Discourse and Language Education


Cambridge Language Teaching Library


theory: System constraints

1 Communication theory: system constraints and conversational analysis

An alternative is to use a bracket ar the point of overlap: P: but umm in the high school umrnrn R:


they Don't they use 'em?

Brackets also show when two speakers start simultaneous) y: In his study of human communication, Coffman (1976) claimed that there is a set of universal constraints on all communication. Since the constraints are universal, they should appear ill all types of communication and in all languages. Each language, of course, would differ in exactly how the constraints are met, and the wa ys in which the constraints are met should vary according to the communication channel. Goffman divided these communication constraints into two types: system constraints, the components required for all communication systems, and ritual constraints, the social constraints thar smooth social interaction. Together they provide a systematic framework for our description of discourse, even the discourse of everyday, mundane communication. For example, researchers such as Duncan, Jefferson, Sacks, and Schegloff, among others, have mvestlgated system constraints - the ways we open and close conversanons, our conversational turn-taking signals, how we repair messages to make them interpretable, how bracketing is done, and so forth. A discussion of all these system constraints follows. System constraints also apply to more formal channels of communication. We can look, for example, at how we open or introduce topics and conclude or close topics in written text as well. We can use the universal system constraints as a framework to describe classroom discourse (the openings, how teachers organize who talks when), our telephone conversations, or even the personal letters we write. Before turning to a description of communication systems, though, we need to think about the discourse data that systems are meant to describe. If we wish to describe the system of, say, conversation, we are required to collect and transcribe natural conversational data - language produced by users in ordinary, everyday ways. Many communication specialists work from videotaped data because nonverbal information such as eye gaze, body orientation, hand movements, and head tilt may serve as communication signals. However, transcriptions are also needed for detailed analysis of the discourse system. Although there is no set method for transcription of such data, the examples throughout this book display transcription conventions developed byJefferson (see Atkinson and Heritage 1984) for conversational analysis (variations appear in Schegloff and Sacks 1973; Brown and Yule 1981): II Or I indicates that the next speaker overlaps at this point: R: [I mean it's not time. P: We can go. An asterisk or right bracket shows the point at which overlap ends: M: It's very Ivery H: I interesting' M: yes interesting uh.
= is used for "latching," to show there is no gap between utterances:

M: mmhmm (.2) ye:s= H: = like saffron Numbers in parentheses {.2l usually indicate elapsed time in tenths of a second. A (.) stands for a micropause, Some researchers prefer to use + for a short pause, + + for a somewhat longer pause, and + + + for a long pause. These are then keyed ro the number of seconds represented by each +. Others prefer to use such symbols to stand for the number of syllables or beats in the ongoing rhythm of the conversation. Punctuation is used for intonation rather than grammatical function. A question mark, for example, indicates strong rising intonation while a comma indicates a slight rise. A colon means the syllable is lengthened. Multiple colons indicate a more prolonged syllable.


M: at school? annna university? is difficult. Wo:::::w (held equivalent of five syllables)

Uppercase type is used for stress (pitch and volume): A: to my BOYfriend ann NOTHING else. A (0) indicates that the following talk is said softly: S:

hn I don't get it.

(h) indicates explosive aspirarion; h without parens means audible breathing. A dot (. ) indicates in-breath: S: . h h oh Single parentheses may be used when the transcriber is unsure of accuracy. Double parentheses indicate nonverbal sounds such as ((cough)). S: to do a (chef) or (hiccough)) hh gosh.

Po· but umm in the high school ummmlirhey R: IIDon't they use 'ern?

What do you think you do (nonverbal signals)? What do you think you say (verbal signalsz Simultaneously. But. the response may be a "hi" or even "yeah?" Self·identification responses such as "Acme Computers" or "Dr." and "give me the key" mighr be shown as "girnme the key. Yeah? This is Tony HI Tony How are you. those used in language instruction or those of plays). (2) identification sequence." SUMMONS-ANSWER SEQUENCE System constraints There are eight system constraints rhat Goffman claimed to be universal in all human communication.g." If the person answering knows ahead of time to expecr a call. backchannel signals. and (4) how-are-you sequence. and so phonological or phonetic transcriptions of data are not used. the written data are presented exactly as they were written. because the analysis depends on the transcription. and setting is part of the analysis of discourse. It IS Important to check intuition against real language data. This is true of written data as well as oral dara. What do you think the friend does (nonverbal sig· nals)? And what do you think the friend says (verbal signals)? 8 In all communication. phone openings consist of mare than a simple "hello. Sometimes these "errors" may be more interesting than the issues that are being discussed. s. The description of these signals and how they vary across mode. Communication theory: System constraints Since Our intuitions abour language may have been shaped in part by written rext dialogues (e. In American phone conversations. but I hope they will not distract you from the basic content . However. One final note regarding the transcribed data that occurs throughout this manual. nonparticipant constraints. It's important that the data be accurately transcribed. you wi II object to this laststatement. Consider how you project channel opening signals when you meet a friend on the way to class. channel.t . bracket signals.Sue. E: Hi. if you monitor your calls.h(h).2) the yearly paper due tomorrow.n ten minutes.the analysis of discourse.. turnover signals. That is. the spellings of words are altered to try to capture some of the detail of natural speech.Discourse and language education A right arrow (-) Or an underline may be used to point to parts of the transcript relevant to the analyst's description. In all examples. jones's office" more often mark the communication as business rather than personal. The ringing of the telephone represents the summons. Hi. heheheh hh I can tel! you a lor ablhlout . How abour that. (Data SOurce: Wong 1984) This particular example shows the four baSIC parts of phone conversation openings ~escribed by Schegloff (1968): (1) summons-answer sequence. a channel chat has qulte formalized openings and closings: ((phone Marcia: Tony: Marcia: TOllY: Marcia: Tony: Marcia: Tony: Marcia: ringing)) Hello. Channel open/close signals there must be ways to show that communication is about to begin and then begins. accurate representation of speech sounds is not the focus of the research.. Now that you are familiar with transcription conventions. Th~se data are from American telephone conversations. you will soon lind that the preceding generalizations are true for most American phone callst) IDENTIFICATION SEQUENCE We are very often able to identify the caller or the answerer from minimal VOIcesamples. Let's look ar such data now. OHhhh hh I've gor a paper b. acoustically adequate and interpretable messages. In other words.g. They are channel open and close signals. (If you were trained to answer the phone as "Sm ith residence" or whatever. A caller who recognizes the answerer by the initial "hello" may show that recognition has taken place and invite a reciprocal recognition by SImply answering "hi. phone calls. meetings. 0) greeting sequence. Hi Marcia." ((phone ringing» E: Hello:. and the answer is a response to that summons. the friend must also make opening response signals. 9 . and ways to show that it is about to end and then ends. the most frequent response is "hello. misspellings and other "errors" are not corrected even when misspellings or error type are not at issue. These channel open/ close signals will differ according co the channel (e.. classrooms). let's tum to an examination of system in communication beginning with the first of Goff· man's types of constraints: system constraints.(0.. "See you in ten minutes" might be transcribed as "see yuh :. and a set of Gricean norms. letters. preempt signals. In transcripts.

Mom.= =It's Denise. Sue." It appears that the less information needed for identification." A neutral response allows the caller to conclude the opening and provides an anchor point for introduction of the topIC or reason for the calL If the default is nor used.. and setting. and the second set forms the greetmg.·1 . opening sequence that Can be sys- D: S: 0: S: Hi Sue. What opening signals are used? If there are 11 . ((phone ringing)) E: Huh-Io? S: He-LO! E: Hi Sue. channel varies across oral versus (i.e. Finally. 1-. However. the answer to the question leads to a multitude of sequences and to a closing before the caller ever gets around to the real reason for the call! Th~ form of openings to the communication written modes. S: MOM-my. nor so good . HOW-AR E-YOU SEQUENCE :r ((phone ringing)) E: Hello? B: EV-lyn! ((phone ringing)) E: Hello:. E: hhhh Oh. according to the channel differ from face-to-face communication). the how-are-you gives the answerer the opportunity to capture the first ropic of conversation. Hi. you're ~ borne. SEQUENCE GREETING Practice 1.. ' . Callers. How are yuh. all is well. self-identification is forthcoming. one "hi" can serve both purposes .I hadda a run-in with B. too. these opening 10 1.. phone conversation openings and according ro the setting (i. the how-are-you sequence expands and may become the first topic of conversation if in fact it was not the reason for the call. ((phone ringingf E: Hello? A: Hi Gran'ma this is Arien earin" popcorn. channel. the opening may include a "how-are-you" sequence. c1ass~oom openings may differ from those :Ppolntments).e. a first name rather than first and last name is "preferred. self-identification. Although there is variation ach type of comrnurucanon WIll have an tematically described. Check the dialogues in a language teaching text with which you are familiar. When identification falters even for an instant.Discourse and language education If the answerer and the caller are both recognized from such minimal voice samples. there are sequences where the names of answerers and callers are given in the identification sequence: ((phone ringingf E: Hello:. the better.. S: Hi mom. often in the second rum. how're yon. given with falling intonation. Yuh hear it? According ro Schegloff (1979). In some instances. he one distinguishing characteristic of a "hi" as a greeting versus that of Identification IS that greetings are not repeated. Denise. ((phone ringing)) 5: bhHello. In the following exchange. the first. The default response is usually "okay" or "fine. these resources for identification are graded in American phone conversations so that identification from the voice sample alone is "preferred. S: hhMorn? Sometimes the intonation i Communication theory: System constraints exchanges do not necessarily constitute a greeting.. E: Hi." If a name is given. However. S: Fine. Hatch? ((phone ringingf E: Hello:. = = ohh HI. set IS part of the identification sequence. «phone ringing)) Hello? Hi. of boardroom meetings or dental across mode. . may give an immediate ((phone ringingl) E: Hello:. S: Hi. it's me. E: s.recognition and greeting. However. C: Dr.1 Openings We've already seen that much of the work of the identification sequence can be accomplished by an exchange of greetings. however. In other words.

