Language in Action: Psychological Models of Conversation

Language in Action: Psychological Models of Conversation

Language in Action: Psychological Models of Conversation

Language in Action: Psychological Models of Conversation

Synopsis

Face-to-face conversation between two or more people is a universal form, and perhaps the basic form, of social interaction. It is the primary site of social interaction in all cultures and the place where social and cultural meaning takes shape. Face-to-face conversation between children and parents can also be an important context for social and cognitive development. Given the universality, frequency and importance of conversation in social life, a psychological model of conversation is required for an understanding of the central issues in social and developmental psychology. This book provides such a model.Language in Action presents a critical examination of four models of conversation: the Code model based on Chomsky's linguistic views; the Speech Act model of Austin and Searle; the Inferential model of Grice, and the Conversation Analytic model of Sacks and Schegloff. It also considers the Brown and Levinson model of politeness in conversation. Using many examples from natural talk and drawing on the positive aspects of the reviewed models, Turnbull proposes a new Social Pragmatic model of conversation as social interaction. He also describes the research paradigm of Social Pragmatics that experimental psychologists can use to study conversation. This book will be invaluable for advanced students in psychology, sociology, language and linguistics and communication. It will also make fascinating and lively reading for anyone wanting a greater understanding of this fundamental form of social interaction.

Excerpt

People spend a lot of their time talking: they chat, joke with one another, exchange recipes, ask for and receive directions and advice, discuss politics, negotiate the terms of a mortgage, and praise their friends, spouses and children, just to name a few of the activities that take place in talk. Talking is also the main way in which people get to know one another, become more or less intimate with one another, attain domination over others or become submissive with others, and enter into and out of long-and short-term relationships, just to name some of the many interpersonal activities that take place in talk. Indeed, if an extra-terrestrial anthropologist were to visit Earth, talking would certainly stand out as a frequent and universal activity of human kind.

The present book is about talk. For many years, in attempting to understand the nature and role of talk in human life, I equated talk with spoken language. Talk (conversation), then, seemed to be centrally a linguistic or psycholinguistic phenomenon. This turned out to be a serious mistake for reasons that I discuss in this book. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that talk is best understood as social interaction. From this perspective, talk is very much a psychological and sociological phenomenon. Once talk is recognized to be a form of social interaction, it is possible to construct a psychological model of talk that fits the data of everyday talk or conversation. Further, since the major way people interact is by talking, a model of talk can be used to study social interaction in, for example, personal relationships, psychological therapy, education, or child development. The book presents an argument for viewing talk as social interaction. I also explore how the model of talk developed in the book can be used to study issues in social interaction that interest psychologists.

The book is based on over fifteen years of teaching a psychology course on conversation. From the many hundreds of students I taught, I received lots of feedback. Often, the feedback showed me that I had not been clear about the points I was trying to make. At other times the feedback showed me that there is an ingrained way of thinking about conversation-it is nothing more than spoken language-that is very difficult to dislodge. Both types of feedback forced me to be clearer about the argument, to relate it to the taken-for-granted view, and to back up the argument at every point with examples from natural conversation. I

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