Analysing Pointless Banter

‘Pointless’ is a popular TV quiz-show series currently aired in the UK by the BBC. It’s hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, whom, along with the contestants, often engage in a spot of banter. [If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s an episode.]

This banter specifically features in (what the publishers say is) the first book-length study analysing irony and banter together The Pragmatics of Irony and Banter [purchasing details below]. Chapter 8 is devoted to an analysis of the banter in Pointless, and is entitled : ‘The point of banter in the television show Pointless’. It’s written by professor Linda Pillière of Aix Marseille University, Le Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone (LERMA), Aix-en-Provence, France.

“This paper explores banter within the television quiz show Pointless. Building on previous theories of banter, I suggest that the composite nature of the phenomenon can usefully be analysed within an interactional pragmatic model, such as that proposed by Lecercle (1999). Using this model to analyse various episodes of Pointless, I seek to demonstrate that banter is created within a dynamic interpersonal process. I focus on the sequential interaction between speaker and the various hearers involved in the exchange, as opposed to isolated utterances. I propose that any analysis of banter needs not only to study the linguistic aspects of a series of utterances, but also the sociocultural context and the encyclopaedic knowledge that each participant brings to the exchange.”

The book is currently available from John Benjamins Publishing Company, at $143.00, in hardbound or e-book formats.

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

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