"In this book, Richard Kern explores how technology matters to language and the ways in which we use it. Kern reveals how material, social and individual resources interact in the design of textual meaning, and how that interaction plays out across contexts of communication, different situations of technological mediation, and different moments in time."
EDITORS: Antos, Gerd and Ventola, Eija, in cooperation with Tilo Weber TITLE: Handbook of Interpersonal Communication SERIES TITLE: Handbooks of Applied Linguistics PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2010
Elisabeth Reber, Institute of Modern Languages / English Linguistics, University of Würzburg, Germany
The volume is the second in a planned series of Handbooks of Applied Linguistics (Karlfried Knapp and Gerd Antos, series editors). It begins with an introduction to the handbook series by the series editors. The introduction provides a state of the art on the field of Applied Linguistics which is delineated as “a specific, problem-oriented way of ‘doing linguistics’ related to the real-life world” (p. xi) and outlines the objectives and organisation of the handbook series.
In the introduction to the topical volume (chapter 1), Gerd Antos, Eija Ventola, and Tilo Weber define the notion of Interpersonal Communication, which is conceptualised as “a continuous game between the interactants […] -- a constant dynamic flow that is linguistically realized as discourse” (p. 1) and present the guiding questions which informed the selection of contributions to the book. The aim of the volume is to“[offer] an overview of the theories, methods, tools, and resources of linguistically oriented approaches […] concerned with interpersonal communication” (p. 3). Along these lines, the volume assembles 20 chapters, each dealing with different aspects of interpersonal communication from a linguistically informed point of view. The organisation of each chapter is designed as follows: “1) they introduce the reader to a particular topic in interpersonal communication research, 2) they present the most important contributions to the respective research fields, and 3) they outline research perspectives that may be realized in the future” (pp. 3-4). A brief summary of all chapters is given on pages 4-11.
The chapters are subdivided under four parts: 1 Theories, methods and tools of Interpersonal Communication research 2 Linguistic and multisemiotic resources and their interplay in managing Interpersonal Communication 3 Interpersonal Communication on-track and off-track 4 Working on conversational strategies
The first part offers an introduction to some of the most widely used theoretical and methodological frameworks within linguistically informed Interpersonal Communication research (Social Psychology, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, Interactional Sociolinguistics, Interactional Linguistics, Systemic Functional Linguistics and Functional Pragmatics) and to issues of data collection and transcription. The second part takes a closer look at different communicative resources deployed by participants in interpersonal communication (verbal, nonverbal, visual-spatial) and discusses issues of analysis. The third part is concerned with different communicative contexts and varieties (everyday, psychotherapeutic, youth and aging). The fourth part centres on strategies (politeness, humor, attitude, and silence and taboo) used in interpersonal communication to construct social relationships and identities on the micro and macro levels of society and culture. The volume is completed by the authors’ bibliographical notes and a subject index.
PART 1: Theories, methods and tools of Interpersonal Communication research
In chapter 2, Margaret J. Pitts and Howard Giles critically review theories (most notably Interdependence Theory, Communication Accommodation Theory, Theories of Message Production), methods and research tools relevant to the social psychological analysis of interpersonal relationships. They argue for longitudinal study designs which investigate how social relationships develop over time, and call for a perspective on interpersonal interaction which approaches it as an interactive process and takes into account the interplay and interdependence between language and cognition in the dynamics of interpersonal processes.
In chapter 3, Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner briefly sketch out the origins and major research interests of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis before demonstrating on the basis of excerpts from a telephone conversation how the analysis of turn-taking, indexicality and reflexivity, recipient design and membership categorisation devices, which lie at the core of ethnomethodological and conversation analytic work, offer an insight into the creation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships in interaction. They close with a brief discussion of the differences between the two paradigms (Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis) and recommendations for further reading.
