Ibérica (Apr 2018)

Patterns of clusivity in TED Talks: When ‘ you ’ and ‘I’ become ‘ we’

  • Giuseppina Scotto di Carlo

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 35
pp. 119 – 144


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This paper is a qualitative and quantitative corpus-based study analysing the correlation of clusivity, tense, and modality patterns in TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks, which are popularising speeches aiming at knowledge dissemination among laypersons. Using a corpus composed of the TED Talks presented in 2012, the study investigates the ways in which TED speakers use first-person plural and singular pronouns when interacting with their audiences. The patterns of clusivity used in the corpus confirm one of the main characteristics of TED Talks, that is to say, the abolition of the ‘scientistmediator-audience’ triangulation, typical of canonical popularising genres. The inclusive pronouns used in the corpus construct positive politeness, making the audience feel part of the knowledge-spreading experience. The analysis also reveals how TED Talks are actually an ‘innovative’ means of popularisation, in which there is no longer a distinction between ‘I’, the speaker, and ‘you’, the audience. ‘I’ and ‘you’ become ‘we’, in a common project which invites the audience to take on specific attitudes and behaviours and concretely participate in changes.