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Ethnography Of Communication Essay Example

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Shawn Ford
SLS 660: Sociolinguistics
Spring 2002


Note: The following article was written as a project for SLS 660, instructed by Professor Gabriele Kasper of the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Please pardon any errors or omissions. Refer to the References section for additional information on the topic.

Ethnography of Communication

A Comparative Analysis of a Casual Conversation and a Formal Interview

INTRODUCTION
In the following paper, I provide a comparative analysis of a casual conversation and a formal interview based on an approach to ethnography of communication as discussed by Saville-Troike (1997). After a brief review of related studies of these two communicative event types, I present the focus and the framework of the current study. Next, I present a comparative analysis of the two communicative events using the 11 components of communication compiled by Saville-Troike, followed by a summary and discussion of some of the findings of the analysis.

I selected these two communicative event types due to their inherent differences with one another based on contrasts such as formal/ informal, structured/ unstructured, and prepared/ spontaneous. In addition, these communicative events can be readily identified as such because of their clear boundaries. The inherent contrasts that exist coupled with the boundedness of the two communicative events help facilitate a comparative analysis.

I chose the participants of these communicative events due to our association with one another as office-mates in the Department of SLS. Because of our close interaction with one another on a regular basis, we are members of the same micro-culture. Therefore, I am in an advantageous position to understand and explain these communication events in which I acted as participant observer.

I recorded both communication events using a small, handheld tape recorded to assist with my analysis. Immediately afterwards, I wrote brief notes about my observations of the events, then I listened to the tapes to find likely sections to transcribe and analyze. I have provided transcriptions of sections of each of the events in the appendix following this report.

REVIEW OF RELATED STUDIES
Much has been written about informal conversations and formal interviews from the sociolinguistic perspective. In a review of the literature, I found a number of studies that focus on different aspects of conversational style. Of the studies I located that focus on interviews, many of them seem to be set in the context of the work environment in some way. I will briefly discuss several data-based studies of each of these two communicative event types in terms of the different focus, approach, and findings of each study.

Tannen’s (1984) detailed analysis of a multi-participant conversation provides a great deal of insight into conversational style. Tannan attended, recorded, and transcribed two and a half hours of conversation during a Thanksgiving dinner at her friend’s house. Drawing from work by both Gumperz and Lakoff, she then analyzed her data focusing on a broad range of speech acts, from questions, to stories, to jokes, and style features, such as paralinguistic features, pacing, and repetition, among others. Afterwards, Tannen interviewed the original participants to ask questions about their intended meanings, their reactions, and what they were thinking during the event. Her many findings are included in her book based on her research.

In their 1995 study of English grammatical features, Carter and McCarthy examined a corpus of data from naturally occurring conversations to explore the pedagogical implications of discourse analysis. They looked at data from casual conversations, narratives, service encounters, and language-in-action to find evidence of ellipsis, left dislocation, reinforcement, and indirect speech. Their main finding is that even small-scale discourse analyses, if conducted carefully and thoroughly, may provide teachers with valuable pedagogical information. They base their finding on analyses that shows that many grammatical features are not evident in “the written mode or on restricted genres and registers of spoken language” (p. 154), which are common sources for many discourse analysis studies aimed at influencing pedagogy.

Examining previously recorded data, Schegloff (2000) conducted an empirical study based on conversation analysis to analyze the conversational feature of overlap. He focused his research on the contribution of overlap in the organization of turn taking in conversations. Schegloff was particularly interested in the problems and features associated with overlapping talk, strategies that participants use to handle overlap situations, and how overlapping talk organizes turn taking in conversation. The result of his research is his theory of an “overlap resolution device”, a set of practices that help deal with situations of overlap and assist in regulating turn taking.

With regards to interview analyses, Gumperz (1982, 1992) has conducted a number of studies in Britain investigating interethnic communication difficulties in interview situations. In his 1982 study of a counseling interview aimed at addressing communication difficulties in the workplace, Gumperz conducted a conversation analysis to determine why communication problems arose in the interview session. In this particular event, the interviewer was a native English speaker and the interviewee was an ESL speaker from Pakistan. Gumperz speculated at the outset that communication breakdowns result from linguistic and socio-cultural differences. Through his detailed analysis of the interview event, Gumperz argues that socio-cultural knowledge highly influences the linguistic choices and interpretations that are made; thus, socio-cultural differences are the source of intercultural communication problems.

Gumperz’ 1992 paper examined interviews that took place at an adult education institution between native English-speaking interviewers and four interviewees who were native speakers of various North Indian languages. The interviewees had applied to the institution to gain job training. Using a conversation analysis approach, Gumperz looked at the different ways in which linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge interact to produce communicative outcomes. In this study, he also concludes that problems arise in intercultural interview settings not because of linguistic differences as much as differences in socially motivated contextualization conventions that govern the interaction patterns of interviews.

