HomeFEU English and Literature Journalvol. 5 no. 1 (2011)

What’s between Yes and No? A Pragmatic Analysis of Filipino Senators’ Responses to Yes/No Questions

Alejandro S. Bernardo

Discipline: Literature



In Philippine radio and television broadcasts, well-known Filipino politicians are often suspected of evading challenging questions. This, however, has so far been hardly formally investigated. Hence, this study explored how indirectness finds its way in politicians’ responses and the role obliqueness plays in face-saving and maintaining polite behavior. Furthermore, an attempt to decipher what really lies between “yes” and “no” was made by analyzing Filipino senators’ answers to polar or yes/no questions. Ten transcripts of interviews featuring seven Filipino senators were culled from the Senate of the Philippines website and served as the study corpus. Adhering to the Conversational Analysis approaches and following Obeng’s (1997) framework, the researcher examined the transcribed excerpts of conversations and placed them alongside his analytical claims. This facilitated the deduction of possible pragmatic interpretation of the politicians’ responses and the indirectness strategies used. It was found that the politicians’ answers to yes/no questions are not identifiably situated on a positive or negative spectrum. In the analysis, clear-cut “yes” or “no” answers to politically detrimental questions are rarely heard from the senator-politicians. This paper argues that political figures are often “hearer-responsible” i.e., they delegate the responsibility of deducing what their answers signify or implicate to the intuitive minds or inferential abilities of their listeners.