Chapter 8: Dialogue
Studying dialogue can provide us with insights that help us understand factors that
contribute to successful communication as well as factors that prevent effective
Main Channel: comm. via the words people speak
Backchannel: comm. via gestures such as head-nodding, m-hmm noises, and facial
gestures that listeners emit to indicate how well they are understanding what the
speaker is saying.
Cooperative principle is at the top of the conversation principle hierarchy. Speakers
cooperate with listeners whose goal is to learn something new. “Make your
conversational contribution such as is required at the stage at which is occurs, by the
accepted purpose of direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged”
Quantity: 1. Make your contribution as informative as if required (for the current
purposes of the exchange) 2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is
required. Saying too little is costly, although saying too much can also be costly.
Quality: Try to make your contribution one that is true. 1. Don’t lie 2. Don’t make stuff
Relation: Your contributions should be relevant to the current topic of conversation.
“Grass and Marijuana example”
Manner: “Be perspicuous”: Clear in expression or statement. 1. Avoid obscurity of
expression 2. Avoid ambiguity 3. Be brief 4. Be orderly.
BUT ** contrary to the maxims of manner and quality, speakers produce tentative
descriptions before they have fully worked out all the details of their messages or
determined the most effective way to express their ideas. Listeners are not passive.
They anticipate how the convo will evolve and they provide speakers with evidence of
their understanding both with main channel and backchannel responses.
Common Ground Theory: successful communication takes place when two people
expand the amount of common ground that they share.
Example of someone trying to describe an abstract picture to someone else and them
starting with a haphazard explanation (until the listener understands) and next time
moving into “the person climbing the stairs” and then “stair climber” *Whose turn it is to speak depends on a few soft rules as opposed to hard and fast
In a group discussion, the person who is speaking now can influence who will speak
next by looking at one specific person. The person that the speaker looks at is most
likely to take the next turn (although someone else can step in). A speaker is likely to
look off into space if she plans to continue to speak for a while, but she will look at
someone if she thinks her turn is coming to an end Another rule specifies that overlap
between speakers should be minimized.
Why speaks say ‘ummm’: one theory is they are trying to eliminate pauses in their
speech and therby holding the floor until they have said what they want to say (stop
Drunk people say umm less than sober people: this is strong evidence that “umm” is an
error and shows that drunk people care a lot less about holding the floor
Clarks dialogue theory says that speakers routinely engage in audience design: They
take special pains to adapt what they say to meet the listeners specific needs. (not
necessarily conscious) knowledge of a listeners needs can be rapidly assessed
through representation of common ground
Production processing may rely largely upon rapid relatively autonomic processing
Macro-audience design: speaking differently to babies, giving more detailed directions