This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
From: Giampaolo Poletto Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2002 10:19:21 +0200 Subject: Filliettaz, Laurent (2002) La parole en action
Filliettaz, Laurent (2002) La parole en action: Éléments de pragmatique psycho-sociale. Éditions Nota bene, paperback, ISBN 2-89518-092-X (-091-1), vi+395pp, Can$25.95, Collection Langue et pratiques discursives.
Giampaolo Poletto, University of Pécs (HU), Applied Linguistics PhD student
INTRODUCTION After attention has lately increased - see Bachtin (1977), Bres (1993), Clark (1996), Laforest (1996), Martel (1998, 2000), Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson (1978), Schütz (1987), Traverso (1996), the issue of everyday interactions is organically debated in a text in French, addressing students and researchers in linguistics and human sciences, cognate with psychology and sociology in particular, which completes the author's conspicuous research and represents the published version of his doctorate thesis.
The book aims to portray a consistent path of research on theoretical models and instruments appliable to the analysis of activity and discourse interaction in everyday contexts, where they combine to enact a dynamic process, in the perspective of psycho-social pragmatics, whose main object is the systematic description of the complex interrelations between human activities and the use of language. Mechanisms activated in everyday situations and contexts actually deserve a specific and scientifically legitimated attention, therefore a systematic description, properly supported methodologically, theoretically and epistemologically.
The purpose and content of the research unfolds along three axes: - the development of an activity theory open to contributions from human sciences and compatible with the nature of the praxeological investments emerging in verbal interactions (chapters 1,2,3); - the theoretical and empirical study of how they combine and articulate discourse praxeological aspects and communicational mechanisms connected to the textualisation of semiotic forms (chapters 4,5); - the embedding of discourse analysis purposes and methods, with reference to the actual different theoretical and epistemological options for a pragmatic approach, psycho-social and cognitive above all (chapter 6).
The author's approach owns not only to Roulet's modular theory (1999) or theoretical works in pragmatics, as the illocutive theories of Austin (1970) and Searle (1972), where action becomes a founding notion. Works from disciplines mostly belonging to human sciences - Bange (1992), von Cranach and Harré (1982), Goffman (1991), Ladriere, Pharo and Quéré (1993), Ricœur (1977), Sperber and Wilson (1989), Vernant (1997), among the others - have remarkedly influenced the perspective of discourse analysis and are here taken into account in an unabridged approach to manifold issues.
The general discourse analysis model adopted is just outlined, as the starting point of a 'pragmatic chain' to be more systematically evaluated, along with: - a study on the general features and typifying processes of social activity, hopefully sheding light on the specific psychological resources activated by the agents and the pattern in which the informative content is received through praxeological representations; - the mechanisms of activity textualisation, with reference to the hierarchical structures of negotiation, in a wider systematic perspective comprehensive of other speakers' tools for textual planning, such as compositional heterogeneity, topical continuity, and so on; - the semantic analysis of linguistic units.
FIRST PART - Introduction: Face a la complexité des processus actionnels 'Les aspects praxéologiques du discours' confronts with actional processes considered in their complexity, in their physical, psychological, social and linguistic aspects. That explains why the notion of action has been crucial to many disciplines in the realm of human sciences in the late decades, and why the author's research, for a better understanding of the conceptual significance of activity, openly intends to display and take advantage of studies in the fields of the psychology of action; the microsociology of everyday life; ethnomethodology; the psychology of language; analytic philosophy.
The theoretical model for the organisation of joint actions should: - determine the psycho-social resources connected to the accomplishment and identification of actions in the world; - describe the nature and configuration of actional investments, in the situations of effective interaction, in the way they contribute to guide the conducts of involved agents; - represent actional processes when effectively occurring in their sequential and hierarchical character.
Chapter 1 - La dimension psycho-sociale de l'agir In everyday interactions many psycho-social resources are mobilized; some can be described through the notion of praxeological representation, originating from the notion of intention, central to explain actional processes. After a distinction between behaviour and action, action is considered under different perspectives, namely: 'planned', in cognitive psychology of action; 'situated', from an ethnomethodological approach; 'typified', in an interactionist vision, up to a praxeological representation of interaction.
Chapter 2 - La dimension configurationelle de l'agir Everyday interactions have relevant configurational aspects, which the notion of actional framework can more thoroughly illustrate. The basic elements of the 'participative' and 'interpretative' actional framework are: the four parametres of the actional mode; the type of finality; the praxeological roles; the motivational complex. Actions are individual or, with more agents or joint, and accordingly changing parametres, collective; interaction takes place with socio-objective and socio-subjective intentions, and the individuals involved can be determined as agents, subsequently as operators or actors, contributing to heterogeneous praxeological investments, along with cognitive, normative, relational work.
