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Interactional Sociolinguistics

Benjamin Bailey

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Language and Social Interaction

Key-Topics discourse

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Interactional sociolinguistics is concerned with how speakers signal and interpret meaning in social interaction. The term and the perspective are grounded in the work of John Gumperz (1982a, 1982b) , who blended insights and tools from anthropology, linguistics, pragmatics, and conversation analysis into an interpretive framework for analyzing such meanings. Interactional sociolinguistics attempts to bridge the gulf between empirical communicative forms – e.g., words, prosody, register shifts – and what speakers and listeners take themselves to be doing with these forms. Methodologically, it relies on close →  Discourse Analysis of audio- or video-recorded interaction. Such methodology is central to uncovering meaning-making processes because many conventions for signaling and interpreting meaning in talk are fleeting, unconscious, and culturally variable. Interactional sociolinguistics was developed in an anthropological context of cross-cultural comparison, and the seminal work that defined interactional sociolinguistics focused largely on contexts of intercultural miscommunication (→  Intercultural and Intergroup Communication ; Comparative Research ). It is in such contexts – where unconscious cultural expectations and practices are not shared – that the perspective has the most salient explanatory value. The perspective has been extended to cross-gender communication, most ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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