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South African news interview talk: The interviewer's maintenance of a position of neutrality

Susan I Brokensha


One of the aspects Heritage and Greatbatch (1991) highlight in their Conversation Analytic (CA) study of the sequential organisation of British news interview discourse is the maintenance of interviewer (IR) neutrality. This aspect of news interview talk is also the focus of a CA study conducted by an American analyst, Clayman (1992). Both Heritage and Greatbatch (1991) and Clayman (1992) argue that the news interview turn-taking system is geared towards the maintenance of a neutralistic stance in a number of ways. That is, news IRs employ a variety of procedures to disaffiliate themselves from the assertions or opinions they make. Adopting the principles of qualitative research, the descriptive aim of this article is to conduct an analysis of a corpus of South African news interview interaction in terms of the models devised by Heritage and Greatbatch (1991) and Clayman (1992). It is shown that the procedures news IRs employ to maintain a neutralistic position are replicated in the corpus of South African data. A secondary, applied linguistic aim involves considering the practical applications of a discourse-based study of IR neutrality to ESP (English for Specific Purposes). Specifically, the researcher examines how the findings of an analysis of IR neutrality may be translated into teaching materials for prospective news IR trainees. It is shown that the language practitioner may design (i) communicative activities aimed at simulating news interview talk in which the “IR” is required to maintain a neutralistic stance, and (ii) consciousness-raising activities aimed at fostering critical awareness of the notion of neutrality.

(S/ern Af Linguistics & Applied Language Stud: 2002 20(1&2): 13-23)

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eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614