|Date: Sat, 3 Jul 2004 14:04:39 -0700
From: Galina Bolden
Subject: Studies in Language and Social Interaction
EDITORS: Glenn, Phillip J.; LeBaron, Curtis D.; Mandelbaum, Jenny
TITLE: Studies in Language and Social Interaction
SUBTITLE: In Honor of Robert Hopper
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Galina Bolden, University of California, Los Angeles
The book presents a large collection of studies of everyday human
communication conducted by scholars working within the tradition of
Language and Social Interaction (LSI). LSI is an umbrella term
traditionally applied to multidisciplinary research concerned with a
wide range of phenomena related to situated language use. Within the
field of Communication LSI is institutionalized in the LSI division of
the regional, national, and international communication associations
(e.g., WSCA, NCA, and ICA). The book is dedicated to the late Robert
Hopper, a leading LSI scholar. However, according to the editors, it
aims not only to celebrate Hopper's intellectual career but also to
showcase the diversity of the field, and, thereby, stimulate discussion
of its future developments.
The 39 chapters of the book are divided into five parts, preceded by an
introduction. Most of the chapters present empirical studies, but there
are also review articles, theory pieces, and articles presenting
Chapter 1 (''An overview of language and social interaction research''),
written by the editors of the volume, Curtis D. LeBaron, Jenny
Mandelbaum, and Phillip J. Glenn, is an introduction to the field. In
addition to providing a history of LSI within the discipline of
communication, this chapter outlines major principles shared by LSI
researchers. Among those are the use of naturally occurring
communication as a source of data, the focus on participants'
perspectives, and the interest in language use.
PART I of the book, titled ''Orienting to the field of language and
social interaction,'' contains six articles that exemplify major
research traditions in the field: sociolinguistics, conversation
analysis, ethnography of communication, discourse analysis, and
The sociolinguistic approach to LSI is illustrated by James J. Bradac's
article ''Extending the domain of speech evaluation: Message judgments''
(Chapter 2). The chapter summarizes work on speech evaluation, an area
of research primarily concerned with identifying features of speech
that significantly affect hearers' judgments of speakers' credibility,
competence, likeability, and the like. Bradac suggests several
directions in which speech evaluation research should grow, including
more direct studies of hearer perception, studies conducted in more
naturalistic settings, and research focusing on the interaction between
message evaluations and message genres.
The conversation analytic tradition is exemplified by John Heritage's
article on news interviews (''Designing questions and setting agendas in
the news interview,'' Chapter 3). This article, in accordance with the
conversation analytic approach, uses recordings of natural interactions
as primary data. Heritage offers a close analysis of news interviewers'
questioning practices, focusing on how various features of question
design allow interviewers to manage competing demands of the interview
situation (such as, displaying neutrality while taking up adversarial
stances). Additionally, Heritage discusses how innovations in question
design (especially, in the use of question prefacing) can function as
instruments of social change in broadcast journalism. These and other
issues are addressed in more detail in Clayman and Heritage (2002).
Chapter 4, written by Kristine L. Fitch, instantiates the ''ethnography
of communication'' approach to LSI (Gumperz & Hymes, 1972). The article
titled ''Taken-for-granteds in (an) intercultural communication'' focuses
on taken-for-granted cultural assumptions that underpin one family
dinner conversation in which a child negotiates a raise in allowance.
Based on her examination of the interaction, Fitch argues for an
approach that would combine the rigor of conversation analysis with the
cultural grounding of an ethnographic method allowing for examination
of implicit cultural codes.
Chapter 5 ('''So, what do you guys think?': Think talk and process in
student-led classroom discussions'') exemplifies a discourse analytic
approach to LSI grounded in speech act theory (Austin, 1962; Searle,
1969). Robert T. Craig and Alena L. Sanusi analyze the role of the
phrase ''I think'' in student discussions, describing various ways in
which it can be used to preface expressions of opinion as online
thinking, manage transitions between canned and spontaneous talk, and
maintain controversy. The authors argue for importance of considering
''think talk'' as an interactional and pragmatic device whose functions
go beyond its semantic composition.
