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Transcript Analysis of Atheist vs. Religious Debate - Richard Dawkins and Bill O'Reilly

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´╗┐Niall Hamilton Exploring Conflict in Spoken Language The interview is centred on a discussion between political commentator and television host of Fox News Bill O?Reilly, and British evolutionary biologist and Richard Dawkins. It takes place on the Fox News Channel, and is a spontaneous transaction, unedited by the network. It has a main audience of many millions of Americans (as the show is aired in the US), but is also available on the internet so can be viewed by people interested in politics and religion globally. The purpose of the interview is to inform the audience of the participants? views, and to entertain. Richard Dawkins is on the show to be interviewed, to get publicity for his book ?The God Delusion?, and to present an intellectual face. On the other hand, Bill O?Reilly is there to host the show and question Dawkins on his book and belief system, and to challenge Dawkins? views, whilst still maintaining a friendly face. It is important for the context of the interview to mention that Dawkins is an atheist, and O?Reilly a devout Christian. This difference of opinion is the source of conflict in the interview; the contrasting viewpoints make the interview more entertaining, likely one of the reasons Bill O?Reilly was chosen to host the interview. ...read more.


This is shown in the use of the concrete noun ?guy?, especially in describing Jesus (?Jesus was a real guy?? ? line 33). He also uses the verb phrase ?throwing in [with Jesus]? ? line 40, using an idiom to describe his religious beliefs, again adding to the informal register, and linking to O?Reilly?s purpose of entertaining the audience by showing a friendly, approachable face, which also makes the audience more likely to side with him. As O?Reilly and Dawkins have conflicting views, O?Reilly seems unwilling at times to let Dawkins make his points, often cutting him off before allowing him to make a valid contribution to the discussion. For example, when Dawkins says that ?we have to be humble? ? ? line 60, O?Reilly interrupts him by telling him that being humble is a Christian virtue, attempting to both discredit Dawkins and put himself (as a Christian) in a favourable light in the same breath (despite the fact that the virtue of humility predates Judeo-Christianity). When Dawkins tries to dispute this, using the polite idiom ?of course? to acknowledge some validity in O?Reilly?s point and the conjunction ?but? to indicate a contrast in opinion (?of course it is, but-?) O?Reilly simply interrupts him again and changes the topic (?Alright well when you guys figure it out?? ? line 71). ...read more.


His comment breaks Grice?s maxim of relevance, as it had no real relevance to what Dawkins had said, and served to suggest that Dawkins supported them [Hitler and Stalin], again trying to make the audience take his side rather than Richard Dawkins? through associating him with such evil people. This caused Dawkins to interrupt him, using the simple declarative sentence, ?I don?t either?, in an attempt to save face. At line 163 the conflict comes to an end, which is shown in O?Reilly?s attempt to be polite, congratulating Dawkins on his success and saying that his ?book is fascinating?. However it is important to note the adjective ?fascinating?; it implies that he finds the book interesting, but not that he agrees with it, and so subtly disagrees with Dawkins? views whilst maintaining a polite face. The interview ended with a co-operative adjacency pair at line 164; BO?R: (?) thanks for coming on in here. RD: Thank you very much indeed. Both participants are very polite, thanking each other in an effort to appear keep up a friendly, professional face, indicating that the conflict (and the interview) is over. Dawkins uses the post-modifying intensifier ?very much? and the affirmative adjective ?indeed? when thanking him to show himself in a favourable face, causing the audience to see him in a positive light, sympathize with and consider his views, and possibly to buy his book. ...read more.

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