Conversation: The Basics Grice, Goffman, Brown & Levinson and Lakoff
Grice’s Maxims - or his ‘Co-operative Principle’ • Quality • Quantity • Manner • Relevance • Conversation works only with the co-operation of its participants. • Co-operation is built around a series of ‘Griceanmaxims’ or rules and conventions. • Conversations proceed on the assumption that those taking part have common goals and an agreed way of achieving those goals. “Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose and direction of the exchange in which you are engaged.”
Quantity • Neither say more nor less than is required. Don’t be too brief , or babble on for ages! • Quality • You should be truthful and not say anything you suspect to be false – don’t lie! • Manner • You should avoid ambiguity, be clear and not confusing and be polite. • Relevance • What you say should be relevant to the conversation, do not disrupt or drift off topic, keep to the point.
Flouting the Maxims If you fail to follow Grice’s maxims or principles – you can be said to be flouting the rules of conversation. Flouting the maxims can lead to conversational difficulty or its breakdown. People who consistently flout the maxims are often described in a negative way :- windbag, liars, gossips Flouting can also lead to threatening participant’s face.
Goffman’s Face “Co-operation is vital to conversation, but without politeness, all is lost.” • Erving Goffman was intrigued by what lay behind everyday expressions such as ‘losing face’, ‘saving face’ and ‘being shamefaced’. • He saw that without politeness, conversation didn’t work and that the need for politeness was rooted in ‘saving face’:‘[face is…] the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a personal contact’ • Goffman recognised that whenever we talk, we need to feel ‘liked’ and the image we present to the world / people in conversation is our face. (This image can change in each conversation e.g. a good friend offering advice and wanting to be helpful OR a knowledgeable teacher / student etc…
Face Threatening Acts (FTAs) • Conversations are sites for potential ‘loss of face’ and that ‘face work’ must, therefore, be a part of talk if ‘loss of face’ is to be avoided and co-operation is to be maintained. • You can threaten a person’s face in a number of different ways such as:- • by being insincere • by mocking • by being blunt • Thus the concept of tact and being tactful is important. However it can be partly a selfish concept since we ourselves don’t want out face threatened or challenged by others, so we often keep reservations to ourselves and don’t threaten other people’s face. • Face Threatening Acts (FTAs) are therefore conversational turns that risk a ‘loss of face’.
Positive and Negative Politeness • Brown and Levinson developed Goffman’s ideas into the concepts ofpositive and negative politeness. • Positive Politeness • We show people that they are liked and admired. • We pay them compliments, take an interest, and show we enjoy their company • Language features include:- gestures of friendship and attempts to reduce differences between people (convergence). • Negative Politeness • When we avoid intruding into other’s lives, pry or nose into their personal affairs. • We do not impose our presence • Language features include:- being indirect, apologetic and respectful
Linking the 2 Concepts … ‘Negative’ FaceThe desire to feel unimpeded, i.e. the freedom from feeling imposed upon by the interaction. • Negative politeness ‘face work’ • addresses ‘negative face’ concerns, by acknowledging the other’s face is threatened. ‘Positive’ FaceThe desire to feel approved of , i.e. to maintain a positive and consistent self-image during the interaction. • Positive politeness ‘face work’ • addresses ‘positive face’ concerns, by showing concern for the other’s face.
Lakoff’s Politeness Principle • Don’t impose on others (similar to negative politeness) • I’m sorry to bother you … • Could you possibly … • I know it’s asking a lot … • Give options to people – don’t back them into a corner • It’s entirely up to you… • I won’t be offended if you don’t want to … • Do you want to go first ….? • Make your receiver feel good – flatter them to show they are appreciated • What would I have done without you? • I’d really appreciate your advice on this.
Transcribing Speech Capitals can be used to record emphasis in pronunciation Rising intonation Falling intonation Apart from emphasis, do not use capital letters (except for the pronoun ‘I’ and the beginnings of proper nouns) Similarly do not use full stops – this would mean you had made a judgement about the end of a sentence. Question marks, however do suggest intonation, so you may use those. Note the pauses by (.) Brief pause (5) Length of pause in seconds There may be some speech which you can’t make out. Unintelligible speech is noted as (~~~~~) Overlapping speech, where words are spoken simultaneously are shown with vertical lines A: Yes, yes B: I know Other contextual information goes in square brackets [coughs]