Forms of Talk

Forms of Talk

Forms of Talk

Forms of Talk


Forms of Talk extends Erving Goffman's interactional analyses of face-to-face communication to ordinary conversations and vebal exchanges. In this, his most sociolinguistic work, Goffman relates to certain forms of talk some of the issues that concerned him in his work on frame analysis. This book brings together five of Goffman's essays: "Replies and Responses," "Response Cries," "Footing," "The Lecture," and "Radio Talk."

Of lasting value in Goffman's work is his insistence that behavior-verbal or nonverbal-be examined along with the context of that behavior. In all of these classic essays, there is a "topic" at hand for discussion and analysis. In addition, as those familiar with Goffman's work have come to expect, there is the wider context in which the topic can be viewed and related to other topics-a characteristic move of Goffman's that has made his work so necessary for students of interaction in many disciplines.


The five papers in this volume were written between 1974 and 1980, and are arranged in order of their completion. All deal with talk, and mainly the speaker's side of it. The first three were published as journal articles; they have been slightly revised. The last two are printed here for the first time. The three published papers are analytic and programmatic, leading to the very general statement in the third, the paper called "Footing." The two new papers could stand as substantive application of notions developed in the analytic ones. All the papers (least so the first) are written around the same frame-analytic themes, so the whole has something more than topical coherence. The whole also contains a very considerable amount of repetition. I state this last without much apology. The ideas purport to be general (in the sense of always applicable), and worth testing out. This is the warrant for repeated approaches from different angles and the eventual retracing of practically everything. Yet, of course, none of the concepts elaborated may have a future. So I ask that these papers be taken for what they merely are: exercises, trials, tryouts, a means of displaying possibilities, not establishing fact. This asking may be a lot, for the papers are proclamatory in style, as much distended by formulary optimism as most other endeavors in this field.


Everyone knows that when individuals in the presence of others respond to events, their glances, looks, and postural shifts carry all kinds of implication and meaning. When in these settings . . .

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