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A field test of equivocation theory: Apologies by Canadian churches to indigenous people
Unformatted Document Text:  8 social bond between the Offender and Offended. (p. 47) Writing in the Yale Law Journal, Taft (2000) proposed that Apology leads to healing because through apologetic discourse there is a restoration of moral balance--more specifically, a restoration of an equality of regard . . . Apology, then, is potentially healing for both the offended and the offender. In a rather poetic phrasing, Tavuchis (1991) implied that an apology is one step in an interpersonal sequence; it is the middle term in a moral syllogism, a process that commences with a call [for an apology] and ends with forgiveness. (p. 20, emphasis omitted) Putting together the analyses of authors such as Alter (1999), Taft (2000), and Tavuchis (1991), we can view the apology as a crucial step in a broader, potentially restorative, social process: It starts, of course, with an offense, which may lead to the offender’s feeling remorse and to an apology. (Or, either the offended party or a third party can call for an apology.) After the apology, the injured party could choose to forgive the offender, and there may be reconciliation. The key question here remains: what is the nature of the central link in the sequence; what is an apology? For the answer, we can return to linguistics, specifically to Coulmas’s (1981) distinction between sympathy and apology. Both of these speech acts start with “I’m sorry” (or the equivalent), but an apology must also include a statement of responsibility. If someone says “I’m sorry that you were fired,” “had an accident,” or “are feeling bad,”

Authors: Bavelas, Janet.
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8
social bond between the Offender and Offended. (p. 47)
Writing in the Yale Law Journal, Taft (2000) proposed that
Apology leads to healing because through apologetic discourse there is a
restoration of moral balance--more specifically, a restoration of an equality of
regard . . . Apology, then, is potentially healing for both the offended and the
offender.
In a rather poetic phrasing, Tavuchis (1991) implied that an apology is one step in an
interpersonal sequence; it is
the middle term in a moral syllogism, a process that commences with a
call [for an apology] and ends with forgiveness. (p. 20, emphasis
omitted)
Putting together the analyses of authors such as Alter (1999), Taft (2000), and Tavuchis
(1991), we can view the apology as a crucial step in a broader, potentially restorative,
social process: It starts, of course, with an offense, which may lead to the offender’s
feeling remorse and to an apology. (Or, either the offended party or a third party can
call for an apology.) After the apology, the injured party could choose to forgive the
offender, and there may be reconciliation. The key question here remains: what is the
nature of the central link in the sequence; what is an apology?
For the answer, we can return to linguistics, specifically to Coulmas’s (1981)
distinction between sympathy and apology. Both of these speech acts start with “I’m
sorry” (or the equivalent), but an apology must also include a statement of responsibility.
If someone says “I’m sorry that you were fired,” “had an accident,” or “are feeling bad,”


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