De toon van het debat - Een stilistisch en argumentatief perspectief | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 35, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1573-9775
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1236


[This paper is a revised version of the farewell lecture of Peter Jan Schellens as a Professor of Language and Communication at the Faculty of Arts of Radboud University Nijmegen on January 11, 2013.] The high tone of voice in Dutch public and parliamentary debates is frequently criticised. However, what do we mean with a high ‘tone of voice’? This contribution uses a case study on wildlife starvation from 2010 to answer this question from a stylistic and an argumentative perspective. The case resolved around the question whether gamekeepers should provide additional food to rescue starving wildlife in the Dutch nature reserve “The Oostvaardersplassen” or not. This issue was hotly debated in newspapers, on digital platforms, and in two parliamentary debates. The analysis of this debate reveals that two pragmatic features contribute to a rising tone of voice. Firstly, debaters often forcefully delivered their arguments by using a variety of language intensifiers, such as strong adverbs, adjectives and metaphors. Secondly, they frequently interlaced their argumentation with interactional fallacies, such as arguments and strawman fallacies. These can threaten the relations of discussants in the debate. While intensified language and interactional fallacies are less frequently found in the parliamentary debates, they are most frequent in Internet discussion. Probably, the use of such pragmatic devices is only persuasive when preaching to the choir: Interactional fallacies and intensified language do not persuade opponents in the debate.


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