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(Im)politeness during Prime Minister's Questions in the U.K. Parliament

Murphy, James



Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) is a weekly, half-hour long session in the British House of Commons, which gives backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Leader of the Opposition (LO) the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister (PM) questions on any topic relating to the government's policies and actions. The discourse at PMQs is often described as adversarial (see Bull & Wells 2011) and in this paper I will show how the notion of impoliteness can be applied to both the questions and the answers which make up the session. Through the detailed analysis of six sessions of PMQs I will also demonstrate that PMQs is also a source of polite linguistic behaviour of the sort described in Brown & Levinson's (1987) politeness theory. Comparisons between Gordon Brown's and David Cameron's speech styles will also be drawn. © John Benjamins Publishing Company.


Murphy, J. (2014). (Im)politeness during Prime Minister's Questions in the U.K. Parliament. Pragmatics and Society, 5(1), 76-104.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Journal Pragmatics and Society
Print ISSN 1878-9714
Electronic ISSN 1878-9722
Publisher John Benjamins Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 1
Pages 76-104
Keywords Prime Ministers questions, impoliteness, community of practice, face-threatening acts, parliamentary discourse, mitigation, politeness
Public URL
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Additional Information Additional Information : This is a post-print version of the article Murphy, J. (2014) (Im)politeness during Prime Minister’s Questions in the U.K. Parliament. Pragmatics and Society, 5 (1). pp. 76-104. ISSN 1878-9714 published at The publisher should be contacted for permission to re-use or reprint the material in any form.


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