This book is an important contribution to our understanding of everyday
talk and its relation to broader social processes. Talk is unique and
locally produced, crafted by particular social actors for the specific
situation of its use. Yet the conduct of such talk is profoundly influenced
by, and influential upon, social and cultural processes that occur beyond
the temporal and spatial horizon of the occasion of the talk itself.
Drawing on and criticizing social theory, Erickson explores the mutually
reinforcing connections between the local conduct of talk and the general
workings of society, economy, and history.
The use of everyday examples enhances the book's appeal to a non-specialist
as well as a specialist audience. Chapter-length vignettes illustrating
talk in diverse institutional settings are provided. These include a family
dinner table, an elementary school classroom, an academic advisory session
in a community college, and a clinical medical coaching session in which an
intern physician reviews the case of a patient with an experienced
physician. Written in a clear and comprehensible way, the book reviews the
key theoretical perspectives and conceptual frameworks in social theory and
in the sociolinguistic study of talk which bear on these examples. It
concludes with an argument against overly determinist accounts of talk as
social action, in the interest of better construction of social theory and
better empirical study of talk.
Talk and Social Theory will be an essential text for students of
sociolinguistics and the analysis of discourse in conversation. It will
also be of interest to students in sociology, anthropology, social theory,
education, applied linguistics, and anyone concerned with the nature and
uses of language in social interaction.