Language and social interaction
DOI link for Language and social interaction
Language and social interaction book
Every utterance adopts a stance of some kind in relation to its recipient. The most obvious kind of action performed by utterances is that of 'stating' or 'informing'. It is pre-eminently this kind of action that is performed, for example, by railway station announcements of the type, 'The train arriving on platform one is the eight twenty-five to London Paddington. A buffet car may be found in the middle of the train.' But this is clearly not the only kind of action undertaken by utterances. Take, for example, everyday random bits of verbal communication such as the following:
'Please lower your head when leaving your seat.' 'No smoking.' 'Okay.' 'Sorry.' 'Hello.' 'Excuse me.' 'Clear off:' (Or words to that effect.)
These examples variously, acknowledge, apologize, greet, command, and request a recipient to do something. None of them, strictly speaking, declares, states, or gives information. Utterances, indeed, are capable of performing a wide range of actions, of which 'informing' is but one. The range includes' activities as diverse as 'warning', 'complimenting', 'inviting', 'disputing', 'commenting', 'complaining', 'exemplifying', 'challenging', as well as those mentioned above. Significantly, for many of these actions, it is difficult to envisage how else they might be performed except in words. How else, for example, can someone 'comment', 'dispute', 'compliment', or 'complain', except by means of an utterance of one form or another? Yet each of these utterance-actions represents a specific alignment or counter-alignment adopted by one speaker towards another. In this way speakers define and assume roles in an interaction and actually constitute their social relations in terms of myriad reciprocal interchanges of actions such as these.