In chapter 4, Susanne Günthner is concerned with Interactional Sociolinguistics, whose goals are defined as “studying the interpretation and function of linguistic forms in socially and culturally situated discourse” (p. 54). In this respect, the author claims, Interactional Sociolinguistics may be deployed as a framework for questions within Applied Linguistics. Core notions for such a study comprise indexicality, inferencing, contextualisation, communicative activities, genres, and social, ethnic, and cultural activities, which are illustrated in detailed analyses of various conversational examples.
In chapter 5, Dagmar Barth-Weingarten introduces Interactional Linguistics, which has its origins in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, Interactional Sociolinguistics and Anthropological Linguistics. The author gives an overview of the research field, outlining its history, central concepts and assumptions, methodological principles, and key research questions, which centre on a general interest in how linguistic structures are shaped by interpersonal interaction and how in turn linguistic structures shape interaction. The chapter closes with a discussion of future research topics in Interactional Linguistics and contributions to Applied Linguistics.
In chapter 6, Geoff Thompson and Peter Muntigl focus on research within Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), taking an interpersonal approach. The chapter is organised in two main sections, beginning with an overview of the two interrelated analytic domains of concern within SFL: 1) the lexicogrammatical and semantic resources available to speakers in interaction and 2) exchange structure, i.e. sequential patterns in interaction. This is complemented by two detailed example analyses, with a focus on 1) questioning and mood in doctor-patient interaction, and 2) on the negotiation of knowledge roles and appraisal in mundane interaction.
In chapter 7, Angelika Redder gives an overview of Functional Pragmatics, “an action theory of language” (p.134) concerned with the analysis of authentic spoken language use in interaction. The chapter is organised into two major sections, 1) theoretical characteristics and methodological approaches, which introduces the theoretical foundations, main categories and units and analytic principles of Functional Pragmatics, and 2) applications, which lie primarily in institutional interaction (education, medicine, law, business, and administration and politics), plurilingualism and language policy but also comprise so-called “homileic” (p. 144), that is, mundane, discourse and text.
In chapter 8, Arnulf Deppermann and Wilfried Schütte’s contribution on data and transcription shows how corpora of audio- and video recordings of naturally occurring interaction can be collected, compiled and transcribed for the purposes of research in interpersonal communication. They provide hands-on guidelines for 1) data-collection and corpus-construction (i.e. for accessing the field, data recording and metadata documentation as well as for establishing a corpus inventory and picking data segments) and 2) transcription. As regards transcription, the authors address issues in coding conventions and the transcription process and introduce different transcription systems and editors. The chapter is completed with a discussion of practical and methodological problems in data collection and transcription.
PART 2: Linguistic and multisemiotic resources and their interplay in managing Interpersonal Communication
In chapter 9, Margret Selting gives an introduction to the notion of linguistic “resources” as used in Conversation Analysis/Interactional Linguistics. The assumption behind the term is that participants in talk-in-interaction methodically select linguistic elements and structures (phonetic, grammatical and lexico-semantic, but also on the levels of language style and variation) for achieving specific communicative goals (such as turn construction/turn-allocation and the management of interpersonal relationships) and in this sense use them as interactional resources. A sample analysis of the forms and functions of linguistic resources in everyday interaction exemplifies the methodology of Interactional Linguistics.
In chapter 10, Barbara Fox is concerned with recipient accommodation, that is, the processes by which speakers design their utterances in order to meet their recipients’ informational and interactional needs. Based on examples from other work and on her own case studies in the perspectives of Discourse-functional Syntax, Conversation Analysis and Interactional Linguistics, she illustrates how the pragmatic, syntactic, lexical and prosodic organisation of speakers’ turns is sensitive to local informational and interactional needs. In this way she shows that recipient design, being an interactive achievement between speaker and recipient(s), is thus fundamental in talk-in-interaction.
In chapter 11, Paul J. Thibault conceptualises face-to-face communication on three levels: “(1) neural connections between motor and sensory systems, (2) […] somatic resources […], and the integration of these with external affordances in the environment; and (3) social coordination between individuals, and forms of learning and conventions of interaction” (p. 286). His discussion addresses two main lines of criticism: Firstly, he criticises the common division between language on the one hand and body language on the other and argues for a more integrative view instead. Secondly, he criticises a perspective on face-to-face communication which puts emphasis on the sequential organisation of here-now situations and suggests an analysis of face-to-face communication in light of the joint interactional history of the interactants.
