
seems to be a need to balance the benefits of appearing as a regular person against the risk of
over-exposure (2002:341).
The practice of politicians appearing on talk shows was particularly prevalent during the time of
the so-called Florida Recount, when the eventual outcome of the American presidential election
of 2000 was contested between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush over
who could claim the 25 electoral votes of the state of Florida. In a dispute over manual recounts and
overseas votes, both sides filed lawsuits in county, state and federal courts. This series of legal
battles only came to an end when, on December 12th, 2000 on a vote of 5 to 4, the United States
Supreme Court ruled to end all counts of Floridas disputed votes. This decision effectively decided
the election in favour of George W. Bush. During the 36 days between that date and the date of the
election on November 7th, American talk show hosts put their celebrity guests on hold and regularly
interviewed politicians, election campaign managers and, as the legal battle gained momentum, the
lawyers of the competing camps of George W. Bush and Al Gore.
The aim of this paper is to present a case study of the discourse practices of host and guests in
one such political talk show. The data are taken from the CNN talk show Larry King live on a day
during the Florida Recount period, that is, they are taken from the context of a post-election
campaign. The specific programme investigated was broadcast on the evening of the day when
Republican vice-presidential candidate Dick Cheney had been admitted to hospital after a heart
attack, and this is the topic of two of the interviews in the show. The first of these is a studio
interview with a cardiologist. This is followed by a live telephone interview with Dick Cheney
from his hospital bed. Given the extraordinary circumstances of the American post-election and
of the events of the day regarding Dick Cheney, the analysis is of the type of marked or deviant
case study. Marked cases are taken to exhibit the features of the social and discursive practices
under review to a particularly high degree and in an especially clear manner. Methodologically, a
(critical) discourse analysis approach is supplemented by methods of argumentation analysis.
The use of argumentation analysis is driven by the fact that election campaigns or in this case a
post-election contest are by their nature adversarial and competitive argumentative events
characterized by claims and counterclaims, by heated debate and biting rhetoric. The question is
posed whether, and if so how, argumentative elements may be kept out of political interviews in
such adversarial contexts even if such interviews occur in a soft and feelgood genre, such as
the talk show interview.
In what follows, I begin by describing some features of argumentation as a discourse practice
(section 2.1). Since the genres in the complex text to be analysed are the current affairs expert


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

interview, the political interview and the talk show celebrity interview, I go on to characterise the
features of these genres, with a focus on generic hybridity, generic shifts and changes of footing
(section 2.2). The analysis follows in section 3, and the findings are discussed in section 4.
The paper ends with some concluding remarks in section 5.
2. Theoretical framework
2.1. Argumentation as a discourse practice
Argumentation is an essentially dialogic discourse practice: claim and challenge, claim and
counterclaim are prototypically realised in dialogic form. In addition, challenges are
prototypically realised as questions that expect satisfaction of the challenge in the answer.
Thus, it is question-answer sequences that underlie Toulmins (1958) logic of everyday
argument. Each of his theoretical categories of Claim, Data, Warrant, Backing, Qualification and
Conditions of Rebuttal is potentially subject to challenge with respect to its support or validity.
The hypothetical sequence of dialogical moves shown in (1) below has been reconstructed from
Toulmins exposition of his model as a fictitious argumentative dialogue between A and B
(cf. Toulmin, 1958:94107):



Claim (Harry is a British subject).

Challenge (What do you have to go on?).
Supplies empirical Data (Harry was born in Bermuda).
Challenge (How do you get there?)
Supplies Warrant that licenses the inference from the Data to the Claim
(A man born in Bermuda will be a British subject)
Challenge (How is this supported?).
Supplies Backings (context-dependent facts from, e.g. the fields of law,
medicine, biology, appealing to legal statutes, medical statistics, systems of
biological classification, here: to legal statutes).
Challenges strength of validity.
Supplies Qualifiers like presumably.
Challenges scope of validity.
Concedes Conditions of Rebuttal (exceptions, here: unless both his parents
were aliens/he has become a naturalised American, etc.).

Rational argumentation, like all cooperative question-and-answer activities (see section

2.2.1.), is a device for the construction of socially shared, consensual knowledge. It also lies at the
heart of Habermas consensus theory of truth: Argumentation arises out of and suspends
communicative action when a speech-act is challenged as to its validity regarding the truth of
assertions, the legitimate authority of directives and the requisite authentic feelings in
expressives (Habermas, 1981). In such cases, the participants move onto the meta-level of
discourse/rational discussion until the dispute is resolved.
This does not, however, mean that argumentation cannot occur in monological speech or text.
Orators and authors can pose rhetorical questions and then go on to answer them themselves. In
this way, they may build their arguments around anticipating possible objections from a projected
audience or readership. Since interactants can do this also within their contributions to dialogical
argument, it is clear that monological argument can be embedded within dialogical argument

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


(van Eemeren and Grootendorst, 1992; Walton and Krabbe, 1995; van Eemeren et al., 1997,
Argumentation theory is of interest to discourse analysis mainly with respect to two concepts;
both have less to do with the description than with the evaluation of discourse practices. One is
the concept of fallacy or faulty reasoning; the other is the concept of the enthymeme, or
underlying premise of an argument. Using the enthymeme, discourse analysis may gain a concept
and a systematic procedure for reconstructing a particular type of implicit meaning, namely the
unexpressed premise of an argument. An enthymeme is an abbreviated syllogism, an incomplete
argument to which the audience unconsciously supplies the missing premise:
The theoretical construct of the enthymeme allows the critic to examine the interaction
between a speaker, a text, and an audience. In creating and responding to enthymemes,
speaker and audience reveal their un-stated beliefs and values; they reveal their ideology or
implicit philosophy about the nature of reality, the nature of their community, and their
conception of appropriate social relations (Gill and Whedbee, 1997:171172).
The underlying, implicit premise is often expressed linguistically in condensed form via
conjunctions expressing contrast, causality, conditionality, concession, comparison or gradation,
as in (2) a.g.:


He is a politician, but he can be trusted.

He is a politician, therefore he is not to be trusted.
You can trust him, (because) he is not a politician.
If he is a politician, he is not to be trusted.
You can trust him, although he is a politician.
He is trustworthy, for a politician.
Even a politician can be trusted on this.

All of these are abbreviated syllogisms based on the evaluative premise politicians cannot be
trusted. This is pragmatically presupposed by speakers as knowledge undisputedly shared
between them and the (majority of) addressees. In other, more complex cases, the premise may be
contained in more extended discourse and/or has to be inferred from the context (see section
Unexpressed premises are reconstructed in the present analysis by following the hypothetical
dialogical steps of the argumentation schema proposed by Toulmin (1958). The steps of this
schema enable, even force, the analyst to precisely define the claim made and to describe the data
advanced in support of this claim when giving an account of the structure of an argument. In
addition, the inference license that warrants the conclusion from the data to the claim must be
reconstructed, as must also the circumstances by which the license itself is backed and the
conditions under which the claim could be rebutted (for a more detailed description and
application to the analysis of my data, cf. section 3).
The other concept that is promising for discourse analysis is the concept of fallacy or faulty
reasoning. It is understandable that discourse analysts might hope to find in argumentation theory
an evaluation procedure for the acceptability or insufficiency of the arguments in their data,
beyond the immediate reaction of the participants themselves. This is all the more so because in
monological texts and in some dialogical media texts (see section 4 below), the analyst normally
does not have access to such reactions. However, the issue of evaluation criteria is a complex one
in argumentation theory as well.


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

Within their pragma-dialectical model, van Eemeren and Grootendorst (1984, 1992) have
formulated rules of felicitous argumentation, as it were, which are based on Searlean speech
act theory and Gricean cooperativeness and conversational maxims. Observance of those rules
defines the discourse type of critical discussion, where one participant defends his or her
standpoint against the other, or where two participants attempt to convince and persuade each
other of their opposing standpoints. The evaluation rules which define fallacies are formulated as
violations of the rules.
In Toulmins work, the validity of argumentative conclusions is made sensitive to the
discourse contexts in which they occur, such as topical and institutional domains. Walton (1989)
and Walton and Krabbe (1995) have extended Toulmins work by distinguishing a number of
primary discourse types of argumentation, namely persuasion dialogue (critical discussion),
negotiation, inquiry (scientific research investigation), deliberation (means-ends discussion) and
eristics (quarrel). Walton and Krabbe (1995:6585) also recognise a number of mixed types.
These different dialogue types are characterized in a similar way to the way in which genres are
described in discourse analysis, i.e. by specifying participants, their goals, their constitutive
communicative actions and the possible sequential order of these actions, as well as establishing
participants discourse roles, the constraints on their role-specific activities, and a set of rules
which determine under which conditions a violation of the rules or fallacy occurs. These
evaluation rules are sensitive to discourse type, and the discourse type of critical discussion is just
one among others.
Walton and Krabbes model thus provides for cases in which what would be a fallacy in one
discourse type may be permissible in another. An example is the argumentum ad baculum or
threat which would be fallacious in critical discussion, but may be a legitimate argumentative
move in negotiation. They also allow for shifts from one discourse type to another within one
argumentation, as well as for the flavouring of one discourse type by another. In their view,
many fallacies are illicit shifts from one type of dialogue to another (1995:115). Another
concept, which they discuss under problems to be solved, is bias, i.e. when a participant
pursues a hidden agenda in argumentation. Building on van Eemeren and Grootendorsts (1984)
dialogue attitude of critical doubt, and on Walton (1991), who defines bias as a failure of
critical doubt, Walton and Krabbe formulate the problem of bias as the question of the
empirical criteria which could be used to identify bias in a given argument (1995:116).
From the perspective of critical discourse analysis, identifying bias is an interesting challenge.
In this paper, we will investigate to what extent argumentation theory can aid the analysis. As
mentioned above, the data consist of two talk-show interviews, one with an expert, the other with
a politician, conducted by the same interviewer and sharing the same topic. They involve various
genres and generic shifts and also what Walton and Krabbe (1995) have called the flavouring
of one discourse type by another. Such problems fall within the domain of discourse analysis, to
which I turn in section 2.2.
2.2. Discourse analysis
2.2.1. Interview genres, generic hybridity and generic shifts
Political news interviews, current affairs expert interviews and celebrity talk show interviews
share a number of constitutive features (cf., e.g. Clayman and Heritage, 2002; Livingstone and
Lunt, 1994; Bell and van Leeuwen, 1994). Firstly, all incorporate the discourse practice of
questioning and answering which, on a structural level, yields question-answer sequences, with
or without expansions. Secondly, all are characterised by the same role distribution, all having an

