Analyzing Talk Among Friends Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:06:56
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In the preceding example, the utterance Ahma git me а gig! was interpreted differently by the participants in the interaction. So the question to be asked about Ahma git me а gig! is, what does it mean (how did the listeners arrive at their understandings), and what particular features of language and/or social situation signal that meaning? To arrive at an understanding of what the utterance meant, interpretations are not constructed solely from the speakers perspective but are also gathered from the participants who heard the utterance.

Later, others may be asked to listen to а recording and share their understandings of the utterance(s). Then, the analysts task is to make an in-depth study of the selected instances of verbal interaction, observe whether or not actors understand each other, elicit participants interpretations of what goes on, and then (а) deduce the social assumptions that speakers must have in order to act as they do, and (b) determine empirically how linguistic signs communicate in the interpretation process ( Gumperz 1982: 35).

In the analysis of the example noted here, for instance, Gumperz was able to show that most white speakers did not seem to understand the utterance other than as а lapse into dialect or saw the switch to Black English as а rejection of whites and the speaker addressing himself only to other black students.

Black students, however, explained the students remark as an attempt to justify himself by appealing to others in the group, Іm just playing the game as we blacks must do if we are to get along in а white world, while also identifying а particular rhythm in the utterance that led them to their interpretation. Thus, features of language carry social meaning that plays а significant role in interpreting what speakers mean (see Gumperz 1982: 29-37 for а detailed explanation of this example and its interpretation).

While this example should make any interpreter wonder how they are interpreting meaning of speakers who differ in some way, such as region of the country, age, ethnicity, gender, my point here is about the analysis of natural language and how discourse analysts determine what speakers mean and how language conveys elements of meaning. Using these methods to analyze interpreted discourse is а way of understanding how the participants in an interpreted interaction understand each other at the time.

Gumperz proposed that а theory of discourse must take into account both the linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge that an interlocutor must have to maintain involvement in an interaction, Accounting for such knowledge demonstrates two things: (1) meanings are jointly constructed between speakers as they talk, and (2) conversations contain internal evidence of their outcomes, that is, the ways in which participants share, partially share, or do not share, mutual conventions for meaning and how they succeed in achieving their communicative ends.

Tannen reached а similar conclusion. She called such linguistic and social knowledge conventions by which meaning is communicated in social interaction (1984: 151). In Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends, Tannen (1984) analyzed two and а half hours of conversation over а Thanksgiving dinner.

She defined and discussed features of conversational involvement, such as topic, pacing (how relatively fast or slow one spoke), narrative strategies (in what order events are told, how speakers made their point, etc.), and expressive paralinguistic (intonation, pitch, and others), which together pattern in different ways the speech of different participants. For three of the speakers, these features combined in acceptable ways of having а conversation, but three other speakers experienced the same conversation as unusual and their participation faltered. When speakers share conventions for signaling meaning, they can be said to share а conversational style ( Tannen 1984).

Tannens approach to studying discourse, modeled after Gumperz, is characterized by (1) recording naturally occurring conversations; (2) identifying segments in which communication may seem to flounder or be troublesome; (3) looking for patterned differences in signaling meaning that could account for trouble; (4) playing the recording, or segment of it, back to participants to elicit their spontaneous interpretations and reactions, and also, perhaps later, eliciting their responses to the researchers interpretations; and (5) playing segments of the interaction for other members of the cultural groups represented by the speakers to discern patterns of interpretation. Tannens study suggests that within an interpreted interaction speakers who do not share а common language also have conversational styles that they do not necessarily share with the interpreter.

For example, Tannen (1994) has demonstrated that а discourse approach to gender and language, following in the tradition of Gumperz, can be understood by looking for differences in the way women and men signal meaning in conversation. This has great implications for interpreters: what happens when interpreters do not share а conversational style with one or both speakers? Many interpreters are women who interpret for men. Do they understand male strategies for asking questions or giving information? Do men understand female strategies? As her research demonstrates, the notion of cross-cultural encompasses more than just speakers of different languages or from different countries; it includes speakers from the same country of different class, region, age, and even gender ( Tannen 1985: 2o3).

Gumperzs analysis of brief utterances located within а social scene and Tannens analysis of а single extended interaction via the same analytical and interpretive framework provide а rigorous methodology for analyzing conversational interactions, including interpreted conversations. Their emphasis on soliciting participant reactions and interpretations, along with close transcription of contextualization cues in language, provides а framework for going beyond а mere structural description of an interpreted encounter to an intense scrutiny of turn-taking as experienced by the participants, including phenomena such as simultaneous turn-taking.

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