LINGUIST List 12.2502

Mon Oct 8 2001

Sum: "Ventriloquizing" in Discourse

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. CynGordon, "ventriloquizing"/"ventriloquating"

Message 1: "ventriloquizing"/"ventriloquating"

Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001 21:46:50 EDT
From: CynGordon <>
Subject: "ventriloquizing"/"ventriloquating"

Several months ago, I posted a query on behalf of Deborah Tannen
regarding a phenomenon she calls "ventriloquizing," or when one person
speaks to another through a third (by speaking as, or in the voice of,
the third person). I was looking for references related to this
phenomenon and also information about Bakhtin's notion of
"ventriloquating." I received several messages that led to the
identification of some useful articles on the subject. I would like to
thank John Koontz, Akira Satoh, and particularly Jill Brody for
providing useful references. Below, I have listed the references I
have found most relevant to ventriloquizing. Sorry for the delay.

Schieffelin, Bambi B. 1990. "Kaluli children: ideology and everyday
life" and "ElEma as a socializing practice." Chapters 3 and 4 in The
Give and Take of Everyday Life: Language Socialization of Kaluli
Children. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 37-74 and 75-111.

Scollon, Ron. 2001. On the ontogenesis of a social actor: From object
to agency in babytalk. In Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of
Practice. London: Routledge. 86-112.

Wertsch, James V. 1991. "Beyond Vygotsky: Bakhtin's contribution" and
"Sociocultural setting, social languages, and mediated action."
Chapters 3 and 6 in Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to
Mediated Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 48-66 and

Also, Jill Brody suggested looking at her 1991 article, "Indirection
in the negotiation of self in everyday Tojolab'al women's
conversation," which appeared in the Journal of Linguistic
Anthropology 1(1): 78-96. (I have yet to read the article - I'm still
waiting for my interlibrary loan request to come in!) She also
commented that the issue of "ventriloquizing" was addressed at the
Bakhtin Conference in Gdansk in a paper by Tatiana Bubnova and
M.-Pierette Mal/cuz^yn'ska (Gloss of diacritics: ' indicates acute
accent over preceding symbol, / indicates slash through preceding
symbol, ^ indicates "hachek" or little "v" over preceding symbol.).
They reported that the term "ventriloquate" appears only in the
English translation of The Dialogic Imagination by Emerson and
Holquist 1981:299.

John Koontz pointed out a related phenomenon: conversation between a
man and his wife's parents is normally avoided in various Siouan
cultures, e.g. Dakotan, Omaha. A common device among the Omaha to
deal with this taboo was speaking to a child who was present. (See
Fletcher, Alice C. and LaFlesche, Francis. 1911(1972). The Omaha
Tribe. BAE-AR 27, 1905-1906. Washington, DC. GPO. (Lincoln, NE: Bison
Books). P. 334.)

Other interesting articles relating to triadic exchanges where one
person serves as an intermediary (but a participant is not necessarily
"ventriloquized" in Tannen's sense) include:

Brenneis, Donald. 1986. Shared territory: Audience, indirection and

Text 6(3): 339-347.

Field, Margaret. 2001. Triadic directives in Navajo language
socialization. Language in society 30: 249-263.

Haviland, John. 1979. Guugu Yimidhirr brother-in-law
language. Language in Society 8: 365-393.

Haviland, John. 1986. 'Con Buenos Chiles': Talk, targets, and teasing
in ZinacantE1n. Text 6(3): 249-282.

Ochs, Elinor. 1982. Talking to children in Western Samoa. Language in
Society 11:77-104.

Cynthia Gordon
Ph.D. Candidate, Georgetown University

Please send any further questions or insights into "ventriloquizing" to me
(not to the list.) Thank you.
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