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


interviewer as a representative of a media organization and an interviewee. Politicians playing the

role of the interviewee are representatives of their parties, experts are representatives of their
profession and celebrities representatives of their role as stars. A third shared feature is the rolespecific distribution between interviewer and interviewee of the activity of asking and answering
questions. This feature is most pronounced in the news interview and may be most relaxed in the
celebrity interview, approaching at times the ideal of free-flowing conversation. Fourthly, all three
genres are dialogues performed for a third party, an overhearing audience. This audience may
consist of a studio audience in addition to the home audience. In audience participation shows,
members of the studio audience may participate actively, as may also members of the home
audience by phoning-in or by sending an e-mail or fax. While news and current affairs interviews
may include studio audience and home audience participation, such participation is far more
common in talk shows. Fifthly, the interviewers are in control of the dialogue, they introduce the
interviewees and set the agenda and, since they ask the questions, they are always in the initiating,
more powerful position, establishing a strong conversational expectation for the interviewee to
respond. For the interviewee, to be seen to evade a question or not to respond at all may invoke
unfavourable inferences on the part of the audience (cf. Lauerbach, 2001, 2003, 2004).
Finally, the social constraint of answering questions is reinforced by the fact that interviews
are embedded in the context of a media institution, i.e. by the overall purpose of the event and by
the goals of its participants. Interviewers in news interviews strive to deliver an up-to-date and
interesting perspective on events and on their main protagonists. In talking to experts, they aim at
providing the audience with background knowledge relevant to assessing the events and the
newsmakers. Interviewers in talk shows, on the other hand, aim at entertaining the audience by
enabling celebrities to publicly do stardom. The interviewees, both politicians in news
interviews and celebrities in talk show interviews, aspire to good publicity, as do experts, albeit to
a lesser extent. Politicians may achieve this in exchange for information and opinion, celebrities
in return for the self-disclosing performance of the cultural role of the star (Bell and van
Leeuwen, 1994:189), and experts in return for popularised expert knowledge that fits the
interviewers agenda (cf. Livingstone and Lunt, 1994:92132).
All this discursive activity is done through the discourse practice of questioning and answering, a
practice which lies semantically and pragmatically at the heart of what is achieved by the social
practice of interviewing (cf. Fairclough, 1995 on the relation of discourse practice and social
practice). Questions are, semantically, incomplete propositions, and, depending on their form (wh-,
polar or alternative), they put the addressee under a constraint to complete the proposition in a
particular way. If the addressee fulfils this expectation, then we can see one of the most elementary
discursive devices at work in the construction of socially shared, consensual knowledge:
question and answer together form one statementone statement produced by two
people. It is not one person saying one thing and the other another thing, as would be the
case if the answerer had expressed disagreement instead of answering; it is two people
saying one thing together (Bell and van Leeuwen, 1994:67).
For Bell and van Leeuwen, this collaborative construction of something new accounts both for
the creative potential of questions in opening up new ideas and for their manipulative power, their
ability to make people say what they might not otherwise have chosen to say and to enforce
consensus (1994:7).
The practice of questioning and answering is, however, quite distinct in the political news
interview and the current affairs expert interview, and both differ from the celebrity talk show
interview. In the political news interview, the interviewee is a politician who is involved in a


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

newsworthy event. The interviewer, in asking the questions, takes into account what a sceptical
audience would like to know. The result is a more or less adversarial interview which in one-on-one
interviews is characterized by an argumentative structure where politicians defend their standpoints
against the interviewers who take the perspective of a critical audience. Discursively, this yields
searching questions by the interviewer, evasion on the part of the politician, and the pursuit of
answers, as well as the challenge of responses, on the part of the interviewer (Clayman and
Heritage, 2002). The extent to which this holds, as well as the manner in which it is done, may be
subject to cultural and sub-cultural variation, as for instance between public service and
commercial channels (cf. Lauerbach, 2004). In panel or debate agenda interviews, on the other
hand, it is the members of the panel who take opposing positions and who, in their responses to the
interviewers questions and through their opposition to the other members contributions, discuss
the different perspectives and questions a critical viewer might have on the particular issue
(Greatbatch, 1992).
The current affairs expert interview, by contrast, is far more cooperative. Interviewer and
expert collaboratively construct a body of knowledge relevant to the topic under discussion. The
expert is expected to provide this knowledge in a manner comprehensible to a wide audience. The
interviewer style in the celebrity (talk show) interview, on the other hand, is more deferential than
in either the current affairs expert interview or in the political news interview. The guest is a
celebrity who has done or suffered something newsworthy, ideally a good talker with a sense of
humour (see Bell and van Leeuwen, 1994:190), and one who is willing to share biographical
detail in a series of narratives, anecdotes, jokes, and gossip. The interviewers questions are
designed to elicit these details.1 The projected audience is the fan who hopes to gain some
personal details of the star in question and also to witness authentic emotional self-disclosure
although what they get is rather the performance of it, the mask behind the mask. Bell and van
Leeuwen see the celebrity talk show as a successor to the traditional fan magazine in constructing
the symbolic significance of the celebrity in a culture. This is highlighted in the conclusion of
their analysis of a talk-show appearance of the British politician Norman Tebbit:
by the time the interview concludes, the audience will have pieced together what Tebbit,
the celebrity, symbolises, what makes up the moral fibre of the conservative politician.
Hence it knows also what it is celebrating this celebrity for: the fearless warrior who can
make sacrifices and shoulder responsibilities, but also the humanity of the ordinary man
who puts his young son to bed, looks after his wife when she is ill, and takes lifes
adversities with a sense of humour (1994:209).
However, we have to bear in mind that celebrity talk-show guests will always have additional
agendas, apart from doing stardom: they may want to promote their latest book or film and/or
raise their own market value in general. In the case of politicians, they may wish to solicit support
for their position on a current issue and to generally promote the acceptance of their party, as well as
to boost their own image and political weight within the party and in the public sphere. Thus, the
face that is behind the mask-behind-the-mask is utilitarianmotivated by commercial interest in
the case of the star-celebrity, and by political interest in the case of the politician-celebrity.
Such hierarchies of implicationally related goals lead us to expect generic shifts and
flavourings in the sense of Walton and Krabbe (1995) which, in turn, may affect what can
count as a legitimate argument and what as a fallacy in the analysis. In celebrity talk shows, for

On the functions of questions in other types of talk shows, see Ilie (1999), Simon-Vandenbergen (2000) and
Thornborrow (2001, 2007)

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


instance, the discourse can shift between casual conversation for doing being private, emotional
and witty, and promotional discourse bordering on advertising for extolling ones achievements
and doing image-building. If the celebrity is a politician, political discourse, sometimes
bordering on partisan campaigning, is also involved to advance political issues and careers.
Erving Goffmans (1974, 1981) conception of frames and footings and of the way in which these
can change during interaction is a model that discourse analysis has borrowed from sociology for
the study of such phenomena. The model will be used in the analysis in section 3. It is briefly
described below. Due to limitations of space, the following extremely condensed exposition of
the main aims and categories of Goffmans model has to suffice.
2.2.2. Discourse frames and participant footings
The aim of Goffmans Frame Analysis is to try to isolate some of the basic frameworks of
understanding available in our society for making sense out of events and to analyse some of the
special vulnerabilities to which these frames of reference are subject (1974:10). The telling
sub-title of the book, An Essay on the Organization of Experience, as well as its introduction,
positions it unquestionably in the epistemological tradition of William James, Alfred Schutz and
Gregory Bateson. Frames are necessary for the perception and comprehension of natural and
social events. Concentrating on the latter, frames comprise principles of organization which
govern social events and which enable us to answer the question what is it that is going on
here? They provide apparent unity and coherence to our perception and interpretation of events,
and they always involve a certain focus (wide or narrow) and a particular perspective. They can
be transformed into other keys (by joking or by casting events as, for instance, unreal,
hypothetical, past or future) or into fabrications (benign, like fiction, or exploitative, like
deception). On the other hand, since social events always involve more than one individual, the
framing and comprehension of such events is vulnerable to divergent ways of focussing and to
participants employing different perspectives:
When participant roles in an activity are differentiated a common circumstance the
view that one person has of what is going on is likely to be quite different from that of
another. There is a sense in which what is play for the golfer is work for the caddy
(Goffman, 1974:8).
Considering the type of speech events in our data, the view of the interviewer or host of what is
going on in a talk-show may, therefore, be different from the view that the interviewee will have.
The degree to which this is the case may well depend on the degree to which the event evolves
spontaneously turn by turn or is scripted or broadly planned and mutually agreed on in advance.
Similarly, in the case of what Goffman calls podium or staged events (1974:539541,
1981:138140), that is, social events which are either addressed to or performed for a live or mass
media audience (e.g. lectures, sermons, staged plays; radio and television news, interviews, talk
shows), the perception of the audience will depend on the different foci and perspectives
involved. This is particularly so if conflicting evaluative positions are in play. Goffman makes the
point that opposing rooters at a football game do not experience the same game (1974:9).
With reference to our data we can assume that neither will opposing rooters for a political party
experience the same political interview, especially in times of electional controversy.
Speech events do not progress unchangeably according to the variables set by an initiating
frame. They are dynamic events due not merely to the sequential development of the topic but
also to the continuously changing alignments between the participants with respect to speaker
and addressee identities and relations. The concepts that Goffman develops to capture this


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

dynamic of discourse are those of footing and footing changes. Footing means the particular
situational variables in force at any given moment during an interaction. A footing change
means a re-adjustment of some or all of these variables by the current speaker. Usually, code
switching is involved due to a shift to a different type of addressee (e.g. from intimate to
distant participants), to a different type of discourse (e.g. from lecture to subsequent
discussion), or to a different topic (e.g. from specific to general, cf. Goffman, 1981:126127,
referring to early work by Blom and Gumperz, 1972). However, there are also changes of
footing that do not involve a code switch at all but, taking grammatical, pragmatic and
contextual factors into account, nevertheless exhibit significant shifts in alignment of
speaker to hearers (Goffman, 1981:127). In fact, in most changes of footing, a change of
addressee is involved, but in one-on-one interactions, the change in alignment is of course
between the two participants only (e.g. from distant to familiar, from conversation to narrative,
or from the social role of interviewer to that of friend).
It is for the purpose of providing a structural basis for the analysis of changes in footing that
Goffman develops his de-composition of the speaker and hearer roles into production format
on the one hand, and participation framework on the other. Both are important for the
analysis of the dynamics of speech events, but we shall focus here on Goffmans differentiation of
the speaker role into animator, author and principal and neglect his fine distinctions of
addressee and audience roles. He describes the different production roles as follows (Goffman,
1981:144145): The animator is the sounding box in use . . . the talking machine . . . or, if you
will, an individual active in the role of utterance production. Distinct from this role are the roles
of the author, someone who has selected the sentiments being expressed and the words in which
they are encoded and the principal, someone whose position is established by the words that
are spoken, someone whose beliefs have been told, someone who is committed to what the words
While the animator cannot really be said to embody a social role but merely to fill an analytical
one in the system, it is the role of the principal that receives Goffmans full attention, as being a
socially determined role. The principal, understood as being responsible for the words spoken in
the legalistic sense, is a person active in some particular social identity or role, some special
capacity as a member of a group, office, category, relationship, association, or whatever, some
socially based source of self-identification. And he continues: Often this will mean that the
individual speaks, explicitly or implicitly, in the name of we, not I . . ., the we including more
than the self (Goffman, 1981:145).
Usually, when we use the term speaker we imply that all three roles converge. We also take
this to be normal case. Divergences however do not only occur in what Goffman terms
institutionalised exceptions, events in which speakers act as, for instance, chairpersons,
judges, teachers, or indeed as interviewers or talk-show hosts. They are also plentiful in everyday
conversation when we are quoting someone else or ourselves, when we are self-repairing,
hedging or modalising, story-telling, joking, or mocking. In all of these activities a change of
footing is involved, and this affects not only the alignment between our production roles of
animator, author and principal, but at the same time also realigns the reception roles of our
listeners. Specifically, each time a speaker changes footing,
he goes some distance in establishing a corresponding reciprocal basis of identification
for those to whom this stand-taking is addressed. To a degree, then, to select the capacity in
which we are to be active is to select (or attempt to select, emphasis G.L.), the capacity in
which the recipients of our action are present (Goffman, 1981:145).

