ENGLISH IN CONTEXT ANALYSIS OF SPEECH People spend a significant part of their lives listening and talking, that is the main reason why conversation is regarded to be the most generalised form of talk that concerns both speakers and listeners and it is contemplated to be the essential ingredient in co-operative undertaking (Wardhaugh, 1985). Conversation is informal talk involving two or more people and interviews are a particular type of conversation.
Interviews are regarded as meetings at which a journalist asks questions in order to find out the interviewee’s opinion.
This is an assignment that analyses a telephone interview, so there is an absence of eye contact, body language or facial expressions that are attributes of a ‘live’ studio interview. The radio journalist interviews an authority from the mercantile branding on pertinent issues incorporating the commercial branding on local and global scale.
In my opinion this interview is an interesting sample of conversation that is why it was chosen for this analysis of speech.
In this essay, the analysis of structural features promotes a closer understanding of how speech develops through themes that contribute to its structure. Subjects analysed are: topic and context; speech acts and conditional relevance; politeness; adjacency pairs and insertion sequence; turn construction and transition relevance places; turn taking and overlap; pause and repairs.
The essential comprehension of a conversation is connected with its contribution towards a topic. As Wardhaugh (1985:139) states: ‘A topic is something talked about, but it is very unusual in conversation ever to talk on a well-defined topic in a highly systematic way’. The type of a conversation that is titled as interview can drift at all different tensions and it is either directed by the journalist who reflects back to the main topic or let it go down various routes.
The shifting from one topic to the other but still maintaining the maxim of relevance is not an easy matter if the speakers desire to be relevant to the main conversational topic (Wardhaugh, 1985). The main topic of this interview that is directed and guided by the journalist, is the re-naming of Tetley’s Brewery as Carlsberg-Tetley. In order to make the connection that Tetley is going to be from now on the UK branch of the Danish Carlsberg, this interview covers a series of topics that are related to each other and there is a relevant shifting from one topic to the next.
The topics covered are: Carlsberg re-names Tetley and local feelings; a similar case of Royal Mail re-named to Consignia; effects of re-branding globally and finally, reference to re-naming of Tetley’s Brewery. According to Maybin and Mercer (1996) the context of a topic can involve the physical surroundings or the relationship between the speakers. In this interview, because it is a formal type of speech, the context is illustrated as being a shared experience for both the listeners and the speakers as the centre of their broader cultural values and expectations.
The social event of re-branding Tetley’s Brewery is the shared public event from both the speakers and the audience, and it is connected with expectations on broader cultural values that had a social effect such as the re-naming of other Companies, for instance Royal Mail, or Roundtrees. Conversations require involvement of at least two parties who are conscious of each other’s needs and particularly make a great effort not to offend each other in any possible way (Wardhaugh, 1985).
Speech events create speech acts that carry out action through language, such as the talking between the journalist and the speaker. In this interview, there is evidence of verdictive type of speech act that expresses assessing. It is displayed on the following assessments: ‘I think they are trying to express that they are Carlsberg and that Carlsberg- Tetley is in fact the UK branch of Carlsberg’; and ‘I don’t think that the main name Tetley is going to die’ (first page).
There is, also, a representative type of speech act that represents a state of affairs that can be seen to be either true or false. Two examples that portray this representative type are: the suppositional statement made by the journalist at the beginning of the interview that reads ‘Are we losing the overall picture here, anybody in West Yorkshire who’s getting a bit sore that Tetley’s getting the elbow? (journalist, first page); and, the supposition concerning the name’s change for Royal Mail to Consignia that ‘it was like a flop, wasn’t it? ’ (journalist, second page). Furthermore, certain speech acts in this conversation are examples of direct speech because the question that reads as ‘I think of stories like Consignia, you remember? ’ (speaker, first page) is associated directly with its relevant answer in its literate sense that reads as ‘yeah’ (journalist, first page).
