LINGUIST List 22.2871|
Wed Jul 13 2011
Review: Sociolinguistics: Lipovsky (2010)
Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons
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1. Laura Callahan ,
Negotiating Solidarity: A Social-Linguistic Approach to Job Interviews
Message 1: Negotiating Solidarity: A Social-Linguistic Approach to Job Interviews
From: Laura Callahan <Lcallahanccny.cuny.edu>
Subject: Negotiating Solidarity: A Social-Linguistic Approach to Job Interviews
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AUTHOR: Lipovsky, Caroline
TITLE: Negotiating Solidarity: A Social-Linguistic Approach to Job Interviews
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars
Laura Callahan, The City College of the City University of New York
This book, based on the author's dissertation research, contains six chapters,
references, and an index. The reference section includes a list of popular
literature on the subject of job interviews in addition to academic works.
Chapter One: Introduction
Lipovsky introduces the concept of impression management and performance, based
on Goffman's work (1959). In line with the notion of performance, interviewers
expect candidates to have prepared for an interview, that is, to have rehearsed
their answers. In most job interview situations candidates are assumed to
possess the basic qualifications for the position, otherwise they would not have
been invited for an interview, and therefore what matters more is the rapport
between the interviewer and potential new hire. The author aims to show what
linguistic resources job candidates, by and large, but also interviewers, use to
establish relationships with and control impressions they produce in their
Chapter Two: The Interview Corpus: Particulars, Collection and Methods of Analysis
Lipovsky underlines the unique focus of her investigation, which, in contrast to
previous work, seeks to illuminate solidarity-building processes between
candidates and interviewers, in what remains an asymmetrical situation. The
analysis was primarily qualitative, achieved through the observation of
authentic job interviews followed by the researcher's own post-interviews with
all parties. She videotaped the interviews, audiotaped post-discussions between
the interviewers, and later showed the video to the interviewee and interviewers
in separate sessions. This triangulation allowed for her linguistic analysis to
be compared with ''the participants' own interpretations of their encounter'' (p.
12). Finally, some quantitative analysis served to corroborate interviewers'
impressions through the tabulation of certain linguistic features, such as the
number of clauses that occurred in the speech of a candidate who had been judged
to be especially talkative. The three job interviews that form the corpus for
the study were conducted in French and in French and English. Candidates were
being interviewed for a position to teach English and engage in post-graduate
research at a French university. The interviews were analyzed using a systemic
functional analysis (Halliday 1994), with attention given as well to facework
and Gricean maxims.
Chapter Three: Negotiating Expertise
Here the author again makes the point that manner matters more than content,
since interviewers have advance knowledge of candidates' qualifications. In this
chapter Lipovsky's aim is to use systemic functional analysis to show how
candidates' lexico-grammatical choices influence their interviewers' impressions
of them, thus linking ''lexico-grammatical analysis and impression management
theory'' (p. 32). A brief review is given of the systemic model, Gricean maxims,
and notions of face and facework. Next we see candidates' own appraisal of the
need for politeness during the interview, and the author shows how they enact
their expertise. Volubility and informativeness is empirically measured through
clause counts. More empirical evidence is obtained by tracking the quantity and
variety of verbs that candidates use to describe processes, and how well their
lexical choices showcase their level of self-confidence and competence. Also
examined is the use of technical language, which can serve to demonstrate shared
expertise, provided that interviewers actually share the candidate's knowledge.
If the interviewers do not share this knowledge, however, using technical
language can have a negative effect on the candidate's success in the interview.
