Judith Irvine-Shadow Conversations

Irvine, J.T. (1996). Shadow conversations: the indeterminacy of participant roles. In Silverstein, Michael and Greg Urban, Natural Histories of Discourse, pp. 131-159.

Irvine is ultimately critiquing Goffman’s models for participant structure, using her own field research to show the many ways participation can occur in the production format of an insult poem in Senegal. She uses grammar and context to show this.

134- More important, however, is the question of context. How, if at all, is the analysis of participation in an “utterance event”2 to consider the ways in which the many contextualizations of an utterance, including a context of other discourses, impinge upon it?

135- For these reasons I think it more useful to retain a quite simple set of primary participant roles (Speaker, Addressee, and third parties present and absent), while deriving the more subtle types (Sponsor, Ghost writer, etc.) from a notion of intersecting frames and dialogic relations. Here I draw in part upon the work of Bakhtin and his circle (Bakhtin 1981, 1984; Voloshinov 1973 [1930]), whose discussions of “voice” and authorship raise issues similarly touching the problem of participant roles.

The past, present, and future act as frames of participation to Irvine.

136- Double-voiced: the utterance whose form and significance presuppose a second voice— another party—whose utterances are invoked by the one at hand because they are partly imitated, quoted, or argued against.

138- In terms of participant roles, then, for each insult utterance one might distinguish Sponsor, Formulator, Speaker (i.e., Transmitter) and Co-Speakers, Addressee, Hearers, and Target. Indeed Levinson, citing this very example from an unpublished paper of mine, further distinguishes Indirect Targets (the bride’s kin if present) from Ultimate Destinations (the bride’s kin if absent).

144- the participant roles constituted verbally will inevitably be compared with those constituted (or suggested) visually

151- Bakhtin’s arguments are not limited to literary discourse, although that was his starting point (but see Voloshinov 1973 [1930]). The idea of intertwined voices recognizes the complexity of the sources on which a speaker draws, and the complexity of the speaker’s commentary on those sources, which are included in an utterance. The “double-voiced utterance is one whose form and significance presuppose a second voice, another speaker, whose words are borrowed, mocked, responded to, or given provocation.

157- I believe, there is no necessary limit to the participation frames that can be imposed on the pragmatic present, fragmenting its participant roles and recombining them, in a complex calculus of mapping roles onto persons present and absent (or, internally, onto aspects of selves).


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