Ochs, Elinor. 2006. “Narrative Lessons.”

Chapter 2 – Johnstone 1/26/2015

Linguistic Relativity (Sapir Whorf hypothesis) – language you speak can influence how you think; emphasis on grammatical categories

^Chomsky – reactionary linguistics (okay politics, but eek, linguistics) – competence (knowledge of grammar in head) vs. performance (speech) – anything that is on the performance side is not within the field of linguistics – people are seemingly “born” with competence – however, within this class, we will address more of the performance aspects of language

Discourse analysis, on the other hand, is more interested on how people use language to influence thought. Ex. Metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson 1983)

Robin Lakoff – linguistic relativity and gender – (1975) – Language and Woman’s Place  – androcentric use of language (the generic “he” of policemen, chairman, etc.) –

Use of passive voice (raped, gay-bashed) often removes agent. Manipulation of grammar can ultimately change treatment of people, or have implications to real-world consequence (convictions, etc.)

Language ideology – set of beliefs about language as a set of indexical meanings within a society – each linguistic variety has features that point to larger beliefs and contexts  – how the different variables within a language can relate to the ‘understood’ meanings/stereotypes about usage (and people who use)  – example – indirection = insecurity ; silencing (within a conversation vs. prohibition of any speech through fear or intimidation) – overlap as interruption and change of conversation, or as an overlap as continuation (as gendered)

“shitwork” of conversation – making sure that conversation continues (women often promote conversation, bear more conversational effort)on usion  of

Ochs, Elinor. 2006. “ Narrative Lessons.”

Narratives as cognitive, social, organization, and discourse-creating activity. “As a social activity, narratives of personal experience the world over tend to be dialogic, co-told, and even co-authored by those who engaged in the social action at hand”  (Goodwin 1984, here 269). Narratives as evoking sequence of events, despite sequence happening in a context of temporally-co-occuring events – how people sequence their events lends insight to how ‘affordances’  or how humans construct a point of causality (kx^). Where people cast narratives are often based around unusual events and methods of coping with that disorder. Yet, people will sometimes hold back contextual information for ‘dramatic effect’  or ‘slow disclosure’, or because they themselves do not understand experience’s contextuality, or seek to obscure these points. “Narratives of personal experience are organized in terms of human time, wherein the experienced present is tied to a remembered past, an anticipated future, and/or an imagined moment”  – resonating with imagination, memory, experience as it subjectively relates to objectively measured time (273). Interlocuters may work in hypotheticals, imagined futures, or remembered pasts, to negotiate present interactions. Narrative practice of co-authoring may work to discredit or question the veracity of the original narrative form (creating sequence of events). “Narratives ‘domesticate unexpected life events by providing cultural schemata for interpreting them”  (Bruner 2002, here 278).

Narratives of personal experience can be analyzed based on Tellership (extent of participation of co-authors), Tellability (Significance and impact of told narrative), Embeddedness (relationship of narrative to surrounding discourse and social activity), Linearity (how the narrative events are sequenced), and Moral Stance (constancy or address of events to goodness and order)

“Personal narrative becomes a way to reflect back on experience and give it autobiographical shape. Narrating personal experience allows us to reconcile how we (and others) behaved in the past and how we project ourselves (and others) in an asyet- unrealized future with current self-understandings. That is, narrating experiences is a way of fashioning a sense of continuity of self”  (285).

Bruner, J. 2002. Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

Goodwin, C. 1984. “Notes on Story Structure and the Organization of Participation.” In J.M. Atkinson and J. Heritage, eds. Structures of Social Action pp. 225-246. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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