LINGUIST List 13.1660

Tue Jun 11 2002

Books: Pragmatics, Yan Zuo

Editor for this issue: Dina Kapetangianni <dinalinguistlist.org>


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  1. LINCOM EUROPA, Silence in Spontaneous Dyadic English Conversation by Yan Zuo

Message 1: Silence in Spontaneous Dyadic English Conversation by Yan Zuo

Date: 11 Jun 2002 18:03 GMT
From: LINCOM EUROPA <LINCOM.EUROPAt-online.de>
Subject: Silence in Spontaneous Dyadic English Conversation by Yan Zuo


Silence in Spontaneous Dyadic English Conversation:Structures, Meanings
and Functions

Yan Zuo
Tilburg University

This research attempts at an exploration into the silence phenomenon
as it occurs in dyadic English conversations. The fundamental position
assumed throughout is that silence is far more than a mere absence of
speech; rather it is a linguistically significant category
constituting an integral part of the communicative framework of
conversation. Accordingly, it is argued that as such, three
dimensions might be identified for silence, namely, structure,
meaning and function.

Stemming from this assumption and based on a quick literature review
as well as a critical examination of the preliminaries concerning
both the structure and organization of the conversation (such as the
concept of turn, turn -constructional unit etc.), a theoretical
construct is proposed, developed and finally illustrated with two case
studies. Broadly speaking, this const ruct comprises three components,
i.e. a classification scheme, a descriptive/explanatory framework,
and an analytic model.

To begin with, it is contended that silence in conversation is
classifiable and that it can most aptly be classified according to its
location within the overall conversational structure. Two general
categories are first distinguished at the primary level, respectively
referred to as within-turn and between-turn silence, with the turn
serving as the reference unit. Within each category, subdivisions are
further made, still be the location criterion: under the rubric of
within-turn silence are differentiated within-unit and between-unit
silences with the turn-constructional unit as the reference
unit, whilst under that of between-turn silence are distinguished Sequence
-internal and Sequence-external silences with the reference unit being the 
carefully defined unit of Sequence.

Next, the categories and subcategories thus identified are discussed
in great detail in terms of the three dimensions of structure,
meaning and function, thereby developing a descriptive and
explanatory model. Under the heading of structure, three parameters
are identified, i.e., location, duration and frequency, which are
respectively dealt with for each (sub)category. The meanings of
silence are likewise treated by dividing them into the two broad
aspects of connotative and denotative ones on the latter of which is
placed greater emphasis by postulating the mechanism entailed by the
interpretation of such meanings. With regard to the dimension of
functions, it is a rgued that occurring within the context of
conversation which is characterized by the simultaneous presence of
cognitive planning and dynamic interaction between participants,
silence in conversation may acquire both cognitive and interactional
functions (in the case of between-unit silences, a linguistic
function is also involved). Furthermore, there exists some degree of
interaction between the multiple functions thus identified.

It is further pointed out that conversation is also featured as being
simultaneously a process as well as a product, based on which,
different perspectives may be adopted in examining the silence
phenomenon occurring within. An analytic model is therefore developed
by viewing conversation more as an ongoing process than as an accomplished 
product where the relationship between various categories and subcategories, 
with its nature being identified as actualization, is explored.

Thereafter, two case studies of spontaneous conversation excerpts are
provided in order to both testify the validity of the theoretical
construct thus developed and demonstrate its operationality. Finally,
it is noted that this research may have a number of significant 
implications, not only to linguistic studies proper, in particular,
pragmatics and discourse analysis, but also to some other disciplines
such as cognitive science, psychopathology and artificial
intelligence. It is believed, therefore, that the present research,
by investigating one of the integral, albeit long-neglected, component
of conversation, will eventually prove to fill a critical gap in the
study of, in a narrow sense, conversation, and in a broad sense, the
overall human communicative network; and in an even wider
perspective, it might as well turn out to be conducive to the
advancement of a number of pertaining disciplines.

ISBN 3 89586 676 8.
LINCOM Studies in Pragmatics 11.
Ca. 260 pp. USD 65 / EUR 67 / � 44.

Free copies of LINCOM's catalogue 2002 ("project line 12") are now 
available from LINCOM.EUROPAt-online.de.

LINCOM electronic n.e.w.s.l.e.t.t.e.r.: New books in June 2002.
http://www.lincom-europa.com

LINCOM EUROPA, Freibadstr. 3, D-81543 Muenchen, Germany
FAX +49 89 62269404
http://www.lincom-europa.com
LINCOM.EUROPAt-online.de.
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Thursday, January 17, 2002