Presupposition, assertion and the encoding of evidentiality in political discourse
The way linguistic messages are “packaged” in political discourse often reflects evidentially-based criteria and, notably, the intention of the politician to make his epistemic commitment more or less manifest in relation to the type of content proffered to the receiver. The present paper analyzes the evidential function of presupposition and assertion (apud Masia 2017) in a corpus of English, French and Italian political speeches, with the aim of highlighting how these units of information structure are strategically resorted to by politicians to modulate their commitment to more or less challengeable types of content. Data show that more challengeable content types (i. e. attacks and self-praises) are likely to be encoded as presupposition, which reduces the speaker’s commitment to their truth; in contrast, less challengeable content types (i. e. neutral/informative and stance-taking) are more likely to be asserted, with the speaker showing stronger commitment to their truth.
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