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


As Goffman points out in the above passage, a change in footing is an attempt to re-align
participant relations. As such, it may not necessarily be accepted by the recipient, unless of
course it can be imposed unilaterally due to gross differences in power and status and/or
institutional constraints. Rather, attempted changes in footing can be accepted, negotiated,
challenged, rejected and/or met with a counter-change. For a change to be successful, and
consequently for a new frame of interaction to be established, the attempt must be accepted by
3. Analysis
The data analysed in this section are two interviews from the American talk show, Larry
King live. The interviews aired on November 22nd 2000, day 15 in the continuing American
presidential post-election crisis. Earlier that day, Republican vice-presidential candidate Dick
Cheney had been admitted to hospital after a heart attack. The interviews deal with this event.
The first is a studio interview with a cardiologist who explains medical details and discusses
topics such as the candidates medical record and his chances of recovery. The second
interview is with Dick Cheney himself. It is conducted by telephone from his hospital bed. On
the surface, both interviews are purely informative, yet in the adversarial post-election
context in which they are conducted, it is reasonable to assume that they fulfil additional
The analysis in this section is guided by the following questions: Beyond sharing the same
topic, how are these two interviews related? How is argumentation done in these interviews?
What is their argumentative structure? Can argumentation analysis provide a basis not only for
the description of the structure but also for the evaluation of the soundness of the argumentation?
What discourse practices are employed by the interviewer and interviewees? What role do genre,
generic shifts and flavourings play in the evaluation of the argumentation? And generally,
what can the methods of argumentation analysis and those of discourse analysis, complemented
by a Goffmanian approach, contribute to the study of argumentation in mass media interviews?
Before turning to the data, I provide an ethnographic description of the social context in section
3.1., and a sketch of their textual context in section 3.2.

Goffman says very little about the production role of the author, especially about how it is distinct from that of the
principal. If the principals role is defined in social terms, and if it is this role which establishes a speakers position or
footing and enables them to change it, and if footing change is something that is done predominantly linguistically, what,
then, is the authors role in this? We could take Goffmans characterisation of those two roles and look at the author and
principal role from within a linguistic framework. The author would then be the one who is responsible for the selection of
the propositional content of the sentence and for the way in which it is expressed, the principal being the one who takes the
stand from which this is uttered, asserting it, questioning or ordering it and endowing it with further illocutionary values,
claiming real or unreal status for this content, modalising it or not, accepting responsibility for the words uttered or
ascribing them to someone else, etc.
However, the linguistic aspect is only part of what Goffman aims to capture in trying to account for the fluidity of
speech and the multiplicity of speaking roles. His other concern is with social roles, with discourse types and speech
events and with the ways in which participants shift between them. On this level of discourse, the principals role would
take care of establishing and changing footings with respect to the speakers social identity and his social relations to the
other participants. The authors role, on the other hand, would be responsible for the selection of the topic and for the way
in which it is linguistically realised. Thus, it appears that Goffmans model works on two levels of organisation, on the
level of the utterance and on the level of discourse. The question, however, as to how the two are related remains a
problem in Goffmans sociological approach, as it does in linguistic pragmatics and discourse analysis.


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

3.1. Situational context

On November 22nd, 2000, 2 weeks after the presidential election, Democratic candidate Vice
President Al Gore and Republican candidate Texas Governor George W. Bush were still
continuing the election campaign due to a dispute over who had won the state of Florida. The
count in Florida had been so close that a first machine recount was automatically carried out, and
in some counties also a second. Following this, manual recounts were started in some counties. In
these hand recounts, Al Gore caught up steadily with George W. Bush. This led the Bush camp to
turn to the courts in an effort to stop the hand-counts, their argument being that Florida election
law did not provide for criteria according to which manual recounts should be done and that the
process was therefore subjective. A series of lawsuits on the part of both camps followed over
whether or not the hand-counting of ballots should be allowed to continue. The main issue was
that in the machine counts an unknown number of ballots had to be counted as invalid because the
ballots had not been punched all the way through. The Democrats claimed that this was the result
of malfunctioning voting machines in some (especially poorer, and Democrat) counties and that
when ballots were examined by hand, traces could be seen of voters having tried to vote despite
the fact that the requisite small perforations in the ballots had not been totally removed. Some of
those bits of paper, or chads, were partially dislodged, others just indented. The argument of
the Gore camp was that even indented ballots showed voters intent and that every vote must
be counted. New definitions and vocabulary were introduced into the American language: the
hanging, the dangling, the swinging-door chad, the indented, the dimpled or pregnant chad. The
media made much of this, and comedians and satirists had a field day.
The opposing positions of the Democrats and the Republicans can be formulated as two sides
of a normative argument over whether or not the hand-counts should continue: the Democrats in
favour, the Republicans against. This question was not only put to the courts in a series of
lawsuits by the Bush and Gore campaigns. It was also put to the American public by the polling
organisations on an almost daily basis, and reports of the ups and downs of public opinion
became a feature on the evening news. Thus, the pressure of public opinion, first in favour of
continuing the hand-counts, then slowly turning against, must be counted as a factor that in some
complex manner had an influence on the way in which the contest between the two camps was
conductedalthough each decisive step of the process depended, of course, on the courts.
On November 21st, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision to allow the
hand-counts to continue for another 5 days. The Court left it to the local election boards to decide
on the standards of counting, but quoted from an Illinois Supreme Court opinion that voters
should not be disfranchised where their intent may be ascertained with reasonable certainty,
simply because the chad they punched did not completely dislodge from the ballot
(Correspondents of the New York Times, 2001:129). This was a major victory for the Gore
campaign. The Bush campaign reacted with moral outrage, claiming that the court had re-written
Florida election law. They announced they would fight the ruling.
At 5 a.m. on the following day, November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving, Dick Cheney,
Bushs running mate for Vice President, was admitted to Washington Hospital with severe chest
pains. There was confusion over the diagnosis at first, and it was not until the afternoon that his
doctors spoke of a heart attack. According to the hospitals first statement, there was a severe
blockage in one of the coronary arteries and a stent was implanted. In a press conference at 12
a.m., Governor Bush described Cheneys hospitalisation as a precautionary measure, said he had
not had a heart attack, that he had spoken to him on the telephone, that he sounded strong and
well, and was healthy. Due to his history of cardiac disease and a bypass operation in 1988, there

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


had been concern about Cheneys health ever since Bush had named him as his running mate. For
him to have suffered a heart attack at this stage of the post-election campaign was a major public
relations disaster for the Bush camp. Questions were asked about this possibly having occurred in
reaction to the previous days set-back in the Florida Supreme Court, and about how well Cheney
could take stress. This is the background against which we have to read his appearance by
telephone on the Larry King live-show on the evening of November 22nd.
The Larry King live-show is a 1-h call-in talk show broadcast on CNN USA from Monday to
Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and on CNN International at 3 a.m. and 11 a.m. European
Standard Time the next day. It has been running on CNN since 1985, it was the first talk show to be
broadcast on international television, and it features one-on-one and panel interviews with
celebrities from the world of sports, entertainment and politics. Larry King, dubbed The King of
Talk, has become a celebrity himself, meeting with his interviewees on a fairly equal basis. The
show and its host have become an American and to a lesser extent an international institution.
During the post-election period, the show was broadcast daily and was devoted to current affairs
interviews. When the long awaited Florida Supreme Court ruling was finally announced shortly
before 10 p.m. ESTon November 21st, the opinion read by the Clerk of the Court was carried live in
the show. Like Dick Cheney, Larry King suffers from cardiac disease. He had quintuple bypass
surgery in 1987 and in 1988 founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation to provide funding for lifesaving treatment to people without adequate health insurance. The foundation is financed from the
proceeds of his books and talks. It cooperates with renowned hospitals and has received numerous
3.2. Textual context and macro structure
The Larry King live-show of November 22 bore the title Which Candidate Deserves Floridas
25 Electoral Votes? The topic of Dick Cheneys heart attack was dealt with in two interviews, one
an expert interview with Dr. P.K. Shah, a cardiologist, the other an interview with Dick Cheney
himself, by telephone from Washington Hospital. The rest of the programme dealt with other
issues of the day, mostly in debate interviews, as announced by Larry King in the shows preopening sequence, presented in extract 13:
Extract 1
Tonight, tempers flare on election day plus 15: Miami-Dade County says no go to
manual recounts. George W. Bush okays an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a
Florida judge rules on counting dimpled ballots. Meantime, GOP running mate Dick
Cheney suffers a slight heart attack. (news round-up)
Joining us, Gore campaign attorney Dexter Douglass in Tallahassee, squaring off with

The extracts in this paper are based on transcripts which include both the verbal and the visual text of the television
broadcasts analysed, as well as sound, where relevant. In these transcripts, the verbal text is transcribed using a
modification of the conventions developed in conversation analysis, capturing filled and unfilled pauses, break-offs,
emphatic stress, overlap and stretches of simultaneous speech, but employing normal orthography. The visual text
includes the description of images, on-screen graphics and characters, screen lay-out, such as split screens, type of shot,
camera angle and movement, cuts and swipes. In the extracts, many of the features of spontaneous speech contained in the
transcripts and all of the visual clues have been omitted, but they have informed the analysis, where relevant. In addition,
the excerpts contain elements of analysis by way of showing the segmentation and classification of the discourse into
speech acts (like greet, question (abbreviated Q), answer (A), feedback (FB)), discourse moves (like question and answer)
which make up exchanges, discourse sequences (like opening), or genres (like news round-up, debate).