In cases that there is a hidden difference of opinion, a suggestion of politeness is formulated in positive face polite statements and relates to the desire to be liked and express approval (Brown and Levinson, 1987 cited in Maybin & Mercer, 1996). The intention of satisfying the face needs of others while protecting our own is evidenced in this interview’s utterances such as, ‘well, if I see it from that point of view may well be’ (speaker, third page) that indicate a certain kind of polite tone through mediating of opinion.
The expression of personal opinions in a ‘down to earth’ interview, that overall ‘touches’ the topic and ‘captures’ the listener’s ear, is re-enforced by the tone of the speech that is mild, without too much of intonation change. In relevance to the overall politeness and mild, controlled speech tone the maxim of manner is preserved in this interview because both speakers talk in an orderly and brief manner. This observation is made considering the fact that there are only a few examples of overlapping or interrupting in this interview.
The language represents reality referentially, through its words and structures. It also, represents reality metaphorically, through its own internal/external form so, language becomes a metaphor of reality and reality becomes a metaphor of language (Pught, Lee, Swann, 1980). Through paired utterances that involve similar or close meanings the language determines its connection with reality and that leads to the local management organisation in conversation recognised as adjacency pairs.
As Nofsinger (1991:51) states: An adjacency pair has the following characteristics: (a) it is a sequence of two communicative actions; (b) the two actions often occur adjacent to each other; (c) they are produced by different speakers; (d) one must be a first pair part and the other is a second pair part, that is, they are sequentially ordered; and (e) they are categorized or type-connected so that any given first part must be matched with one of a relatively few types of second pair parts.
The adjacent pairs hold together the conversation in order to connect logically utterances and it is suggested that in fact they are the fundamental unit of conversational organisation (Goffman, 1976 & Coulthard, 1977). The adjacent pairs evident in this interview are of the of question – answer type, for example, in the opening sequence, the question ‘What do you think Carlsberg-Tetley are doing here? ’ (journalist, first page) is followed by the speaker’s answer ‘Well, I think they are trying to express that they are Carlsberg…’ (speaker, first page). There is, also, a conditional relevance linking the one topic with the next.
In the adjacent pair seen above it is clear that what binds the parts of adjacency pairs together is not a formation where a question must receive an answer, but the setting up of specific expectations which have to be attended to (May, 1993). On occasions the logical sequence of the question-answer type is temporarily interrupted, but the relevance in the topic is preserved so there is evidence of the insertion sequence. A typical example of an insertion is evident in the question: ‘are we losing the overall picture here, anybody in West Yorkshire who’s getting a bit sore that Tetley’s getting the elbow? (journalist, first page) and the answer ‘I can understand why people in Yorkshire are tender about brands I must say’ (speaker, first page). Although, in this question-answer type of interview, the interviewer and the interviewee remain closely focused to the main topic, they also shift it to different co-topics. The topic of the sensitivity towards ‘anybody in Yorkshire’ about re-naming Tetley is moved to the generalised issue of feelings towards ‘brands’ (journalist- speaker, first page).
The shifting from topic to topic involves turn construction units that can consist of one word; a phrase; a clause or a sentence and both speakers are aware of these transitional phases. As Nosfinger points out: The important thing about each of these turns construction units is that participants can project where they will end – and thus where a particular turn may be complete. This spot that participants recognize as the potential end of a turn, this place where a transition from one speaker to another becomes relevant, s called a ‘transition relevance place’ (Nosfinger, 1991:81) The following example clearly illustrates one turn construction unit and its two transition relevance places. These prove how through sequential formulations that express the speaker’s ideas in carefully chosen words, the interview progresses systematically and the topic transfers: J: What do you think Carlsberg-Tetley are doing here? (turn construction unit) S: …I think they are trying to express that they are Carlsberg (transition relevance place) Carlsberg- Tetley is in fact the UK branch of Carlsberg (transition relevance unit) (first page) The natural progress of a conversation is the turn taking process of mutual and the wherever possible equal verbal contribution from both speakers. Mey comments on a typical turn taking sequence of A, talks, stops, B, starts, talks, stops; so, there is a distribution of talk across the two speakers (Mey, 1993). In this interview there are, clearly, rules that determine who is the next speaker as the current speaker selects the other. In the interviewer’s direct question ‘it was like a flop, wasn’t? (journalist, second page) is indicated that the first speaker has finished his turn and he is asking the other speaker a question in order to continue with the interview. One of the most, if not the most, general principle governing turn taking in a conversation is that, one and only one person speaks at a time, although there may be some overlaps and brief interruptions it is clear who has the turn of speech (Wardhaugh, 1985). There could be, consequently, a self-selection to turn taking that is classed as overlapping from the speaker who is not talking at the time in order to make a contribution to the conversation.