Clayman (1992) analyzed the discourse of television news-interviews to examine the strategies that reporters utilize to remain neutral in interview situations. He focused on Goffman’s concept of “footing”, which in interaction refers to the position and voice from which one produces one’s own speech. Through his analysis, Clayman describes the different uses for footing in interview situations and provides examples of how interviewers go about changing their footing during the interview event. He concludes that his research has implications for the maintenance of neutrality in the field of journalism.

FOCUS AND FRAMEWORK OF STUDY
Having reviewed several studies somewhat relevant to this report, I would like to briefly discuss the focus and framework of my current study. Using Saville-Troike’s (1997) compiled list of components of communication, I first will conduct a comparative ethnographic analysis of my two communicative events. I will focus my comparison initially on similarities and differences that may be found between components of the two events, then I will examine each event to see how individual components may influence one another. If patterns emerge that show similar relationships between components in both events, then this is where I will focus my discussion.

COMPARISON OF DATA SOURCES
To facilitate comparison of the two different communication events, descriptive data of each event is arranged in Table 1 along the 11 components of communication as discussed by Saville-Troike (1997):

Table 1: Components of Communication

Component

Communicative Event #1

Communicative Event #2

Genre-Casual lunchtime conversationFormal structured interview
Participants-S- researcher, 35, E-A, male;
Z- focus of study, 30, E-A female;
A- participant, 20s, E-A female;
Office-mates and friends.
Z- focus of study, 30, E-A female;
A- participant, 20s, E-A female;
Office-mates and friends.
Message form-American-English only used:
S- U.S. West Coast dialect,
Z- U.S. West Coast dialect,
A- U.S. Mid-west dialect.
Facial expressions and body language also used.
American-English only used:
S- U.S. West Coast dialect,
Z- U.S. West Coast dialect,
A- U.S. Mid-west dialect.
Some facial expressions used.
Setting-Small conference room, UH Manoa campus, 2/28/02, 12:15 p.m., during lunchSmall conference room, UH Manoa, 2/28/02, 12:45 p.m., after lunch
Purpose-Personal conversation among friendsTo understand another GA’s job position and experience
Topic-Personal experience narrative of a scary incidentCurrent GA-ship work assignment- supplied questions
Key-SeriousSerious
Act sequence-Conversation centered around Z’s narrative followed by A-Z-S… alternation of questions, confirmations, and comprehension checks; overlap observedStructured, rule-governed, Q&A (A-Z-A-Z…), no overlap observed
Rules for interaction-Participation, comprehension checking, questioning to continue conversation, confirmationsQ&A turn-taking interview rules, wait for pauses and completion of utterances.
Norms of interpretation-Knowledge of U.H. Manoa and Moore Hall, some personal knowledge of each other.Knowledge of formal interviews, some knowledge about department structure, knowledge about SLS field.

With major descriptive data components arranged in this fashion, it is now possible to carry out a systematic comparative analysis of the components of communication of the two communicative event styles in question. Examples from the data sets that help illustrate the analysis will also be included where possible.

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
The two communicative events that are the focus of this paper differ fundamentally with regards to genre. Communicative event #1 is a casual lunchtime conversation, and as such has many features associated with spontaneous talk among friends. In contrast, communicative event #2 is a formal structured interview with its own set of distinct features. Differences between the features of these two communication event styles become more apparent as the comparative analysis of their components continues.

The participants in these two communication events are all friends as well as office mates in a university department. I sat in communication event #1 as a participant (S) but only observed in communication event #2. The other two participants, Zoe (Z) and Alice (A), maintained very similar roles in these two events, with Z basically telling her story and A responding and asking questions. Both A and Z are European-American (E-A), middle-class females, 26 and 30 years old respectively. I am the only male of the three participants, also E-A, from a working class background, and the oldest at 35 years old.

Regarding message forms used, the only language spoken in the two communication events is American-English; however, the specific dialects differ among the three participants. S and Z both speak some variation of a US West Coast dialect, with the dialect of S formed in the San Francisco Bay area and the dialect of Z formed in the Northwest-Seattle area. Therefore, their dialects differ just slightly. The major dialectal difference among the three participants can be heard in the speech of A, who speaks a Mid-Western US dialect. Although their dialects all differ at least slightly, there seem to be no communication features related to dialectal differences. In addition to spoken language, the only other message forms observed during the two communication events are facial expressions used by all of the participants and body language used by at least one of the participants.

The setting of the two communication events is identical except for time. Both events take place during the lunch hour and were recorded 30 minutes apart on February 28, 2002, between 12:15 and 1:00 p.m. Also, both events take place in a very small conference room in Moore Hall, adjacent to the office where the participants work. Unlike most rooms in Moore Hall, the thermostat controlling the air conditioning in this room has been adjusted higher, resulting in a moderate, comfortable atmosphere.

