Course-corrections in rapport management: how changes to rapport occur in one sample of political discourse
The ways in which human relationships are managed via language is a topic of particular interest in the area of sociolinguistics where work into the study of such topics as politeness, impoliteness, and rapport management have attempted to shed light on this phenomenon. This study examines two segments of extended discourse by President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia at the 2008 Summit of the Rio Group where he addressed a gathering of Rio Group members comprising heads of state from Latin American and Caribbean nations. Faced with serious accusations about his nation's military actions into Ecuador a few days before the meeting in question, Uribe engaged the group through two extended statements where he defended his government's actions. In these two segments of discourse Uribe changed his tone; it is this change that the present study attempts to describe in terms of modification to the effects of his discourse on the relationship between himself and the other interlocutors. To this end, an analysis is done classifying Uribe's utterances as polite, per Brown and Levinson's politeness model, and impolite, per Culpeper's impoliteness model. Additionally, Spencer Oatey's model of rapport management is used to classify Uribe's utterances according to their effect on the components of rapport. These classifications are examined alongside an analysis of factors related to rapport management such as frame, purpose of the exchange, and participants, for the purpose of understanding how these many factors work together to generate a changed effect to rapport. Of greatest significance in this study is the relationship between (im)politeness strategies and components of rapport. This dynamic provided an interesting way of examining (im)politeness in a new context, one that factored-in the effects of (im)politeness to the relationship between interlocutors. The study, as described above, showed that Uribe's change in tone was indeed a change to approach to rapport management characterized by an initial focus on the transactional and relational goals rapport component in the first of two segments, that then changed in the second part to a focus on face and association rights.