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The TV addresses of the Swiss government before popular votes : A case study of argumentation in direct democracy

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This paper analyzes an important genre in the public debates before popular votes in Switzerland: the TV addresses in which the Swiss government presents its standpoint and main arguments for or against the proposal put to the vote. The paper investigates a series of addresses in order to characterize the argumentation in them. The question is whether the addresses show similarities and, if there are any, what their pragmatic effects on the argumentation might be. The addresses are studied with concepts and methods from linguistics and argumentation theory: with regard to the role of the non-verbal modes, the composition, the relation between argumentation and other practices, the argumentative macro- and micro-structure, and personal references. In all these aspects, recurrent features can be identified. Many of these features can be understood as highly functional for the Swiss political system with its far-reaching direct democratic rights. They effectuate an argumentation that is rather informative than confrontational.

Keywords: Switzerland; TV addresses; direct democracy; genre; government communication

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2019

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