In chapter 12, Caja Thimm begins her overview on technically-mediated interpersonal communication with short summaries of theoretical frameworks of media and communication from media research, social sociology and psychology, calling for a multidisciplinary approach because of the interactive nature of technically-mediated communication. She then describes typical applications for technically-mediated interpersonal communication (e-mail, chats, instant messaging, blogs, multi-user dungeons, social websites, “Second Life”, and mobile phone communications), discussing their technical features, social uses, communicative forms and functions and comparing especially the latter to oral communication.
In chapter 13, Louise J. Ravelli and Maree Stenglin give an introduction to the field of Spatial Semiotics, which takes -- like Applied Linguistics --an interest in the communicative construction of texts, metafunctional layering of meaning, and social situatedness of signs. Here the linguistic notion of text is transferred to that of three-dimensional spaces, such as public buildings. In their case analysis the authors illustrate how the architecture of a landmark university building can serve to create interpersonal meaning in its interaction between its user and the institution it represents. Because of this kind of socio-cultural meaning-making, they argue, it can be treated as a semiotic construct, that is, as a text.
PART 3. Interpersonal Communication on-track and off-track
In chapter 14, Tilo Weber addresses theoretical and methodological issues in defining everyday communication as a prototypical category. The chapter begins with a summary of the most influential body of work from the beginning of the 20th century which paved the way of today’s empirical study of everyday communication. It then outlines two major paradigms with different foci in approaching everyday communication, Conversation Analysis and Systemic Functional Linguistics, before proposing six prototypical properties of everyday communication. Future research topics in the study of everyday communication named by the author are multimodal analysis, interactional approaches to the study of linguistic structures in everyday interaction, application of results in the professions, and technically mediated everyday interaction.
In chapter 15, Peter Muntigl is concerned with psychotherapeutic interaction, giving a critical review of its conceptualisations as institutional talk (vs. everyday talk), speech event and sequence of interrelated genres in sociology and linguistics. In a case study on problem diagnosis, he argues for a discursive, linguistically-informed approach to the analysis of psychotherapeutic interaction, which will help to better understand and differentiate successful from unsuccessful diagnostic practices. In the same vein, a transdisciplinary collaboration between linguists and psycho-therapists is called for, which explores the role of language in therapeutic interaction.
In chapter 16, Jannis Androutsopoulos and Alexandra Georgakopoulou outline the history of the study of youth language, showing that what originated with Labov’s sociolinguistic work on the small linguistic detail of youth language determined by extralinguistic factors has broadened to a view of youth language (used both in face-to-face contexts and computer-mediated interaction) as but one semiotic system in interplay with other non-linguistic systems relevant to the construction of youth identity. The review centers on the use of youth language for the construction of alignment and convergence as well as divergence and boundary marking.
In chapter 17, Anna-Maija Korpijaakko-Huuhka and Anu Klippi discuss research on language and discourse skills of elderly people following the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) introduced by the World Health Organisation (WHO). They show that age-related physical changes may affect language comprehension and production (phonetic, lexical), discourse comprehension and production, and social interaction. However, it is also argued that social factors (education, gender) may influence the linguistic and cognitive skills of elderly people. In a separate chapter, they address issues in language and interpersonal communication in aphasia and dementia and make suggestions for treatment. Finally, perspectives and future directions for research are offered.
PART 4: Working on conversational strategies
In chapter 18, Miriam A. Locher discusses the communicative processes of relational work in conjunction with the notions of identity construction, defined as the “product” of such processes (p. 511), and of politeness. Politeness research is linked to the study of identity construction in that politeness represents a speaker’s choice to show an orientation to appropriate social conduct. In a critical review of politeness research, the notion of face, Brown and Levinson’s Politeness Theory and Leech’s Politeness Principle are set against recent more discursive approaches and Spencer-Oatey’s theory of Rapport Management.
