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'Veto the war but let no French head fall': Linguistic avoidance strategies in Jacques Chirac's pre-Iraq war interview transcripts

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The eve of the ongoing Iraq war was a decisive moment for world leaders since they, given American pressure, had to choose between being with US or with the enemies. It meant treading on potentially threatening issues that could harm inter-national alliances and friendships. This paper illustrates using transcripts of Jacques Chirac's (then French president) interviews the linguistic avoidance strategies used to avoid, redefine, recontextualise, reframe, and reassess concepts and topics considered threatening to the position held. The answers Chirac gives to the rather direct questions show his desire to avoid projecting the false idea that France is hindering American foreign policy. It is therefore not only his face that is at stake, but also that of his people, his political party, and the nation. Placing the analysis within the broader concept of multimodal communication, the paper adopts some of the findings made by Caffi & Janney (1994) and Janney (1999) to emphasise that strategies of avoiding implicative and threatening concepts in speech follow similar patterns of escaping from or avoiding harmful objects in the physical world.
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Keywords: AVOIDANCE STRATEGIES; FACE-SAVING; LINGUISTIC AVOIDANCE; POLITENESS; POLITICAL DISCOURSE; POLITICAL INTERVIEWS; PUBLIC DISCOURSE; THREATENING CONCEPTS; WAR ON TERROR

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2008

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