Publication details

Eavesdropping on media talk : Microphone gaffes and unintended humour in sports broadcasts



Year of publication 2016
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Pragmatics
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web Full text from publisher
Field Linguistics
Keywords participation framework; broadcast talk; unintended humour; footing; casual conversation; eavesdropper; Erving Goffman; pragmatics
Description This paper deals with the phenomenon of the ‘microphone gaffe’ in the context of sports broadcast talk. This peculiar communicative event is characterized by the public mediation of live talk to media audiences without the speakers being aware that they are actually on air. Adopting a general pragmatic perspective, this paper analyses the microphone gaffe in terms of its specific participation framework and discusses its humorous potential. It is argued that the key element underlying these communicative situations consists of the momentary non-acknowledgement of the media audiences by the speakers. The audience, repositioned as non-participants, actually find themselves in the role of the ‘eavesdropper’ on a private conversation. On the production side of the communicative scheme, the mistaken belief in enjoying this momentary ‘private’ speech event is accompanied by a shift of footing, where the commentators’ institutional identities become replaced with their non-public personas, evidenced by forms of backstage talk that contrasts with their frontstage performance. This paper proposes that in case of microphone gaffes, humorous effect arises from the various incongruities between the actual and the presumed footings, as well as from the subsequent recontextualizations that enclose the original communicative act within an additional communicative level. The aim of the paper is to propose and elaborate a general theoretical framework for the analysis of unintended humour in media discourse.
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