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Order in ‘polylogue’: an investigation of argumentational discourse units in diplomatic negotiation

Issue: Vol 4 No. 3 (2010) Second strings and linguistic connections: bilingual and bilinguistic explorations. Dedicated to Professor Michel Blanc

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.v4i3.553


Examination of negotiation as a formal and informal interactional activity within institutional contexts has increasingly become prevalent in the literature (see for example Arminen 2005; Firth 1995a, 1995b). Many of these studies have focused on a fine-grained microanalysis of the local determination of meaning of utterances and their sequential organization invoking Conversation Analysis as a methodological tool in monolingual settings. Few crosslinguistic comparisons of turn-taking or the organization of turn design in different linguistic and cultural contexts have been made and few investigations of language use in large multilingual, international meetings such as the European Union or the United Nations have been published. Polylogue within these proceedings are highly regulated but contributions are also ‘discontinuous’ and ‘chaotic’ (Sannino, 2006). Conversations are better characterized as a collection of ‘discourse units’ (Houtkoop and Mazeland, 1985) which may or may not be linearly ordered. This paper will focus on describing the structure of argumentational discourse units (Kjaerbeck, 1998) as constructed by bilingual delegates in interventions to a plenary debate in an international organization. It will be argued that despite the seemingly ‘discontinuous’ and ‘chaotic’ nature of the debate, order can be found in the construction of individual discourse units. A crosslinguistic and crosscultural comparison is drawn by comparing findings with Kjaerbeck’s (op.cit.) analysis of the structure of argumentational discourse units in simulated business negotiations in Denmark and Mexico.

Author: Lisa Jane McEntee-Atalianis

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