LINGUIST List 31.2473

Wed Aug 05 2020

Calls: Anthro Ling, Disc Analys, Pragmatics/Switzerland

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 05-Aug-2020
From: Alice Mitchell <>
Subject: Signs of care: Communicating sympathy in African contexts
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Full Title: Signs of care: Communicating sympathy in African contexts

Date: 27-Jun-2021 - 02-Jul-2021
Location: Winterthur, Switzerland
Contact Person: Alice Mitchell
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics; Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics

Call Deadline: 25-Oct-2020

Meeting Description:

Signs of care: Communicating sympathy in African contexts

This panel sets out to explore how people express sympathy in African settings. The goal is to bring together fine-grained analyses of sympathy displays with work that investigates broader sociocultural dynamics shaping the expression of sympathy. From an interactional perspective, displays of sympathy constitute affiliative responses to talk about troubles (Jefferson 1988) or to witnessed events causing pain or distress. In their analyses of sympathy, papers in this panel will take into account a wide range of semiotic resources, including voice quality, prosody, lexicon and grammar, gaze behaviour, gesture, and touch. Possible topics include: the use of conventionalized linguistic expressions of sympathy (such as Swahili interjection pole); sympathetic uses of multi-purpose interjections (e.g., Unuabonah & Daniel 2020); the interdependence of sound and gesture in communicating sympathy, as in the use of clicks reported in Pillion et al (2019:316); the linguistic and bodily practices involved in comforting children (e.g., Cekaite & Holm 2017). Papers might also address the forms sympathy takes under particularly traumatic socio-historical conditions, such as war, pandemic, or natural disaster.

Understanding sympathy as an inclusive interpersonal stance that attends to another person's emotional status, this panel will offer linguistic perspectives on anthropological discussions relating to ethics and care. Papers will show how people in a range of African communities care for and comfort one another through their communicative practices, thus highlighting the role of language in the ethical treatment of others. Papers will also attempt to position specific linguistic interactions within broader sociocultural frameworks. When is sympathy appropriate, and when is it unnecessary or even inappropriate? Who can show sympathy to whom, and how? How are sympathy displays calibrated to the perceived severity of the situation? And to what extent are expressions of sympathy gendered or otherwise socially indexed? With its focus on Africa, the panel aims to explore possible commonalities and differences in forms of sociality and ethical conduct across the continent.

The African focus addresses the conference theme of ''inclusion'' at a disciplinary level by working towards better representation of African languages, perspectives, and scholarship at IPrA. In the spirit of inclusion, however, relevant papers that focus on other parts of the world will also be considered.

Call for Papers:

If you would like to contribute to this panel, please send your abstract (250-500 words) to by October 1, 2020 for initial feedback. Abstracts will then need to be submitted individually via the conference website ( by October 25, 2020. You are very welcome to get in touch with the panel organizer, Alice Mitchell (, at any time to discuss preliminary ideas for talks as well as any practical issues or concerns about attending IPrA 2021.

Page Updated: 05-Aug-2020