Considering the communication components of topic, key, and purpose, the two events are similar in that the key of both was of a serious nature. However, the key of each event seems to be governed by different components. The serious key of the casual conversation seems to be controlled by the serious nature of the topic, whereas the serious key of the interview seems to by controlled by the genre of the event itself. Also, the events differ in topic and purpose. Communicative event #1 is a personal conversation among friends in which one of the participants relays a personal experience narrative about a scary incident that has recently happened to her. In contrast, the purpose of communicative event #2 as a formal, structured interview is to better understand another Graduate Assistant’s job position and experience by means of asking a set of supplied questions about the GA’s current work assignment.

The communication event components of act sequence and rules for interaction seem to both be associated with the phenomenon of turn taking, which helps distinguish the two communicative events apart. In the friendly conversation, while the event is centered around the telling of a story, the participants contribute randomly to the development and continuation of the conversation. There seems to be neither an explicit nor an implicit order for turn taking associated with this event. Consequently, several instances of speech overlap are observed, which result in little if any breakdown of communication. In addition, there seem to be no implicit rules regarding the type of speech act that each participant contributes to the event, evidenced by the use of questions, confirmations, comprehension checks, statements, and expansions throughout the conversation.

However, in the formal interview, a very different pattern for turn taking emerges. Since the communication event centers around the question and answer format associated with interviews, turn taking appears to be rigidly controlled by implicit rules governing act sequence. As a result, not a single instance of overlap is observed in the entire communication event. This may also be due in part to additional implicit rules governing interaction. In contrast to the personal conversation where very few pauses between turns can be found, almost every turn in the interview is clearly marked by a completion of utterance and a brief pause before the next turn begins.

With regards to the final component of communication, norms of interpretation, similarities as well as differences may also be found between the two communicative events. The events seem similar in that they both require certain amounts of knowledge about the topic of conversation by all of the participants involved for communication to progress in the way that it does. Communicative event #1 requires all three participants to know something about the university environment, Moore Hall, and personal information about each other. Even though certain knowledge is not shared between the two participants in communicative event #2, given the nature and topic of the formal interview, the participants still need to have some shared knowledge about the structure of their university department and about the field of Second Language Studies. Where the two communicative events seem to differ most regarding norms of interpretation may be found in the amount of knowledge necessary of the specific communicative event in which the participants are engaged at the given time.

SUMMARY
From the previous comparative analysis of the components of communication of the two communicative events, many similarities, differences, and influences can be found, even within individual components. To further the comparison of these specific communicative events, I will select some of the components of communication that I found most interesting and discuss them in more detail by examining the ways in which the components affect each other. I will focus my discussion on topic and key, and turn taking in act sequence and rules for interaction.

DISCUSSION
Topic and Key
Although the topics of the communicative events differ greatly, the events do share a similarity regarding this component. In both events, the topic is explicitly stated by participants with different roles. I am not surprised that this would be the case with the interview. As Wolfson (1976) implies, the question-and-answer structure of interviews follows from topics introduced by the interviewer at the outset of the interview; the subject has no control over the introduction of topics. Turns 1 through 4 from the interview event highlight this point:

1. A: ok, thanks Z for sitting down and um talking with me about the /project/
2. Z: sure
3. A: um, so some of the things I wanted to ask you was, uh, how long have you worked here at the /office/?
4. Z: I’ve been working here since the end of May

However, the explicitness of the topic and the manner in which it is introduced in the casual conversation is very surprising to me. The main topic of communicative event #1 is introduced by the subject (Z) in a variation of a story round (Tannen, 1984) as shown in the following turn sequence:

1. S: so that’s…that’s all I’ve got to say
2. *laughing*
3. A: ok, ok Forrest
4. Z: that’s a pretty good story
5. *laughing*
6. A: made my day
7. S: you’re supposed to be talking
8. Z: yeah
9. *laughing*
10. S: and I’ve been talking to you constantly
11. Z: I ooh, I, oh, I have a scary story

Upon completion of his humorous story, S reminds Z that she is the one who is supposed to be talking. Z then responds by presenting the topic of a “scary story” (original, stressed emphasis) to tell. Thus, the topic of the event is explicitly stated, in this case by the subject.

Another similar component shared by the two communicative events is their serious key. However, I believe that the seriousness in each is the result of different factors. In communicative event #1, the serious key is the result of the topic proposed by Z at the outset of the conversation:

11. Z: I ooh, I, oh, I have a scary story

This statement immediately grabs the attention of the other participants and forces the event key from a humorous tone into a serious tone as evidenced by the turns immediately preceding and following turn 11 (refer to Appendix 2). In addition, the stress placement on scary serves as a contextualization cue (Gumperz, 1992, as discussed in Gumperz, 1996) to provide contrast with the previous speech act and help move the conversation onto another topic with a much different key. In contrast, the serious key of communicative event #2 is set at the very beginning of the interview:

1. A: ok, thanks /deleted/ for sitting down and um talking with me about the /deleted/
2. Z: sure
3. A: um, so some of the things I wanted to ask you was, uh, how long have you worked here at the /deleted/?
4. Z: I’ve been working here since the end of May

Due to the formal nature of A’s opening comment in turn 1 and the immediate conformity by both participants to the question-and-answer interview format, beginning with turn 3 and continuing throughout the entire communicative event (see Appendix 2), the key is serious from the outset of the event. The main difference seems to be that the serious key of the casual conversation is determined by the topic of the event while the serious key of the formal interview is determined by the event itself.