G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

Bush campaign attorney Barry Richard in Miami. (debate interview 1)

Plus, partisan perspective from Congressman Peter Deutsch, Florida Democrat, and
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from the sunshine state. (debate
interview 2)
And since theres talk of electoral intervention by Floridas legislature, well hear from
the House majority and minority leaders. (debate interview 3)
Then a debate between Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan hes in Florida
to observe the recount and GOP Senator Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas. He was in
Florida earlier this month. (debate interview 4)
All that, and another A-list roundtable, (roundtable discussion),
next on Larry King live.

The pre-opening has probably been pre-recorded. It precedes the real opening of the live show
(greeting the audience, introducing the first interview) from which it is separated by a
commercial break. The wording of the pre-opening projects adversarial topics and a heated
atmosphere between the rivalling camps. In this introduction to the show, the conflict-orientation
of the topics is firstly reflected in the formats in which they are going to be dealt withfour
debate interviews with lawyers and politicians aligned with the respective opposing camps, and a
roundtable discussion among well-known journalists. Secondly, it is reflected in the hosts
language in foreshadowing the interviews (squaring off, partisan perspective, debate, lines 5, 7
and 12). By contrast, the Cheney interviews are one-on-one interviews, they are not announced at
all and, as we shall see, they are neither topically nor discursively adversarial. Although the news
of Cheneys heart attack was announced last, the host deals with this topic in the main body of the
show in prominent first position, beginning with the medical expert interview. He then conducts
debate interviews 1 and 2, but has to interrupt half-way into the second one because Cheney is on
the line from Washington Hospital. So we have, on the macro-level of the data under scrutiny, a
sequential unit of two topically connected interviews, into which other material from the show is
insertedpresumably due to technical reasons.
3.3. The interviews
A two-pronged approach is employed in the analysis of these interviews: Firstly, the
propositions produced collaboratively by the host and guests are used to reconstruct the argument
structure of the interviews in terms of Toulminian schemata. Secondly, by analysing the linguistic
micro-structure, discourse strategies and participants footings and footing changes, the
construction of identities and relations is described, as well as shifts between genres and the
resulting generic hybridity. I shall proceed from the micro-level of question-answer sequences
and reconstruct from each such sequence the proposition that is being collaboratively constructed
between interviewer and interviewee. Such propositions have to count as between them
socially shared knowledge (see section 2.2.1.). This knowledge may be consensual knowledge, if
the voice of interviewer and interviewee are in agreement; it may be disputed knowledge, if they
are not. Since we are dealing with media interviews, this collaborative construction of knowledge
is intended by the participants for display to a third party, the mass audience. In order for such
knowledge to be acceptable to the audience, it has to satisfy certain requirements regarding the
trustworthiness of the interviewer and interviewee, as well as the internal (intra-textual)
consistency and external (extra-textual or situational) foundation of their discourse contributions.
Beyond this, both the weight of authority attributable to their social roles of interviewer, expert,

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


politician, as well as the importance of what they say and the rhetorical practices with which they
deliver this, will play a part in the audiences judgement of the acceptability of the version of events
presented. In addition, the extent to which the knowledge constructed is accepted, doubted,
criticized or rejected by a critical viewer will to degrees that vary with the issue under discussion
depend on the audiences background knowledge and, in the case of controversial topics, on their
attitudes, and political as well as ideological affiliations. This is one of the reasons why the
ethnographic description of the discourse context has to be an integral part of the analysis.
The structure of an argument may then be derived based on the reconstructed communally
produced propositions. This is where the analysis has to go beyond the sequential ordering of the
discourse in order to capture relations between propositions on a higher, meso-level of textual
structure. This does not mean, however, that sequential ordering on the micro-level, expectations
set up by this ordering and the way in which these are dealt with can be neglected. In the same
way, close attention must also be paid to linguistic detail. Such issues will determine the nature of
the propositions reconstructed on both the content and the interpersonal level.
3.3.1. The expert interview
In the expert news interview, the knowledge produced between interviewer and interviewee is
displayed as valid background information on the events of the day. In the case of the data at
hand, the expert interview relates to the days story of Dick Cheneys heart attack. After greeting
the audience and introducing the first topic, the host introduces his first interviewee, the
cardiologist Dr. P.K. Shah, an expert for the topic under discussion. The facts of the case, i.e.
what happened with Dick Cheney that day, are then assembled in question-answer exchanges 1
and 2, as shown in extract 2:
Extract 2
17 host
21 Q1 host
23 A1 expert
30 Q2 host
31 A2 expert

Good evening.
We begin with a medical update. Here with us in Los Angeles is Dr.
P.K. Shah, the famed cardiologist, director of the division of
cardiologist/cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Hes not your patient, but from what we know, from the information
weve gotten, what happened with Dick Cheney today?
Well, it seems like one of his arteries or one of his grafts we dont
know for sure developed a severe blockage and triggered a small
heart attack. And what the doctors were able to do is they did an
angiogram and confirmed that and then placed a littletiny metal
slinky like device called a stent to keep the artery from collapsing.
And these devices, called stents, are now commonly used to open
blockages in the arteries and prevent them from collapsing again.
Is the balloon also used?
Yes, in general, whenever you do a stent, you also wind up using the
balloon to deploy the stent inside the artery and open it up so it sticks
to the walls.

By not challenging the experts first answer, i.e. by accepting it as relevant to the open
proposition contained in his question, the host accepts it as consensual knowledge about the events
of the day and displays it as such to the audience: Cheney was diagnosed with a heart attack, a stent
was implanted in minimally invasive surgery. We note that both host and expert guest speak not as I,


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

but as we, thus assuming the footing of professional experts, as journalists on the one hand, and as
heart specialists on the other. By requesting further information in the follow-up question Q2 about
the balloon being used, the host however suggests that the experts answer was not informative
enough to fully satisfy the open proposition of his first question. One wonders about the relevance
of this detail, since it plays no further role in the following discourse. It is, however, relevant in
the domain of participant identities and relations. King, having undergone several heart
operations himself, seems to be changing his footing to construct himself as a co-expert in
cardiology, exactly as he will later construct himself as a co-patient with Dick Cheney (note the
usage of the balloon, without any further explication). Yet he does not abandon his footing as
interviewer and host of the show, rather the new footing is an additional one, an overlay, introducing
what Walton and Krabbe (1995:108) might call a flavouring of one discourse type by another.
Having established the facts of the case, the host in exchanges 3 and 4 turns to the evaluation
of the possible causes and effects of the events. From here on, there is systematic ambiguity as to
the motivation behind the topics raised by the hostis it concern for the health of Cheney, the
private person, or is it concern for Cheney, the public persona, whose ability to serve as Vice
President has been cast into doubt? In the rest of the interview, from exchange 5 onward, the
choice of sometimes private and intimate language on the part of the host suggests concern for the
private person, the situation in which the interview takes place, concern for the public persona.
Extract 3
34 Q3 host
36 A3 expert
41 Q4 host
43 A4 expert

The fact that there was a mild heart attack prior, does that indicate
anything worrisome?
Depends on how big a heart attack had occurred and overall what his
total function of the heart is. If the heart function is still very good, then
the prognosis is generally very favourable, but if there has been
extensive damage in the past, then any more damage with heart attacks
kind of cumulatively adds up.
The doctors said they didnt think stress of the election played a role. Is
that a guess?
Well, its very difficult to tell for sure what triggered this event. It is
known that stress can actually bring on a heart attack or angina in
someone who already has the disease, and its quite possible that all the
things that have been going on in the last couple of weeks have kind of
triggered something in the arteries.

Question 3 (line 34) on the potentially worrisome effects (for the patients health, for
American politics, for the Bush camp?) of Cheneys heart attack in terms of damage to the heart
receives a conditional answer. To fully complete the questions open proposition, the audience
would have to know the seriousness of the present heart attack, and the state of Cheneys heart
function prior to the recent attack. The result is a conditional proposition: If the heart attack was
slight and there is no serious damage through prior heart attacks, then there is no reason to
worry. The consensual knowledge to be constructed from this exchange is conditional upon this
further information. This information is in principle accessible in medical records. Predictably,
the medical expert treats the question as of medical, and not political, import.
Exchange 4 is about the very sensitive question of whether Cheneys heart attack could
have been caused by the stress of the election. The question is problematic to the Republicans
because it touches on the suitability of Dick Cheney to serve as Vice President and thus to occupy

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


the second-highest office in the state. In his question Q4 (lines 4142), the host quotes Cheneys
Washington doctors assumption that the stress of the election did not play a role in triggering the
heart attack. This embodies an interesting change of footing. King could have asked the question
straightforwardly, taking responsibility for it, as in Did the stress of the election play a role?
Quoting the doctors with a negative reply to this question enables him not only to shift the
responsibility for bringing up this topic at all, but it also allows him to introduce the question of
the causal role of stress as already having been denied by renowned experts. His own question,
though, tagged on to this quote, is extremely odd: Is that a guess? It would make sense,
however, as the trace of previous reactions to the doctors statement in the media, possibly also as
the trace of pre-interview talk between host and expert, in which the expert, confronted with the
Washington doctors quote, might have replied: But thats a guess! His response in A4 very
much points in that direction. Linguistically, this is exhibited on the one hand by the high density
of modals and hedges (very difficult to tell for sure, possible, kind of), when he contradicts the
Washington doctors opinion and on the other hand by the emphatic constructions and intensifiers
that bolster his own opinion: it is known that, can actually bring on, quite possible. The result of
exchange 4 is a qualified proposition: It is quite possible that the stress of the election in the
last two weeks may have caused Cheneys heart attack.
In light of the emphasis placed on the importance of previous heart damage in exchange 3,
exchange 5, reproduced in extract 4 below, comes as something of a surprise. For through two
presuppositions embedded in the hosts Q5 about possible further reasons for concern (lines 49
50), we learn that Dick Cheney has sustained previous heart damage through three heart attacks
and has undergone bypass surgery in the past. Yet the expert completes the proposition with a
bland piece of optimistic wisdom, a cardiologic health campaign slogan as it were, suitable for
boosting patients hope and their motivation to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Q5 also contains another
interesting change of footing on the part of the host. By referring to Dick Cheney by first name, he
signals closeness and familiarity, not in relation to the expert guest, but to the person talked about:
Extract 4
Q5 host
A5 expert
Q6 host
A6 expert

All right.
How concerned should we be that Dick has had three heart attacks
prior to major bypass surgery 12 years ago?
You know, these days there is life after a heart attack and it ultimately
depends on how well he takes care of himself.
Its up to him now, right?

