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LINGUIST List 21.4112

Sat Oct 16 2010

Diss: Disc Analysis/Pragmatics: Czerwionka: 'The Mitigation Process...'

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        1.     Lori Czerwionka , The Mitigation Process in Spanish Discourse: Motivations, linguistic analyses, and effects on interaction and interlocutors

Message 1: The Mitigation Process in Spanish Discourse: Motivations, linguistic analyses, and effects on interaction and interlocutors
Date: 13-Oct-2010
From: Lori Czerwionka <lczerwionkaniu.edu>
Subject: The Mitigation Process in Spanish Discourse: Motivations, linguistic analyses, and effects on interaction and interlocutors
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Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Program: Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Lori Czerwionka

Dissertation Title: The Mitigation Process in Spanish Discourse: Motivations,
linguistic analyses, and effects on interaction and
interlocutors

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Pragmatics

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)


Dissertation Director(s):
Dale A. Koike

Dissertation Abstract:

Mitigation is the modification of language in response to social or cognitive
challenges (stressors) in contexts of linguistic interaction (Martinovski, Mao,
Gratch, & Marsella 2005). Previous mitigation research has been largely from
social perspectives, addressing the word or utterance levels of language. This
dissertation presents an empirical study of mitigating language resulting from
both a cognitive stressor (degree of uncertainty) and social stressor (degree of
imposition) in Spanish discourse, and the impacts of mitigation on interaction
and interlocutors.

The tripartite approach includes a: (1) quantitative analysis of discourse
markers associated with mitigation (speaker-discourse, speaker-listener, and
epistemic markers); (2) qualitative discourse analysis, relying on concepts from
the Conversation Analysis framework; and (3) qualitative analysis of
interlocutors' perceptions of mitigation, using metalinguistic conversations.
The results are discussed considering prior research on mitigation, politeness
theories, and Clark's (2006) model of 'language use' to address information
types, interlocutor roles, and mutual knowledge. In addition, Caffi and Janney's
(1994) 'anticipatory schemata' and Pinker's (2007) social psychological
perspective of indirect language inform the theoretical framework. Results
indicate that:

(1) Mitigation devices vary depending on contextual factors prompting
mitigation, significantly fewer speaker-listener markers are shown as evidence
of mitigation, and epistemic markers, which are commonly analyzed mitigation
devices, are infrequent overall in these data. These results provide evidence
against the assumption that mitigation is associated with increased use of
linguistic devices;

(2) Two mitigating discourse structures were found, depending on the degree of
uncertainty. Within contexts of high-imposition, the Co-reconstruction structure
(CRS) is found in contexts with uncertainty and the Non-linear structure (NLS)
is in contexts with certainty; and

(3) The listeners' metalinguistic comments indicate that the CRS, compared to
the NLS, is preferred. Also, the results indicate how interlocutors address
cognitive, social, and emotional stressors in interaction.

Considering all analyses, a unifying definition of mitigation in discourse is
provided. This phenomenon is characterized as the postponement of both confirmed
knowledge and negotiation of the interlocutor relationship. This research
contributes the first experimental investigation of mitigation as the result of
cognitive and social stressors, and also the first systematic analysis of
mitigation in Spanish discourse.
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