Denial in managerial responses: Forms, targets and discourse environment

Victor Ho

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates denial, a rapport-challenging speech act. It discusses the performance of denial in the review response genre – managerial responses addressing negative online comments made by dissatisfied customers. In this study, the speech act of denial is taken to be instantiated as Deny Problem, one of the moves constituting the review response genre. The moves were identified by qualitatively analysing a total of 2,577 managerial responses produced by hotels of different star-ratings (2-star to 5-star) with the aid of the software Nvivo 12. The Deny Problem move and its proximal discourse environment were analysed further to address three main broad areas of interest: the forms of denial, the functions performed by denial, the targets of denial, and the work, if any, done by the hotel management to mitigate the potential damage to rapport resulting from the performance of the rapport-challenging act. Our analysis suggests that denial, be they used alone or in series, can target the asserted information, the customer's rationality, the hotel's responsibility, and the seriousness of the problem. While discursive effort is usually made to repair the damaged rapport with the customers, rather unexpectedly, instances of further rapport challenge are found in the proximity of the denial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-136
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Denial
  • Managerial responses
  • Rapport
  • Rapport management
  • Review response genre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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