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Analyze Two Conversations on Language Use and Social Identity

Task Description


Choose two conversations, either spoken or written, that you have found particularly interesting or significant. These can be conversations in which you have participated, or conversations which you have merely observed. Some examples might include conversations between the following: a parent and child, two roommates, spouses or domestic partners, two friends having coffee, an employee and boss, two employees at the same company, dueling celebrities or pundits on Twitter, or friends on a Facebook thread. The conversations you choose should be substantial enough for analysis (i.e., 3 to 4 minutes for a spoken conversation; at least 250 words for a Twitter exchange or interchange on Facebook). Remember to protect the privacy of the participants in a discussion; you can do this by keeping them anonymous (changing names, etc.).

Describe each conversation briefly. What is the topic of each? What is the context of the conversation (i.e., location or medium)?

Describe the relationship between the participants in terms of power and solidarity. What is the nature of the relationship? Is it symmetrical or asymmetrical? Does difference in status play a role?

Discuss how social roles and participation frameworks are established during the conversation. What choices do you see being made to consciously (or perhaps even unconsciously) establish those roles and frameworks?

Apply the principle of indexicality to the conversation. In what ways are the participants creating a social context or meaning through elements such as shared knowledge or language use?

Explain the stance taken by each participant and how that stance is reflected in the style of discourse.

Assess how the participants establish a specific social identity (identification with a specific community, group, gender, etc.) that impacts their language choices. Consider how personal identity shapes social roles, stance, language use, and meaning.

Guided Response: Your mission for this discussion will be to analyze two conversations you have collected as your linguistic “data” this week. You will first describe these conversations with regard to who took part (the “participants”), the topic of conversation (“intent” and “purpose”), and where the conversation happened (the “medium” and “context”). Next, using the notions of power and solidarity, which you learned about this week, you will analyze the relationship between these conversational participants and how this relationship is realized in the conversation through the use of language. Clearly there is more going on ‘behind the scenes’ in most conversation than is actually said. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and you will need to in order to get a grade!), is to uncover the unspoken messages and to clearly explain to your classmates how you came to your conclusions.

In your original discussion post, remember to refer specifically to the notions of “indexicality” and “stance”, which were also covered in this week’s materials. How are your conversational participants creating their social context or meaning, and how is their “stance” (personal opinion/intention) reflected in their language choices? How is each participant’s identity reflected in the discourse you are analyzing?

Clearly, conversational participants in all situations are working to create a particular impression about their identity, beliefs, and stance. This discussion asks you to analyze their language choices closely and show how this image is created and/or maintained. This activity will require a close discourse analysis. Pay attention to the specific linguistic choices which are made and be sure to support your ideas with examples from the original text.

The material you will need to have read prior to attempting this discussion includes chapter 5 of the Johnstone textbook (which is specifically about participants, identities, etc.), the Media/Pool video on Goffman’s Participation Framework, and the Philosophy Tube video on “Indexicals and Demonstratives”. As long as you have covered these materials (and they are required!), you will have little trouble with creating an enlightening and interesting discussion post this week.

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