Turn Taking in Act Sequence and Rules for Interaction
Perhaps the most striking difference that I found while analyzing the two communicative events concerns turn taking. Within my data sets, the communication feature of turn taking seems to be related to the components of act sequence and rules for interaction. In fact, it appears that the rules for interaction influence the act sequence, which then affects the turn taking that occurs within each communicative event. This finding may become evident when the events are examined more closely.

The rules for interaction in both of the events seem to be implicit yet known and adhered to by all of the participants. In the data from communicative event #1, the following turn sequence shows a few of the rules for interaction implicit in a casual conversation of this kind:

40. Z: I know, I just /unintelligible/…you know, I tried to it make sure it wasn’t the wind…but it’s a big block and there was no wind…in that doorway, so it freaked me out and I went home
41. A: yeah
42. S: you didn’t call security?
43. A: yeah /unintelligible/
44. Z: right
45. A: didn’t think of that, but that’s like a I’d be scared /unintelligible/ call security
46. Z: well but what are they gonna do? I mean
47. A: you’re not kidding
48. Z: you know security here
49. S: yeah, well…
50. Z: they’re not really…
51. A: security?

A casual conversation such as the one in this excerpt requires all of the participants to contribute in some way to the conversation. Each participant contributes at least twice to the event in these 12 turns. S contributes once to the conversation, in turn 42, by means of asking a question to Z to continue the conversation. This question results in immediate sequential confirmations by both A and Z in turns 43 and 44 to show their continued involvement in the event. Actually, the response by Z in turn 44 could be interpreted as a sarcastic reaction to the question posed; however, given the intonation of the response, I interpret it as confirmation that the question has been received and an answer is being formulated. The next response given in answer to the question asked by S is then provided by A in turn 45, which is immediately followed by another question asked this time by Z in turn 46. Thus, the question originally asked by S is never directly answered, yet the conversation continues without a breakdown in communication.

One result of this kind of communicative event with its particular rules for interaction that produce spontaneous contribution to conversation is that there is no consistent act sequence. This may also be seen in the previous excerpt, where the event moves from an answer to a question in turn 40, to a confirmation in the next turn, to a question in turn 42, followed by sequential confirmations, a statement in turn 45, then a rhetorical question/ comprehension check in turn 46. In the span of seven turns, the participants contribute six different kinds of speech acts to the conversation.

This inconsistency of act sequence may then affect the turn taking sequence of the communicative event, which is also inconsistent. Although the communicative event is centered around a narrative given by Z, the main part of the story, presented in turns 13 through 27 (see Appendix 1), is interrupted by the other two participants seven different times through questions, confirmations, and comprehension checks. Another speech feature that arises due to this casual conversational style is that of overlap as discussed by Schegloff (2000). This feature is evident in the following excerpt of five turns (shown with approximate timing of turns):

33. S: yeah, you should be able to
34. Z: if it should have a manual
35. A: I haven’t looked but I bet it does
36. S: you should be able to
37. Z: to lock and unlock it?

In this sequence, S begins a turn in continuation of the current topic (turn 33), and both A and Z insert their own comments (turns 34 and 35) to the same topic while S is still speaking, producing a period of overlap. S then persists in making his point by projecting the thrust of his original turn (Schegloff, 2000) in turn 36 while Z is still speaking (turns 35 and 37), which produces another period of overlap. All three participants show a persistence to complete their utterances without any acknowledgement of the overlap or any recognizable consequences (Schegloff, 2000).

In contrast to the rules for interaction and the patterns of act sequence and turn taking found in the casual conversation, communicative event #2 appears quite different. To begin with, common rules for interaction implicit in a formal interview setting seem to be inextricably linked to the nature of this type of communicative event. Indeed, a successful interview with the traditional question-and-answer format requires that the participants involved share common norms and practices about the event (Kasper, in press). Some of the rules for interaction apparent in communicative event #2 are adherence to the question-and-answer format of interviews, waiting for pauses in speech as a signal that the other participant’s turn is complete before beginning a turn, and allowing the other participant to completely finish a turn before beginning another turn. This pattern may be seen in the next selection:

3. A: um, so some of the things I wanted to ask you was, uh, how long have you worked here at the /office/?
4. Z: I’ve been working here since the end of May
5. A: last year?
6. Z: and, um, work picked up in June when some other members of the team came along
7. A: and, so it you’ve been now it’s February and you’re gonna continue working until?
8. Z: until June…it’s a one year appointment
9. A: ok…um…and could you tell me how you got your position here at the /office/?
10. Z: right…ok…um…

The question-and-answer pattern is established by the participants in turns 3 and 4 and continues in this manner throughout the entire event. Adherence to this structure shows that the participants share the same implicit knowledge of the interview event. In addition, a clear pause can be detected at the end of each turn before either A asks another question or Z gives an answer. The pause after each question by A may be the result of Z formulating an answer, whereas the pause after each reply by Z may be due to A making sure that Z has completed her turn. The overall result of these first two rules is that each participant completely finishes her turn before the other begins a new turn; therefore, in this five-minute communicative event of 22 turns, there is not a single instance of overlap. This fact is very interesting in comparison to communicative event #1 and shows that the implicit rules for interaction in an interview event are very strong.