The resulting complex proposition is something like this: In spite of Cheneys medical
history, we need not be concerned as long as he takes good care of himself, because these
days there is life after a heart attack. Interestingly, the host immediately repeats the gist of this
in a formulation (cf. Heritage and Watson, 1980) in exchange 6 (line 53), which receives
emphatic confirmation from the expert (line 54).
As far as medical history is concerned, of which the days heart attack is a part, the perspective
has now shifted from this to the future and to the part Cheney can actively play in this. There is a
topical transition here that is discursively marked at the beginning of exchange 5 by the hosts all
right, and a sequential boundary constructed by the formulationconfirmation pair of exchange
6. The shift in orientation from past to future also marks a change of role for Cheney from victim
to possible agent of his own fate: It ultimately depends on him; its up to him now. Exchange 6 has


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

a double function: on the one hand it formulates the gist of the previous sequence, on the other, it
looks forward to what will be done in exchange 7, in which host and interviewer together build
the proposition, listing all the things that Dick Cheney has to do in order to take care of
himself, as shown in extract 5:
Extract 5
Q7 host
A7 expert
A7 expert

Hes got to exercise, right?

Lose weight . . .
Lose weight.
and use a more healthy diet. Ive noticed on TV that he is a little heavy,
and I think weight loss, diet, exercise, keeping the cholesterol way
down with medication, diet and exercise, I think thats some of the
things we can do to prevent re-blockage.

Q7 (line 55) needs more than semantics to be understood in its questioning scope. We have to
understand what an interviewer question does in this context: It serves to prompt the expert to list
all the activities and measures that make up the healthy lifestyle recommended for cardiac
patients. But the medical expert also makes explicit what the aim of adopting such measures is:
Cheney has to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent re-blockage of his stent. Thus, the
proposition constructed in this sequence is not just a list of preventive measures, it also states
their purpose: In order to prevent re-blockage of the stent(s), Cheney must lose weight, adopt
a healthy diet, exercise, take medication.
It is this problem of re-clogging that is the topic of the hosts next question Q8, shown in
extract 6, and from the exchange the audience will learn that it is better to have a stent placed in
an artery than in a vein graft because then the chances of re-clogging are smaller: A stent placed
in an artery is statistically less likely to re-clog than one placed in a vein graft. (They may
also remember that it is not known whether Cheneys new stent was placed in an artery or in a
vein graft.)
Extract 6
Q8 host
A8 expert

And how long will a stent hold?

In general, once you put a stent in a native artery theres about a 15 to
30 percent chance that within 6 to 9 months it may re-clog. But if the
stent is placed in a vein graft, which is used to bypass, then the chances
tend to be higher. Somewhere between 30 to 50 percent will re-clog
within 6 to 9 months.

In Q9 (lines 6870), shown in extract 7 below, the host shifts to a personal footing (having
signalled his awareness that this is against the generic norm by the disarmer not to be too
personal) and positions himself as a co-sufferer from cardiac disease:
Extract 7
Q9 host
A9 expert

And finally, not to be too personal, I had this happen to me 3 years

ago, 12 years after/10 years rather after a bypass surgery, and Ive felt
fine for 3 years. Does that mean my stent has held?
Yes. Once you escape the 6- to 9-month period, in general, if the stent
has stayed open during that long, its very unlikely to re-close after that.

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


What is happening in this exchange? Is the host getting himself some free medical advice from
his renowned studio expert? If not, what is the point of his question, how is it relevant to the topic
of Cheneys stent implant? First, it leads the expert to explain that if a stent holds for 69 months,
the chances for the patient are very good. Secondly, the question invites an inference to the
analogy of Kings and Cheneys medical histories and, based on this, to a comparably good
prognosis for Cheney. We thus infer the following argument: Larry Kings medical history is
identical to Cheneys (except that his heart attack was 3 or 3.5 years ago); his stent has held
since; therefore Cheneys stent will presumably hold as well.
In the final exchange of this interview, shown in extract 8 below, the host again offers a
formulation of the gist of the foregoing, confirmed by the expert (lines 7375). This is very
similar to exchange 6 in extract 4:
Extract 8
73 Q10 host
75 A10 expert
76 Closing
77 host
78 expert
79 host

So his prognosis should be good as long as he takes good care of

Thanks, Dr. Shah.
Any time.
Dr. P.K. Shah, director of the division of cardiology Cedars-Sinai.

Since the hosts formulation is confirmed by the expert, it stands as the proposition constructed
in exchange 10: Cheneys prognosis should be good, as long as he takes good care of himself.
The scope of this formulation however is not quite clear: Does it refer to the previous exchange in
extract 7, to the sequence starting with exchange 6 (extracts 47)or to the whole interview? The
question is relevant because the larger the scope of the formulation, the stronger the claim made
in it. Since its structural position is that of a pre-closing (Schegloff and Sacks, 1973),
immediately preceding the closing sequence of the interview, I take it as summing up the overall
claim made in this interview.
Let us now examine how the argument may be reconstructed from this set of propositions
using a Toulminian argument schema. We notice that the propositions fulfil different
argumentative functions: some amount to Claims, such as those established in exchanges 5/6
(extract 4) and 10 (extract 8), others serve as Conditions of Rebuttal (rephrased here as Validity
Conditions) and some as Warrants or Backings. Some are explicitly stated in the interview;
others are presupposed or implicit and have to be inferred by the audience, some rest on the
hosts elicitations, others on the experts answers to them. In Table 1 below, we see that the
overall claim that can be extracted from the proposition set is based on the hosts questions or
formulations in exchanges 5, 6 and 10 (extracts 4 and 8) and on the experts confirmation of
Interestingly, all warrants in Table 1 except the last one are based on the experts answers, in
which they were stated explicitly. The same goes for the backings. This attests to the fact that
expert discourse deals with generalizations, abstractions, and empirical evidence. What is also
striking in the table is that, with the exception of 1.7, there are no data-only a series of validity
conditions which, if satisfied, would yield data to support the claim. These conditions are all
elicited by the hosts questions and co-constructed between host and expert, but they can be
weighted as being relatively more derived from the hosts or the experts contributions. In
the reconstruction of the argument structure in Table 1, I have of necessity had to abstract from


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

Table 1
Interview 1: Argument structure

the dialogical dynamic that produced it and, for reasons of space, have made no distinction between
co-ordinate and sub-ordinate relations (cf. van Eemeren et al., 2002:6878). The exception is again
1.7, where the claim inferred from the data provided in exchange 9 (extract 7) serves as data for
claim 1. By showing how components of an argumentation can be embedded in a hierarchical

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


structure, the nature of argument as a dynamic, unfolding, recursive process can partly be captured:
i.e. a datum on a higher level can become a claim on a lower one (Vestergaard, 1995).
Conditions 1.1., 1.4., 1.5. (extract 3) and 1.6. (extract 6), which derive from expert
contributions, are based on medical facts which can be checked, or on the patients ability to
withstand stress, which is checkable against experience. Two of the conditions derive from expert
or host and expert contributions (1.2., 1.3., extracts 4 and 5) and are related in that they both
concern Cheneys looking after himself, i.e. on behaviour to avoid progression of cardiac
disease. The implicit claim in 1.7. (extract 7) is based on a fact contributed by host and expert
equally: the hosts own stent has held for more than 3 years, by which he invites the analogy that
Cheneys stent will probably also hold. The implicit status of the claim, warrant and backing in
this case is indicated in the table by placing them in brackets. Their reconstruction is very much
open to interpretation, the warrant depends on a leap of faith and the backing plays on invoked
shared cultural knowledge. But it is interesting to see that this holds for this case only, whereas
the expert-based warrants and backings are firmly rooted in medical science. One condition (1.5.)
is also bracketedthis is because the medical history it refers to was introduced by the host
implicitly, through the presuppositions embedded in the question of exchange 5 (extract 3).
So the outcome of the argumentation that is collaboratively constructed between host and
expert in the first interview is: a qualified (should) claim about Cheneys health which depends
for its validity on conditions that have yet to be fulfilled, information that has yet to be supplied,
commitments that have yet to be made. The hosts conclusion of the interview, indorsed by the
expert, that Cheneys prognosis should be good as long as he takes good care of himself, has to be
identified as a fallacy of premature closure (van Eemeren et al., 2002:134136). The conclusion
is insufficiently supported because over and above the lifestyle condition of taking good care,
there are four other, medical conditions (1.1., 1.4., 1.5., 1.6.) that need to be satisfied for this
claim to be valid. Presumably a sceptical viewer will take note of these open questions, and a
competent talk show host will be aware of this.
3.3.2. The political celebrity interview
As we shall see, the host will address these open questions in the second interview, which is
the telephone conversation with Dick Cheney, who is joining the show from his hospital bed. As
mentioned before, the second interview did not immediately follow the expert interview. An
interview with Barry Richard, Bush campaign attorney, is in progress when the telephone
connection with the hospital is established. The host immediately interrupts in order to announce
Dick Cheney as his next guest and opens the conversation in an almost everyday manner, as
shown in extract 9:
Extract 9
Q1 host
A1 guest
FB host
A1 guest
FB host

Barry, let me interrupt. Let me hold you right there because we have
made contact on the phone we invited him earlier today Dick
Cheney from his hospital bed at George Washington University
Hospital is joining us.
How are you feeling, Dick?
Well, I feel pretty good, Larry.
Well, you sound great.
Well, its youve been through this procedure yourself, Im sure . . .



G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

A1 guest

. . . but no, I feel good and everythings looking good. We did a stent
today. But everythings fine, and the catheterisation looked good, so I
should be out of here in a day or two.

Without even stopping to greet his guest, the host gets straight to the point of Cheneys health.
Questions about well-being addressed to a talk show celebrity guest in the opening phase can in
principle be ambiguous between the private and public domain, as well as between a genuine
question or a mere conversational opening gambit. However, in view of the fact that Cheneys heart
attack had been a major news item throughout the day, we can safely take this to be a genuine
question, and one of public interest. Cheney professes to feel well. This is strikingly underscored by
being delivered in a booming bass voice. This display of subjective well-being is in turn verbalised
enthusiastically by the hosts emphatic feed-back. What is happening here is a multi-modal
collaborative construction of the proposition: Dick Cheney is feeling well. Cheney repeats this
once more, elaborating as he continues the turn by upgrading the good newsnot only does he feel
well, but everything is fine, and the catheterisation looked good. This counts as a report resting on
objective evidence, and yields the proposition: Dick Cheney IS well.
As regards participant relations, the host opens this interview on a personal footing,
addressing Dick Cheney by his first name, thereby continuing the footing of familiarity begun by
referring to him thus in the first interview (cf. extract 4). This footing is accepted by Cheney, who
reciprocates, not only by also using first-name address (line 85), but also by evoking shared
medical experience and co-patient footing, as it were, with the host (line 97). He also uses the
personal pronoun I until well into his last turn of the sequence. However, when it comes to
reporting on his medical condition, he changes this footing to the professional, institutional we
(we did a stent today), claiming medical expertise and co-agency rather than positioning
himself in the weak role of the patient (lines 8990). The co-agency is upgraded to agency in
exchange 2 (I did bypass, line 95), in which host and guest together establish details of Cheneys
medical history, as shown in extract 10:
Extract 10
Q2 host
A2 guest

Dr. P.K. Shah is in the studio. We just talked to him about this. Hes
director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai. And I know you had it done at
George Washington, which is where they did your surgery, right?
Thats right. I did bypass here about 12 years ago and the docs here
have taken some great care of me over the years.