." A: .Discourse and language education any phone call examples. The system itself may automatically generate a memo-style opening as it "mails" the message. but will have to generate a closing. meeting friends. However. t . Preclosing signals such as "well.g. With love." "To Whom It May Concern. when you go to see a professor during office hours. what does "excuse me" signal? Think about how you begin letters to your friends. E: Yeh. compare your findings with those of your study group or class. The sender mayor may nor pro" vide an additional opening. machine-gen- Practice 1. What kinds of opening signals do you use? In what circumstances might you use "Dear Sir or Madam.. Preclosings are cooperatively accomplished. NS~NNS? I'd really appreciate it. so I'll call yuh tomorrow S: Okay mom. such messages look strange erated opening.4) hh what's bike shop? the street you turn on to get to the 2. Could you rerun the GLM ANOV A on the GAPS with NS-NS vs. Date: To: From: Tue. with family members).g. 05 Jan 88 12:24 PST Evelyn Hatch <icm2erh> David Walter <ihwlabc> TESL and Applied Linguistics 3300 Rolfe. Observe the ways openings orclosings 13 ." "Your Excellency"? Academic textbooks must also contain opening signals. . how similar or different are the openings to the four-part system just described? Have you heard the comedy routine where a mother carries out a long advice-giving phone conversation only to discover in the end that it's not her daughter on the line? The daughter says something like "Does that mean you're not coming over to baby-sit?" What do you do when you're not quite sure who callers are and they do not immediately identify themselves? In face-to-face communication." What series of moves do you make at the end of a social evening to signal the dose of that event? Consider how a teacher signals that the class is finished and students are free to leave. however. Okay? Talk to you later. are there times when you would open communication with "Excuse me"? If so. once such preclosing moves are made. a "so" uttered by one party that is not followed by a reciprocal "rnrnrn" or another precloser from the other party cannot constitute a preclosing. JUSt a minute." "Oh. is provided. 3. Subject: Now think for a moment about how you close the channel in telephone COnversations. With a computer modem. Wait a mn . E: bye. Look at the opening of this book. are done in several situatons (e. If you use such a system. Hi Evelyn.5) Okay. We have described openings and closings of ordinary phone conversations. If possible. 12 Okay an then mmm-I'I! ask my mom if she'll pick us up at the mall. describe the ways that openings and closings are done in TOD calls. you probably have already noticed that the style of such messages is somewhere between [hat of phone and letter communication. nor "OOPS.. at the doctor's office. Sincerely. talk to you later. What signal::. following a forma I. CA 90024 ANOVA 4. Dear Sir:. UCLA Los Angeles. In fact. Dave Needless to say. How would you account for differences in the data? 2.it is possible to send messages around the world via electronic mail. How might the system be described? It is not always easy to determine precisely where dosing SIgnals begin. It is not a simple "good-bye.. Frequently the sender's message has openings and closings that more closely emulate phone messages than written memos. Certain types of written discourse such as personal and business letters have conventionalized openings and closings (e. are used to open the text? Communication theory: System constraints J: (.).2 Closings E: Okay. S: bye." and "okay" used with falling intonation are among the signals given by each participant when he or she is read y to dose the communication channel.son S: Yeh. wait a minute. No automatic dosing. I forgot. then. 5. If you work with or can observe deaf students who use a TDO (telecommunications device for the deaf). it is difficult to stop the dosing of the channel without SOme other signal such as "Oh." "so. Dear Dian.(.

Backchannel or feedback signals differ across settings and according to the roles of speakers. the "listener" gives signals that show the message is being received and that the listener is aligned with the speaker in terms of that rnes- 1. Performance events have space and time built in for audience feedback.3) ((Student stares blankly at rurorf) T Maybenor (Oat. Smiles and head-nodding behavior encourage the teacher. The signals used by friends in conversations differ from tbose given by students in classrooms.3 Backchannel signals E:~ L: And then tbe lady. At the end of the class. Rather. In some settings. Communication theory. Backchannel signals Goffman's second system constraint is that there have to be signals that a message is getting rhrough. What signals are used? Do some of these signal receipt of "news" as well as show that the message is being received? Do any of them work to cause the teacher to shift the topic? Compare your findings with members of your class or study group. head nods. the teacher must use preclosing moves to show that time is almost up. teachers are told not to ask students if they understand. In some services. smiles. individual. of the feedback the audience gives at a symphony concert. but wben they can occur and the form they will take are usually set. What kinds of instructions do parents give to ensure appropriate greetings and leave-takings? 5.) What happens? How is the closing then renegotiated? 4. Practice 1." "yerrigbt" . How is this done? Compare your data with that of others in your class or study group. Note the ways that parents help young children use openings and closings (e. silence ensues and the teacher diagnoses a problem: T: And you probably have some way of remembering that already. (1.does not get a full talk rum . and body alignment all help to tell us whether Or not the recipient has answered our summons and is attending to our message. spontaneous responses may be possible. The backchannel signals used differ across languages." "uhhuh.g. Do teachers use the same openings and closings? How much similarity or difference do you find? List your preliminary findings for the project. but they also watcb for and interpret the feedback their students offer them.backcbannel feedback that encourages tbe speaker to continue. The congregation may give choral feedback responses. Eye contact. During the next few days. ar a ballet. Record a full class period (tum your tape recorder or videocam on before class begins and do not tum it off until everyone has left). for example. When a student does not offer feedback. source: Fox. Ritualized feedback is also part of most spectator events. the lady ga ve her some.with these contributions. L: Here's a little girl. An example of this is in religious services. feedback has become ritualized. What are the typical backchannel signals in the languages 14 15 . In this example. During conversations. Check the feedback signals in the classroom data you taped for Practice 1. The following activity asks you to collect data that you will be able to use lor many other activiUes in this book. in press) The actual verbal or nonverbal forms we use to signal message reception differ according to setting." "yeh. E: Ubbuh L: Sbe waS walking with £lowers in rhe grass. "say bye-bye"). listen for instances in which other people add a last-minute piece of information that stops the final closing. Final closing markers must also be given. even when it is not our turn at talk. (If it's too hard to talk and do this too. Teachers give feedback signals. Think. and looks of puzzlement call for message clarification and elaboration. These signals do nor take the turn away from tbe speaker. bored looks prompt the teacher to switch gears. The listener does not capture the communication channel . try to stop some of your telephone closings when you've already gone through the preclosing moves. 10 teacher-training programs. Transcribe these sections. they are encouraged to watch feedback signals given by students and adjust the presentation in accordance with those signals. or at a high school basketball game. System constraints sage. we may nod or make noises like "wnhmm.. but all cu ltures and languages have a backehannel component in their system of communication.Discourse and language education 3.2. Transcribe these portions of the data. 2. Locate the opening and closing segments. E: mmhmm L: And tben she saw the ice cream and she told a lady can sbe have some. Culrures may differ in the type Or placement of the feedback.