In the formal interview, it appears that the rules for interaction directly influence act sequence and turn taking, even more so than in the casual conversation event. Due to the fact that one of the rules governing interaction in this type of event is the question-and-answer structure, act sequence and turn taking strictly follow this structure over the course of the event after the introductory remarks of turns 1 and 2 (please refer to Appendix 2). From beginning until end, A asks a question, and Z gives an answer; A never provides additional comments, and Z never asks questions. Thus, it is possible to see that in both the formal interview and the casual conversation, there is a relation between rules for interaction, act sequence, and turn taking. This finding may seem somewhat matter-of-fact, but I was surprised to discover this when analyzing transcriptions of the two communicative events.

CONCLUSION

Through this ethnography of communication exercise, it is possible to compare and contrast specific features that may be found in two distinctly different communicative events. It is very interesting to analyze how differently people use language to achieve certain objectives. As a result of this exercise, I have grown to appreciate the usefulness of communication analysis and understand how it may contribute to a more thorough understanding of language use in society. In my own ethnographic fieldwork of college-level generation 1.5 students that I am currently conducting for my scholarly paper, I am considering the possibility of also gathering data that I may use for an ethnography of communication portion of either my paper or for a future journal article. I believe that a micro-analysis of some of the same speech features in the same communicative event types as this current study may help shed more light on the issues involved with educating generation 1.5 students here in Hawaii and across the U.S.


REFERENCES
Carter, R. & McCarthy, M. (1995). Grammar and the spoken language. Applied Linguistics, 14, 141-158.

Clayman, S.E. (1992). Footing in the achievement of neutrality: The case of news interview discourse. In P. Drew & J. Heritage (Eds.) Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings (pp. 163-198). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gumperz, J.J. (1992). Interviewing in intercultural situations. In P. Drew & J. Heritage (Eds.) Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings (pp. 302-327). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gumperz, J.J. (1996). The linguistic and cultural relativity of conversational inference. In J.J. Gumperz & Levinson, S.C. (Eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity (pp. 374-406). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kasper, G., & Rose, K.R. (under review). Research methods in interlanguage pragmatics. Mahwah: Erlbaum.

Saville-Troike, M. (1997). The ethnographic analysis of communicative events. In N. Coupland & A. Jaworsky (Eds.), Sociolinguistics: A reader (pp. 126-144). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Schegloff, E.A. (2000). Overlapping talk and the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language in Society, 29, 1-63.

Tannen, D. (1984). Conversational style: Analyzing talk among friends. Norwood, NY: Ablex Publishing.

Wolfson, N. (1997). Speech events and natural speech. In N. Coupland & A. Jaworsky (Eds.), Sociolinguistics: A reader (pp. 116-125). New York: St. Martin’s Press.


APPENDIX 1
Transcript #1: Casual lunchtime conversation
Recorded: 2/28/02, 12:15 p.m.
Approximate length of conversation: 3’45”
Description of setting: three friends sitting together around a table in an empty conference room eating lunch.
Participants: S- researcher; Z- focus of current study; A- additional conversant

