Language and Culture

Listen to “You Baked” from the Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English (approx. 30 minutes, MP3 available on Ted). The recording is from circa 1994. Wess and Jo are an older married couple living in Wisconsin. Their adult son, Cam, has come home for Christmas Eve,along with his partner, Fred. Select one of the two excerpts I have chosen (excerpt transcripts, as well as the full transcript, are available on Ted), and write an approximately 4-page paper making an argument about what is happening interactionally and how it relates to what is being said and how it is being said.(Further guidelines are detailed for each excerpt.) Excerpt #1: Fudge Wars (13:50 – 18:28) In this excerpt, a discussion of holiday baking leads to a comparison of fudge-making techniques between Wess and Fred. Although their discussion does not remotely resemble an argument of the sort that Julie Lindquist describes happening at The Smokehouse, we can still ask many of the same questions. How do Wess and Fred each make claims to authority in the realm of fudgemaking (and perhaps beyond)? What kinds of social positioning are they accomplishing? What sorts of broader issues do you think might be implicitly at stake in this seemingly inconsequential interaction? Excerpt #2: Marve Norton (24:04 – 27:38) In this excerpt, Jo and Wess tell stories about Marve Norton and his family. How do speakers change the footing of the interaction as they move between stories? How do they attempt to claim and keep the floor, either successfully or unsuccessfully (and what factors affect their success)? How do Jo and Wess support (and/or undermine) each others’ status as narrator? What textual features (if any) distinguish “storytelling” from “conversation”? Tips for your analysis: • The questions I provided are merely guidelines for beginning to think about the assignment. The goal is not to describe everything that’s happening in the interaction, but to focus on a particular aspect of the interaction and formulate a cohesive argument about it. An ideal thesis will a) make a claim about what is happening interactionally in the conversation, and b) tie that claim to a general pattern you’ve observed in the form of the discourse and its relationship to the content of the discourse. For example, if I were analyzing Jo’s story about buying her grandson socks, my thesis might be something like, “In this interaction, Jo’s subtle critique of Kathy’s parenting skills is reinforced by her use of reported speech to reenact interactions with her grandson.” • Listening to the full 30-minute clip will give you a good sense of the different characters and how they interact. Use this broader contextual sense to inform your analysis — how are the relationships that you see between characters in the macro sense brought to bear in the more micro situation of the excerpt? • As an acculturated human being, you already have an intuitive sense of how utterances “feel” and how speakers “seem.” (Condescending? Impatient? Attention-seeking? Playful?) Part of the goal of discourse analysis is to figure out what features of the text cause these impressions, and what elements of the context are shaping this process. In other words, tie your analysis to concrete elements of the text and make sure you explain the connections between those elements and your analysis of their social significance. • Textual elements you may want to look at: deictic positioning, overlaps (both interruptions and backchannels), use of reported speech, discourse markers,agreements/disagreements, poetic features (parallelism, repetition, etc.) • Use transcript line numbers when quoting the speakers or referring to particular moments in the interaction.

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