The Limits of Collaboration—Speakership in Conversation with Persons with Aphasia

Authored by: Peter Auer

Handbook of Qualitative Research in Communication Disorders

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9781848726420
eBook ISBN: 9780203798874
Adobe ISBN: 9781134187416


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If I were asked to summarize the progress of our knowledge about verbal interaction after some 40 years of research, one aspect which would figure prominently would be the deconstruction of the notion of the speaker as it was most cogently and influentially described by Erving Goffman in his seminal “footing” paper (1979). Goffman may have been influenced by the revolutionary work of Valentin Voloshinov in the 1920s, 1 who argued that an utterance is never the result of the mental and articulatory activities of a single person—the speaker—but is embedded in a web of intertextual and dialogical links to other utterances (Voloshinov, 1929/1973). Voloshinov also pointed out that the individualistic ideology of linguistics at his time was a product of its philological orientation, which found its primary object of analysis in written texts assumed to be the product of one author-writer. 2 But while Voloshinov was primarily interested (at least in his empirical studies) in the many voices that may be embedded in one speaker’s utterance, it was Goffman who showed that the notion of the “speaker,” so dear to linguistics and speech act philosophers, needs to be dissected into at least three different roles: the animator or articulating human (“sounding box”), the author of a speech act (which may be articulated by others, written, etc.), and the one who is responsible for its meaning (“principal”). Coming from a different perspective and working with different methods, conversation analysis has taken this argument even further. Particularly, the work of Charles Goodwin has shown how the unfolding of an utterance in interaction is co-constructed by participants, not only through their verbal but also their non-verbal activities (Goodwin 1981).

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