vowel elongation. Where and when does feedback occur? How much freedom in terms of time. you might wish to compare your description with that of Rosenberg (1975) and Bauman (1974). Since speakers must come in on cue. Sherry uses a pause ('3)~ inviting the native speaker NS) to help her campi ere the turn about introducing people. a place for an exchange in turns. Sometimes these signals are ritualized. Nonverbal signals..g. the next speaker won't normally try to rake a rurn. 5. complete rums in a collaborative fashion.4) I 'ave got the added task of y'know (. 1 know. The overlap is placed so as not to interfere with the content of the message. Speakers have a variery of signals to project the end of a turn. the next speaker won't normally try to take a rum until the speaker's arms are lowered. Ily'know. NS. rhough. NS. What kinds of feedback signals (verbal or nonverbal) do they give as they read "silently"? As an alternative." Until the "then" is finished. For example. Which signals do they use to show lack of understanding? Which signals indicate disagreement? Which show boredom? What feedback signals are used in deaf communication to show the speaker that the message is being received while allowing the speaker to continue with the message? Observe people reading in the library. Notice. This is projected with rising quesrion IntonatIon followed by a pause. between the end of the dause and rhe tag question ("y'know"l.g. It also fits III at a syntactic boundary. wirh the hope that the listener can chime in: T.. Yea/h (Tha-) !An' you don'r know whether they will mix and they will talk Or whether it will be a flop. Do you ever notice students using these in plaoe of English backchannel signals? If you are a teacher (or if you can observe a Class). Record their verbal and nonverbal feedback to the computer and to themselves. there must be a set of signals that allow for a smooth exchange of turns. Sherry (a Chinese student of English) is talking with a friend abour her fear of giving parties: S: Bur (. NS: S: NS: S: Turnover signals In communication. Th is is sometimes called a transition-relevant place. Again.. you'll run rnto rrouble. and falling intonarion all help to signal the end of a turn. Slowing of tempo. In face-to-face communication. Who did that land already belong to? Ss: Spain {(a few Ss respond at the same time)) -T: And now + explorers coming + and claiming it for? Ss. watch people working at computer tenminals.Discourse and language education you use? If you teach international students. as in the "roger" and "over" signals of airline communication Or the GA (go ahead) of TDD phone calls of the deaf. Syntactic complerion can also signal a transition-relevant place. Toward the end the NS begins "That's always" and Sherry completes the rum "the fear" in an overlap of collaborative completion. place. overlaps do happen. overlaps (not interruptions) are thought to show alignment between the communication partners. may serve this function. That's always IThat'salways IThe fear Yeah. if the speaker begins to false his or her arms at a possible transition place. 16 . has projected rhe end of the rum with the use of an "if."lf you try ro use thar program. The signals cue the next speaker to begin a turn. I wanna bring somethin Communication theory: System constraints diffrunt B: II yeh me too. and type of response do individual audience members have in making their contributions? If you select a religious service. I know. Or. (. however. A change m gaze direction (at or away from the Iistenerl can indicate the end of a turn (Goodwin 1981). they must be able to recognize rhe signals that show thar the previous speaker is ending a tum. a concert.. from work. In the following example. where the overlap occurs in the following example: s. f Teachers and tutors often invite collaborative turn completions as a way e checking students' comprehension. Well-aligned speakers may. 3. collect examples from as many languages as you can. Yeah. assume ~?at the speaker says. or a religious service) and desoribe the feedback given by the audience. a sports event. in fact.) especially if (. or TRP (Schegioffsterm). A: Well.) for example from school.roo. Overlaps that show collaboration are "good" overlaps. it would be a bit strange to say "over" or "go ahead" each time we reached rhe end of a turn. Select one type of performance event(e. (Data SOurce: Riggenbach 1989) in the preceding example. a play. Although turns are usually nicely timed. "umhrnrn "J." and the listener may gIve some backchannel signal (e. an' y'know myoid friends and rhen rhey don't know each orher then (. The speaker.) if I'm inviting people from . 6.. describe what happens when students do not give encouraging feedback signals. England ((severaJ Ss respond at the same time)) (Data source: Hawkins 1988) 17 4. In fact.3) in/troduceI uh-introducing one to another. The speaker has a slight pause after "program. listeners can projeer when the tum W1U end.

a speaker can claim very long stretches of talk rime in one turn. We may give special feedback signals. for example. «(completesum for Miguel}) t (Datasource:Scarcella) s: When the invitation to complete the turn fails. Are there any examples of students passing the turn on to other students? If so. In the next example. how is this done? Does one person (or several people) take over the "teacher" role. In conversations. or collaborative completions.distributed on a differential basis.) when you can drop the absolutevalue. M: Mmhmm sometimes it dangerous because if you go out of chair = chair is name of it? Yeah the saddle M: Maybe you die becauseif you (pause) S: Yeah you hit your head. munication. (1.5) sinceummm exponentials (. signals a change in topic of discussion. If your data includes group work.hh so you can if you want to: drop this out. allocating turns to speakers? Is there one person or several people to whom the turn to talk "returns"? Has the teacher included instruction on how the group is to orqanize to carry out their communication? If not. In meetings you attend. are always positive.the turns are distributed less evenly. they are controlled and . or fulfills 19 .assuming that the reader wou Id have objected to X. such as "Did you hear what happened down ar the pier?". in classrooms. The phrases that get us an extended rum to talk are sometimes called tickets.'I) S: Right. . and here's a time (. In more formalized com' municarion .7)'kay. Rising rntonanon and a pause elicits a collaborative completion.ming that the reader has a question Yand the textbook writer answers it. "What have I been reading. Notice the number of pause points where the student could have produced. for examples.." Do you think this okay. in press) While most talk is tum by turn. For example. appreCIative exclamations. or other evidence. the length of each turn is usually fairly short. faculty meetings. That is written communication is a reciprocal transaction between the wrirer and the reader. T: Okay. we frequently do "group work.hh and exponential functions (1) are always por /sitive = It. the turns at talk (who talks next) have to be regulated in some way.for instance. In class. as in the following example about the dangers of horseback riding. Because Goffman's system constraints are claimed to operate in all com18 1. when we claim more than our fair share of time. again as long as the inside stuff is: always positive you can get rid of . adding sound effects.4 Turnover signals T: = . "Want me to tell you how to do this?"and you assenr. there are conventions for tum taking in group interactions. capture a turn)? 2. ha ve subtle ways of raking the reader's contribution into account . Examine the tum-taking system in the classroom data you collected for Practice 1. the tutor wants the student to understand that exponential functions are always positive. In family conversations or conversations among close friends. we may talk ar the same time as a war of encouraging the speaker. transcribe those segments. exchange is an "empty turn" for the students. in composition classes. When teachers lecture (rather than verbally interact with students).2. even In informal conversations." In addition to accomplishing the task set for the group. the amount of overlap can vary a great deal across language groups and according to the amount of involvement among the participants. who controls the turns? How does this person nominate others to take a turn? How do people nominate themselves to talk (i. but didn't. (Data source: Fox. What kinds of activities promote an equitable distribution of turns at talk tor the participants? 3. and even as if they were about to argue with the writer. how might you argue for such instruction? 4.2. Just as there are tum signals in two-party talk and in written text. We need to obtain "permission" via such a ticket or a preannouncernent. There are many ways rhar authors give readers rums. opening and closing the session. they often use the sequence "Okay? Okay. and why is it important?" Conversely.hh because. let's consider turn taking in written text.e. If someone says. a child may say "y'know what?" and once you've responded "Whar?" rhe child has permission ro hold the floor for a long storytelling sequence. we find pauses after which the speaker resumes the turn. Practice 1. a collaborative completion with this informarjon. and they rend to be longer. or assu. that person has claimed the floor for an extended period of time. In groups. This gives each participant the right to a fair share of rums.(2. However. Summaries at the end of units serve the function of answering the reader's unspoken question. teachers mstrucr novice wnrers ro consider their readers as if tbey were about to ask not just for summaries but also for definirions. Count the number of times the turn ping-pangs back to the teacher.Discourse and language education Communication theory: System constraints Language learners also use rising intonation as a projection ~arker to get help from native speakers. Textbook writers. yeah. the group will have to work out the openings/closings and the turn-taking system for accompliShing their work. or business meet· ings .