Chapter Four: Negotiating Affiliation
After a brief discussion of power versus solidarity in interviews, the author
introduces the Appraisal framework and the system of Attitude (Martin 2000;
White 2002). The system of Attitude is composed of Affect, Judgement, and
Appreciation. The Appraisal theory assumes that speakers express their attitudes
in order to negotiate solidarity. Lipovsky's analysis focuses on two ways
candidates attempt to construct affiliation with their interviewer: by
expressing enthusiasm for and interest in their work, and by highlighting their
Chapter Five: Negotiating Co-Membership
This chapter focuses on how job candidates co-construct ingroup membership. The
point is made that this does not depend solely on a common social identity or
cultural style (Erickson and Schultz 1982). That is, even between members of
dissimilar groups, co-membership can be established, co-constructed during the
interaction. Lipovsky discusses two types of co-membership: ''social
co-membership'' and ''role co-membership''. The latter has to do with similar
professional roles. Both candidates and interviewers negotiate co-membership
through their choice of address terms, informal language, technical vocabulary,
and humor. Interviewers initiate co-membership talk with candidates more often
than the reverse. This seems to be because, in addition to the fact that
interviewers tend to have more information on the candidates, initiating
co-membership talk can backfire, should the candidate raise a subject that
displeases an interviewer. Other ways that the interviewer can foster
co-membership with the candidate include offering advice or special help.
Chapter Six: Concluding Remarks
Lipovsky states that her investigation ''has illustrated how successful
candidates in job interviews draw on an array of lexico-grammatical and semantic
features to display a communicative style that will identify them with their
interviewers, thus contributing to successful impression management'' (p. 131).
At the beginning of the book the author notes that: ''... self-presentation is
constrained by one's culture. In an era of increased globalisation and
multiculturalism, individuals are more likely to perform in intercultural
situations, where they might break the conventions of their interlocutor's
culture, thus increasing chances of miscommunication'' (p. 2).
She reports that intercultural communication was not an issue in the present
study, however, apparently based on the fact that the interviewers in their
post-discussions made little mention of the instances in which candidates
mispronounced French words, and ''[n]o discrepancy was found between the native
English and the native French-speaking interviewers' impressions of the
candidates'' (pp. 14-15). The participants' status as L1 speakers of different
languages (English and French) seems to be taken as what could have made their
communication intercultural, but for the fact that it was overridden by shared
educational background, gender (in two of the three interviews), and race
(Kerekes 2001). This is an interesting idea which, given its importance to the
encounters studied -- in which the jobseekers were L1 speakers of English who
had to use their second language for at least a portion of the interviews --
bears further development.
In the same vein, the author cites studies that have shown how strong a factor
the similarity between jobseeker and interviewer is. One therefore wonders
whether adapting their linguistic choices to the techniques described in this
book will in fact help candidates who do not share their interviewer's
educational background and race. Will these candidates be successful in
constructing role co-membership?
Overall, this is a very interesting and useful monograph. It is written in
clear, accessible prose. Lipovsky compares her findings to those reported in the
popular literature on job interviews, which aim to help jobseekers achieve
success, and concludes with the hope that her book will contribute to this same
enterprise. Negotiating Solidarity: A Social-Linguistic Approach to Job
Interviews is therefore an example of an academic book that will have a
readership beyond academia. Within academic circles, it will be of interest to
researchers working with systemic functional analysis, face, and politeness
Brown, P. and Levinson, S.C. (1987). Politeness. Some Universals in Language
Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Erickson, F. and Schultz, J. (1982). The Counselor as Gatekeeper: Social
Interactions in Interviews. New York: Academic Press.
Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin
Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar. 2nd ed. London:
Kerekes, J. (2001). The co-construction of a successful gatekeeping encounter:
Strategies of linguistically diverse speakers. Ph.D. dissertation. Stanford
Martin, J.R. (2000). Beyond exchange: APPRAISAL systems in English. In S.
Hunston and G. Thompson, eds. Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the
Construction of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 142-175.
White, P.R.R. (2002). APPRAISAL. In J. Verschueren, J-O. Östman, J. Blommaert,
and C. Bulcaen, eds. Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Laura Callahan is Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at the City
College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY),
and Research Fellow at the Research Institute for the Study of Language in
Urban Society (RISLUS), Graduate Center, CUNY. Her most recent work focuses
on facework in workplace communication.
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