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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Collaborating through Talk: The interactive construction of task-oriented dialogue in English and in Spanish Add Dissertation
Author: Maite Taboada Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Universidad Complutense de Madrid, English Philology
Completed in: 2001
Linguistic Subfield(s): Computational Linguistics; Discourse Analysis;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Julia Lavid

Abstract: This thesis constitutes a study of coherence at all levels in conversation. Typical conversations are considered to be coherent, by those participating, and also often by those observing them. However, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes them coherent, and how that coherence is achieved dynamically. I study some of the resources that speakers employ when building conversations. These resources contribute to the overall coherence, which is constructed interactively as speakers build on each other's contributions.

The study is cross-linguistic, based on a corpus of task-oriented conversations between dyads of two speakers each. The corpus contains conversations between two native speakers of English on the one hand, and two native speakers of Spanish, on the other. The interlocutors have conflicting agendas that cover a two to four week period, and are told to agree on an appointment within that time. The speakers try to find a date on which they are both free to meet. The conversations are viewed as texts that are built interactively by the speakers, as a collaborative effort. The analyses are concerned with the discourse characteristics that hold the conversations together as a text.

The main framework of study is the analysis of speech genres (Bakhtin 1986). These conversations are an instance of a genre, as a 'staged, goal-oriented, purposeful activity in which speakers engage as members of our culture' (Martin 1984). As such, they are divided in clear stages, the main three of which are: Opening, Task Performance and Closing. For these stages to be distinguishable, they need to contain different patterns of linguistic realization. The linguistic and discourse characteristics studied include: thematic progression, rhetorical structure analysis and cohesion. These three types of analyses are unified under the textual metafunction of language, in the Hallidayan tradition. Halliday and Hasan (1976) divide the textual metafunction into structural and non-structural components. The structural one, at the clause level, is the thematic structure of the clause. The non-structural one is cohesion. One of the elements of cohesion is conjunction, which I represented here not through Halliday's and Martin's conjunctive relations, but through a similar theory, Rhetorical Structure Theory (Mann and Thompson 1988).

This study is, then, one of text, textual metafunction and texture in a spoken genre. It sheds light on how two speakers create a text interactively. The second goal of this work is to find out whether and if so, how that process is different in English and in Spanish.

The main contributions of the thesis are summarized in: (1) corpus-based characterization of a dialogic genre; (2) compilation of a body of analysis tools for generic analysis; (3) application of English-based analyses to Spanish and comparisons between English and Spanish text-building strategies; and (4) a study of the characteristics of each stage in the dialogues, for both languages.

The thesis contains descriptions of the three types of analyses: thematic realization and progression, rhetorical structure and cohesion. The description covers the English and Spanish data, with comparisons between the two. Finally, a computational model of the structure of the dialogues is provided, divided into stages and speech acts found in each of the stages. The computational model is based on the generic structure of the dialogues. It formalizes the sequencing of stages, and the sequencing of speech acts within those stages. The model has been used in a Machine Translation system. The complete characterization of the stages is used throughout the study, in order to delimit the stages as units in the conversations within which the different phenomena are explored.