Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families

Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families

Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families

Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families

Synopsis

Through everyday talk, individuals forge the ties that can make a family. Family members use language to manage a household, create and maintain relationships, and negotiate and reinforce values and beliefs. The studies gathered in Family Talk are based on a unique research project in which four dual-income American families recorded everything they said for a week. Family Talk extends our understanding of family discourse and of how family members construct, negotiate, and enact their identities as individuals and as families. The volume also contributes to the discourse analysis of naturally-occurring interaction and makes significant contributions to theories of framing in interaction.

Family Talk addresses issues central to the academic discipline of discourse analysis as well as to families themselves, including decision-making and conflict-talk, the development of gendered family roles, sociability with and socialization of children, the development of social and political beliefs, and the interconnectedness of professional and family life. It provides illuminating insights into the subtleties of family conversation, and will be of interest to scholars and students in sociolinguistics, discourse studies, communications, anthropological linguistics, cultural studies, psychology, and other fields concerned with the language of everyday interaction or family interaction.

Excerpt

Families are the cradle of language, the original site of everyday discourse, and a touchstone for talk in other contexts. Families are created in part through talk: the daily management of a household, the intimate conversations that forge and maintain relationships, the site for the negotiation of values and beliefs. Yet there has been a greater focus on language in workplaces and other formal institutions than on discourse in this first institution. The chapters in this volume fill this gap in sociolinguistic research by bringing together a variety of linguistic studies based on a single set of data: the naturally occurring, face-to-face interactions of four American families. The studies emerged from a three-year sociolinguistic project carried out at Georgetown University to examine how parents in dual-income families use language to constitute their identities as parents and professionals at home and at work, as well as the interactional and social consequences of these ways of speaking. Since the workplace has received relatively more attention in studies of discourse, this volume focuses on the language the four women and four men use as

1. I appreciate Deborah Tannen’s and Cynthia Gordon’s helpful comments on this chapter.

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