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(Dis)approval-relevant events and methods for their management: Dealing with moments of actual or potential socio-normative trouble in ordinary social interaction

Thursday 30 November 2023, 2.00PM to 3.30pm

Speaker(s): Uwe-A. Küttner and Jörg Zinken, Leibniz-Institute for the German Language

This is the next talk in the Centre for Advanced Studies in Language and Communication's (CASLC) online seminar series. If you're on the CASLC or CASLC-guest mailing list, you will automatically receive a Zoom link via Google Calendar to attend this event. If you're not on our mailing list already, you can register for the event by completing this form.

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Towards the end of his preface to Interaction Ritual, Goffman (1982, p. 3) famously proposed a vision for the study of interaction that emphasized the investigation of (interactional) moments, rather than the individuals who happen to ‘pass through’ them—a proposal which Conversation Analysts have always taken seriously (Schegloff, 1988). In recent years, Goffman’s proposal has received a fresh impetus from, among others, research on the recruitment of assistance (Kendrick & Drew, 2016; Floyd et al., 2020) and large-scale cross-linguistic studies which followed Schegloff’s (2009) recommendation for comparative investigations to focus on the management of recurrent interactional tasks and contingencies (Schegloff, 2006), such as locating and repairing problems in speaking, hearing and understanding (e.g., Dingemanse et al., 2015; Dingemanse & Enfield, 2015).

In this presentation, we take up a similar stance with respect to the study of everyday normativity and its enforcement in ordinary, informal social interaction. We do this by examining moments in which departures from socio-normative expectations for conduct momentarily become the focal business of the ongoing interaction, because one or more participants demonstrably orient to someone else’s or their own conduct as (potentially) problematic in terms of its socio-normative acceptability. As such, these are moments in which the normative acceptability of social conduct is being problematized and negotiated, as a practical concern, by the participants themselves in, and as part of, the ongoing interaction.

For the participants, the potential or actual engagement in such socio-normatively questionable conduct constitutes what we call a (dis)approval-relevant event, or (D)ARE for short. Such (D)AREs can be handled through an array of different practices and methods, all of which have in common that they foreground the normative and moral accountability of the targeted conduct (Heritage, 1990; Robinson, 2016; Sterponi, 2003, 2009). These sets of practices and methods are organized around the (D)ARE in systematic ways, yielding a temporal-sequential structure of action that furnishes part of the bedrock for how social conduct is continuously streamlined into more or less acceptable trajectories.

The first part of our presentation will offer an overview account of this temporal-sequential organization and the various possibilities for action it affords for managing the occurrence of (D)AREs. The second part aims at initiating a data-driven discussion of how, and to what extent, this overarching organization may be inflected by various elements of social context, as well as further aspects of social organization that may relevantly inform the selection of specific practices and methods on particular occasions of its instantiation.

Data come from the Parallel European Corpus of Informal Interaction (PECII) (Küttner et al., forthcoming; Kornfeld et al., 2023) and consist of video-recordings of informal interactions in a range of European languages (English, German, Italian, and Polish) during three types of mundane activities: (1) joint car rides, (2) adults playing board games together, and (3) family mealtimes.

About the speakers


Uwe-A. Küttner is a post-doctoral researcher at the Leibniz-Institute for the German Language (IDS) in Mannheim, Germany. He works as a research associate in the project “Norms, Rules, and Morality – across Languages” (NoRM-aL). His research focuses on language use in social interaction and the myriad ways in which it contributes to the constitution of recognizable social actions.




Jörg Zinken is a member of research staff at the Leibniz-Institute for the German Language (IDS) at Mannheim, and a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Heidelberg (Germany). He is interested in how grammar enters into the accomplishment of action, particularly from a cross-linguistic perspective




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Dingemanse, M., Roberts, S. G., Baranova, J., Blythe, J., Drew, P., Floyd, S., Gisladottir, R. S., Kendrick, K. H., Levinson, S. C., Manrique, E., Rossi, G., & Enfield, N. J. (2015). Universal Principles in the Repair of Communication Problems. PLOS ONE, 10(9), e0136100.

Floyd, S., Rossi, G., & Enfield, N. J. (2020). Getting others to do things: A pragmatic typology of recruitments. Language Science Press.

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Küttner, U.-A., Kornfeld, L., Mack, C., Mondada, L., Rogowska, J., Rossi, G., Sorjonen, M.-L., Weidner, M., & Zinken, J. (forthcoming). Introducing the “Parallel European Corpus of Informal Interaction” (PECII) – A novel resource for exploring cross-situational and cross-linguistic variability in social interaction. In M. Selting & D. Barth-Weingarten (Eds.), New Perspectives in Interactional Linguistic Research. John Benjamins.

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Sterponi, L. (2003). Account episodes in family discourse: The making of morality in everyday interaction. Discourse Studies, 5(1), 79–100.

Sterponi, L. (2009). Accountability in family discourse: Socialization into norms and standards and negotiation of responsibility in Italian dinner conversations. Childhood, 16(4), 441–459.

Location: Online via Zoom