Finally, Chapter 6 presents an example of microethnography, a term
meant to refer to studies that closely attend to ''details of embodied
actions as a means of characterizing participant-grounded ways of
enacting and interpreting meaning'' (p. 43). In their article titled
''Gesture and the transparency of understanding,'' Curtis D. LeBaron and
Timothy Koschmann examine how talk, gaze, body orientation, and gesture
are closely coordinated in strips of talk that deal with achieving
mutually transparent understanding of unknown terms in a medical
classroom. The article demonstrates how understanding is socially and
transparently accomplished through interaction.
PART II of the book, titled ''Talk in everyday life,'' presents a
collection of empirical, primarily conversation analytic studies of
casual interactions. Each short article focuses on one particular
interactional practice or a set of related practices.
Charlotte M. Jones examines restarts -- ways of talking that consist of
starting, abandoning, and then restarting an utterance (''Utterance
restarts in telephone conversation: Marking topic initiation and
reluctance,'' Chapter 7). Building upon previous conversation analytic
work on restarts (Goodwin, 1980; Schegloff, 1987), Jones shows how they
can be employed in turns of talk that initiate new conversational
topics and as indicators of the speaker's reluctance in presenting
Charles Goodwin's article (''Recognizing assessable names,'' Chapter 8)
discusses two ways in which assessable objects can be introduced into
talk: by announcing the object in advance of its production as an
assessable, thereby inviting appropriate recipient uptake (see Goodwin
& Goodwin, 1987), and by ''dropping'' a culturally valued assessable into
the conversation as a recognition test. Focusing on the second
practice, Goodwin shows that the recognition of such assessables is a
complex interactional process between speakers and hearers.
In Chapter 9 (''Interactional problems with ''did you'' questions and
responses''), Susan D. Corbin discusses some issues involved in asking
and answering polar questions that start with ''Did you.'' She argues
that several features of such questions make them susceptible to
problematic treatment by recipients, focusing on embedded linguistic
and pragmatic presuppositions and indexicality. The article also
suggests that ''did you'' question commonly receive more than a required
''yes'' or ''no'' response, and that minimal responses are likely to
engender further pursuit.
In ''Managing optimism'' (Chapter 10), Wayne A. Beach discusses ways in
which a family deals with the mother's cancer diagnosis in their casual
conversations over the phone. Based on his longitudinal study of the
family interactions, Beach shows that optimism emerges as an
interactional resource that helps family members talk about the
diagnosis and development of the disease. Managing optimism involves
introducing hope and uncertainty about medical diagnosis and
procedures, transitioning from bad to good news, talking about choice,
joking, and presenting the process as a joint battle. The article also
discusses how this study contributes to research on talking about
troubling and intimate issues.
In Chapter 11, titled ''Rejecting illegitimate understandings,'' Samuel
G. Lawrence discusses a practice whereby one interlocutor rejects the
understanding of her previous turn displayed by the other interlocutor,
when the understanding is based not on a misunderstanding of the first
turn but on its misconstruction. In the analyzed segment, the rejection
of the illegitimate understanding is achieved via ''I didn't say that.''
The author distinguishes such rejections from ''third position repair''
used to correct legitimate incorrect understandings of prior turns
In Chapter 12 (''Interactive methods for constructing relationships''),
Jenny Mandelbaum attempts to bridge a gap between LSI and interpersonal
communication research by examining interactional practices for
enacting relationships. The article focuses on two such practices:
''tit-for-tat,'' whereby one interlocutor responds to a turn that has
''disconnecting'' implications for the relationship with a ''connecting''
one, and conversational repair of turns that have problematic
implications for the relationship. These two methods foreground the
largely invisible relationship work continuously accomplished in
In Chapter 13 (''A note on resolving ambiguity''), Gail Jefferson
analyzes instances of talk where a speaker produces an utterance that
may be taken in a number of ways and then disambiguates it without
doing an explicit correction. In such cases, the disambiguating
correction is not openly oriented to as such by either interlocutor,
yet it is arguably there. Given that conversation analysts use parties'
demonstrable orientations to support the offered analyses, the paper
raises the issue of how to deal with such analytically problematic
In Chapter 14, Emanuel A. Schegloff examines the phenomenon he refers
to as ''the surfacing of the suppressed'' (the article's title): when an
interlocutor aborts the utterance in progress, but then the suppressed
talk reappears a bit later but with a different meaning. The article
examines interactional implications of this practice (for example, how
it is used for suppressing talk that is in some way problematic) as
well as analytical considerations that go into locating and examining
this sort of phenomena.