The clarity of an interview is re-enforced by the uninterrupted talk of the speakers but in ‘live’ interviews like this chosen one, both speakers are found to speak on top of each other’s voice. An example of this self-selection that contributes to the stereotypical style of a non-recorded interview is the following: J: Okay. h[hh S: [no[t… J: [yea[h S: ]not sure they are gonna lose the name of the brewery, are they? (third page)
An occasional pause, which occurs within a speaker’s turn can be viewed as that person’s personal choice – pause and it happens because in natural speech people often take this ‘time off’ to structure quickly their next statement or for a moment are ‘lost’ for words. An example of such an occurrence is found in the phrase ‘but of course e:::’ (journalist, third page). Moreover, a pause can occur at a transition relevance place and can be viewed as a possible opportunity for the next speaker to speak, such an instance there is in the following: ‘…I think that (. ) em (. ) …. ’ (speaker, first page).
A pause which occurs during a turn relevance place is often the right moment for a polite and appropriate way in our culture to give the opportunity for turn taking in speech; this is emphasised through this following example: ‘…so I don’t think that the main name Tetley is going to di:e (. )’(speaker, first page). Also, in the possible event that the current speaker, who has been shortly interrupted by the other speaker, decides to continue talking the turn taking progresses the conversation even though ‘any kind of interruption is a violation of another’s territory or rights’ (Wardhaugh, 1985:150).
An example of this interruption is shown in the following: J: Well, they are promising in fairness to keep Joshua Tetley Brewery as, as the name of the brewery S: right J: but of course eh’ I don’t know… (third page) At times in conversations a regular occurrence is the failure from one speaker to make himself or herself audible or comprehensible to the other recipient.
As Mey states there is a device for the correction of misunderstandings, mishearings or non-hearings (Mey, 1993). In this interview, because it is a ‘live’ speech act there are many occurrences of repair. There are two important distinctions referring to repairs, one is the pattern of self-initiated repair and the other the pattern of other-initiated repair. In this interview, there is evidence of the self-repair type in the following examples: ‘I think, I don’t think…. ’(speaker, first page), ‘well, let’s look at it, I mean, okay, we can perhaps eeh…’ (journalist, second page).
The conversational analysis contributes to a deeper understanding of the speech formats that are represented in the patterns of talking investigated in this essay. The particular type of talking in this interview emphasises the difference in structure of speech between the formal ‘interview’ type and the ‘everyday’ conversation. As the latter relies on facial expressions and body language that are linked to the physical surrounding its loose structure lacks a specific ruling and it can be directed at any turn.
On the contrary, in this telephone radio interview, there are none of the above characteristics of a ‘live’ conversation. The speakers both follow the stereotypical way of ‘ journalist asks the questions, speaker answers them’ type of interview. This leads to a tight-structured speech act where outcomes are more precise. WORD COUNT: 2212 BIBLIOGRAPHY Goffman, E. (1976) & Coulthard (1977) Interaction ritual: essays on face to face behaviour. New York: Garden City. Mey, J.
L. (1993) Pragmatics: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishers. Maybin, J. & Mercer, N. (1996) Using English: From Conversation to Canon. Routledge. Nosfinger, R. (1991) Telephone Conversation. Indiana: University Press. Pugh, A. K. – Lee, V. J. & Swann, J. (1980) Language and Language Use. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd in association with The Open University Press. Wardhaugh, R. (1985) How Conversation Works. (1st ed). Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher Ltd.
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