So you should not have trouble finding the right one . If you can observe a mother interacting with her very young infant. 1. 20 8.rhat H: Yes.0) mm mm rnm not-do you know spice? (. and communication grinds to a halt. 2. . such as "Will it work? We guarantee it!"). What is the pattern of turn-taking vocalizations in these contexts? How does the mother cue the baby (e.g . . I got It.000 practicing lawyers. The same behavior in ASL (American Sign Language) shows an mtention to continue talking (Cokely and Baker 1980). .• questions answered by the reader. meamng uh sometimes with seed with uh tree seeds Or uh: nuts. they handle a wide range of problems and cases .. o. 4.. u." like family doctors. according to Williams (1979) and Goodwin (1981). (. Yes mm (1. Whar constitutes a clear message? Just how acoustically ~ecurate must. If messages are garbled. A lawyer also can help you if you want to get a divorce or if you need to file bankruptcy. Basically.2) yea= does it mean? spicy? means uh nun (1. a typical signal of the end of a turn.blts message reception. you may want to do some "comparison shopping. make a list of several lawyers. How do I find a lawyer? California has more than 67. check to see whether eye gaze aversion is. they must be repaired. The question is.h in Japanese food mmm Japanese food no:' spi-cy: (.2). In order for communication to rake place messages have to be interpretable.2) almost = H: =Iik. Consider the following example from a State Bar pamphlet ("Do I need a lawyer?" 1980).• touching it.. legal advice is like medicme: You can take it to cure problems and to prevent them. 6.. note the turn taking that occurs as the mother. and M. Many lawyers are "general practitioners. 7. If they are not." We have all been ar cockrail parties or receptions in crowded rooms where the noise !~vel proh!. indeed.0)japanese? Ii. Do I need a lawyer? You might. the language learners (H. telephone the lawyers on your list and ask them for information that will help you make a decision. or salt... H.g . They also have to be "hearable. for example. Eye gaze can play an important role in the timing of ends of turns. such as "How many other banks can make this promise?" and questions answered by the writer. yes M:m m examp Ie umm tabasuko? And uh." message be to be "adequate.mJapanese food. Signals the end of turns. prey M. japanese) make many phonological and syntactic errors. bathes or feeds the infant. Eye gaze aversion in English. 3.2) spicy H. How willi know which lawyer is best for me? Before you choose a lawyer. and yet communicarion takes place. Hi M: H: M: Do you-do you spend uh (A) some drugs = mmhmm = in your food? rnm hm (. some lawyers specialize and some do not.. . M: Yeah rnrn H· It'd'ff .Discourse and language education Communication theory: System constraints both functions? If students want to ask a question." If so." and what makes a message Interpretable? How clear must messages be in order ro serve communication? In the following example. then other parts of the communication system break down. if you are being sued or if you want to sue someone. how would they decide whether this was a good place to claim a turn? 5. You need legal advice to cure problems if you are accused of commiting a crime. If the camera has picked up clear examples of eye gaze shifts at ends of turns of talk in your classroom data (from Practice 1. rt: Yes. Then. Do lawyers specialize? Just like doctors.once you know where to look . Or pepper something like that? M: mmhmm oh: I: see. You might compare these patterns across different types of sales letters or look for such examples in sales literature in other languages. shifting it) to take a turn at "talk"? Are many of the baby's turn-taking signals nonverbal rather than verbal? Compare your findings with those presented in Freedle and Lewis (1977). (Data SOurce: Schwam 1980) 21 . Acoustically adequate and interpretable messages The fourth sysrem constrainr identified by Goffman is rhar communication requires an ungarbled message. saffron.1) Very soft taste. Persian. Ye:h~Plcy Japanese food. s I erent from u th Indian food. muhstad mm and pepper. List two tickets or preannouncers that give you the goahead to take an extended period of talk. M· No . What turn-taking signals are used? What identifies the reader-as the source of the questions? Frank (1989) has looked at question-answer sequences in sales letters (e.

the NS continues an extended repair sequence. To help learners participate. was extremely good at keeping the burden of conversation on the native speaker. The need to repair utterances to make them interpretable shows up in these specral registers . little consonant duster simplification. "faking it" understand. Nevertheless. and the vocabulary choices are toward high-frequency items. The speaker then repairs the message.. Final you mean last one. "3 nlckle? a five-cent piece>"). The message becomes comprehensible during the repair process. native speakers often judged Miguel's competence as quite high. Notice his skilled use of back channel stgnals and Wh. When people are learning languages. Schegloff. In other circumstances. their conversation partners may avoid asking questions for which the learner must offer considerable information. 22 There is. and the talk becomes simplified to (hopefully) an appropriate level.. less pronominalization." These registers have many similarities. He says everybody's wrong. Communication down completely since (Dara source: Samella) soon resulted in a barrage of talk that Miguel did not there are pluses and minuses to the use of faking stratcan continue fairly smoothly. Scarcella's subject. In the following example. registers to make it possible for learners to carryon conversations. fewer idioms are used. M." or (in the case of language disorder research) "clinician talk. they may use an or-choice Or yes-no question [e. or simply respond "yes" Or "no. we find short. The slower rate not only Increases acoustical accuracy but gives the learner more processing time. Is it the last one? M: Yesss ((sounds unsurel) NS: Yeah. when in reality he did not understand much of what waS said. and Jefferson 1974. As the talk is negotiated. NS. (pointing to a picture on joe's wall] What about this? J: Well it's called "The Broken Bridge and the Dream. Definitions are more explicitly marked either by formulas (e. Gumperz (1979: IS) says that "participants need not agree on the details of what was meant In any utterance. Heavy stress is placed on important content words. they may have difficulty mrerpretmg messages not negotiated to their level of competence. M is a Japanese student at an American university. Schegloff 1979). egies.2) You Want to rent one?"]. M: Very strange. This is accomplished by slowing the rate of speech so that there are fewer reduced vowels.2) I mean. and at times comprehension seems difficult.questions to accomplish the interaction: M. the native speaker (NS) is a typist. last copy? M: Mmhmrnm ((still sounds uncertainll NS: Right is it all typed now? ++ or the final? ++ J. I see. But ya know this is the broken bridge and it kinds looks like = Communication theory: System constraints NS.g. this includes the study of the "repair" system (Sacks. so long as they have negotiated a common theme or focus.in vocabulary selection and syntactic change as well. In research on language learning. For instance. "Did you want to buy a computer? (. Miguel. bur both the native speaker and language learner may find the need for can' stant negotiation of repairs roo burdensome to make the conversation worth' while.." "teacher talk. as you might imagine. Is this the final? M: Uhh.g. and there is a longer break at syntactic boundaries. everything is solid but as you get closer here (poimingJ like man's hopes or his aspirations everything becomes alitrle more transparent less real M. The typist wants to know whether the material that M wants to have typed is in final or initial draft form. both might have given up much quicker. he learner need only make a choice of answers offered as candidate responses." I uh I'm not sure what it means. "This means X. There are many ways to deal with this. There are advantages and disadvantages to this strategy too. it's un mmm pardon? NS: Is this your final? M: Fi::ne? NS: Are you filing or is this the rough draft M: Oh. The discourse itself is also simplified in these special. and so forth. Right." "It's a kind of X") or by intonation (e." pretending to understand and continuing to interact in the hope that they will catch the theme or focus of the conversation. What's that? In this case. All show an increase in acoustical accuracy. a whole body of research that looks at the types of adjustments we make when our messages are not acoustically adequate Or interpretable. There IS less slang.Discourse and language education Much of this exchange appears to be acoustically inadequate. Because this information determines whether or not there is time to complete rhe job. and simpler noun phrases. did ~ou want to buy a computer or just rent one? (. but it may also break information that allows the participants to build a common theme or focus is missing. This lightens the burden On the learner and It also supplies a good deal of incidental instruction: ' 23 . =uhhuh The more real everything is. The learner may then be denied the extended interaction with native speakers that could facilitate language learning. fewer contractions. Consequently. Obviously.~' . Along with a slower speech rate." Teachers may "fill in the blank" when learners search for words or expressions. In a helpful conspiracy they may offer hints and finally even answer their own questions to make the communication easier for the learner. Some learners "fake it. Other learners use back channel cues to let the speaker know they do not understand. yeah J: Dali would say I'm wrong.g. Simple syntax. In conversational analysis. repairs and readjustments are made. the repairs often lead to specia I registers such as "foreigner talk.