*begin*
1. S: so that’s…that’s all I’ve got to say
2. *laughing*
3. A: ok, ok Forrest
4. Z: that’s a pretty good story
5. *laughing*
6. A: made my day
7. S: you’re supposed to be talking
8. Z: yeah
9. *laughing*
10. S: and I’ve been talking to you constantly
11. Z: I ooh, I, oh, I have a scary story
12. *cough*
13. Z: last night, I was in the bathroom… and it was maybe nine o’clock or something
14. S: here or at…
15. Z: yeah, here *pointing in the direction of the bathroom*… and I went over to the restroom and I was, um, doing something with my hair in the mirror
16. A: with a cockroach?
17. Z: uhn, no…way scarier…I heard someone pulling away the, um, peg that keeps the door open…there’s a wooden block *making shape with fingers of one hand* in the girl’s restroom that keeps the *lowering fingers still in shape towards the floor*
18. S: uhm
19. Z: door open…and someone pulled it away…and so I yelled out, hey! cause I was scared shitless…I was like, why is somebody trying to close the door? it’s nine o’clock, so it’s not midnight it’s not time to lock up yet cause they come around like twelve fifteen to lock up…and I went out there nobody, you know, cause you can see that I always look in the, uh, reflection of the glass because there’s a glass partition and you can see if somebody’s there when y-you’re in the doorway
20. A: yeah
21. Z: you can look out and you can see if somebody’s
22. A: right
23. Z: next to you
24. A: the wall
25. Z: and I didn’t see anybody so I came out, and I looked all around upstairs there was this guy that, um, was walking past the elevator like he was going to the men’s restroom, but…I was really suspicious of him here because he had this big-ole smirk on his face…and, um, and I, I, I… I don’t know what he was I haven’t seen him before
26. A: you haven’t seen him before? oh great
27. Z: but he wasn’t he wasn’t scroungey or anything like that he was in an aloha shirt and slacks and stuff he looked professional enough…but the the grin he had on his face was just I it was too weird…and, um so I don’t know what happened it I
28. S: someone did pull the
29. Z: yeah, the block was pulled out…and
30. A: but they couldn’t lock you in or anything
31. Z: mmm…wouldn’t hope they could, uhun-hun
32. A: I mean, you can open it from the inside can’t you?
33. S: yeah, you should /begin talking all at once/ be able to
34. Z: if it should have a manual
35. A: I haven’t looked but I bet it does
36. S: you should be able to?
37. Z: to lock and unlock it /end talking all at once/
38. Z: yeah, um
39. A: but why would they do that?
40. Z: I know, I just /unintelligible/…you know, I tried to it make sure it wasn’t the wind…but it’s a big block and there was no wind…in that doorway, so it freaked me out and I went home
41. A: yeah
42. S: you didn’t call security?
43. A: yeah /unintelligible/
44. Z: right
45. A: didn’t think of that, but that’s like a I’d be scared /unintelligible/ call security
46. Z: well but what are they gonna do? I mean
47. A: you’re not kidding
48. Z: you know security here
49. S: yeah, well…
50. Z: they’re not really…
51. A: security?
52. Z: they don’t really care…that’s my impression…they don’t…they don’t
53. A: that’s it’s weird though like why would he do that? like
54. Z: I know! *clear throat* it doesn’t make any sense to me
55. Z: it I mean it really was weird…and I thought
56. A: that’s great…maybe he’s just going around closing all of the women’s doors
57. Z: I don’t know…my my first thing, cause you know how I had my my story with Elizabeth when she died and I’m /unintelligible/ you know I always look out for signs from her…and so I though it was Elizabeth…I did…but, um, I don’t understand why she would do that…unless she was trying to tell me to get…out of there…so I always trust my instincts with omens
58. A: hmm
59. Z: so, I left…uh, I, I’m not sure what was going on
60. A: that’s really scary
61. Z: yeah, it was
62. A: yeah


APPENDIX 2
Transcript #2- Formal structured interview
Recorded: 2/28/02, 12:45 p.m.
Approximate length of conversation: 5’10”
Description of setting: subject and interviewer at a table in an empty conference room with researcher observing. Interviewer was supplied a set list of questions to ask. Subject was only informed the topic of the interview and was not given questions beforehand to prepare.
Participants: Z- focus of current study; A- interviewer

*begin*
1. A: ok, thanks Z for sitting down and um talking with me about the /project/
2. Z: sure
3. A: um, so some of the things I wanted to ask you was, uh, how long have you worked here at the /office/?
4. Z: I’ve been working here since the end of May
5. A: last year?
6. Z: and, um, work picked up in June when some other members of the team came along
7. A: and, so it you’ve been now it’s February and you’re gonna continue working until?
8. Z: until June…it’s a one year appointment
9. A: ok…um…and could you tell me how you got your position here at the /office/?
10. Z: right…ok…um…
11. A: *cleared throat*
12. Z: /professor/ had sent out an email to the /department/ list serve…um eliciting people that would be interested in a /deleted/ project that was funded by an /deleted/ grant that she had received…I was very interested in the project…her announcement was looking for people that could either be teachers of /language/ or /language/ or people that could be teaching assistants…I wasn’t really interested in being either one of those, but I felt that I wanted to be a part of the project and, uh, could, um, perhaps get into something behind the scenes and do what I actually ended up doing
13. A: um…so what /office/ projects are you currently involved in um…could you in with that last question …um…can you explain more about what it is that you actually do then on this one?
14. Z: uhm-hum…so the project is called the /deleted/ project…and, it’s a /deleted/ project that’s been designed by myself and several others…to, include theories that we feel are important for building on academic strategies in a high school setting for /deleted/ students…um…the…grant stipulates that our population should be /deleted/ and that our goals will be academic…um, specifically, we’re trying to build academic skills through English as well as their heritage language and we’re trying to foster community ties, we’re trying to make connections with the community and drawing…on their resources…another notion that’s very important to us is the, um…notion that…um, language as resource…and that we can draw on the students’ heritage language and their experiences…and…compliment the academic needs with these experiences and their current knowledge what they bring with them to the classroom
15. A: and your specific role in this project?
16. Z: I’m the evaluator
17. A: *cleared throat* with these?
18. Z: for the program, so we have, um…several different components, we have…curriculum…director…who, oversees al-everything pertaining to the curriculum and who, um, principally provides us with materials for the curriculum development…we have, ahm, three teachers, one for /language/, two for /language/ and myself as an evaluator and then everything is overseen by /professor/ who is the administrator…we also have a liaison between the high school and…the, um, and the university…but my role is the evaluator and I evaluate not only the program…as a whole but also the teachers and students, umm, for objectiveness of the curriculum interests and the curriculum attitudinal changes…and, beyond that, I look at…the contacts of the site, um the administration of the s-high school, the academy within this which w-we work in…the, um receptions that we’re receiving from the teachers that are involved in the academy but, ah, um, you know, are outside of our program…u-looking at…artifacts collecting artifacts looking at rhetoric uh-regarding language…um, Pidgin, /language/, Hawaiian, whatever, unconfined, uh, drawing on the resources of counselors, pool, club, extra-curricular activities /unintelligible/
19. A: * cleared throat*
20. Z: what support there is for /language/
21. A: hm…um, so, how do you feel that you have been able to contribute to /project/ and I know that you have explained what you what you do but how do you feel about what you’re doing and contributing to this department?
22. Z: uhm-hum…well…one of…uh I think I contribute a lot of different things but, one of the things that I bring…to…the program is perhaps, um, not something that most people would say but, I’m known as the cheerleader for our program because I’m very positive…I’m very…enthusiastic about what we’re doing and it means a great deal to me…


