Foundations in Sociolinguistics

Hymes, Dell 1977. Foundations in Sociolinguistic: An Ethnographic Approach. London: Tavistock Publications.

Sociolinguistics, so conceived, is an attempt to rethink received categories and assumptions as to the bases of linguistic work, and as to the place of language in human life. (Hymes 1977: vii)
A similar statement can be made for nonverbalism, "so conceived, as an attempt to rethink received categories and assumptions as to the bases of nonverbal communication research, and as to the place of nonverbal behavior in human life."
As to basis: one cannot take linguistic form, a given code, or even speech itself, as a limiting frame of reference. One must take as context a community, or network of persons, investigating its communicative activities as a whole, so that any use of channel and code takes its place as part of the resources upon which the members draw. (Hymes 1977: 4)
Similar ethod is suitable for nonverbalism. My own approach tacles the issues of context by limiting the study to specific type of literature and even more specific influential works.
On the one hand, there is the long-term trend away from the study of sociocultural form and content as product toward their study as process - away from study of abstracted categories, departments of culture, toward study of situations, exchanges, and events (cf. Sapir 1933b). On the other hand, there is the continuing trend in linguistics itself toward study of the full complexity of language in terms of what the Prague Circle as long ago as 1929 (the year of Sapir's "The status of linguistics as a science") called "functional and structural analysis," and which Jakobson now designates as interwar efforts towards a "means-ends model" (Jakobson 1963); there are parallels in the perspectives of J. R. Firth (1935 - cf. ch. 4 of this volume) and of Sapir (cf. chs. 3, 10 of this volume) in the same period. These traditions have had their vicissitudes, but it is fair to see in the ethnography of communication a renewal in them. (Hymes 1977: 5-6)
define:vicissitude - "A change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant."
Despite the broad interpretation given the term, however, semiotics (semiology) has continued to suggest most readily logical analysis, and the study of systems of signs as codes alone. The empirical study of systems of signs wihtin systems of use in actual communities seems secondary, when not lost from sight. (Hymes 1977: 6)
Yeah, no, mostly lost in sight.
For what has to be inventoried and related in an ethnographic account, a somewhat eleborate version of factors identified in communications theory, and adapted to linguistics by Roman Jakobson (1953; 1960), can serve. Briefly put, (1) the various kinds of participants in communicative events - sender and receivers, addressors and addressees, interpreters and spokesmen, and the like; (2) the various available channels, and their modes of use, speaking, writing, printing, drumming, blowing, whistling, singing, face and body motion as visually perceived, smelling, tasting, and tactile sensation; (3) the various codes shared by participants, linguistic, paralinguistic, kinesic, musical, interpretative, interactional, and other; (4) the setting (including other communication) in which communication is permitted, enjoined, encouraged, abridged; (5) the forms of messages, and their genres, ranging verbally from single-morpheme sentences to the patterns and diacritics of sonnets, sermons, salesmen's pitches, and any other organized routines and styles; (6) the events themselves, their kinds and characters as wholes - all these must be identified in an adequate way. (Hymes 1977: 10)
Indeed a very elaborate version of Jakobson's communication model.
In one sense, the focus of the present approach is on communities organized as systems of communicative events. Such an object of study can be regardedas part of, but not identical with, an ethnography as a whole. One way in which to indicate that there is a system, either in the community or in the particular event, is to observe that there is not complete freedom of cooccurrence among components. Not all imaginable possible combinations of participants, channels, codes, topics, etc., can occur. (Hymes 1977: 17)
Sounds like something akin to the "interaction system" approach.
In Kenneth Burke's terms, there has been a tendency to treat language and its use as matters of "motion" (as if of the purely physical world), rather than as matters of "action" (as matters of the human, dramatistic world of symbolic agency and purpose) (cf. ch. 7). With all the difficulties that notions of purpose and function entail, there seems no way for the structural study of language and communication to engage its subject in social life in any adequate, useful way, except by taking this particular bull by the horns. The purposes, conscious and unconscious, the functions, intended and unintended, perceived and unperceived, of communicative events for their participants are here treated as questions of the states in which they engage them in, and of the norms by which they judge them. (Hymes 1977: 21)
I started thinking about moving bodies [liikuvad kehad] and bodies that move [kehad mis liiguvad].
Studies in the ethnography of communication afford a necessary ground for empirical testing of the adequacy beyond our own society, or some portion of it, of logical and intuitive analyses of types of act, such as promising, of conversational assumptions, and the like. In turn, ethnography cannot but benefit from additional precision of concepts for etic and typological purposes.
A similar relationship holds with work in pralinguistics, kinesics, and other aspects of codes circumjacent to language in communication. Ethnographic and comparative studies in the context of communication are needed to extend the etic frameworks, and to ascertain emic relevance amidst the welath of data that even a few minutes of observation can supply. In turn, these investigations are needed to delimit the place and interrelations of modalities, spoken language being but one, in the communicative hierarchy of a community, and as a basis for interpreting the evolution of communication. (Hymes 1977: 27)
If only I understood the emic/etic distinction.


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