In chapter 19, Alexander Brock presents an applied linguistic view on humor, jokes, and irony as compared to mocking, gossip, and black humor. Following a historical outline of the research fields of humor, irony, and laughter, it is sketched out how text linguistics, pragmatics, modern sociolinguistics and gender studies approach humor and its neighbouring concepts. The chapter continues with an overview of their communicative functions and of their definitional criteria and links between them. Finally, the advantages of an applied perspective on the topic are discussed.
In chapter 20, Peter R. R. White discusses how Appraisal Theory models evaluative disposition in discourse. The first part introduces “three of the key axes of variability in the communication of attitudes”, which comprise variation “in the type of positive/negative attitude”, “in the degree of explicitness by which attitudinal assessments are conveyed”, and “in the degree to which, and the way in which, potential alternative attitudinal positions are entertained or allowed for” (p. 568). The second part is dedicated to a detailed case study concerned with the analysis of evaluative dispositions in two film reviews, which illustrates the appraisal framework both as a theory and methodology.
In chapter 21, Sabine Krajewski and Hartmut Schröder on silence and taboo begin with the history of the research field. In what follows, the authors summarise the communicative meanings and functions of silence and taboo and their relation, addressing social and (cross-) cultural aspects. In a section on so-called “taboo discourse” (p. 607), linguistic and non-linguistic means to deal with and exploit taboo topics and the role of silence in these respects are exemplified and applications to family therapy are discussed as a case in point. Finally, the validity of methods in taboo research is examined.
The volume is intended for more advanced students and scholars new to or generally interested in the field of Interpersonal Communication. It presents an informative introduction to prominent theories, methodologies and research fields within applied research in Interpersonal Communication. Most contributions are well-written and are organised as announced by the volume editors in their introduction (see above).
This book, written by renowned researchers, is addressed to an international audience but since 14 of the 21 chapters are at least co-authored by German-speaking authors, German is strongly represented as regards references and authentic language examples (translated into English). For this reason, competence in reading German is presupposed. Furthermore, the series editors’ criticism of an Anglophone bias towards issues of second language teaching and learning within Applied Linguistics (p. viii) might account for the fact that work in this long-standing tradition (e.g. McCarthy 1992, McCarthy & Carter 1994) is not reflected in the book.
The selection of contributions to the volume shows that the object of study, interpersonal communication, covers a wide range of communicative habitats, ranging from face-to-face interaction, written mass media texts, technically mediated discourse to public buildings as semiotic systems. This illustrates how heterogeneous and diverse the field of Interpersonal Communication is and -- due to the latest technical development -- how quickly its scope is growing. Even though this broad scope (including linguistic and multimodal aspects of both face-to-face interaction, written mass media texts and technically mediated discourse as well as spatial semiotics) is clearly the forte of the book, it is not quite in accordance with the back cover text of the book which promises a (strictly) linguistic approach. It may be an indication that not only is the subject of Interpersonal Communication research in flux but also the definition of what falls under linguistic study in Interpersonal Communication.
McCarthy, Michael. 1992. Discourse analysis for language teachers. New York: Cambridge University Press.
McCarthy, Michael & Ronald Carter. 1994. Language as discourse: Perspectives for language teachers. New York: Longman.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Elisabeth Reber is a post-doctoral researcher in English Linguistics in the
Institute of Modern Languages at the University of Würzburg, Germany. She
received her Dr. phil. in English Linguistics from the University of
Potsdam in 2008. Her research interests include interjections / minimal
responses, prosody, affectivity in interaction, Interactional Linguistics,
and most recently, evidential constructions in discourse. Among her
publications are the edited volume ‘Prosody in Interaction’ (2010, John
Benjamins, with Dagmar Barth-Weingarten and Margret Selting), the monograph
‘Affectivity in Interaction: Sound objects in English’ (2012, John
Benjamins) as well as articles in journals and book chapters.