In exchange 2 the host re-establishes his professional footing, but the exchange provides no
new information as against interview 1. The hosts Q3 in extract 11 below then reverts to a very
personal footing and, invoking shared experience of the medical procedure Cheney underwent
that day, attempts to elicit emotions, here of fear:
Extract 11
Q3 host
A3 guest

I know when it happened to me were you scared, Dick, this morning?

No, its one of those things where I had learned, had drummed into me
properly so over the years that any time you feel something that might
be cardiac-related, you go check it out. And thats good advice for
everybody, but especially anybody who has a history of coronary
artery disease, as I do.

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


The guest, however, in A3 resists this footing. He rejects the implication of being scared
without delay, in preferred format (line 98) and addresses himself to the construction of quite a
different footing. He gives an account of how effectively he deals with cardiac disease and
portrays himself as reliably following the general rules for cardiac patients (note the generalised
you in you go check it out, line 100). The proposition that Cheney inferentially invites here
is Cheney is fearless and competent in managing his illness.
In exchange 4, given in extract 12 below, the host continues to pursue his goal of eliciting an
emotional narrative in lines 103 and 106, but again Cheney delivers a factual and technical account
of the proceedings, possibly in an effort to address the confusion that had arisen earlier that day
about whether or not he had suffered a heart attack, and in particular about G.W. Bush saying at
midday that he had not and that his hospitalization had been a precautionary measure (cf. 3.1.). His
account is different from the experts in interview 1 in that it backgrounds the artery blockage and
does not mention the heart attack at all (in fact the word does not appear once in the entire

Q4 host
A4 guest


And now, so they did the stent. I guess you get to watch that, dont
kind of weird
and the initial test when I first came in didnt show anything, any
changes at all but we decided to go ahead and do the stent anyway not
the stent but the catheterization anyway and since I was already here.
And thats when they discovered that I did have a blockage in one
small artery and decided to go ahead and proceed to do the stent, made
that decision actually while they were doing the test.
Yes, they do it right there.

As in exchange 3, extract 11, the propositions built here cannot be said to be co-constructed
between host and guest. While the host tries again to elicit dramatic narrative on a personal
footing, the guest again resists this by providing a set of propositions addressed to playing the
events down as almost routine on the one hand, and to showing himself as robust and being in
control on the other to the point of again adopting a footing of co-agency (we decided, line
108) and medical co-expertise. It is hard to formulate into propositional form the vagueness of the
inferences that are invited. Nothing serious happened; the heart attack was not a serious one
may pass as an approximation. Information gained in exchange 4 serves to satisfy condition 1.1.
from the argument in interview 1 (cf. Table 1). There is also a new piece of information: The
stent was in an artery, not a vein graft.
This last piece of information is immediately taken up again by the host in a more salient
position in exchange 5, reproduced in extract 13, which shows that he still has the open questions
of interview 1 in mind (here 1.6. of Table 1). Exchange 5 also yields another new proposition:
Apart from this one (insignificant, see above) location, there has been no progression of the
disease over many years.
Extract 13
Q5 host
A5 guest

Was the blockage in a new artery or in a graft?

No, it was a new artery, not in a graft. The grafts were fine, and there



G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

had been aside from this one location there had been no progression
of the disease.

In exchanges 68 (cf. extracts 1416), the host raises two more open questions from interview
1, the questions of taking care and stress. From exchange 6, we can extract the proposition that
Cheney endorses the importance of healthy living, although his commitment to a healthy
lifestyle has to be inferred. This takes care of conditions 1.2. and 1.3. of the argument in Table 1.
Again, the host attempts a personal footing which is once more resisted by the guest who, as in
exchange 3, resorts to generalised you in order to background his specific case and position
himself as knowledgeable and willing with respect to taking care of himself.
Extract 14
Q6 host
A6 guest

Does this mean, Dick, that you have to now take double the care and
attention to yourself?
Thats true, but youve got to do that anyway. And its a healthy
reminder of the importance of behaving yourself, getting plenty of
sleep, watching what you eat, avoid all of those bad habits.

Exchange 7 is addressed to the question of stress, i.e. condition 1.4.:

Extract 15
Q7 host
A7 guest

And how about stress?

Well, I frankly, it may sound hard to believe, but I have not found
this last couple of weeks as stressful, for example, as, say, the Gulf
War. Really; comparing the relative stress in different situations, my
time in the Pentagon during the Gulf War was far more stressful.

This exchange settles two open questions from interview 1: whether the stress of the election
could have caused the heart attack and, by implication, whether Cheney will be able to take on the
stress of being Vice President. The proposition to be derived from the exchange is: The situation
during the Gulf War was, for him, much more stressful than the current post-election
dispute. Two inferences are invited by this: first, that Cheney can withstand stress, and second,
the present subjectively less stressful situation could not have caused the recent heart
attack. So another validity condition (condition 1.4.) inherited from the first interview is satisfied
by inference.
There are two changes of footing on the part of Cheney here: the first away from medical
considerations to political ones, invoking his previous term of office as secretary of defense at the
Pentagon during the (first) Gulf War. This allows him to position himself as a battle-hardened
veteran of politics. For the first time in the interview, something political is explicitly mentioned,
and it comes from the guest, not the host. It enables Cheney to reply to the stress question without
having to talk about his heart attack. The second change of footing is where Cheney, with it may
sound hard to believe, but . . ., briefly takes over the perspective of his addressees. There is an
inference triggered by such disarming prefaces to the effect that although the audience may find
hard to believe what is going to be said in the following but-clause, the contents of that clause are,
notwithstanding, absolutely true (Lauerbach, 1989, 1993). The effect of such constructions is to
highlight, emphasise and lend credibility to what is being said in the but-clause. At the same time,
the preface is a disarmer, shielding the speaker from objections of disbelief or doubt from his

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


audience. But why should his audience doubt that being secretary of defense during the Gulf War
was more stressful for Cheney than the current election dispute? As it stands, Cheney assumes his
audience to be capable of holding the cynical belief that fighting the current election dispute is
more stressful for him than was fighting the Gulf War. As an indication of the sensibilities and
values of a potential Vice President of the United States, the utterance may have made parts of the
audience uneasy. Presumably this was not the rhetorical effect Cheney was trying to achieve.
In exchange 8, extract 16 below, there follows a demonstration of just how little stress the
current situation holds for Cheneyby joking about it at the expense of Al Gore. The footing has
become symmetrically personal; the exchange sounds somewhat scripted, with the host playing
the part of stooge. He supplies the cue that enables Cheney to make his joke about the election.
Why should it be a joke, though, to say that there has been a feeling that the election has been out
of the hands of Cheney/the Republicans for the last 2 weeks? The answer is that it alludes, in an
ironical manner, to the position of the Bush camp that the election was over on election day, 2
weeks ago, and that the hand-counts are nothing but an illegitimate manoeuvre of Gores to avoid
conceding defeat. Analytically, it counts as funny because host and guest, through their shared
laughter, construct it at such, as they do the following slur on the hand-counting process about
pregnant chads.
Extract 16
Q8 host
A8 guest

Is there a sort of a feeling now like with regard to the election, its
out of your hands?
Well, its kind of felt that way for about two weeks. Weve/(SHARED
LAUGHTER) and I can report that when they got in there today they
didnt find any pregnant chads at all, Larry. (SHARED LAUGHTER)

Exchange 9, extract 17 provides the collaboratively constructed proposition Dick Cheney is

capable of serving as Vice President, emphatically confirmed in exchange 10: Dick Cheney is
determined to serve as Vice President.
Extract 17
Q9 host
A9 guest
Q10 host
A 10 guest

And Dick, is there if you assume this post and thats always a big
if with the way this goes back and forth every day are you fully
capable of doing any duties that the President may ask you to do,
because the Vice Presidents duties are determined by what the
President asks him to do.
Sure, yes. No, there shouldnt be any problems of any kind like that.
Obviously, Id always follow my doctors advice. In that kind of
situation, its the only fair way to proceed. But we dont anticipate any
No doubt about you serving?
No doubt about my serving. All we have to do now is get elected.

As the interview draws to a close, the first explicitly political question is posed by the host on a
personal footing and in a sequential position which in conversation is reserved for the negotiation
of interpersonal concerns: the slot between the pre-closing joking section and the phatic talk of
the closing (cf. Schegloff and Sacks, 1973). The hosts Q9, lines 134138 concerns Cheneys
capability to serve as Vice President. The response is emphatic agreement in the first part of the


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

Table 2
Interviews 1 and 2: Argument structure

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


turn (double assent at the start of the turn in preferred format, without delay), followed by some
qualification in the second. Cheney then goes on to deny something that was not asked but merely
implied, namely that his health may give rise to doubt about his suitability for office. However, by
painting a very reduced picture of the responsibilities attached to the Vice Presidency in lines
137138 (the requisite passage obviously addressed to the audience and not the guest), the host
has seriously minimised the problem. What he does not mention is that the Vice President must
also be able to stand in for the president, should something happen to the latter. It is possible that
part of the audience may have felt uneasy about this kind of questioning, and about the personal
footing on which such important matters were dealt with on the part of the host.
There follows some small talk about spending Thanksgiving in hospital and about Alma
Powell (wife of General Colin Powell, Cheney the Defense Secretarys Chief of Staff in the Gulf
War) having offered to cook the Cheneys turkey and bring some in. The closing is in
conversational, intimate terms:
Extract 18

Dick, be well. Well see you in a few days.

All right. Good to talk to you, Larry.
Thank you.
Thats Dick Cheney, from his hospital bed at George Washington
University Hospital.