Detectable praxeological roles and involvement, converging or diverging, configure the motivational complex, so that linguistic productions and finalized conducts are inferred to be 'praxeologically polyphonic', to use Bachtin's concept (1984), as recalled by Roulet (1997a). Actional framework polyfocalisation origins from the notions of configurational and individual polyfocalisation, once more confirming the traits of complexity and instability of actional configurations, with reference to actional and 'interactional' frameworks. The former's dimension is referential, whereas the latter operates in an interactional dimension and on two parametres (the interactive position of agents, with their number and role, and communicational elements, medium, mode, ties).
Chapter 3 - La dimension processuelle de l'agir: The notion of praxeological structure makes it possible to approach actional processes when effectively occurring. The starting point is the sequential and hierarchical nature of interactional processes, which the works of Geneva school see through the dialogical and monological constituents, exchanges and acts respectively, and by means of units of an upper level, eg transactions. The analysis shifts from praxeological units, then, to their praxeological relations, to include and display them in a praxeological macro- and micro- structure.
SECOND PART - Introduction: Face a l'hétérogénéité sémiotique des actions conjointes
'Le discours comme textualisation de l'activité', confronts with the issues of semiotic heterogeneity, relieved when joint actions take place, towards a full account of the psycho-social resources agents activate during their transactions. The interrelations and semiotic heterogeneity of the three distinct theoretical domains interacting, action, communication and language, can only be properly approached through a comprehensive theory, eventually contributing to both select the major areas of the pragmatics of communication, and find a place for such interrelations between the activity theories and the description of discourse mechanisms, between facts and acts of communication.
Studies in ergonomics - Lacoste (1995) - have pointed out the existence of a complex net of relations between discourse and activity. Pragmatic models need to be reoriented, in this perspective, because speech facts are not only social activities, but have a place in the most complex praxeological configurations, with relations both internal, with linguistic activities, and external, with the way interactions operate. The purpose of psycho-social pragmatics is therefore to describe the dialectical relationships of activity and discourse, passing from exclusively written to oral empirical data.
Working with parametres - Bronckart (1997), Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1990), Trognon and Kostulski (1996) - does not seem so effective and appropriate as working with discourse units, the way a modular approach prospects, despite theoretical difficulties the author does not deny. The second part specifically analyses the topic of interweaving in terms of units, not parametres.
Chapter 4 - Action et communication The author's attention focuses on interactional semiotic heterogeneity, in order to propose a distinction in different types of finalized conducts, which should shed light on both non verbal rooted misunderstandings and, above all, though partially, the notional complexity conveyed through the concept of communicational activity. Units are analysed on their own, from actional to communicational ones, both non-verbal and verbal. When participative, actional units can be: in the world, communicational, linguistic, verbal, respectively in opposition, according to the degree and type of the principal intention, to physical motion, non communicational, non linguistic, non verbal actions. Intention opposes to explicitness, both occupying specific and delimited areas. Context and co-text directly ties to the analysis of gestures and a typology of participative activities: gestures accompany verbal expressions, are conventionally or non conventionally explicit, praxeologically non communicational, instrumental. That contributes to define the constitutive complexity of communicational actions, through Habermas's (1987) theory of communicational activity, where the speaker issues a triple assumption of validity, lying on truth, legitimacy, truthfulness. This theory proposes a way the domains of action and communication articulate through the constituents of the actional intention and comprehension, which helps identify the areas for a pragmatic analysis of communication.
Chapter 5 - L'organisation opérationelle du discours. The reflection continues on how a modular perspective can separately deal with referential aspects and textual implications of communicational units, and outlines the descriptive model needed to unfold the complex relations established by the joint actions process dimension and intercomprehension communicational mechanisms, to tie together the domains of activity and textuality, framed into a description of the negotiated character of inter-individual meetings. The linguistic, textual and situational levels proposed by Roulet (1997b) imply a change of the discourse analysis 'standard' model, on a theoretical and epistemological level. The modular approach is thereafter presented more in detail. The conclusion briefs on the previous paragraphs, on the theoretical status of the the notion of textualisation mode.
