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Politeness as a strategy of attack in a gendered political debate – The Royal-Sarkozy debate

Abstract : This article examines the televised debate between S. Royal and N. Sarkozy on May 2, 2007, a few days before the second round of the French presidential election. The objective is to assess whether or not the fact that one of the candidates was a woman for the first time in French history had an impact on the debate, and to examine how each of the two French presidential candidates addresses the other during the two-hour debate. Transcriptions analysed through the software Lexico3 developed by the SYLED-CLA2t at University of Paris 3 are the basis of the content and statistical analysis. Results indicate differential strategies: N. Sarkozy makes excessive displays of deferential politeness and uses a wide range of registers; S. Royal is more combative and formal. While she makes use of a series of coordinated sentences, concrete explanations and examples, he tends to refer to abstraction. I hypothesise that this is informed by gender assumptions about politeness and the ethos of discourse of power – meaning manipulation and control through discourse in the political domain.
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Béatrice Fracchiolla. Politeness as a strategy of attack in a gendered political debate – The Royal-Sarkozy debate. Journal of Pragmatics, Elsevier, 2011, Women, Power and the Media, 43 (10), pp.2480-2488. ⟨10.1016/j.pragma.2011.02.006⟩. ⟨halshs-01700024⟩

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