, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 57-77

The Passover Haggadah as Argument, Or Why Is This Text Different from Other Texts?

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Abstract

In this paper, I demonstrate how the Passover Haggadah exploits certain features of conversational interaction in both the production formats of its texts and in its performance formats (or ways it indicates it should be performed) during the Passover Seder. Some conversational methods used include the use of dispreferred second pair parts which creates an impression that at least part of the Haggadah's text resembles a kind of conversational argument. Furthermore, as a recitable text, the Haggadah exploits the use of and changes in footings in a manner reminiscent of how reported speech is used in ordinary conversation to introduce participant roles and virtual participants with their own commitments, orientations and positions which may not represent those of the animators of the recited text. While the Haggadah is not an actual argument in conventional terms, it is a script of ritual texts organized according to a logic similar to the one by which certain kinds of conversational arguments are organized. Participants are able to animate participatory roles and assess the positions, orientations and commitments such roles represent in a manner that rehearses how such positions, orientations and commitments might be accomplished in actual argumentation.