Smooth Talkers: The Linguistic Performance of Auctioneers and Sportscasters

Smooth Talkers: The Linguistic Performance of Auctioneers and Sportscasters

Smooth Talkers: The Linguistic Performance of Auctioneers and Sportscasters

Smooth Talkers: The Linguistic Performance of Auctioneers and Sportscasters


This book examines the contexts in which sportscasters and auctioneers speak and the characteristic techniques they employ in order to speak fluently. These speakers were selected because they have the capacity to show what happens to speech when speakers are under memory and processing pressure from having to perform other tasks while they are speaking. This volume offers a set of theories to explain how this speech comes into being and identifies the conditions which should be conducive to smooth talking. It then tests the theories by recording, transcribing, and analyzing the speech which is produced in a variety of circumstances. The major thematic contribution of the monograph is to suggest that the speech of fluent native speakers relies heavily on what might be termed the speaker's phrasal lexicon -- memorized phrases and clauses which are indexed for specific roles in speech. Even in normal speech, speakers are heavily reliant on formulae to speak in a native-like manner rather than as foreigners might do who know the language perfectly but do not know the formulae appropriate to particular contexts. Cross-disciplinary in nature, this volume:
• provides a systematic, linguistic treatment of formulaic speech,
• offers a close analysis of the speech of sportscasters and auctioneers, and
• explains why speakers resort to formulaic speech. Of interest to scholars in communication, linguistics, popular culture, and folklore.


The Everyday Communication series is devoted to the publication of case studies concerning patterns of human communication behavior placed within relevant cultural and social contexts. Each monograph within the series is intended to illuminate our understanding of the relationship between communication and context, and to do so with data collected through a variety of naturalistic methods.

This first monograph, Smooth Talkers: The Linguistic Performance of Auctioneers and Sportscasters, evidences the flexibility with which we have attempted to proceed with this editorial mission. Although most of the monographs in the series will describe data drawn from a single context, Koenraad Kuiper's research is based on data from two distinct social situations -- racecourse broadcasts and auctions -- and from several countries -- Australia, England, New Zealand, and the United States. Strictly speaking, there is no singular situation around which the analysis revolves. From this vantage point, then, Kuiper's work may at first appear as an odd choice to inaugurate this series. We think not.

Smooth Talkers provides a rich linguistic analysis of some features of context that characterize many everyday social situations and of the consequences of these features for participants' communication performances. In other words, Kuiper attempts to delve below the surface of two particular communication situations in the hopes of discovering regularities that bind a host of situations. The particular feature studied by Kuiper is "cognitive complexity," the type and amount of processing pressure placed on speakers' short-term memory. Kuiper's thesis is that certain communication contexts place an inordinate pressure on speakers to observe what is transpiring around them, to place these observations in short-term memory, and to formulate speech reports or announcements about what was observed. In order to accommodate the rapid speech processing demands placed on such communicators as racecourse announcers and auctioneers, communities develop repertoires of formulae (i.e., whole linguistic units that are usually larger than single words and that are used intact). These repertoires enable speakers to engage in unusually rapid cognitive processing of messages by having reports and announcements fit into standardized formats.

The contribution of this analysis of the speech of "smooth talkers" is twofold: first, the monograph demonstrates how a linguistic hypothesis can be tested via . . .

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