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Strategic maneuvering by personal attacks in spokespersons’ argumentative replies at diplomatic press conferences

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Within the framework of Pragma-Dialectics, this article analyzes personal attacks in the spokespersons’ replies at the press conferences held by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2012 and 2015. The research results show that, to cut down the credibility of their opponents in attempting to dismiss them, spokespersons adopt three subtypes of personal attack: the direct, the indirect, and the You too subtypes. Each of them can be further divided into several variants. Taking account of the institutional preconditions for making argumentative replies at governmental press conferences, this article analyzes how spokespersons maneuver strategically in attacking a secondary audience by means of the various subtypes and variants of personal attack. It then explains how these strategic maneuvers assist the spokespersons in convincing their primary audience.

Keywords: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA); Pragma-Dialectics; ad hominem; institutional precondition; personal attack; press conference; primary audience; secondary audience; spokesperson; strategic maneuvering

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 4, 2017

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