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Lecture | Sociolinguistics & Discourse Studies Series

Just kidding, only retweeting: Defence strategies for denying speaker commitment

Monday 13 May 2024
Sociolinguistics & Discourse Studies Series
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden


How do people respond to accusations of having said something objectionable (e.g. untrue, racist or sexist) and when is such a defence reasonable? In our ongoing research we analyze and evaluate the different strategies that people use in discussions about controversial utterances, combining insights from classifcal rhetoric with the distinction between literal content and implicatures from theoretical pragmatics.

We briefly present our general classification of defence lines from Boogaart, Jansen & van Leeuwen (2021) and then zoom in on two specific ones: the viewpoint defence (e.g. “I was only quoting”, “I just retweeted a message”) and the humour defence (“I was just kidding”). In earlier work, we came up with a provisional set of critical questions to assess the reasonableness of the viewpoint defence (Boogaart, Jansen & Van Leeuwen 2022). Using these as a starting point, we would like to discuss with the audience if and when defending a controversial utterance by appealing to humour may be considered reasonable.


Boogaart, R., H. Jansen & M. van Leeuwen (2021). “‘Those are your words, not mine!’ Defense strategies for denying speaker commitment”. In: Argumentation, Jrg. 35 nr 2, p. 209-235.

Boogaart, R., H. Jansen & M. van Leeuwen (2022). “‘I was only quoting’: shifting viewpoint and speaker commitment”. In: L. Horn (2022), From lying to perjury: Linguistic and legal perspectives on lies and other falsehoods. De Gruyter.

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