Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families / Edition 1

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Overview

Through everyday talk, individuals forge the ties that can make a family. Family members use language to manage a household, create and maintain relationships, and negotiate and reinforce values and beliefs. The studies gathered in Family Talk are based on a unique research project in which four dual-income American families recorded everything they said for a week. Family Talk extends our understanding of family discourse and of how family members construct, negotiate, and enact their identities as individuals and as families. The volume also contributes to the discourse analysis of naturally occurring interaction and makes significant contributions to theories of framing in interaction.

Family Talk addresses issues central to the academic discipline of discourse analysis as well as to families themselves, including decision-making and conflict-talk, the development of gendered family roles, sociability with and socialization of children, the development of social and political beliefs, and the interconnectedness of professional and family life. It provides illuminating insights into the subtleties of family conversation, and will be of interest to scholars and students in sociolinguistics, discourse studies, communications, anthropological linguistics, cultural studies, psychology, and other fields concerned with the language of everyday interaction or family interaction.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Family Talk produces fascinating insights into family discourse and is unique in its inclusion of the understudied language of fathers and its use of uncensored, extended recordings. This book is a captivating study on discourse in today's modern-day families." —Journal of Marriage and Family

"This is a must read for linguists, and its multidisciplinary approach and accessibility recommend it to anyone studying or interested in family relationships. Highly recommended. All readers, all levels." —Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195313895
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Tannen

Deborah Tannen is University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her twenty books include Talking Voices, Gender and Discourse, Conversational Style, You're Wearing THAT?, Talking from 9 to 5, That's Not What I Meant!, You Just Don't Understand, and The Argument Culture.

Cynthia Gordon is a postdoctoral fellow at the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL) in Atlanta, Georgia. Her publications have appeared in Language in Society, Discourse & Society, Research on Language and Social Interaction, Narrative Inquiry, The Journal of Genetic Counseling, and Text & Talk.

Shari Kendall is Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the Department of English at Texas A & M University. Her publications include articles and chapters in Discourse & Society, Text & Talk, The Handbook of Language and Gender, and Speaking Out: The Female Voice in Public Contexts.

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

1. Introduction, Shari Kendall
PART I: Interactional Dynamics: Power & Solidarity
2. Power Maneuvers and Connection Maneuvers in Family Interaction, Deborah Tannen
3. Talking the Dog: Framing Pets as Interactional Resources in Family Discourse, Deborah Tannen
4. "I just feel horribly embarrassed when she does that": Consituting a Mother's Identity, Cynthia Gordon
5. Finding the Right Balance Between Connection and Control: A father's identity construction in conversations with his college-age daughter, Diana Marinova
PART II: Gendered Identities in Dual-Income Families
6. Father as Breadwinner, Mother as Worker: Gendered Positions in Feminist and Traditional Descourses of Work and Family, Shari Kendall
7. Gatekeeping in the Family: How Family Members Position One Anotehr as Decision Makers, Alexandra Johnston
8. A Working Father: One Man's Talk about Parenting at Work, Cynthia Gordon, Deborah Tannen, and Aliza Sacknovitz
PART III: Family Vaues and Beliefs
9. "Al Gore's our Guy": Linguistically Constructing a Family Political Identity, Cynthia Gordon
10. Sharing Common Ground: The Role of Place Reference in Parent-Child Conversation, Philip LeVine
11. Family Members Interacting While Watching TV, Alla V. Tovares

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