Power, solidarity and tag questions in crisis negotiations


  • Gabriela Beyatriz Rubin Georgetown University




crisis negotiation, hostage negotiation, tag questions, influence, rapport


This article examines the use of tag questions in five crisis negotiations to simultaneously minimize power asymmetries and assert influence over subjects. I utilize an Interactional Sociolinguistic approach to identify the discursive functions that different types of tag questions fulfill for the crisis negotiators. I find that facilitative tag questions reinforce a ‘collaborative problem solving’ frame (Tannen & Wallat 1993) and minimize the significance of the subject’s negative actions, while softening tag questions turn orders into requests to influence the subject’s decision-making. The successful use of tag questions for these purposes allows the negotiator to appear empathic while maintaining control of the overall situation. This paper contributes to linguistic and practitioner understandings by 1) operationalizing goals like 'rapport' and 'influence' and 2) identifying the functions that tag questions can serve in this high-stakes interactional context.

Author Biography

Gabriela Beyatriz Rubin, Georgetown University

Gabriela Rubin received her Masters degree in Sociolinguistics at Georgetown University in 2016. Her primary research interest is forensic linguistics, particularly issues involving crisis negotiation and threat assessment.



How to Cite

Rubin, G. B. (2017). Power, solidarity and tag questions in crisis negotiations. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 24(1), 45–65. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.31003