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Order in disorder: audience responses and political rhetoric in speeches from the second round of the 2012 French presidential election

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Publication details

JournalPragmatics and Society
DateAccepted/In press - 17 Feb 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 19 Jan 2018
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)520-541
Early online date19/01/18
Original languageEnglish


Contrary to the belief that political speech structure is universal (Atkinson, 1984a), recent research has revealed that Japanese speech rhetoric and audience behaviour (Bull & Feldman, 2011) are fundamentally different to those found in British political speeches (Heritage & Greatbatch, 1986). To contribute to the cross-cultural understanding of speechmaking, this study examined speaker-audience communication patterns in ten speeches by the second-round candidates of the 2012 French presidential elections (François Hollande; Nicolas Sarkozy). Analogous to the British, the French speech style demonstrated higher ‘implicit’ response invitations and asynchrony in speaker-audience turn-taking, contrasting with Japanese ‘explicit’ invitations and synchrony. These results were interpreted using Hofstede’s (2001) individualism-collectivism cultural dimensions. Dissimilarities in audience responses between the two candidates were also identified, and were suggested to parallel political division in France. To conclude, French speakers utilised individualistic speechmaking, and the possibility of a relationship between audience behaviour and party affiliation was put forward.

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