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When are public apologies ‘successful’? Focus on British and French apology press uptakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-153
Number of pages14
Early online date19 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


King's Authors


Public apologies are one of the most prominent examples of migration of speech acts from the private to the public sphere and now commonly feature in a wide range of public and media settings. Judging by the last two decades, the act of public apology is clearly in the process of social change, although perhaps more particularly in English-speaking cultures. The paper inscribes itself in a growing and vigorous literature on public apologies and public apology processes and aims to reveal public apology felicity conditions as represented by newswriters. Their scripts reporting what successful public apologies are or should be are therefore investigated using a corpus of over 200 apology press uptakes (reactions to public apologies in the press or ‘metalinguistic discussion’, Davies, 2011) taken from popular and quality British newspapers spanning a one-year period (207 articles). A smaller comparable French dataset (61 articles) is also included for contrastive purposes. Explicitly evaluative metapragmatic comments identified in these two corpora of apology press uptakes are the main source of data. The apology felicity conditions identified in the discourse of these comments in the British press are presented in the form of a ‘model’. The latter is interpreted in the light of Olshtain and Cohen’s widely-recognized apology speech act set (Olshtain and Cohen, 1983; Olshtain, 1989).

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