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contents (c) 2001 Shawn Ford/ Webb-Ed Press
sford@hawaii.edu

The ethnography of communication (EOC), formerly called the ethnography of speaking, is the analysis of communication within the wider context of the social and cultural practices and beliefs of the members of a particular culture or speech community.[1][2] It is a method of discourse analysis in linguistics that draws on the anthropological field of ethnography. Unlike ethnography proper, though, EOC takes into account both the communicative form, which may include but is not limited to spoken language, and its function within the given culture.[2]

General aims of this qualitative research method include being able to discern which communication acts and/or codes are important to different groups, what types of meanings groups apply to different communication events, and how group members learn these codes, in order to provide insight into particular communities. This additional insight may be used to enhance communication with group members, make sense of group members’ decisions, and distinguish groups from one another, among other things.

Origins[edit]

Dell Hymes proposed the ethnography of communication as an approach towards analyzing patterns of language use within speech communities, in order to provide support for his idea of communicative competence, which itself was a reaction to Noam Chomsky's distinction between linguistic competence and linguistic performance.[3]

Originally coined "ethnography of speaking" in Dell Hymes'eponymous 1962 paper,[4] it was redefined in his 1964 paper, Introduction: Toward Ethnographies of Communication to accommodate for the non-vocal and non-verbal characteristics of communication,[1] although most EOC researchers still tend to focus upon speaking as it is generally considered "to be a prominent - even primordial - means of communication."[5]

The term "ethnography of communication" is meant to be descriptive of the characteristics that an approach towards language from an anthropological standpoint must take. Namely, according to Dell Hymes, it must 1) "investigate directly the use of language in contexts of situations so as to discern patterns proper to speech activity" and 2) "take as context a community, investigating its communicative habits as a whole."[1] In other words, rather than divorcing linguistic form from its function, the analysis of a culture's or community's communication, linguistic and otherwise, must occur with respect to the sociocultural context of its use and the functions of the meanings conveyed. As Deborah Cameron puts it, "If you are mainly concerned with the way a certain speech event fits into a whole network of cultural beliefs and practices, you will spend more time describing things that are external to the talk itself: who the speakers are, where they are, what beliefs and customs are important in their lives."[2]

Usage[edit]

In their g book Qualitative Communication Research Methods, communications scholars Thomas R. Lindlof and Bryan C. Taylor explain "Ethnography of communication conceptualizes communication as a continuous flow of information, rather than as a segmented exchange of messages."[5] According to Deborah Cameron, EOC can be thought of as the application of ethnographic methods to the communication patterns of a group.[2] Littlejohn & Foss recall that Dell Hymes suggests that "cultures communicate in different ways, but all forms of communication require a shared code, communicators who know and use the code, a channel, a setting, a message form, a topic, and an event created by transmission of the message."[6] "EOC studies," according to Lindlof and Taylor, "produce highly detailed analysis of communication codes and their moment-to-moment functions in various contexts. In these analyses, speech communities are constituted in local and continuous performances of cultural and moral matters."[5]

EOC can be used as a means by which to study the interactions among members of a specific culture or "speech community." A speech community is any group of people that creates and establishes their own speaking codes and norms. Philipsen explains that "Each community has its own cultural values about speaking and these are linked to judgments of situational appropriateness."[7] The meaning and understanding of the presence or absence of speech within different communities will vary. Local cultural patterns and norms must be understood for analysis and interpretation of the appropriateness of speech act situated within specific communities. Thus, "the statement that talk is not anywhere valued equally in all social contexts suggests a research strategy for discovering and describing cultural or subcultural differences in the value of speaking. Speaking is one among other symbolic resources which are allocated and distributed in social situations according to distinctive culture patterns."[7]

