A model of trust-repair discourse

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  • Lund University


This article proposes a novel theoretical framework for examining trust-repair discourse. The model identifies two fundamental discourse strategies available to the trust-breaker when trust is at stake (i) to engage with and act upon the discourses that represent a potential source of distrust – neutralize the negative, (ii) to communicate a trust- worthy discourse identity – emphasize the positive. These strategies are realized in discourse through the use of dialogic engagement and evaluative/affective language, respectively. The ultimate communicative goal of the strategies is that of promoting the addressees’ positive (re-)assessment of the speaker’s ability, integrity and benevolence. The model is applied to the analysis of the CEO letter published by BP one year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The analysis has the twofold purpose of demonstrating the viability of the model and deter- mining the discourse strategies deployed by the CEO to repair trust in the company after the accident.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-69
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date9 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • trust, evaluation, affect, dialogism, ability, benevolence, CEO letters, BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill