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Rhetorical questions as reproaching devices

Abstract: This paper studies rhetorical questions containing cognitive verbs that function as reproaches in Spanish. Its two main goals are to determine the degree of specialization of rhetorical questions as reproaches and to examine the characterization of reproaching as a speech act, indicating the distinctive features that distinguish it from other similar speech acts. Based on a contextual analysis of approximately 500 instances of reproaches in conflict talk drawn from the Spanish Royal Academy’s Corpes XXI corpus, I identify and describe the most commonly used cognitive verbs and syntactic structures used in rhetorical questions. The results show that reproach is a reactive-provocative speech act in which the speaker reacts to a contradiction perceived in their interlocutor’s words, actions or thoughts. The speaker appeals to their interlocutor’s moral conscience, making them think about this inconsistency; finally, the speaker creates the expectation of a duty that should have been carried out by the interlocutor.
Keywords: reproaches / speaker / rhetorical questions / structures / function / speech / interlocutor / Spanish / verbs

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