Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

4 1
SHIFTING FRAME

Marjorie Harness Goodwin University of California, Los Angeles

Within interaction, speech events set up the sequential relevance of appropriate next moves, constraining the realm of appropriate next actions and ways in which those involved are to participate. Any speaker's communicative action is both context-shaped and context- Renewing. As Heritage ( 1984, p. 242) states,

A speaker's action is context-shaped in that its contribution to an ongoing sequence of actions cannot adequately be understood except by reference to the context -- including, especially, the immediately preceding configuration of actions -- in which it participates. . . . Since every "current" action will itself form the immediate context for some "next" action in a sequence, it will inevitably contribute to the framework in terms of which the next action will be understood.

For example, it is expected that participants will answer invitations with acceptances or rejections, summonses with answers, or a ritual insult with a similar move in kind. Listeners to stories are expected to interject displays of attentiveness, displaying their alignment and engrossment in the events being recounted.

While speech events make such proposals about appropriate next moves, participants in fact have available an array of different ways of responding to ongoing talk. They may elect to initiate talk (or activity) which is not proposed by a preceding action or the ongoing activity but instead shift the "frame" (Goffman, 1974) or structure of intelligibility (for example, whether a communication is to be heard as serious or playful). Shifting frame frequently involves a change in stance or "footing" ( Goffman, 1981): That is, a "change in the alignment we take up to ourselves and the others present as expressed in the way we manage the production or reception of an utterance" ( Goffman, 1981, p. 128). Shifting frame is not done capriciously, rupturing ongoing discourse; it occurs in orderly ways as practical solutions to interactional dilemmas, reshaping the speech event, or constructing distance from the tone of the activity in progress.

____________________
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This paper was presented in the invited session on "Constituting Social Life through Talk: Interweaving Perspectives from Conversation Analysis, Ethnography, and Activity Theory" at the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, Seattle, February 29, 1992.

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