Imagine two people talking about politics, using rational arguments and philosophical theories, and suddenly a third one comes in and starts ranting about the same topic, but from a very subjective perspective.

Or else, someone posts a humorous, yet shallow picture on facebook, related to recent events, and someone else comments, but in a highly elaborated manner.

In general, a discussion could be led for example in an academic way, it could be pub talk, it could be over-emotionalised, childlike, silly, precocious, relaxed, it could be in the style of a BBC interview or a heated quarrel. I would call all these "discussion styles" in lack of a better term.

What is a word (or an expression) for changing the discussion style or conversation level in such a way? Or is there even a better word for "discussion style"? In particular, I'm looking for a technical term possibly used by linguists.

An example sentence for the first question might be "In facebook conversations between people of different educational levels, [?] are frequently observed.", and for the second question "Alice and Bob were discussing politics when suddenly Charlie came in and completely changed the [...]"

Note that I'm not looking for an idiom for changing the subject in a conversation. The subject should stay the same, only the way the conversation is led should change.

I am also not looking for a specific way how the discussion changed, like "escalation".

  • "change the debate" refers to style, arguments or approach rather than the subject of the conversation.
    – Graffito
    Aug 29, 2016 at 11:05
  • 2
    "change the depth of the discussion" ?
    – Helmar
    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:28
  • 1
    change the nature of the discussion, the discussion's course got altered ? Aug 29, 2016 at 12:41
  • 2
    @BradC escalate is nice, though obviously only works in one direction
    – Aoki
    Aug 29, 2016 at 18:56
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    The opposite of a discussion "escalating" would be a discussion descending (or devolving) into chaos or perhaps "dissolving into an argument". You could also say a discussion "became heated". These are all detailed descriptions of exactly how the discussion changed, though, not a general term for a change in demeanor.
    – BradC
    Aug 29, 2016 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


Change of tone, e.g. quoting The Times newspaper

Turning point will change the tone of debate [...] The death of an MP [Joe Cox 1974-2016] less than a week from the EU referendum has already had a profound effect on the course of the campaign

A definition of Tone:

4. Manner of expression in speech or writing: took an angry tone with the reporters.

5. A general quality, effect, or atmosphere: a room with an elegant tone.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

  • The tone of a debate seems to me to be mainly related to the emotional content of the debate.
    – Turion
    Aug 29, 2016 at 15:40


[A feature of speech in linguistics] When the register and stylistic aspects of the speaker becomes apparently different and incongruent during the course of a conversation.

The individual in this case would adjust his speech patterns to be distinct from those of other individuals belonging to another group/social identity.

*Divergence here can be understood as transient and individual/perosnal phenomena, as it is characterised by a creative choice deliberately made by the individual to reflect/represent his/her feelings in a given situation, at a given time.

[Note that, in other occasions, the same person may make an opposite or different choice freely, for quite logical reasons].

Discussion style= discourse style, speech style

  • So divergence occurs in a single speaker, and not in the relation between the discourse style of one speaker to the style of another?
    – Turion
    Aug 31, 2016 at 8:38

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