Interactional Sociolinguistics

27 Sep

I’m taking a course in Interactional Sociolinguistics (IS). It looks at how culture and society is replicated and created in social interaction, a microanalysis that has larger implications. One big area of research that I’m particularly interested in is how IS can elucidate intercultural/interethnic misunderstandings. A lot of work has been done on “gatekeeping.” A study that’s been mentioned in a lot of the introductory readings relates the story of a South Asian man interviewing for a job in London who missed multiple (almost imperceptible) cues to promote himself; likewise, the interviewers did not take into account/did not know/did not realize that promoting oneself is not an acceptable practice in his culture. Another area of research that looks interesting is cross-gender (mis)communication, which works on the assumption that genders are almost separate cultures.

We got a taste of the microanalysis in class this week, looking over transcripts of conversations and trying to find and interpret the contexualization cues. Repetition turned out to be an important feature for creating solidarity in a conversation (though that doesn’t go across the board– every situation is different). What I liked about the exercise was how similar it felt to literary analysis, taking apart the smallest features and finding meaning in them.

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