1.3 seconds is a long time

Pausing in a political interview can be taken the wrong way and have consequences for the ensuing discourse. Here is Emily Thornberry (ET) pausing for 1.3 seconds (line 05) during a TV interview on Channel 4 news with Jon Snow (JS). 1.3 seconds might not seem like a long time but in the context of this discussion it is seized on by the interviewer as ‘hesitation’, or a sign perhaps that the question is troublesome for the Labour politician and her party.

Unable to wait longer than 1.3 second for an answer, Snow asks whether she agrees (line 06). This leads on to a period of negotiation for the floor. Snow explicitly refers to the pause in line 09 which Thornberry responds to in line 11. Snow comes back at that in lines 13 and 16.

01 JS: the power behind your throne
02     Len McClusky has said you’ve got fifteen months
03     to put Labour back at the top of the polls
04     where it should be in opposition
05       (1.3)
06     agree? (.)
07 ET: well (0.4) I don’t think
08     that we need [to have
09 JS:              [that’s a pause
10 ET: I don’t think that we need to have any
11     well I’m just thinking
12 JS: yes (.) well
13     it’s quite a thought isn’t it
14 ET: no no hang on hang on hang on
15     [what I’m-
16 JS: [it is
17 ET: no
18 JS: I mean
19     how the hell are you going to put
20     Labour back on top of the polls
21       (1.0)
22 ET: d’yknow what
23     I think
24 JS: what about a new leader
25 ET: okay (.) do you want me to speak

External link to clip (audio)

Two threads

The interesting aspect to this discourse is how two threads run through it. The first thread is the question of ‘how to get Labour back on top of the polls’ and the content related to this. This is shown in red below.

Running parallel to this is the question of the significance of the pause and the subsequent language that ensues in the negotiation for the floor. This is shown in blue.

01 JS: the power behind your throne
02     Len McClusky has said you’ve got fifteen months
03     to put Labour back at the top of the polls
04     where it should be in opposition
05       (1.3)
06     agree? (.)
07 ET: well (0.4) I don’t think
08     that we need [to have
09 JS:              [that’s a pause
10 ET: I don’t think that we need to have any
11     well I’m just thinking
12 JS: yes (.) well
13     it’s quite a thought isn’t it
14 ET: no no hang on hang on hang on
15     [what I’m-
16 JS: [it is
17 ET: no
18 JS: I mean
19     how the hell are you going to put
20     Labour back on top of the polls
21       (1.0)
22 ET: d’yknow what
23     I think
24 JS: what about a new leader
25 ET: okay (.) do you want me to speak

Complicating these parallel threads is the ambiguity in Jon Snow’s line at 13 ‘it’s quite a thought isn’t it’ which he re-emphasises in 16. We are not quite sure whether ‘thought’ is referring to the original question regarding Labour and the polls, or to the 1.3 second pause that Thornberry had.

13     it’s quite a thought isn’t it
...
16 JS: [it is
...
18 JS: I mean
19     how the hell are you going to put
20     Labour back on top of the polls

 


Channel 4 News, 27th March 2017
See also: Daily Express. http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/784587/Emily-Thornberry-Channel-4-Jon-Snow-grilling-snaps-party-poll-ratings

 

 

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