R: Before here 3 + 2 months + + I live my mother. Do you believe you can consciously control your' 'foreigner talk" or "teacher talk" in conversing with language learners? What kinds of simplification (phonological. S2. how? 3. You don't have a boyfriend here. Brunak. SI: Yeah. a native speaker of Spanish.61 'kay. repairs and adjustments are made. interpret the cause (e. = S10 (P'I S2: = Right. and Villorial 24 25 . Yeah.g. What cues of (non)comprehension appear on the tape? Which were truly cues of (non)comprehension? 2. ("It" replaces "that") Then put 'om in onthere. Which adjustments do you believe were necessary in order to meet the requirement of acoustically adequate and interpretable messages? 4. (Data. NS: Oh. discourse) do you find most difficult to control? How do you explain this? 6. You're not working right now? R. (Peer models "it") Now pur it on rhe bread. pipe. syntactic. To overcome com municanon breakdowns when one parrner is nor yet proficient in the language or in the content of the material being talked about. to make the ongoing conversation clearer. rephrase questions so that language is demanded of the learner. Transcribe a section that shows how the teacher adjusts the complexity of his or her talk. supply answers.l stuck it in the peanut butter.Discourse and language education T: Would it be: easier for yOIl to go through thi(bh). NS:. You're going to srarr working Monday again. source: Pox. all right.) In addition. model the learner s response. If you teach ASL or are a learner of ASL. How much restatement and remodeling does the native speaker do on these tapes? Does it help? If so. native speakers and reachers may remodel the output of rhe learner into a more grammatical form.2. No. It is more Iikely that they have learned to be responsive to each student's contribution. Afterward. questions Communication theory: System constraints It seems unlikely that teachers or other native speakers are taught to do this kind of modeling. In the following example. What examples 01 "foreigner talk" do you find in the Finally. Tape-record an interaction with a beginning language learner (or tape yourself as a beginning learner of another language). NS. All languages have a variety of repair mechanisms that can be used to reframe messages in more acoustically adequate and interpretable forms. (Uses "it" with no immediate model) (Data source: Speidel 19871 Pracnce 1. knife and 'put that in." (Note that "am" is an accusative case pronoun in Hawaiian English. R: No boyfriend American. (Data source. versation partners) form a temporary !ess M: T: M: T: J: T. or model better forms of answers. videotape your class. NS. NS: FOI tWO months you Jived with your mother. notice the modeling that the teacher and other students do that allows Mileka 1M.9) or this pipe. (. as in these exchanges with Rafaela. R: I like men American but 1no no + + [ no NS: Oh. T: It'd be a hell of a lot easier to crawl through this pipe (than if ir hadl ro go through this pipe. + ++ have nothing. ("om" refers to knife) You have to tell me what to do wirh the knife. (Teacher models "it") Put it in. Pur ir in.5 Acoustically adequate and Interpretable messages 1. Are the repairs clearly due to language proficiency? If possible. What types of repairs do the students make? Transcribe these sections. When communication begins to break down. ask the learner to comment on what was and was not understood in the conversation. in press) from native speakers (whether teachers or other can' "scaffold" or format so that learners can participate in conversations. [see. In this section we have looked at ways in which we attempt to make Our messages acoustically adequate and interpretable. R: Monday I WOrk + + 1work + Monday. (1. Fain. a speaker of Hawaiian English) to finally produce the pronoun "it. word searches or gain in planning time) of the repair. K: M: M: No. They are even more common in conversations invol ving learners. lexical. (Peer models "ir") J did put it in. Such repairs are common in all communication. and modeling is a by-product that can serve an unmtentional instruction a I purpose. 5. Examine the classroom tape you recorded for Practice 1. (Mileka uses "it" for knife) (one minute later) Rub it on the bread.. ("That" refers to a knife) Ob. we may use a fill-in-the·blank cooperative completion. get the. 'cause we stretched it out to three times its length.: No? R: Ahhh + + + for one week + + I:': rhe:« romp-any? Is inventory Inventory + aha + for one week.

VF: (during public lecture) . we know that all languageshave bracket.. How many times do yOUhear "by the way. The brackets are like instructions for putting the ongoing talk or text on hold (don't forget about it) so that you can return to it later if you wish. the nonverbal signals used to show bracketing become clear. we have special formulaic expressions to handle such problems.. Well. Bracket signals in written text.. In this case. determine whether it is the bracketl~g or the appropriateness of telling jokes in classroom discourse that contributes most to missing the Joke. of course. Compare the brackets that appear in written composrtions of na~lve and nonnative speakers. . rnessages be inrerpreta b'le. looks back down and continues reading the text» .g..g . One easy way to notice nonverbal bracketing signals is to turo down the sound on your television set..) Nonparticipant constraints In order that ... check the frequency of use of parentheses and dashes across text genres. What signals do they use as a ticket to tell the Joke? Are the signals ever nonverbal? If you have observed that intemational students worry about missing jokes in class. nonverbal signals or intonation 26 Practice 1. (SeeJefferson 1972 for more about the analysis of side sequences. We have . therefore. others are not. ar a reception tal parry). I didn't eat any breakfast this morning .6 Bracket signals 1.So.already mentioned how difliculr it or coc~o attend to messages when the noise level is high (e. the Brown or Lund corporus). to the rota. for example. for example." "incidentally. repeats and repairs)? Bracket signals ever. anyway(s)" as a bracket to return to the original topic? There are. there must be signals to show that parts of the message. footnotes also serve as bracket signals. " In written material. Sorry. For successful communication. Sometimes we get lost in Our side sequences and forget how they relate ro what went before. How many brackets are used In each composition? Are they marked in the same way (e.until other students laugh.a joke . it will allow you to replay the rape many times. So.• slower signing.. Check your classroom videotape (from Practice 1. dashes. "side sequences.."How'd I get off on this?" "I forgot why I started to tell you about this.Discourse and language education tape (e..l-: ((looks up and directly at audience)) I'm reading this as fast as I can because I bet you're as hungry as I am.g . often comment that they do not know a joke is about to be told and. Goffman therefore pro27 . Observe how speakers bracket jokes. (If you tape a TV program with your VCR." or other bracket Signals?How often do speakers use "well. howWhile asides can occur in all kinds of communication.. more careful articulation of signs. What predictions can you make about the frequency of asides and the choice of parentheses versus dashes in different text types? (If you do a corpus check using a computer concordance program.2) for the bracketed asides used by teachers (and any used by students too). footnotes)? Would you consider including Instruction on bracketing side sequences as part of a cornposmon course in academic English? Why or why not? 4. the main topic . in ca~ ~essages out of the channel.. separate paragraphs. many different signals .) During the next few days notice the verbal signals used to start a bracket. 3..) With the volume off. Language learners.both verbal and nonverbal thar can be used as bracket signals. Parentheses and dashes are often used. anyways .(gestures with handl) I've forgot the instructions on how to use this microphone Oh. brackets. Intonation and shifts in body position. punctuation marks may be used to set bracketed material apart from the rest of the text. Some signals fat side sequences are clear. Goffman calls these bracket signals. If you have access to a large data base (e. Many manuals that are formatted on personal computers use a little flower symbol for paragraphs. In all communication. Communication theory: System constraints alone may not be adequate bracket cues. these symbols are meant to be read as "by the way" notes. Still. nonverbal and verbal bracketmg SIgnalsare DOtthe same across languages. pieces of text that are not completely in line with the ongoing text. often mark asides: LF: (reading a lecture paper) .. as the main topic . do not understand that the bracketed material is an aside . there we go «drops hand to podium)) . signals to cue readers and listeners that parts of the comrnurucation are not directly in line with the rest of rhe message." are not tight on-line with the message of the moment.g. It ISnecessary to keep other com pet. are much more overt. What functions do these particular side sequences appear to serve? What makes asides more or less successful in terms of the functions you propose? 2.((audience laughter. be sure to check the entries so that you include only the parentheses and dashes that serve as bracket signals. with parentheses.

All speak Spanish as a second language. Other signals may be nonverbal. if you have been a student in a language class (or any other class for that matter) there undoubtedly were times when you did not want to'be called on. particularly in elementary schools. M: J: J: g: (Maya talk) (May. How do nonparticipants gain admission into a group where communication has already been established? 2. In the last few minutes for example two messages have flashed on my computer screen that elect. there also have to be ways for parttclpants to interrupt an ongoing channe] message..verbal and nonverbal . and a woman is seated at the next table "listening in. two men arespeaking together. each language or culture group must have some way of signaling nonparricipanr versus participant status in communication. When this happens.Discourse and language education posed a seventh system constraint: All languages must have some way of blocking nonparticipant noise from the communication channel. how do individual students break into already-established groups? Or. M: g: (Maya talk) (laughter) ~Que es. Study the ways in which students approach teachers to claim admission to the communication channel during class time and during break time. how does another student get included in the group? If the teacher or the other students do not want the communication channel opened for rhis individual. there are times when we are at a party and want to join a group in which a conversation is already under way. talk) Esrados Unidos (Maya talk) Hey. laughter can be used as a cue.to allow or prevent entrance of nonparticipants into the cornrnunication channel. (Data source: Jordan and fuller 1975) Preempt signals to nonparticipant constraints. we're getting talked about over there.~ an extended period of time while you reall y have work you must do. Emergencies come up ~hen. When right to enter the conversation (as in the case of the woman speaking up when something is said about her state). (Setting: A coffee shop. Communication theory.. Often. Typical signals of Ame~lcan nonparticipants include averted eye contact. note the ways in which nonparticipant constraints are shown. For instance. how is this managed? All these 28 t as tinging doorbells or school buzzers. how? J.. Conversely. how does he or she signal nonparticipant status to the approaching students? If the teacher welcomes chat. In addition. speakers must interrupt each other. like someone from California. There need to be ways to do this. we may also receive preempt signals such wn . The problem. how is this accomplished? Students. Nonparticipant consrrainr signals differ across settings and language groups. [. Still. There are a variety of strategies that can be used to keep the noise of nonparticipants in the background and our of focus. I? addition The classroom is another setting where the form of nonparticipant constraints can be observed. At the next large party you attend. ") A to B: . Are students more likely to approach the teacher to talk if he or she stays in the teacher post or leaves it? Why? If the teacher is busy preparing notes for the next hour. ~uh? Eso oigo. agme thar a friend has called and has been telling you his or her troubles . In the following example. For example. is how to move from nonparticipant to parricipant. When the teacher is working with One group of students. if a teacher wants to include someone who is on the periphery of a discussion. g is an English speaker. '. then.can srop and check the "mailbox" for the conenro these m essages (so th e preempt stri ik e wor k ed). Sut could a Walkman actually be used to promote communication? If so. One strategy used to move from nonparticipant to participant status is to repeat parts of whar one overhears in the ongoing communication. There must be signals . How uldyou Interrupt the ongoing message? Durmg th e process 0f wntmg. I'M from California and . how do other students gain entrance to the communication channel? 3_ We assume that people who have a headset on (listening to music or the news) want to be nonparticipants in any other communication. A response of "What's 1.onic mail ha~ ~ome fln. Practice 1_7 Nonparticipant constraints J. Hablan de nosotros. B: yeh C: Someone from CaliFORnia? I mean. 1 and M are Mayan speakers. we can to the communication channel. Of course. avertmg one s eyes IS not a universal signal rhat one wants to remain a nonparticipant_ Nor is hand waving a universal signal to gain access to communication in the classroom. que es broma? (Data source: Jordan and Fuller 1975) from a group of we reel a special from California gain admittance so funny?" when we hear laughter conversanrs works well to let us into conversations. vie for reacher attention. or I can ignore the preso r 29 . System constraints questions could be researched in the classroom.. a reason is added to explain why one bas a right to overhear.

