Dell Hymes- Ways of Speaking

Hymes, D.H. (1974). Ways of speaking. In R. Bauman & J. Sherzer (Eds.), Explorations in the ethnography of speaking (pp. 433-452). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hymes is advocating for a transition away from the study of just grammar and more towards an ethnography of styles in speech communities. (Familiar to the debate between langue and parole of Saussure).

Speech communities compromise a set of styles. 434

Hymes is working from Ervin-Tripp’s work (1972); a speech community: (a) more enters into speech styles than is usually identified linguistically, and (b) the concept of speech styles requires specification and supplementation in an ethnography  of speaking. Finally, (c) the notion of style is not just an alternative to the notion of grammar, but has application to grammar itself, as something socially constituted. (435)

434- repetitions and contrast of speech, the two kinds of features, could be distinguished as ‘referent’ and ‘stylistic’

439- speech styles, we have said, comprise features and constructions of both kinds (referential and stylistic).

443/444: genre here is important. “genre, whether minimal or complex, are not in themselves the ‘doing’ of a genre, that is, are not in themselves

439- There is a distinction between structural and use function (or langue versus parole). “Structural functions have to do with the bases of verbal features and their organization, the relations among them, in short, with the verbal means of speech, and their conventional meanings, insofar as those are given by such relationships. “Use” functions have to do with the organization and meaning of verbal features in terms of nonlinguistic contexts.”

440- Major speech styles associated with social groups can be termed varieties, and major speech styles associated with recurrent types of situations can be termed registers. Speech styles associated with persons, particular situations, and genres could be termed simply personal, situational, and genre.

The criterion of a significant speech style is that it can be recognized, and used, outside its defining context, that is, by persons or in places other than those with which its typical meaning is associated, or contrasted with relation to the persons and places with one or more other styles.

443- genres, whether minimal or complex, are not in themselves the ‘doing’ of a genre, that is, are not in themselves acts, events, performances. They can occur as whole events, or in various relationship to whole events.

When we analyze speech styles, we can analyze for participants, settings, channels, etc that influence the execution and meaning of speech styles. (444) In order to understand speech styles/genres/context bound styles and emergent properties, one must examine the context and the ways emergent features are conventionalized.

446- he gives us the phrase “ways of speaking” in order to play on “ways of life” and fashions of speaking”, which helps us think about speech styles and their context.




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