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LINGUIST List 18.2508

Mon Aug 27 2007

Diss: Discourse Analysis/Pragmatics/Socioling: Betz: 'Grammar and I...'

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        1.    Emma Betz, Grammar and Interaction: Pivots in German conversation

Message 1: Grammar and Interaction: Pivots in German conversation
Date: 26-Aug-2007
From: Emma Betz <emmabetzksu.edu>
Subject: Grammar and Interaction: Pivots in German conversation
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Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Program: Department of Germanic Langs & Lits
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Emma M Betz

Dissertation Title: Grammar and Interaction: Pivots in German conversation

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Subject Language(s): German, Standard (deu)

Dissertation Director:
Andrea Golato
Makoto Hayashi

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation explores the use of syntactic pivot constructions in two
varieties of spoken German. Using the methodology of Conversation Analysis
(CA), I show that pivot constructions emerge in discourse in response to
local communicative needs. Specifically, I locate syntactic pivot
constructions as a resource within fundamental principles in the
organization of social interaction through talk: turn-taking organization
(Chapter 3), sequence and topic organization (Chapter 4), and the
organization of resources for dealing with interactional trouble (Chapters
5 and 6). As their basic property, pivot constructions allow a speaker to
extend an utterance beyond a point of possible completion in a
syntactically and prosodically unobtrusive way. In each of the data-based
chapters, I explore how speakers utilize this property in context-specific

Chapter 1 (Introduction) situates the phenomenon within the fields of
Interactional Linguistics and CA. Chapter 2 (Preliminaries) reviews
relevant aspects of spoken German and outlines different types of syntactic
pivot constructions. Chapter 3 discusses the systematic use of pivots in
the environment of overlap, where they serve as a resource for managing the
distribution of speakership and recipiency in interaction. While Chapter 3
focuses on boundaries of speakership, Chapter 4 discusses pivots employed
to bridge sequential/topical junctures. I show that speakers use these
structures to effectively steer the direction of the current topic or
manage the transition between a subsidiary activity and the main activity.
In Chapter 5, I shift my attention to the role of sentence-level resources
in the organization of word searches. Pivot constructions are used at
different points in the organization of searches (during/at the end
of/after a search) and their interactional functions differ with their
placement. Chapter 6 focuses on pivots used to carry out embedded
self-correction. In the pivot turns analyzed, speakers accomplish a change
in the action format or a modification of the stance conveyed and thereby
orient to problems in alignment in an 'embedded' way. In the conclusion I
address implications for the field of Linguistics, point to limitations of
my study, and provide avenues of future research.

This dissertation shows that spoken syntactic constructions and their
functions can only be grasped if we acknowledge the temporality of spoken
language and view grammar as usage-based and negotiable.

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