Territories of knowledge in Japanese conversation
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MPI Series in Psycholinguistics ; 76
Number of pages
xii, 280 p.
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 06 mei 2013
Promotores : Levinson, S.C., Heritage, J. Co-promotor : Stivers, T.
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SubjectMPI Series in Psycholinguistics; Interactional Foundations of Language; Language in Society
This thesis focuses on one aspect of interactional competence: competence to manage knowledge distribution in conversation. In order to be considered competent in everyday interaction, participants need not only to index one another's knowledge states but also to engage in dynamic negotiation of knowledge distribution. Adopting the methodology of conversation analysis, the thesis investigates how participants' orientations to knowledge distribution, 'epistemicity', are manifested. The thesis examines three interactional environments: assessment sequences, informing sequences and polar question-answer sequences. A systematic analysis reveals that interactants orient to different aspects of knowledge in different environments, employing different grammatical resources. When they assess an object, they are concerned about who possesses 'epistemic primacy'. Japanese final particles and the practices of intensification serve together to claim epistemic primacy and provide support for the claim. It is also reported that interactants are oriented to achieve 'epistemic congruence' - consensus regarding how knowledge is distributed among them. When one provides the other with new information, the exchange commonly develops into a four-turn sequence, instead of a minimal adjacency pair. It is shown that this sequence organization allows interactants to achieve a balance between territories of experience, affiliation and empathy. In polar question-answer sequences, how (un)expected or novel a given piece of information is becomes an issue. Answers are found to be formulated such that they adopt epistemic stances that are assertive enough to match the level of (un)certainty expressed by questioners. The thesis contributes to our understanding of how social interaction is organized. It becomes clear from the findings that a wide range of aspects of language use and interactional organization are dominated by interactants' orientations to epistemicity. Participants manage knowledge distribution in everyday interaction, which may be the most fundamental means of managing their social statuses and relations.
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