Rethinking Context

Duranti, A., & Goodwin, C. (1992). Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This anthology thinks about context in a multiplicity of ways by it’s authors. But by in large the takeaway is “context and talk are now argued to stand in a mutually reflexive to each other, with talk, and the interpretative work it generates, shaping context as much as context shapes talk” (31). This more inclusive way of thinking about language and context allows researchers to look at/use methodologically participant structures, social organization, linguistic rules and linguistic structure.

Discourse is “a cultural complex of signs an practices that regulates how we live socially” (30). Similar to habitus, discourse plays on the institutional and individual role of practice.

Sometimes context includes what action will follow an utterance making it double contextual (29).

Much of the idea of context plays on Bakhtin and Goffman, looking at utterances in their production format and the dialogic sense (25). The frame of a situation also serves to contextualize languages. Framing provides a prototypical example of context and the organization of an interaction (24). When we say dialogic we mean to examine “how a strip of talk can juxtapose language drawn from, and invoking, alternative cultural, social, and linguistic home environments, the interpretation of multiple voices and forms of utterances” (19).

From the perspective of the authors, language is very practical (15).

Context has awareness has shifted from the figure-ground model. Figure is the focal event and ground is the background (9). Dimensions of context have previously focused on setting, behavior environment, language/contextualization cues,  and extrasituational context (6-8).

Hanks: deixis, shifters; the indexical ground is intimately tied to basic processes of human interaction and participant frameworks (44). A key property of the indexical ground is the way in which it encompasses and encodes the differential access that participants have to relevant events (45)

Duranti: communicative competence, honorific lexical systems, linguistic and contextual features that trigger use of a particular lexical or morphological choice. The use of respectful terms cannot be simply predicted on the basis of referent or addressee, but must be related to the kind of activity and the kinds social relationships and social personae that the lexical items are used to activate. (78)

Lindstrom: much of talk…is about defining truth, and that the ability to establish what is true and what is false is but an instrument of power.

Bauman: rethinks how context is relevant to speech genres; one genre is embedded within another which contextualizes it, thus creating a dialogue of genres; then he uses to talk to rethink tradition and how the process of traditionalization systematically linking the present talk to a meaningful past, while at the same time authenticating his story (126).

Goodwin and Goodwin: how talk is organized as a phenomenon embedded within human interaction; analysis of participation within activities makes it possible to view actors as not simply embedded within context, but actively involved in the process of building context through intricate collaborative articulation of the events they are engaged in (149).

Schegloff: context, sequence; producing a sequence of responsive action, such as an exchange of greetings, not only requires that participants engage in appropriate interpretation, but is itself an elementary example of coordinated social action (192).

Gumperz: semantic coherence/understanding merge with questions above personal, social, and racial identity (230).

Basso: discourse strategies like repetition, code-switching, pronouns; the meaning of the story is in the ways that complex and culture-specific forms of knowledge are evoked and partly questioned through the use of subtle linguistic device (254).

Gaik: possible worlds are created by using particular set of vocab; words have the power to activate a particular type of activity (271).

Cicourel: context shapes verbal interactions in institutional settings; replies constitute how knowledge is stored, retrieved, where the space infuses meaning.

Phillip: language institutionalized; what may seems emergent or spontaneous is in fact routinized, compares patterns of speech production within and across events in the same speech community (311).

Kendon: in order for behavior to be interpreted and understood in an appropriate ways a frame must be placed around the actions and utterances of the participants (323). Emphasis on the non-verbal.

Ochs: language socialization, indexicality, gender; cultural competence entails developing knowledge of these more complex indexical systems (336).



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