Hymes also used EOC to argue against the strong view of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, or the idea that the language one speaks determine one's cognitive ability. While Hymes believed that language did affect one's world view, he argued that the extent of that effect depended "on the circumstances of its acquisition, and its place in the linguistic repertoire of a person and a community."[3]

The SPEAKING model[edit]

Main article: Dell Hymes § The "S-P-E-A-K-I-N-G" model

A model that Hymes developed as a framework for the analysis of a speech event within its cultural context is the mnemonic SPEAKING model. The model consists of sixteen components, which Hymes believed were necessary to consider in order to accurately and satisfactorily describe any particular speech event: message form, message content, setting, scene, speaker/sender, addressor, hearer/receiver/audience, addressee, purposes (outcomes), purposes (goals), key, channels, forms of speech, norms of interaction, norms of interpretation, and genres. These sixteen components are organized into eight divisions to form the acronym SPEAKING.[3]

  • S - setting and scene: where the speech event is located in time and space
  • P - participants: who takes part in the speech event, and in what role (e.g. speaker, addressee, audience, eavesdropper)
  • E - ends: what the purpose of the speech event is, and what its outcome is meant to be
  • A - act sequence: what speech acts make up the speech event, and what order they are performed in
  • K - key: the tone or manner of performance (serious or joking, sincere or ironic, etc.)
  • I - instrumentalities: what channel or medium of communication is used (e.g. speaking, signing, writing, drumming, whistling), and what language/variety is selected from the participants' repertoire
  • N - norms of interaction: what the rules are for producing and interpreting speech acts
  • G - genres: what 'type' does a speech event belong to (e.g. interview, gossip), and what other pre-existing conventional forms of speech are drawn on or 'cited' in producing appropriate contributions to talk (e.g. do people quote from mythology or poetry or scripture?)[2]

While the SPEAKING model is a valuable model to EOC, as well as the descriptive framework most commonly used in ethnography of communication, Cameron cautions that Hymes' model should be used more as a guide than a template, because adhering to it too narrowly may create a limiting view of the subject of its study. Ethnography of communication, according to Cameron, should strive not only to "address such 'descriptive' questions as 'what speech events occur in such-and-such a community?' and 'what are the components of speech events X, Y, and Z?'", but also to explain "why particular events occur and why they have particular characteristics."[2]

Notable studies[edit]

Several research studies have used ethnography of communication as a methodological tool when conducting empirical research. Examples of this work include Philipsen’s study, which examined the ways in which blue-collar men living near Chicago spoke or did not speak based on communication context and personal identity relationship status (i.e. whether they were considered to be of symmetrical or asymmetrical social status).[7] Other examples include Katriel’s study of Israeli communication acts involving griping and joking about national and public problems,[8] as well as Carbaugh's comparative studies of communication in a variety of intercultural contexts.[9] These studies not only identify communication acts, codes, rules, functions, and norms, but they also offer different ways in which the method can be applied. Joel Sherzer's Kuna Ways of Speaking investigates the ways of speaking among the Kuna of Panama.[10] This is a landmark study that focuses on curing ways, everyday speaking, puberty rites, and gathering house speech-making. It was the first monograph that explicitly took an ethnography of speaking perspective to the whole range of verbal practices among a group of people.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ abcHymes, Dell (1964). "Introduction: Toward Ethnographies of Communication". American Anthropologist. 66 (6): 1–34. doi:10.1525/aa.1964.66.suppl_3.02a00010. 
  2. ^ abcdefCameron, Deborah (2001). Working with spoken discourse. London: Sage Publications. pp. 53–67. ISBN 978-0761957737. 
  3. ^ abcHymes, Dell (1976). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach (8th ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812210651. 
  4. ^Hymes, Dell (1962). "The ethnography of speaking". In Gladwin, Thomas; Sturtevant, William C. Anthropology and Human Behavior. Washington, D.C.: Anthropology Society of Washington. 
  5. ^ abcLindlof, Thomas R.; Taylor, Bryan C. (2002). Qualitative Communication Research Methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. ISBN 0761924949. 
  6. ^Littlejohn, Stephen W.; Foss, Karen A. (2011). Theories of Human Communication (10th ed.). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1577667063. 
  7. ^ abcPhilipsen, Gerry. "Speaking "like a man" in Teamsterville: Culture patterns of role enactment in an urban neighborhood". Quarterly Journal of Speech. 61 (1): 13–22. doi:10.1080/00335637509383264. 
  8. ^Katriel, T. (1990). "'Griping' as a verbal ritual in some Israeli discourse". In Carbaugh, D. Cultural Communication and Intercultural Contact. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 99–114. 
  9. ^Carbaugh, Donal (2005). Cultures in conversation. Mahwah N.J.: L. Erlbaum Assiociates. ISBN 0-8058-5234-4. 
  10. ^Sherzer, Joel (1983). Kuna ways of speaking: An ethnographic perspective. Austin: The University of Texas Press. 

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