Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends / Edition 2

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Overview

This revised edition of Deborah Tannen's first discourse analysis book, Conversational Style—first published in 1984—presents an approach to analyzing conversation that later became the hallmark and foundation of her extensive body of work in discourse analysis, including the monograph Talking Voices, as well as her well-known popular books You Just Don't Understand, That's Not What I Meant!, and Talking from 9 to 5, among others.

Carefully examining the discourse of six speakers over the course of a two-and-a-half hour Thanksgiving dinner conversation, Tannen analyzes the features that make up the speakers' conversational styles, and in particular how aspects of what she calls a 'high-involvement style' have a positive effect when used with others who share the style, but a negative effect with those whose styles differ. This revised edition includes a new preface and an afterword in which Tannen discusses the book's place in the evolution of her work.

Conversational Style is written in an accessible and non-technical style that should appeal to scholars and students of discourse analysis (in fields like linguistics, anthropology, communication, sociology, and psychology) as well as general readers fascinated by Tannen's popular work. This book is an ideal text for use in introductory classes in linguistics and discourse analysis.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for earlier edition:

"By far the most interesting and accessible—and fun!—introduction to conversational style that I know of. Students love it, and I use it as a required textbook whenever I teach sociolinguistics."—Doug Biber, Northern Arizona University

"Interesting and valuable for both laypersons and students."—Language

"A contribution not only for the general reader but for any researcher or student interested in conversation."—Language and Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195221817
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 970,605
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Tannen

Deborah Tannen is University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her academic books include the first edition of this book, published in 1984, as well as Gender and Discourse and the edited volumes Framing in Discourse, and Gender and Conversational Interaction (both OUP, 1993). In all, she has published nineteen books, including most notably The New York Times Best Seller You Just Don't Understand.

Biography

In 2001, Deborah Tannen published a book that explored the eternally complex relationship between men and women, specifically why communication can be so darn difficult between the sexes. You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation clearly struck a chord with its readers, spending nearly four years on the New York Times bestseller list (holding the No. 1 spot for eight weeks) and having been translated into 29 languages. Bolstered by Tannen's extensive experience as a linguist, You Just Don't Understand has played a significant role in improving relations between men and women throughout the world.

Tannen followed her breakthrough work with several others that have tackled the difficulties in improving communication on the job (Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work), the source of argumentativeness (The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words), and general disagreements within families (I Only Say This Because I Love You). Now Tannen is turning her attention to improving communications between two groups that share one of the most complicated relationships of all: mothers and daughters.

You're Wearing That?: Understanding Daughters and Mothers in Conversation is yet another ambitious attempt to examine, understand, and resolve the long-standing communication difficulties that so often plague families. Tannen delineated the nature of the particularly thorny interactions between mothers and daughters in an article she recently wrote for The Washington Post. In her article, Tannen stated that "there is a special intensity to the mother-daughter relationship because talk -- particularly talk about personal topics -- plays a larger and more complex role in girls' and women's social lives than in boys' and men's. For girls and women, talk is the glue that holds a relationship together -- and the explosive that can blow it apart. That's why you can think you're having a perfectly amiable chat, then suddenly find yourself wounded by the shrapnel from an exploded conversation."

You're Wearing That? is her attempt to defuse such potential explosiveness, to get to the root of why daughters and mothers so often hit walls when relating to one another. Tannen's own strained relationship with her ailing mother was part of the impetus that caused her to begin asking the questions that this insightful book strives to answer. Along the way, she explored not only her own relationship with her mother but those of many others, as well. "I interviewed dozens of women of varied geographic, racial and cultural backgrounds," she explained in her article. "I had informal conversations or e-mail exchanges with countless others. The complaint I heard most often from daughters was, ‘My mother is always criticizing me.' The corresponding complaint from mothers was, ‘I can't open my mouth. She takes everything as criticism.' Both are right, but each sees only her perspective."

Once again, Tannen has proven her skills as a great communicator, and has penned another instant classic in the field of self-improvement. You're Wearing That? has already achieved bestseller status and inspired Miriam Wolf of the San Francisco Chronicle to call it "a book any mother would be proud her daughter wrote." Tannen should surely be proud that she has made such a significant and positive impact on those who have read her work.

Good To Know

Make no mistake: Deborah Tannen is not just another self-help guru. She has published an impressive body of work that includes 20 books and over 100 articles. She is also the recipient of five honorary doctorates.

Tannen may be most famous for her linguistics studies, but she has also published short stories, poems, personal essays, and plays. In fact, her first play, An Act of Devotion, was chosen for inclusion in The Best American Short Plays: 1993-1994.

The sage relationship advice that Tannen has imparted is not limited to the printed page. She has also lectured all over the world, once addressing an audience of U.S. senators and their spouses.

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Tannen:

"I lived in Greece for several years; I speak Greek and consider Greece my second home. The first book I ever wrote was literary criticism about a modern Greek writer, Lilika Nakou."

"One of the most exciting experiences I have ever had was seeing a play I wrote produced by Horizons Theater in Washington, D.C. Another was having my play An Act of Devotion accepted and published in Best American Short Plays 1993-1994."

"I didn't start grad school in linguistics until I was 30. When I graduated from college, I had no ambitions other than to travel and not to go grad school. I worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Manhattan, lived with my parents in Brooklyn, and saved my money to go to Europe on a one-way ticket. My plan was to go around the world. But I got only as far as Greece, where I got a job teaching English. It was through teaching English as a second language that I first became aware of linguistics."

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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C. metro area
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 7, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harpur College, 1966, Wayne State University, 1970; M.A. in Linguistics, UC Berkeley, 1976; Ph.D., 1979

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2005 Edition
1. Introduction
2. Conversational Style: Theoretical Background
3. The Participants in Thanksgiving Dinner
4. Linguistic Devices in Conversational Style
5. Narrative Strategies
6. Irony and Joking
7. Summary of Style Features
8. The Study of Coherence in Discourse
9. Coda: Taking the Concepts into the Present
Appendix 1: Key to Transcription Conventions
Appendix 2: Steps in Analyzing Conversation
Appendix 3: Participants in Thanksgiving Dinner
Appendix 4: The Flow of Topics
References
Author Index
Subject Index

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