Chapter 6 - De l'organisation opérationelle du discours a la pragmatique psycho-sociale. The author intends to widen the perspective of the investigation and remark the peculiarity of psycho-social pragmatics research programme, to assert a scientific legitimacy. The communicational modular approach can canvass: discourse operational organisation; the elements of speakers' logic; the social relations they establish; language acquisition as a comprehensive framework; joint actions originating from participative activities, all of them bridging to the perspectives of psycho-social pragmatics, to the 'actional turnaround' to the 'pragmatic chain', to considerations on concepts excerpted from other authors’ studies, to the confrontation with inferential pragmatics, around the crucial topics of the relation between the paradigms of the two and cognition, truth, social activity.
CONCLUSION The hypotheses the author works on are claimed to be not unknown in the field of interactivity theory, nevertheless neither instruments for the analysis nor detailed empirical data seem to have been really elaborated or displayed so far. The present research, therefore, offers theoretical responses to both the issue of communicational activities, and the possibility of describing the organisation of situated interactions, and the indication of different epistemological perspectives for language sciences. On a theoretical level, the study of the praxeological dimension of linguistic productions contributes to focus on discourse situational aspects as well as on an explicit description of the complex relationships between communicational mechanisms and situated actions. Furthermore, the meaning of theoretical observations on the notional complexity of mediatized forms of activity is displayed through tables and 'tested' through empirical data, through two corpuses of authentic documents: the dialogues recorded in Geneve's bookshops in 1979, in the appendix, reduced due to more recent reflections; Montreal families' dialogues, partly self-recorded during everyday activities, and excerpts from Vincent's corpus (1995). They are functional to restrict an otherwise too wide field of research, and have in common the mainly joint nature of activities involved and the central but not exclusive role of linguistic mechanisms; they are considered as subset of actional processes.
On an epistemological level, then, despite - or due to - late strong criticism on its scientifical status - see Reboul et Moeschler (1998), researches on discourse analysis needs to further specify its object, thus allowing on integrations, in the direction of a projected but yet unaccomplished 'actional turnaround', which would benefit the confrontation with cognitive pragmatics, and help shift the research purpose from the notion of illocution to that of action, instead of being limited to the principle of coherence or the role of linguistic marks; or viewing pragmatics in terms of opposition between discourse and conversational analysis; or else having the complexity of discourse organisation reduced to either mental or linguistic categories, as stated in chapter 6.
CRITICAL EVALUATION The author knows he risks: when considering as sources theories of disciplines belonging to human sciences; when asserting discourse analysis is rightly entitled to have a scientific status; when stating that pragmatics should stop considering facts and acts of communication separately; when maintaining that the 'actional turnaround' unfolds purposes and identity of psycho-social pragmatics, marking the distance from radical cognitive pragmatics; when claiming that the perspective he adopts adds to previous surveys and studies. He is confident that the complexity of interactions has to be described with a theoretical model of situational analysis and confronted with empirical data; therefore he partially applies a basically modular approach to a selection of empirically collected excerpts from two corpuses of dialogues and actions in everyday situational contexts, to acquire elements for further theoretical reflections. He concludes that the horizon of (psycho-social) pragmatic studies is wide, and other steps can be legitimately made on the outlined path of research, to prolong the 'pragmatic chain'.
As he acknowledges, the debated issues are very delicate, the passage is crucial for pragmatics, the adopted approach is just sketched and promising, but he is positive that it is vital to make and accept research programmes, not being self indulgent or polemic. That is mostly valuable and shelters from criticism by exposing to it. Nevertheless, the effort and need to tie together very heterogeneous sources, to elaborate a theoretical framework, to conduct an analysis on empirical data, the whole of it focusing on interactions, to be displayed in their complexity, cannot avoid weakening the overall thoroughness and resulting in a certain vagueness on the real identity of the text, which is survey, theory and study at the same time, and is actually described as an 'inventory' in the back cover brief, whereas such a compiling attitude does not turn out to be even relevant. A second volume, with a new corpus and a new analysis of empirical data would definitely make it clear the consistency of the research programme and the effectiveness of the theoretical model adopted, at the present just outlined and not yet autonomous.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Giampaolo Poletto is a Bachelor in Foreign Languages and Literature, English and Russian, and Humanities in Italy, with some knowledge of French, Hungarian and Spanish; secondary school teaching qualifications in English and in Italian, a ten years' teaching experience in Italy and abroad, including a two-year tenure track of Italian Linguistics in the Italian Department at Janus Pannonius University in Pécs; actually second year student of a PhD course in Applied Linguistics at the University of Pécs, in Hungary, with interests in the fields of linguistics and FL/SL teaching; the research project combines them through the analysis of a corpus of Italian comic texts, finalized to didactic applications - possibly multimedial - for FL students of Italian; that should sort of collect past studies and professional experiences, feed a linguistic and thematically oriented research programme, open work and study perspectives.