The argumentation structure in Table 2 comprises the entire argumentation of both interviews.
Given the complexity of the structure of the argumentation, hierarchical relations between four
levels have to be taken into account: The main or Level 1 claim of interviews 1 and 2 is that Cheney
is able and willing to serve as Vice President. It is supported by three pieces of data, both of which
serve as claims on the next level downwards in the hierarchical structure of argumentation. The
first of these Level 2 claims is that Cheney is fit, inferred from the Level 3 data/claims in 2.1.1. and
2.1.2. These rest on data offered by Cheney at the beginning of interview 2 in which he displays
signs of being well, testifies to this and supplies reports on medical facts (Level 4). The second of the
Level 2 claims is inherited from interview 1: Cheneys prognosis should be good, but due to the
argumentative work done in interview 2, it is no longer qualified. The data in support of this also
function as claims on Level 3 of the argumentation. Of these, 2.2.1, 2.2.2. and 2.2.4. started out as
validity conditions of claim 1 in interview 1. They have now been weakly satisfied through the
interaction in interview 2. Claims 2.2.1. to 2.2.4. are inferentially derived, as is 2.2.6. Claim 2.2.5. is
the only claim on this level that rests on an explicit proposition of interview 2 and not on inference.
Validity condition 2.2.7., inherited from interview 1, remains unresolved, inheriting its warrant and
backing from Table 1. The third Level 3 claim is Cheney is willing to serve as VP. This rests on
his testimony in exchange 10 (extract 17).
4. Discussion
How good is the complex argumentation advanced in these two interviews in support of the
view that Dick Cheney is fit to serve as Vice President of the United States? What help do we get
from argumentation analysis to answer an evaluative question like this, and what can a critical
discourse analysis contribute?
In analysing the first interview, we noted that the claim Cheneys prognosis should be good,
constructed jointly by host and expert, was a fallacious premature closure of the argumentation in


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

that interview, because it ignored a number of validity conditions. A major part of the second
interview was addressed to the job of providing data for the fulfilment of these conditions. Yet,
due to the fact that all Level 3 claims in Table 2 which address these conditions are inferentially
derived, all validity conditions inherited from interview 1 are only satisfied by inference. One
validity condition (2.2.7. in Table 2) remains open, and the claim in 2.2.3. is based on the
fallacious analogy between Cheneys and the hosts medical history.
As to the warrants, or enthymemes, underlying the inferences involved, none are supplied in
Table 2 for reasons of space, but it is nevertheless interesting to reconstruct some for evaluative
purposes. Taking the upper half of the table to be fairly unproblematic, we recall first the shaky
status of 2.2.3. (1.7. from interview 1). Going further down the table, what are the warrants for
inferring the coordinate claims in 2.2.4. that Cheney can withstand stress and that the current
heart attack was not caused by stress of the election? They could read something like this: (a) If
someone can function as defense secretary in times of war, he can take stress, and (b) If a very
stressful situation in the past did not cause a heart attack in a cardiac patient, then a less stressful
present situation will not cause one either. (a) is only acceptable under the presupposition that
functioning includes no cardiac trouble, but we do not know if this was in fact so. As to (b),
there are three things wrong with it: (1) There is a missing premise, namely that during the Gulf
war Cheney did not suffer a heart attack. This is merely an invited inference. (2) The warrant only
holds ceteris paribus, but at time of speaking Cheney is 10 years older. (3) One wonders what the
backing would be. For 2.2.5., the warrant could read: If there has been no progression of cardiac
disease for many years in the past, there will be none in the future. This is doubtful even with
todays state of medical science and again, the question as to possible backings arises.
All in all then, the argumentation on the propositional level is not very convincing. Are we,
thus, dealing with a case of failure of critical doubt, pointing to a hidden agenda being
followed (Walton, 1991; Walton and Krabbe, 1995; cf. section 2.1.)? There are two kinds of
corroborative evidence for this in the data, the first on the level of discourse organisation, the
second in the construction of identities and relations. Turning to the first, recall that on two
occasions in the first interview the host provides formulations, summing up the gist of what had
been said so far, and obtaining unequivocal confirmations from the expert. These formulation
confirmation sequences function argumentatively as premature conclusions at sequence
boundaries in discursively salient positions, as in extracts 4 and 8, repeated below:
Extract 4
Q6 host
A6 expert

Its up to him now, right?


Extract 8
Q10 host
A10 expert

So his prognosis should be good as long as he takes good care of


Similarly in interview 2, the argumentative sequence was closed with an emphatic

formulationconfirmation sequence that precluded all critical doubt. The relevant exchange of
extract 17 is reproduced below:
Extract 17
Q10 host
A10 guest

No doubt about you serving?

No doubt about my serving. All we have to do now is get elected.

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


What happens if we take the negotiation of social identities and relations into account as well,
including the construction of genre-specific discourse roles? In the expert interview, starting with
Q5, extract 4, the host positions himself in a relation of closeness and familiarity to Cheney by
referring to him by first name. In Q9, extract 7, he brings himself personally into play as a parallel
case of cardiac disease and invites the inference of parallel good medical progress for Cheney. In
interview 2, host and celebrity politician collaboratively construct personal intimacy, closeness and
a feelgood atmosphere through the use of first names, joking and phatic talk. They invoke their
shared medical history and emphatically co-construct Cheney being well. All of this can be
attributed to the style of the genre of talk show interview. Yet, when the host uses this generic style
in an attempt to elicit emotional testimony and a dramatic narrative of the days events, the guest
resists and changes his footing to pursue a different agenda: to portray himself as active, responsible,
in control and powerful, and to cast the days events as routine and unproblematic. He slips into the
strategic style of the genre of political interview, even where, on the surface, the topical content is
medical and not political. But in this case, of course, the medical is political. The guests strategic
style accounts for his implicit way of dealing with the hosts questions, his factual, technical
language in speaking about his illness and experience in hospital in order to distance himself from
the politically harmful weak patient role, his assumption of the footing of medical co-expertship,
co-agency and agency even as a patient and his avoidance of all things dramatic or emotional.
But in a genuine political news interview, quite different discourse conventions from those of
the talk show would have had to be followed (cf. section 2.2.1.). For instance, interviewer
formulations in political interviews are usually adversarial and therefore followed by
disconfirmations on the part of the interviewee, and not by confirmations as in our data. The
hosts questioning practices, too, would have had to be rather different. On the one hand, one
would have expected his questions to be more searching and critical in order to pursue the other
side of the argumentthe critical doubt that Cheney is not fit to serve as Vice President. On
the other hand, the host would have had to ask a number of follow-up questions, as well as to
try to explicate the inferences hidden in the interviewees answers through challenges
(cf. Lauerbach, 2001, 2003, 2004). None of this occurs in the second interview.
Rather, in interview 2, the host even provides the cue for the guests joke at the expense of the
political opponent in exchange 8 (Q8, extract 16), lending this sequence a somewhat scripted
character. The joking, as well as the pre-planned character, is, of course, untypical of the political
news interview. In the expert interview, too, we found a possible trace of pre-interview talk in the
manner in which the host phrased his question after quoting the Washington doctors (Q4 Is that
a guess?, extract 3). The order in which the interviews were done suggests pre-arrangement, as
well. By placing the expert interview in the first programme slot, it was assured that the political
celebrity interview would succeed it, no matter what technical difficulties in establishing
telephone contact might intervene. This order also makes sense with respect to the inner logic of
the topic, to the relative social status and newsworthiness of the guests, and to the climax-last
dramaturgical structure of the talk show. There is no doubt that the second interview with the
vice-presidential candidate is the more important one of the pair with the greater news and
entertainment value. The position after the expert interview also afforded the prominent guest the
opportunity of having the last word on the issues raised in it.
5. Conclusion
The overall aim of this paper was to find out what an application of argumentation analysis
might bring to discourse analysis. This question is interesting for discourse analysts because


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

the concepts and methods of argumentation theory may well provide instruments not only for
the description of the arguments in the data, but also for the evaluation of the soundness of those
arguments. Argumentation analysis thus complements the methods of discourse and
conversation analysis, including Goffmans concepts of frames, footings and footing changes,
in the present case study. However, we had to develop a new procedure to reconstruct the
arguments produced collaboratively in the dialogue. In a first step, the propositions that were
co-constructed between talk show host and guests were derived from the analysis of questionanswer sequences. In a second step, the arguments that were collaboratively built between
the participants from these propositions were re-constructed and from these the overall,
multi-layered argument structure was derived.
The results of the study are interesting in a number of respects. First, they provide evidence of
the fact that one argument can be co-constructed by participants intertextually over two
dialogues. Secondly, they show that the two dialogues can belong to different discourse types,
here expert interview and celebrity interview. Thirdly, they demonstrate that each of these
discourse types can have different participation frameworks, with one participant remaining
constant, the host. That is, in each of the two interviews, the host collaborates in the arguments
construction with a different type of interviewee: in the first interview with a cardiology expert,
and in the second with a politician suffering from cardiac disease. The first interview with the
expert concluded with a claim that depended for its legitimacy on the fulfilment of a number of
validity conditions as supporting data. In the second interview, the celebrity/politician interview,
the missing data were provided through personal testimony, narrative and political statements on
the part of the interviewee.
In some respects, this intertextual generic structure is similar to the format of audience
participation shows, where the host collaborates with experts, guests and members of the studio
audience in order to construct an argument for the studio and home audience (see Thornborrow,
2007). However, the genres of celebrity talk show interview and of audience participation show
differ with regard to the possibility of evaluating the argumentation practices employed.
Audience participation shows are a confrontative type of talk show in which speakers
arguments are evaluated by the other participants responses, including those of the studio
audience. In the more consensual celebrity talk shows, however, participants responses are in
harmony, and any potentially divergent reactions by the home audience, for instance, are not part
of the text and are therefore not accessible to the analyst. Consequently, it was necessary to seek
different evaluation criteria for the soundness of the arguments in our interviews. They were
found in discursive micro- and sequential analysis, combined with argumentative schemata of a
Toulminian kind, in the discourse rules of the genres engaged in, in the ways in which the genres
expected footings were accepted or resisted by the celebrity guest, and in the manner in which
the expectations of a politically split television audience were (not) taken into account by the
It was found that both interviews exhibited features of hybridity between talk show interviews
on the one hand, and the expert and political interviews on the other. However, in the analysis and
the discussion of the results, it was the criteria of the discourse type of rational discussion that we
applied to evaluate the soundness, or rather fallaciousness, of the argumentation employed in the
data. What becomes of such judgements in the case of the generic hybridity found? Can
argumentation theory provide evaluation criteria for a dialogue in which one participant does talk
show and the other, in strategic orientation designed to strengthen his own position against the
political opponent, does something approaching political interview? How can we make
allowances for distinct argumentative discourse types and their different dialogue rules, and for