S: And then the mass. we use nonverbal signals (such as leaning forward.8) I need the mass of an electron. shifting forward in our seats.T~ Ee-e. how is the preempt accomplished? If a member attempts to do a preempt and the chairperson does not wish to allow the preempt. ~nd clarity. how? 3. How do ASL speakers interrupt each other? What are the preempt signals? Do they differ from reguJar turn-taking signals? If so. (.. bracketing. RNC: Communication theory: System constraints '" a teacher training program. there are always ways that the communication message can be preempted. The fi rst maxim for cooperative conversation is to "be relevant. It is difficult. (. each person must make a contribution relevant to the topic. now that responses are usually relevant we can interpret t e fol!owing service encounter exchange: ' A: Do you do buttonholes? B: She'll be back in an hour. to see how a communication message could consist of the two f ollowtng contributions: A: Would you like coffee or tea? B: My daddy says so. but the switch to the commercial seems not to be a true preemption of the communication. At conferences.. These norms. turn-taking. ((Timer shows cardj) OK.2) for instances of preempt signals. It would. there are times when we need to preempt the talk in order to request repairs or message clarification. preempting)? 2. or e"~mple.8 Preempt signals Gricean norms for communication Goffman also noted that communication cannot truly work unless parricipants generally observe four major norms of cooperation: relevance truthfulness. waving a pencil in the air. To avoid this problem. the chairperson may hold up a sign that says "one minute left. but must relate to what has gone before. they will be interrupted. k h ever. were pro~sed by Gnce (1975) as cnrena for cooperanve communication. What SIgnals are used? Does the preempt interrupt only for a moment (for example. Communication rnes. students ask clarification questions) or does It completely change the course of the communication? Practice 1. folks! ((Audience laughs») How do preempt signals work in other types of meetings? If a nonparticipant comes into the meeting room with a message for a participant.) 4.what units are you going to put that: in? This is the main thing I'm worried about." That is. called maxims. At public events (such as basketball games or symphony concerts) it is sometimes necessary. RELEVANCE 1. Since we. that's why! How . such as "Oh the cookies! The cookies are burning!" (the "oh" is a particle that signals an unexpected event). 30 31 . in press) While the signals. How is this accomplished? 5. Examine your classroom tape (from Practice 1. How would you classify this switch from program to commercial (e.7) And thl jen . may differ across setting or culture groups. In addition.. then .ages cannot be random. On television. How is this done? Does the importance of the news flash determine whether the picture is disrupted (rather than have a message run across the bottom of the screen)? Commercials also preempt programs. (Data SOurce: Fox. verbal or nonverbal.. how is thIS done? (If you are unsure. Transcribe these segments. quanriry.g. news flashes sometimes preempt regular televiSion programs. In SUMmary. ((Timer shows card)) I have two minutes more. think about televised political conventions and the ways in which the chairperson recognizes or does not recognize attempts to preempt the ongoing communication work. Notice the overlap and the signal "Ere-e" used by the tutor to interrupt and redirect the student's plan of operation. and so forth) or verbal signals. opening our eyes wide and raising eyebrows.Discourse and language education empt attempts. be strange to try to stop an overly long troubles-sharing conversation by suddenly saying "message waiting"! So instead. speakers are warned that if they run over their allotted time.. in the case of an emergency. however. as we might like.2) T:Mhm (L8) S: And that's in my book (1. to do a preempt to ask for someone in the audience." VF: .

Service encounters are infamous for questions being answered by questions: A: Do you have orange juice? B: Large or small? The requester infers that orange juice comes in either large or small containers. these kids were rapt . and it is loved . J went and saw E. no. and the relevant contributions about the topic concern its attributes (it's beautiful. Michell.Discourse and language education Because we assume the response is relevant to the question. T. trying to put information into an appropriate sequence so that the pieces most highly related to each other come together. at leasr for the moment. Christopher and Joanne and Jo . however. Each paragraph in rum relates in Some organized way to the overall tOpIC of the discourse. lim even that . relevant to the negotiated common theme or focus of communication. In th~ following segment of the "chat" transcript. ISO'tit beautiful Ilyeah Ilyeah Ilyeah I II relly love it ~ my favorite I've never been there Iloh. does not seem very effective in switching the focus from Bronwyn's experience to her own. it's been restored. The point is that there might be single or multiple versrons of a conversation ropic. we infer that there is a person who does buttonholes and that the person will return in an hour. this material can be bracketed as a side sequence.at leasr by Gary and Pauline). only one person is bUIlding the text. In this transcript there are several contributions that begin with "J." contributions must be relevant to what goes before and what one expects might follow.it took Joanne an hour after we'd walked Out to stop crying because it was 50 sad [ didn't wanr to see it at all no. Topics in a conversation are dynamic and are negotiated as a conversation progresses. noting that it was at the State Theatre.so the kids yapped and yapped all thousands of theml /unril E." When Pat says "I've been to the one in Wollongong. 32 33 . Gary: Pauline: Gary: Bronwyn: no. then. we may have OUI own personal topics rhat we try to weave into the conversation. no . we cannot really say that a discourse has a topic. Saturday night I I Monty PYThon Ilwell. The topic. started /Immm and then honestly you could've heard a pin drop mm yeah [ thought it was great ~ J bawled my eyes out yeah. This topic is embedded in another TOpic "going to the movies" and the identification of the movie as a Monty Python special. 1got pictures tomorrow night-boy.but. For this reason. We can see. Writers can use paragraph markers to do some of this work. Each new paragraph shows a slighr shift In focus so that the Sentences within it relate mare directly to each Other.they PUtsecond rel or late release -like really low SOrt of movies I Ion Ilyeah but ~ oh well. it's beautiful Iloh it's beautiful ~ it's got chandeliers and things I've been ro [he one in Wollongong Iloh no ~ look nothing beats the State really iT'Sbeautiful I've always loved it this has been restored and everything WhaT's on There? ah Monty Python (Data source: Slade and Norris 1986) Communication theory: System constraints Bronwyn and Gary.it didn 'r matter whether they were little or Ilbig I I mmm I went with my sister. T. rather. Look now at the following fragment from a coffee-break chat. The data were collected in an Australian hospital sraff lounge during break rime. it's got chandeliers. that contributions need not be relevant to the previous utterance but. bu In writing and in speaking~ there are times when we want to add material r r:ahze that our contribution IS nor directly relevant to the ongoing comlnUnlcatmn. In writing. again. we can clearly see where the topic shifts: Bronwyn succeeds in moving to her personal narrative on seeing the movie E. In some cases. at the State Theatre and when [took the kids I though~ ~ oh there's thousands of kids here ~ it's going to be so nOISY I won I even be able to hear what the movie's about . Pat. need not be the same for each participant. T. While we try TOmake our contributions relevant to the topic of conversation. Can you identify the topic of conversation? Gary: Pauline: Gary: Bronwyn: Gary: Pauline: Par: Bronwyn: Pauline: Pat: Bronwyn: Bronwyn: Pauline: Bronwyn: Par: Gary: well.. neither did I it was really funny and really sad in parts (Data source: Slade and Norris 1986) Others: Bronwyn: Gary: Pat: Bronwyn: Pauline: Pal: Bronwyn: Gary: Paul ine: Par: The topic is the State Theatre." that attempt to move toward Pat'S personal agenda of talking about adventures in WoUongong is rejected by To make the messages "cohere. If the requester replied "Large or small what?" the service person would be su rprised. only speakers and writers do. Personal topics are often introduced through a first-person referent. II love that that State Theatre Oh.