In the next chapter (Chapter 15) titled ''Sex, laughter, and audiotape:
On invoking features of context to explain laughter in interaction,''
Phillip J. Glenn discusses how participants may observably orient to
gender as a relevant category in bits of interaction organized around
laughter. Glenn argues that sequential and acoustic features of
laughter may display the relevance of gender to the interlocutors at
that time. The analysis aims to exemplify an empirical method for
showing the relevance of gender to interaction. For an expanded account
of his laughter research, see Glenn (2003).
In ''Gender differences in telephone conversations'' (Chapter 16),
Hanneke Houtkoop-Steenstra discusses cultural variations in the ways
people answer the telephone. While in North America, the phone is
typically answered with ''hello'' -- a voice sample that allows for
speaker recognition (Schegloff, 1986), in the Netherlands call
recipients overwhelmingly self-identify when picking up the phone.
Houtkoop-Steenstra examines historical changes that have taken place
with regards to answering the phone in the Dutch society, some of which
indicate differences along gender lines. The article argues that
variations in accomplishing identification may relate to culture,
gender, and larger societal changes.
PART III of the book (''Talk in institutional settings'') examines social
interaction in a variety of institutional contexts. Work on
institutional talk is an important part of LSI research. The articles
collected here take different methodological perspectives to describe
ways in which talk in institutional settings is both constitutive of
and restricted by institutions.
In Chapter 17 (''Comparative analysis of talk-in-interaction in
different institutional settings''), Paul Drew discusses the use of
''formulations'' in a number of different settings: ordinary
conversation, psychotherapy, call-in radio programs, news interviews,
and industrial negotiations. ''Formulations'' are practices of talk via
which one speaker offers an interpretation of what the other is saying.
Drew examines some systematic variations in how formulations are
constructed and used across different settings and discusses how these
variations are constitutive of the settings.
In Chapter 18, Robert E. Sanders analyzes some features of informal
conversations conducted over two-way radios at sea. Titled
''Conversational socializing on marine VHF radio: Adapting laughter and
other practices to the technology in use'', the article examines how the
particularities of the technology used for communication -- especially
the interlocutors' inability to use the same channel for speaking and
listening -- affect ways in which conversational gaps, laughter, and
other affiliative responses are managed.
The next chapter (Chapter 19) illustrates another approach to studying
institutional communication: intergroup theory. In the article titled
''Law enforcement and community policing: An intergroup communication
approach,'' Jennifer L. Molloy and Howard Giles examine police-citizen
relations, focusing on conflicting social roles inherent in being a
police officer. The article discusses intergroup issues that affect
community oriented policing and applies the intergroup theory to
further understanding of police-citizen dynamics.
In Chapter 20 (''Preventatives in social interaction''), G.H. Morris
discusses the use of preventative actions designed to forestall
interactional problems. Focusing on talk in therapy settings, Morris
examines several types of preventatives: not creating an expectation
that may be violated, crystallizing expectations, giving an advisory,
notifying of a pending divergence from expectations, disclaiming
offensive intent, giving an unsolicited account for a possible
divergence, and formulating a problem with another's conduct without
making an accusation. These preventatives occur before any accusations
may be verbalized, evidencing the rule ''the earlier, the better'' when
it comes to accomplishing social alignment.
In another study of therapy talk, E. Duff Wrobbel discusses
interactional accomplishment of novel understandings (''The
interactional construction of self-revelation: creating an 'aha'
moment,'' Chapter 21). The focus is on one stretch of talk where an
extended discussion between a counselor and her clients results in a
moment of self-revelation. Wrobbel examines interactional practices
that lead to the revelation and shows that this seemingly internal
experience has communicative precursors.
