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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Repetitive Reportings in Spontaneous Mandarin Conversation

  • Author(s): Wu, Haiping
  • Advisor(s): Tao, Hongyin
  • Goodwin, Charles
  • et al.

This dissertation studies a widespread yet understudied phenomenon, namely repetitive reportings in spontaneous Mandarin conversation. The practice of repeating what was previously reported seems to violate the Maxim of Quantity (Grice, 1975), which states that speakers should not make their contributions more informative than are required. Using a conversation analytic approach, this dissertation examines four types of repetitive reportings, namely immediate and distant repetitive reportings carried out by the same speaker or different interlocutors, and shows that repetitive reportings provide a rhetorical device with which a speaker creates another "interactional space" to accomplish additional interactional goals.

Drawing evidence from the participants' verbal/nonverbal displays in talk-in-interaction, this research shows how the interlocutors themselves orient to essential issues such as the authenticity and efficacy of reported speech. Specifically, Mandarin conversationalists are shown to display fidelity to the authenticity of reported information in situations, whereby the negotiation of propositional details not only updates the audiences, but implements such interactional functions as enhancing the dramatic character of the reported matters, or challenging the prior reporter's credibility. Furthermore, interlocutors are also observed to orient to the efficacy of reported speech. Immediate repetitive reportings by the same speaker are recurrently proffered either as an encore performance to sustain the ongoing affiliation, or as a remedy to restore the temporarily lost mutual understanding among the co-participants. Immediate repetitive reportings formulated by other interlocutors, in contrast, serve to challenge the pragmatic adequacy and sequential appropriateness of the prior reporting, consequentially laying claim to the current reporter's epistemic authority.

Distant repetitive reportings seem to be designed for different purposes. When a speaker quotes the same locutions in different contexts, adjustments are made to accommodate the immediate interactional needs; in retellings, upshots of report tend to be preserved, whereas peripheral components (e.g., background information) are subject to the most changes. Distant repetitive reportings performed by distinct interlocutors are deployed as resources with which interlocutors perspectivize and make sense of their shared experiences, a process accomplished through various reporting strategies.

Finally, this dissertation attests to the fruitfulness of adopting a context-oriented interactive approach while examining such social phenomena as speech within speech.

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