but simply that a cooperative conversationalist does not usually say other than what he Or she believes ro be true. Bake in a 350degree oven until well browned. (Falafel mix is a seasoned garbanzo meal that you can find in your supermarket in the section for rice and rice mixes or in the section for fancy foods. Not only may the responses be unrelated to the question..) In another bowl. some of us are very long-winded. but . The study of crosstalk shows how violations of maxims can distort communication. quality (relevance and truthfulness). but they may be misleading rather than truthful. about 45 minutes. think for a moment about instances where the maxims are flaunted. speakers may. if contributions are not directly relevant. for leasing. or for playfulness. Here. Justify your paragraph breaks USing Grice's maxim of relevance. however. Finally. (more airplane noises. You might. Smoothly spread the turkey-falafel mixture in an 8-by-12-inch oval casserole. This.. In a large bowl. Mommy? M: P: M: P: Mmhmm How old are you for pretend? Ohh (. (Data source: Gough 1984) The ability to take on another role in pretense appears very early in child development. char contributions wif be truthful unless marked as deviations from that norm. in which participants have their own agendas. as in the following examples from Gough (1984)_ The first exchange shows a father diverting a child's attention from an argument with his sibling by pretending a muffin can fly: F: Do you warma half of a muffin? Here it comes (makes loud airplane noises as he flies '[he muffin plane around the kitchen). for effective communication. In any event." maxim is violated. teasing. Ah. The quantity maxim may also be violated in crosstalk. Opponents may pile on irrelevant facts and details or refuse to give any details or supporting information at all. and joking may be quite difficult for many learners. mix 1 pound of turkey sausage or ground turkey and a small (4-ounce) can of diced green chilies. Grice notes that we should "be clear. Controls on manner (clariry). % cup nonfat milk. teasing. Practice 1. ") to show the topic shift. Pretense.that it's A second Gricean maxim is that contriburions AU four of Grice's maxims are important p. overlaps with the system constraint on interpretable messages.. The markings are not always easy for language learners to recognize. OUf message should be constructed in an orderly way. Flyin'. while others are roo brief. according to Grice's maxim. make a salad of 2 cups of diced. 34 35 .9 Grice's maxims for communication 1. And there are instances of noncooperarive communication. in fact. It is difficult to judge exactly how much inferencing or "reading between the lines" we can ask our readers to do. Questions may be answered with apparently irrelevant responses. there is a small shift in topic as the result of the contribution. and quantity (enough but not too much) of contributions are important for communication to run smoothly among cooperative participants. For example. Learning how to move in and out of "truthfulness" with appro' priate marking may be acquired early in life. Add ~ cup of the falafel mixture to this and stir to mix well. "be truthful. of course. You're older. Then divide it into paragraphs. beat 3 large eggs. we often do so using special intonation for sarcasm." This does not mean that you cannot tell a lie." We should avoid obscurity and ambiguity. the emphasis is not just on comprehensibility but on clarity of messages. TRUTHFULNESS Communication theory: System constraints cUdtlTY Finally. While the pie bakes. bur nor so brief that our message isn'r clear. In conver" sarions. the clarity of the message may be intentionally distorted so that each side can claim that the other has sabotaged the communication. Spread the remaining falafel over the meat mixture. Season to taste with QUANTITY The maxim of quantity is one which is difficult for many people. In writing. Read the following directions for a falafel pie lunch. however. a recommendation letter that is two sentences long flaunts the maxim of quantity. " or "Doesn't that remind you of .Discourse and language education In other cases. everyone should have his or her "fair" share of talk rime. there need to be special signals (such as 'This is a little off the subject. peeled jicama and 2 cups of diced cucumbers. but the successful execution and recognition of irony.We assume. When we violate truthfulness. and one 8-ounce package of falafel mix. say so .8) I'm about 12 years for pretend. sometimes called crosstalk.. We want ro be brief. and joking is not an easy matter even in adulthood. No one should "hog" the floor without special permission. [hen lands the muffin plane on child's plate) When the truth "jusr pretend.

Godard found it necessa. how do you account for the change? 3. Examine your classroom data (from Practice 1. Teachers often mark students' compositions as "unclear. Grice's second maxim is "be truthful. Summarize the article and then explain why differences in openings and closings do not challenge the nation of system constraints. for example. truthfulness. discuss your findings. Godard (1979)shows that openings of French phone calls differ from those of American English. and unmarked calls) in order to determine the sequence of moves. If you collected classroom data as a course project. We have already touched on these m some of our examples in this chapter. Goffrnan identified a second type of consrrainr on human communication: that which deals with the ritual or social constraints on communication. If you are not an expert conversationalist. 3. Edmondson 1981. B.2) for instances that illustrate each of the maxims (relevance." How do you show that you are uncertain of the truthfulness of something you are about to say? Are such Signals different from those you use as a teacher or student when you are unsure of your facts? If you use different signals in different contexts. Edmondson and House 1981. how do you account for this? 4. you have data that could be used to support that claim in a special setting. clarity." Can you give a precise definition of "clarity"? How does your classroom definition compare with Grice's maxim of clarity? 5. This second constraint is examined In more detail in the next chapter. Research and application A. If there are sufficient data and the topic interests you.ry to distinguish between types of calls (marked for business. so you can make the lunch special by serving strawberries sprinkled with powdered sugar for dessert. Transcription 1. It became a favorite Mother's Day lunch in our family for that reason. French callers check to see if they have reached the number they are calling immediately after the "hello" response to the ringing of the phone. you might want to expand this into a research paper. We have also looked at the ways people use signals to regulate communication. Iced tea or a light zinfandel wine are perfect beverages for this lunch. You can serve the salad on crisp lettuce leaves.see. in which direction regarding Grice's maxim of quantity do you think you errtoo much or too little information or talk per turn? How different in this respect are your contributions in the classroom from those in an informal family setting? If there is a difference. Read this classic and then develop a preliminary research plan to investigate the contrastive rhetoric hypothesis as it relates to the introductions to oral presentations by the LI groups represented in your classroom (or one you can observe).Discourse and language education rice vinegar and salt. (You may find the term "gambit" used in place of "sig- 36 . In addition. Communication theory: System constraints nal" in some books. The contrastive rhetoric hypothesis originates with Kaplan (1966. If there are examples in which Grice's maxims are flouted. If you work in a study group. This lunch is so easy to prepare that even small Children can do it. spoon falafel pie from the casserole and offer low-fat plain yogurt and lime slices with il. How might you collect data to see whether the introductory sections of talks of L2 (second language) learners are the same or different from those of native speakers? How might you determine whether their introductions are more similar to those used in the L1 groups? 37 Conclusion This chapter has presented the eight system constraints that Goffman claimed to be universal in all human communication. he talks about the introductory sections of such compositions. To serve. marked for intimacy. 2. quantity). Openings/closings 2. transcribe these as well. For example. Strawberries are ripe at that time. reprinted 1972). Faerch and Kasper 1982. Transcribe an example of each. particularly in language teaching textbooks . Crookes (1990)and Ochs (1979)discuss the importance of determirting the basic units in discourse analysis and using a transcription system that reflects such units. Review these articles and explain why this is an important issue.In addition to talking about ways in which students from different LI (firstlanguage) groups develop compositions.) In addition to system constraints.

8. However. Does this difference of need for elaboration of detail versus need for elaboration of main ideas OCCur in your own reading? If so. Look at the way in which Nystrond elicited data to show this difference. SatuIday.e. Nystrcmd's research shows that different types of readers have different needs. Hatch (1983) lists the many features of foreigner talk register and the possible benefits of each. Sunday. Yule (1990) divided learners 38 39 . 9. 7. when the weaker student asked questions to get information on the route). for example.Discourse and language education 4. Or. Sunday ((eliciting "last weekend"?)) me how do you say . Chaudron (1983) is a good source to check in making your decision. Backchannel signals 5. E. One student from each group formed a pair with the task elf giving and receiving route descriptions (how to get from the post office or a bookstore to ten delivery points on a grid board). the learner is a native speaker of Spanish. do you include instruction on the signals for each of Goffman's system constraints? If you teach English or another language to deaf students. have to learn these signals "the hard way" if they hope to have effective communication with native signers. does not supply lexical items the learner seems to be searching for). Students of ASL. If you teach ASL. you might read this article and compare Martirena's description of Spanish signals to the signals you teach in your classroom. she states. the "inner circle" group. there are tum-taking points throughout written text. Do the data agree with those of this study? Communication theory: System constraints need most in understanding course materials for your classes. II you teach Spanish or have students whose first language is Spanish. Explain why the pairs should have better negotiation and cooperative strategies in the case where the weaker student controls the interaction. Writers do take their readers into account as they develop text. In Example 2 the learner manages 10 get collaboration in a very roundabout way. Cuff. Baker (1977) notes that there is a strong tendency for hearing persons to use the turn-taking signals of their oral language when communicating in Sign. Yule found that pairs were better able to negotiate messages so that they were adequate and interpretable when the weaker (less fluent) student had control of the process (i. and less fluent. or elaboration to answer the "silent turn" of the reader. Acoustically C. Her article describes the Iumtaking signals used in the ASL interactions she videotaped. little if any attention is paid to this part of the language system.) After reading the article. N ystrand (1986) talks about the structure of written text as a reflection of the reciprocal needs of writer and reader. In a sense. and so the choice of elaboration Can become difficult if the writer does not have a specific group of readers in mind. adequate and interpretable messages D. prepare a preliminary research plan to substantiate this expert/nonexpert difference with language learners. How would you odvlse teachers to respond in such interactions? Should they use a simplified register? Give your rationale for this advice. design a research plan to replicate this study with your own students in such a way that language and proficiency level are not confounded. and those in the other group were from China and Korea. and Lee (1978) describe the ways in which meetings are called back to order. examples.e. Or. Expert readers. which he called "outer circle" students. As is the cose in most language instruction. to offer definitions. Turnover signals 6. _. many people believe that such simplifications are not only unnecessary but unhelpful. Consider the positive and negative aspects of this register. They are places where the writer may choose. Atkinson. Compare the data in this study with those of your own meetings or data or your classroom following a break. design a project with native and nonnative pairs and describe the types of negotiation you expect to find.. Example 1 R: Saturday. Martirena (1976) analyzed certain types of interaction signals in four conversations among speakers of Rioplcrtense Spanish. and nonexperts want elaboration of the main idea. want elaboration of details. the first is a dialogue in which the native speaker avoids collaborative completions (i. describe any instruction you offer on the signals of system constraints. In each example. These result when the author sees a possible trouble point for the reader. document which you into two groups: more fluent. Is there any reason to believe that the difference attributed to proficiency might be to the language background of the students? (Students in the "outer circle" group were all from India. Nystrand shows. In the following two examples.

