The Use of Questions in Political Interviews

Topics: Question, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton Pages: 10 (3342 words) Published: November 21, 2010

Nowadays political interviews have become one of the most important means of political communication. With the help of deliberative questions, the interviewer makes the interviewee give the necessary answer. The aim of the present research was to investigate the question type that was used most frequently, out of four questions in the English language, in the context of political interviews as well as to define the functions of the identified question types. The frequency analysis and discourse analysis of the question types used in three political interviews with USA Presidents showed that the yes/no questions are the most frequently used type of question in political interviews; the functions of those questions highly depend on the aim of interview. Key words: question types, functions of questions, political interviews, discourse analysis.


Nowadays political interviews have become one of the most important means of political communication. Interviews are like a serious play of questions and answers. Moreover, in political interviews the person asking the questions is not supposed to ask directly, but think of the way how to formulate a question in order to get the expected answer. Questions and answers depend on a situation that is at once pleasant and difficult – in which each of the two partners uses the rights given him by the other and by the accepted form of the dialogue. The relationship between questions and answers has been studied thoroughly. However, little attention has been paid to the importance how the form of questions impacts the answer. Usually questions that would be given during the interview, especially during a political interview, are more or less known, but there is a difference in the way how these questions are formulated as here are several types of questions that may be used when formulating them. The aim of the present research is to investigate the types of questions in political interviews. Moreover, the author intends to find out what the functions of the question types in the context of political interviews are. The author hypothesizes that wh-/how questions would be the most frequently used question types in political interviews and the functions of questions depends on the aim of the interview. The enabling objectives of the research are the following:

• to read and analyze the theories on question types and political interviews;

• to study political interviews in order to identify questions;

• to analyze the questions according to four question types and state their functions;

• to draw relevant conclusions

The author of this paper uses quantitative (frequency analysis) and qualitative (discourse analysis) research methods. The first part of the research presents the theoretical part which includes the analysis of theoretical sources of the research; the second one presents the empirical research.


With the general growth of political issues, political interviews have become a significant part of the process of communication. Anne O’Keeffe, an expert in corpus linguistics, states that ‘despite many studies of questions, there is little consensus on definition of questions.’ (2006: 79) Tsui characterizes a question as a ‘semantic category, an illocutionary act, or to refer to request or verbal directives, or simply as something that expects an answer.’ (1994: 159) According to the grammarians Rapa and Upmale (2007), there are four types of questions in English: yes/no (general) questions, choice (alternative) questions, wh-/how (special) questions and tag (disjunctive) questions. In the interrogative sentences each type performs its own function: choice questions “indicate alternative”, that is, expect a reply from two or more options presented in the question, but general questions require “short answers beginning with yes or no”. (ibid: 4) Stephanson states that general questions limit responses,...
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