Chapter 22 ('''A world in a grain of sand': Therapeutic discourse as
making much of little things'') by Kurt A. Bruder is a discourse
analytic investigation of therapist-client talk. The article analyzes a
stretch of interaction where a therapist guides his client in a
systematic exploration of the sense of self. Bruder, a practicing
therapist, argues that a therapist can and even should analyze the
client's presentation of self, as it unfolds during the session, and
draw the client's attention to the displays of identity in discourse.
The last three chapters of Part III examine talk in medical settings.
In Chapter 23 (titled ''Modeling as teaching strategy in clinical
training: When does it work?''), Anita Pomerantz presents an
ethnographic study of medical precepting. An experienced physician
acting as a preceptor supervises medical students working with
patients. The article discusses one teaching strategy commonly used in
preceptor-intern-patient interactions: modeling. Modeling allows for
''invisible'' teaching, which is important in maintaining the intern's
professional role in front of the patient. Unlike other, more explicit
strategies, however, the amount of learning depends largely on the
student, which may result in missed or unsuccessful lessons.
Chapter 24 presents a single case analysis of a medical consultation in
which the doctor and the patient deal with the uncertainty of test
results possibly indicative of a serious medical problem
(''Indeterminacy and uncertainty in the delivery of diagnostic news in
internal medicine: A single case analysis''). Douglas W. Maynard and
Richard M. Frankel show that the understanding of the diagnostic news
and its implications are collaboratively accomplished. By focusing on a
single case, the authors are able to explicate the delivery and the
placement of the problematic diagnosis within the larger activity of
the medical consultation.
Chapter 25 (''Body movement in the transition from opening to task in
doctor-patient interviews'') examines how doctors and patients
accomplish movement from the consultation's opening to the first order
of business. On the basis of a close analysis of several cases, Daniel
P. Modaff shows that transitions are achieved not only with the help of
verbal transition markers, but also non-verbally. Specifically, doctors
and patients are found to orient away from their coparticipant and
towards a task-relevant physical object at transitional points. This
allows for precise coordination of the movement into the consultations'
PART IV (''Emerging trajectories: Body, mind, and spirit'') delves into
relatively new areas of LSI research, offering a collection of
methodologically diverse articles that examine communication as an
In the article titled ''The body taken for granted: Lingering dualism in
research on social interaction'' (Chapter 26), Jürgen Streeck argues for
a new approach to studying embodiment. He critically evaluates prior
research, including his own, that maintains the view of the body as
separated from the mind, thereby dividing interlocutors from their own
bodies. Drawing on the philosophy of Heidegger, the article urges
researchers to account for the fact that bodies are skilled, inhabited,
and owned by people living in a world of practical action.
Chapter 27 (''Action and the appearance of action in the conduct of very
young children'') draws on a large research project that examines social
interaction between toddlers (between 12 and 30 months of age) in a
preschool setting. Gene H. Lerner and Don H. Zimmerman focus on two
ways in which children recurrently use objects (such as toys): first,
teasing another child by presenting and then withdrawing an object and,
second, getting another child to follow their lead in putting away an
object in order to gain possession of another object. Through a close
analysis of several video-recorded stretches of interaction, the
authors demonstrate that young children can employ the appearance of
one action (such as an object offer or cleaning up) to accomplish
another action (tease or object repossession). This suggests that very
young children are not only able to produce communicative body
behavior, but also show an orientation to their behavior as an
interpretable social action.
Chapter 28 (''Speech melody and rhetorical style: Paul Harvey as
exemplar'') by John Vincent Modaff presents a prosodic analysis of the
news-reporter's speech style. Modaff focuses on the use of stress,
accent, and emphasis for the purposes of creating cohesion with the
audience and accomplishing particular rhetorical ends, and suggests
that Harvey's rhetorical style can be described as ''dialogic
monologue.'' Overall, the article argues for including intonation into
rhetorical style analyses.
In Chapter 29 (''The body present: Reporting everyday life
performance''), Nathan P. Stucky and Suzanne M. Daughton discuss
challenges and rewards of ''everyday life performances.'' Everyday life
performance is a classroom method whereby students record, transcribe,
and perform naturally occurring talk in all of its complexity of
details. Drawing on the performance studies tradition within
communication studies, the authors report on students' experiences,
suggesting that everyday life performances engenders an embodied study
of intricacies of interpersonal communication.