. The Finns tended to avoid or paraphrase difficult concepts rather than utilize transfer. R: Mama say roe . followed by transfer and avoidance. October 24. Pa1rnberg notes a study by Ickeruoth where less advanced Dutch learners of English used paraphrase much more than advanced learners. After you have taped the conversation. One. ask the students to listen to the tape and talk about the problems they encountered in the conversation and the strategies they used to fonnulate comprehensible messages. they resume their quarrel). and transfer . If you are interested in phonology. you me go de Capistrano. that's a beautilul plant! I like that.. Last year Ah. The three strategies were equally employed by the Finland Swedes. the husband sits down. Kasermann G. They call for research to show what types of factors determine behavior that deviates from the expected and an analysis of differences in amount and type of partiCipation in conversations that occur when more than two parties are involved. right? (Data source: Butterworth and Hatch 1978) ExaropJe2 NS: Oh. ah? F. Grice's maxims II. (Data source: Brunak. and Villoric) and Altorfer (1989) suggest that a noncooperative to supplement Grice's maxims for cooperative conversationalists. In October 24. Finland Swedes. "fred. so she didn't want to drive. fain. They suggest that the maxims break down when dealing with conversations involving more than two pcrtlciponts. while advanced learners used many lexical substitutions. Last year a friend gave me it.were needed to occount for the strategies these speakers used when they encountered difficulty in talking about a series 01 cartoon pictures (a couple quarrels as they wait for a bus. ((correction 01 plural» Last year.. and Swedes made their English messages" acoustically adequate and interpretable." Me . After reading Kasermann and Altorler's article. paraphrase. Do you think that the strategies used in this experimental task would be the same as that required in ordinary conversation? You might investigate this by taping students in a storytelling task and in conversation. She watch house. they board the bus and the woman gets a seat.. in car of my father. last years. Other communication 10.. you just have a permit." signals 12.avoidance. The how you say . He concludes that not only the L 1 but also the proficiency level and individual preference factors need to be considered in such studies. You know? NS: Yes. the ((writes 1974» year. principle might be needed NS: R: NS: R: 1974. you 41 40 . The Swedes paraphrased as the first alternative. The prosodic system plays an important role in turn taking and also in preempt signals. Miss Fain give me. Pa1mberg (1979) used Terrene's categories to investigate the ways that Finns. NS: Where? In your father's car? Where did you drive? R: Ccpistrcmo me roy mother me go for my mother watch. Did you buy that? R: Excuse me this is the. NS: Oh gave it to you! That's a nice gift! Do you like plants? R: Yes I like This is my . when the seat next to her is vacated. Me ((gesture 01 driving)) NS: Oh. Compare your findings with those of Hawkins (1964). fred. Me a this lor police (+ gesture I NS: But you don't have a license. decide which of Grice's maxims is most seriously challenged and whether the challenge is sufficient to call into question the inclusion of the maxims as a universcd system constraint. "Ricardo.Discourse and language education me in .. Communication theory: System constraints Three concepts .. Mama say me Mama say me Mama no understond car.. are you looking at a house in Capistrano? R: Yeh. keys lor car. please.

43 Palmberg poses a number of importont questions that you might consider in your research: When does one actually laugh? Can a hierarchy of functions be established? Does laughing behavior change according to the language being used? There are many other questions that could be asked: When and how is laughter elicited? Are age. and Lee.Discourse and language education Communication theory: System constraints will want to read Duncan (1972).Troika's framework carefully and decide just how it might fit with Goffmcm's proposal for describing human communication systems. Studies in tbe organizationof conversational interaction (pp. Seliger and M. R.. New York. Each includes a substantial bibliography of studies that links prosodic features with components of the communication system. Palmberg (1982) analyzed data from fifty-three Finns collected as they commented on a series of pictures that told a funny story. 13.. E. Cambridge University Press.. Hatch (Ed. Scherzer (Eds. G.). C. very little has been written on the function of laughter in second or foreign language communication. C. In E. J.Troike suggests that elaborating and testing such a taxonomy would give us a fuller appreciation of the complexities and universal characteristics of the human cornmunicctlon system. Coulthard. er.: Newbury House.]. Schenkein (Ed. For accurate transcription. about includes functions or events relating to social action. In 1. (1980). Long (Ed s.. 14.D. operas. by linguistic context. Second iangullgeacquisition: A book of readings (pp . Discourse intonation and language teaching. backchanneling. Saville-Troike (1985) talks aboul the significance of silence in the interpretation of talk. Brasil. M. Academic Press. E.In]. Can silence be appropriately used as a communication signal for any of Goffman's system components. or does it relate entirely 10 his social. Saville.. and Yule. and Hatch. from a house t= cave) ((laugh)). Rowley. or psychologically determined). On the ather hand. A.: Newbury House. Explorations in the ethnography of speaking (pp.231-245). stntus. Prepare a paper that reviews the literature on this connection for one system component. Structures of social action. institutionally determined silence (location. 133-153). and Johns (1980). c. thus. Mass. Cuff.74). and Johns. ritual: funerals. Rowley. laughter in the data is transcribed.). (1978). Foreigner talk in the classroom ~ an aid to learning? In H. R. Classroom oriented research in second language acquisition (pp. accomplishrnenr.. A Spanish speaking adolescent's acquisition of English syntax. New perspectives on A merican Sign Language{pp. the French and Local and the Cutler and Pearson crticles in Iohns-Lewis (1986). Brown. E: What would you call them? L: For example IUs cousins «laugh)). as a relevant reply. In R. (19. tension could be dissipated with laughter. and Crystal (1969). individually determined silence (by social context.'Hjalp' . Mass. F ann a research plan to explain the occurrence of laughter in your data.. Baker. hbrories. group-determined silence (situational: access to speaking allocated by group decision. Still others signaled relief when they had finished the task.. Discourse analysis." Other laughs signaled delight. and Heritage. ritual constraints on communication? References Atkinson. temples. as when the learner remembered a difficult vocabulary item.Regulators and rum-taking in American Sign Language. (1978). Buttetworth.Speaking in the light.. Bauman. Although Crystal (1969) discusses the universality of laughter. The recommencemenr of • meeting as" member'.. normative: dilierential allocation of time 10 children. All mstonces on the "laugh-giggle continuum" were analyzed. gender. and Ll differences related 10 choice of laughter fonn (the "laugh-giggle continuum")? How might laughter be used in opening/closing. and so forth? Look at laughter in your transcripts.]. Academic Press. Study Saville.). She suggests a broad classification that 42 . and noninteractive (contemplative/meditative) silence. Atkinson. J.. More than half of these were ignorance/ embarrassment signals: "Then he lakes a bow and shots something ((laugh)) . 144160). What is it?" Next in frequency were laughs signaling that the speaker was guessing about an expression: "A man comes out from a . London: Longman. One speaker used laughter as a joke signal in his response to a question: E: What did you call these? «(points to ants)) Did you say anything those? L: No unfortunately not.. as a preempt signal. G. M. (1983).. Thirty-two speakers laughed. The framework includes: a. Brasil. New York. symbolic) c. Coulthard. 215-236). Bauman and J.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. E. taboos) b. memberships: monks with vows of silence. C. 127-145).). Chaudron. Studies in conversational anaiysis. hierarchical: lower versus higher class. (19.. er . (1984). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Friedman (Ed.77). G. Cambridge. . The role of the Quaker minister. (1981)..

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