Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pop Sociolinguistics

I don’t know anything about conversation analysis, but I guess I need to learn. My work is all about phonemes, allophones, and distinctive features. That’s a long way from whole actual conversations. But I’ve been working on a pop sociolinguistic theory of conversation.

You ready? Ok, here it goes.

Conversations are classified based on what the participants want to get out of them. I’ve identified three classic conversation types:

The pissing match: The participant doesn’t care whether others agree with him. He wants power.

The sales pitch: The participant wants to get others to accept her viewpoint.

The brainstorm: The participant wants to create a new viewpoint.

I think most conversations are pissing matches, with the occasional sales pitch. They are rarely brainstorms. I should totally write a self-help book about this. You know, something like Creative Conversations or Talking Like Crazy. Hey, I’ve got the PhD; I could be the next Dr. Phil.

[Update becuase I was distracted last night.]
How could I forget the fourth conversation type:

The echo chamber: The participant wants the others to validate her position and by extension herself.

Also two points: 1) participants rarely a) are aware of their reasons for having a conversation and b) agree on the reasons. 2) When participants' motivations conflict conversation gets derailed.

7 comments:

knockwurst said...

I like the idea of classifying conversations very much. Jzn and I have talked at great length about this. There's a quote I like from somewhere, "Men use words to conceal their thoughts." Something like that.

I agree that most conversations are pissing matches, and I think the a great place to study this phenomenon is Victorian literature. There's nothing like a comedy of manners set among social climbers to show off this type of conversational combat.

boredoom said...

(attempt at validation) So how would you characterize your blog entry, Ed?

liberal elite said...

Hey Knockwurst, thanks for the comment. This has been stewing in my mind since we talked about something similar a while ago.

Boredoom: It's clearly an echo chamber, right?

knockwurst said...

I should identify myself, btw. I'm flojin.

liberal elite said...

I suspected as much.

Philadaddy said...

What's the difference between pissing match and sales pitch? By pissing match you mean someone who wants to force another person to submit or agree to their point of view?

liberal elite said...

No, actually in a pissing match the person doesn't care whether the others in the conversation ever agree with them or not, whereas that is THE GOAL for a sales pitch. In a pissing match it's all about, "I'm smarter, a better arguer, etc. than you."

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