In Chapter 30, titled ''Ethnography as spiritual practice: A change in
the taken-for-granted (or an epistemological break with science),''
María Cristina González critically evaluates current ethnographic
methods and argues for a ''spiritual ethnography.'' Such ethnography
should be suited for studying issues that go beyond the biological,
psychological, and social and should, in itself, constitute a spiritual
practice involving meditation, introspection, and reflection. The
article outlines the principles for practicing spiritual ethnography.
Chapter 31, ''The Tao and narrative'' by Mary Helen Brown, examines
similarities between Tao Te Ching, an influential spiritual text, and
the narrative as a rhetoric form. Brown explores their origins in the
oral tradition, their inherent ambiguity, their ability to provide
guidance, and the role of narrators. The article suggests that Tao Te
Ching and the narrative help advance our understanding of human
In Chapter 32 (''Conversational enslavement in 'The Truman Show''') Kent
G. Drummond applies Robert Hopper's notion of ''taken for granted''
(Hopper, 1981a, 1981b) to analyze the 1998 film ''The Truman Shown.'' In
the film, the title character lives in an artificial context created
for the purposes of a television show, without knowing that the world
he lives in is not ''real.'' The article examines key scenes where the
taken for granted assumptions that support the deception gradually
become foregrounded, ultimately resulting in Truman's escape.
Chapter 33 (''On ESP puns'' by Emanuel A. Schegloff) provides a glimpse
into how words might be selected for usage in social interaction.
Schegloff contemplates the possibility that some words might be chosen
based on extra sensory perception to form ESP puns. The article
presents several candidate instances, necessarily anecdotal, in which
what one interlocutor said formed a pun on what another interlocutor
The last part of the book (PART IV), titled ''Robert Hopper: Teacher and
scholar'' presents several contributions describing the academic career
and life of Robert Hopper. Briefly, Jenny Mandelbaum examines Hopper's
intellectual history (Chapter 34); Sandra L. Ragan portrays Hopper as a
scientist and humanist (Chapter 35); Leslie H. Jarmon describes
Hopper's teaching (Chapter 36); and Wayne A. Beach reflects on the
history of his collaboration and friendship with Hopper (Chapter 37).
This part of the book also contains a poem written by James J. Bradac
(Chapter 38) and ends with a short address, titled ''The last word,''
written by Hopper for the 1998 National Communication Association
Convention (Chapter 39).
Overall, the book succeeds in its stated purpose: It is a fitting
contribution to the memory of Robert Hopper, reflecting the diversity
of his scholarly interests as well as the diversity of the field of
Language and Social Interaction. The articles are written by Hopper's
colleagues and former students, and most authors indicate that their
contributions to the book are either directly inspired by or related to
Hopper's own research and interests.
The primary audience for the book is scholars in the field of
communication, but many articles should also appeal to researchers and
students from other disciplines whose interests lie in different
aspects of language use. The book is clearly and coherently organized,
with useful editorial introductions and commentaries for each part. One
criticism that might be offered is that the articles are by no means
equal in their scale. Most are brief preliminary explorations of
particular topics that rely on very small data sets (often, single
cases). Several others, on the other hand, discuss well-formed results
of extensive research projects. In the latter category, I would
particularly point out the chapters written by John Heritage (#3) and
Gene Lerner and Don Zimmerman (#27), both of which not only present
several important findings, but also exemplify new departures in
conversation analytic research.
It should be noted that the book, on the whole, does not attempt to
provide a coherent introduction to the field of LSI or to its major
methodological approach, conversation analysis. While the articles
employ conversation analysis and other LSI methods, they do not present
the ''basic'' findings that would form a fitting introduction to the
field, nor do they fully explicate the methodologies. Short and to the
point, most articles would, however, be accessible to an audience of
novices and could be selectively used in introductory courses on
Overall, I would recommend the book to anybody interested in language
use in a variety of social settings.
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