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


marked or gradual shifts between them (cf. Walton, 1989; Walton and Krabbe, 1995; cf. 2.1.
above)? As Walton and Krabbe stress, in such cases evaluative judgments depend on the context
of dialogue:
In general, a key element in judging argumentation as fallacious or non-fallacious in a
given case, is the context of dialogue surrounding the argument, especially if a dialectical
shift has occurred during the argument (1995:121).
Discourse analysis tells us that we are dealing with different types of context in our interviews.
The immediate context of the guests answers are, of course, the hosts questions, and the generic
context is the talk show interview with its relatively relaxed discourse rules. As described in
section 2.2.1. above, the talk show is a genre in which the host can develop an argument in
question-answer dialogue with his guests, all of this being performed for a third party, the
overhearing audience. In the case of the political celebrity talk show, this co-construction of
argument is generally consensual: all the voices in play, including the hypothetical ones of the
audience, being in harmony and favouring the collaborative production of a shared point of view.
In the political news interview, on the other hand, the co-construction of argument is generally
dialectical. The voices in play are in discord because they stand for the range of divergent and
conflicting opinions in the social context which are introduced into the dialogue through the
interviewers questions. For our case study, this wider context of society (see section 3.1.)
includes a television audience that, mirroring the closeness of the American election 2000, can be
assumed to be evenly split between the camps of Bush/Cheney and Al Gore. If we take this into
account, then we find that the critical questions that a sceptical audience on the side of the
Democrats/Al Gore might have wanted to hear are not asked, or are not sufficiently pursued. Such
questions, follow-ups, challenges or formulations would have had to be addressed to those points
in the argumentation that were identified as weak in the analysis. Not to do this indeed then
amounts to presenting only one side of an argument, the other side of which is out there, in the
context of the audiences opinions. According to Ilie (2001:217), the reason why this kind of
construction seems to be acceptable at all is because the talk show as a genre is not generically
bound to impartiality:
unlike interviews proper, talk shows are not strictly information-focused and do not claim
maximum objectivity and impartiality either, since they do not rule out the personal and
even emotional involvement of both the questioner and the respondent.
The weaknesses of the argumentation in the data confirm that the genre of the political talk
show celebrity interview is a format which disprefers an attitude of critical doubt, on the part of
both host and guest, even in contexts of strong political controversy. The genre therefore lends
itself to exploitation by politicians who, through subtle shifts of footing, are able to pursue their
political agenda. It is this format in this context and with this interviewee that produced a type of
argumentation that, in the context of rational discussion such as might be found in political news
interviews, would have to be evaluated as unsound or fallacious. By inviting Cheney on the show
to talk to Larry King from his hospital bed, the message that would be transmitted was clear. The
format and questions of tact and taste forbade a searching and critical approach and practically
invited exploitation for political purposes.
To summarise, what the American public saw and heard that night was a well-crafted piece of
damage control which audiences on different sides of the political divide must have experienced
quite differently. It is interesting, in conclusion, to look at the extent to which the three
participants the talk show host, the expert, and the politician-guest were involved in its


G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419

construction and to ask how each of them fills Goffmans (1981) production format roles of
animator, author and principal. As to the expert, we see and hear him animate his discourse. The
authorship of what he says, however, is owed to a large extent to the discourse of medicine, as
well as to scientific jargon. Likewise, the principalship, the responsibility for what he says, does
not lie solely with him and any private goals he may be pursuing. Rather, such responsibility is
shared with the state of the art in his profession. For the politician we assume self-animation
(although we do not see him). However, the question arises as to who the author of his discourse
is. It is very unlikely that Cheney was left without the assistance of the Bush camps public
relations resources in preparing for this very important interview. And principalship? Again we
must assume at least shared responsibility between the Bush campaign and the interviewee for
the agenda he is pursuing. As for the host, Larry King of course, animates his own discourse, and
he may be the only one of the three who is sole author of his wordshe produces Larry Kingstyle talk show discourse in Larry King-style talk show formats. The question of principalship,
however, is a difficult one.
In both of the interviews analysed, we found traces of pre-interview talk. They were rare, but
they were there. They point to the partially planned nature of the event, and this implies joint
principalship on the part of the talk show host and the interviewee, to a certain extent.4 With
respect to the political celebrity interview, both parties stand to gain from such an arrangement.
Politicians profit from reaching a much larger audience than through the classical news interview,
while at the same time enjoying not only the feelgood atmosphere of the talk show interview,
but also the safety of a certain predictability. Talk show hosts, for their part, profit by getting high
calibre interviewees with maximal news value. Political culture, however, in the long run, stands
to lose.
The research reported on in this paper is part of a project on the comparative analysis of
political discourse on television in the USA, Great Britain, and Germany, directed by the author
and supported by the German Research Council and the Freunde and Foerderer der Goethe
Universitaet Frankfurt. The author would like to thank Eleonore Emsbach, Annette Becker,
Anne Barron and two anonymous reviewers for critical and helpful comments on previous
versions of this paper.
Bell, Philip, van Leeuwen, Theo, 1994. The Media Interview. Confession, Contest, Conversation. University of New
South Wales Press, Kensington, NSW, Australia.
Blom, Jan-Petter, Gumperz, John, 1972. Social meaning in linguistic structures: code switching in Northern Norway. In:
Gumperz, J., Hymes, D. (Eds.), Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication. Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, New York, pp. 407434.
Clayman, Steven, Heritage, John, 2002. The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Correspondents of the New York Times, 2001. 36 days. The Complete Chronicle of the 2000 Presidential Election. Times
Books, Henry Holt, New York.
Fairclough, Norman, 1995. Media Discourse. Edward Arnold, London, New York.
Gill, Ann, Whedbee, Karen, 1997. Rhetoric. In: Dijk, T. van (Ed.), Discourse as Structure and Proccess. Sage, London,
pp. 157184.

As we have seen, this is no guarantee against rhetorical mishapsof the author (cf. extract 15).

G. Lauerbach / Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007) 13881419


Goffman, Erving, 1974. Frame Analysis. An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Harper and Reno, New York.
Reprint 1986. Northeastern University Press, Boston.
Goffman, Erving, 1981. Footing. In: Goffman, E. (Ed.), Forms of Talk. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 124157.
Greatbatch, David, 1992. On the management of disagreement between news interviewees. In: Drew, P., Heritage, J.
(Eds.), Talk at Work. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 268301.
Habermas, Jurgen, 1981. Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt.
Heritage, John, Watson, Rod, 1980. Aspects of the properties of formulations: some instances analyzed. Semiotica 30,
Holly, Werner, 1990. Politik als Fernsehunterhaltung. Ein Selbstdarstellungsinterview mit Helmut Kohl. Diskussion
Deutsch 21, 508528.
Ilie, Cornelia, 1999. Question-response argumentation in talk shows. Journal of Pragmatics 31, 975999.
Ilie, Cornelia, 2001. Semi-institutional discourse: the case of talk shows. Journal of Pragmatics 33, 209254.
Lauerbach, Gerda, 1989. We dont want war, but . . .. Speech act schemata and interschema inference transfer. Journal of
Pragmatics 13, 2551.
Lauerbach, Gerda, 1993. Interaction and cognition: speech act schemata with but and their interaction with discourse type.
In: Geiger, R.A., Rudzka-Ostyn, B. (Eds.), Conceptualizations and Mental Processing in Language. Mouton de
Gruyter, Berlin, New York, pp. 679708.
Lauerbach, Gerda, 2001. Implicit communication in political interviews: negotiating the agenda. In: Weigand, E., Dascal,
M. (Eds.), The Dialogic Question. Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 197214.
Lauerbach, Gerda, 2003. Opting out of the media-politics contract. Discourse practices in confrontational television
interviews. In: Bondi, M., Stati, S. (Eds.), Dialogue Analysis 2000. Selected Papers from the 10th IADA Anniversary
Conference, Bologna 2000. Niemeyer, Tubingen, pp. 283294.
Lauerbach, Gerda, 2004. Political interviews as a hybrid genre. TEXT 24, 353397.
Livingstone, Sonja, Lunt, Peter, 1994. Talk on Television: Audience Participation and Public Debate. Routledge, London.
Schegloff, Emanuel, Sacks, Harvey, 1973. Opening up closings. Semiotica 7, 289327.
Simon-Vandenbergen, Anne-Marie, 2000. Towards an analysis of interpersonal meaning in daytime talk shows. In:
Ungerer, F. (Ed.), English Media Texts: Past and Present. Benjamins, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, pp. 217240.
Thornborrow, Joanna, 2001. Has it ever happened to you?: Talk show as mediated performance. In: Tolson, A.
(Ed.), Television Talk Shows. Discourse, Performance, Spectacle. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, N.J., pp. 117
Thornborrow, Joanna, 2007. Narrative, opinion and situated argument in talk show discourse. Journal of Pragmatics 39,
Toulmin, Stephen, 1958. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
van Eemeren, Frans, Grootendorst, Rob, 1984. Speech Acts in Argumentative Discussions. Forus Publications, Dordrecht,
Holland, Cinnaminson, USA.
van Eemeren, Frans, Grootendorst, Rob, 1992. Argumentation, Communication, and Fallacies. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J..
van Eemeren, Frans, Grootendorst, Rob, Jackson, Sally, Jacobs, Scott, 1997. Argumentation. In: van Dijk, T.A. (Ed.),
Discourse as Structure and Process. Sage, London, pp. 208229.
van Eemeren, Frans, Grootendorst, Rob, Snoeck Henkemans, Francisca, 2002. Argumentation. Analysis, Evaluation,
Presentation. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, N.J.
Vestergaard, Torben, 1995. The open-endedness of argument. In: Millar, S., Mey, J. (Eds.), Form and Function in
Language. Proceedings from the First Rasmus Rask Colloquium, Odense University, November 1992. Odense
University Press, Odense, pp. 137150.
Walton, Douglas, 1989. Informal Logic. A Handbook for Critical Argumentation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Walton, Douglas, 1991. Bias, critical doubt and fallacies. Argumentation and Advocacy 28, 122.
Walton, Douglas, Krabbe, Eric, 1995. Commitment in Dialogue. Basic Concepts of Interpersonal Reasoning. State
University of New York Press, Albany.
Gerda Lauerbach has recently retired as Professor of English Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at the Goethe
University, Frankfurt/Main. Her research focuses on discourse analysis, pragmatics and semantics. She has published on
the semantics and pragmatics of conjunction, on discourse practices and ideology, on genre, preference and inference, on
argument and rhetoric, and on the interaction of visual and verbal modality in classroom and television discourse. The
focus of her present work is media discourse. Her latest publications are on political interviews, press conferences and
current affairs programmes. She is working on a project focussing on the cross-cultural analysis of television discourse,
specifically on election nights on US, British and German television, and on the discursive construction of the American
(post-)Election 2000/the Florida Recount by CNN International.