Peter Bull

University of York, United Kingdom

Anita Fetzer

Leuphana University of Lueneburg, Germany

Marjut Johansson

University of Turku, Finland

The goal of this introduction is to contextualize the multifaceted notion of commitment. It examines its conditions of use in ordinary language and in the research paradigms of pragmatics, social psychology, and discourse analysis. Particular attention is given to the microanalysis of commitment in ordinary language and in political discourse as well as to its subjective and intersubjective dimensions. 

Keywords: commitment; attitude; context; microanalysis; political discourse; intersubjectivity

Commitment in political discourse concerns every voter. At elections, politicians make promises, pledges, affirmations, and declarations. But voters may ques-tion the extent to which politicians can be trusted to keep their word or to implement their promises. Furthermore, politicians may duck awkward questions through equivocal or evasive language. Hence, in the analysis of commitment, it is important to consider its corollary that of noncommittal political discourse. Both are the focus of this special issue.

Most of the articles in this collection are by linguists with the sole exception of the first author (a social psychologist). However, all the articles share a common focus on the fine micro details of social interaction. As such, they can be seen to exemplify what the first author has referred to elsewhere as the microanalytic approach (Bull, 2002). Microanalysis, he argued, represents not only a distinctive methodology but also a novel way of thinking about communication. Its key feature is a belief in the value of studying the fine details of social interaction throughthe detailed analysis of film, audiotape, and videotape recordings. It is also an inter-disciplinary endeavor; microanalysis is not the exclusive property of any one acade-mic discipline. The articles in this special issue reflect this interdisciplinary focus.

Microanalytic research has been conducted in a wide variety of academic disci-plines notably social psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, linguistics, sociology, ethology, and, of course, communication. Within this interdisciplinary context, prag-matics and the social psychology of language share a particularly close affinity given their mutual concern with the study of language in social context. In this special issue, all the articles focus on how fine linguistic details can indicate either the pres-ence or absence of political commitment. [DOWNLOAD]