Comparing language use in social interaction

Comparing the way languages are used in social interaction is possible because of a common infrastructure: generic systems of conversational organization that are the same everywhere for regulating turns and actions (Schegloff 2006). What differs across languages and cultures are the specific resources and practices for implementing these systems, their ‘local inflections’ (Sidnell 2007). Yet linguists who wish to pursue language comparison within an interactional linguistic framework (Couper-Kuhlen/Selting, In press) inevitably face difficult questions: What counts as the ‘same’ formal category across languages? When can commensurate forms be said to implement the ‘same’ action?

My talk will present two case studies that cast light on such questions. The first is a form-based investigation into a clause combination of the sort You do X and I’ll do Y in English and Finnish (Couper-Kuhlen/Etelämäki 2014, 2017). The second is an action-based investigation of Finnish and English practices for resisting imperative directives (Etelämäki/Couper-Kuhlen 2017). These case studies reveal not only different resources in different languages but also different practices with similar resources for managing the same tasks in interaction.


Couper-Kuhlen, E./M. Etelämäki (2014). On divisions of labor in request and offer environments. Requesting in Social Interaction, eds. P. Drew and E. Couper-Kuhlen. Amsterdam, Benjamins: 115-144.

Couper-Kuhlen, E./M. Etelämäki (2017). Linking Clauses for Linking Actions: Transforming requests and offers into joint ventures. Linking Clauses and Actions in Social Interaction, eds. R. Laury, M. Etelämäki and E. Couper-Kuhlen. Helsinki, Finnish Literature Society SKS: 176-200.

Couper-Kuhlen, E./M. Selting (In press). Interactional Linguistics: Studying language in social interaction. Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press.

Etelämäki, M./E. Couper-Kuhlen (2017). In the face of resistance: A Finnish practice for insisting on imperatively formatted directives. In: Imperative Turns at Talk, eds. M.-L. Sorjonen, L. Raevaara and E. Couper-Kuhlen. Amsterdam, Benjamins: 215-240.

Schegloff, E. A. (2006). Interaction: The infrastructure for social institutions, the natural ecological niche for language, and the arena in which culture is enacted. Roots of Human Sociality, eds. N. J. Enfield and S. C. Levinson. Oxford, Berg: 70-96.

Sidnell, J. (2007). Comparative studies in Conversation Analysis. Annual Review of Anthropology 36(1): 229-244.

Mapping the discourse functions of focus adverbs: Italian in a comparative perspective


Focus adverbs (E. focus particles or modifiers), such as It. anche, solo, proprio etc., have been defined as an autonomous category only in the last 40 years. While most studies describe these forms in a single language, mainly by considering their semantic and syntactic properties, recent works take into account more than one language (or different language varieties) and consider other properties of these adverbs. Over the last two decades, the pragmatic properties of focus adverbs have been under increasing scrutiny as well, and new lines of research on these forms have emerged (cf. De Cesare 2015).

In this talk, I will start by providing a general characterization (valid cross-linguistically) of the class of focus adverbs. In a second step, I present a new parameter to analyze the discourse properties of focus adverbs, namely the availability of the alternatives to the so-called domain of association of the adverb in the discourse co- and context (cf. Andorno & De Cesare 2017). Finally, I highlight some relevant differences that this parameter allows uncovering on the discourse values of additive focus adverbs both across languages (It. anche, Fr. aussi, E. also) and within the same language, but in different standards (pure in Italian used in Italy and in Switzerland). One of the main conclusions is that the discourse values of It. anche, Fr. aussi etc. ought to be taken into account when modeling their instructional meaning.


Andorno, Cecilia Maria & Anna-Maria De Cesare 2017. “Mapping additivity through translation: From French aussi to Italian anche and back in the Europarl-direct corpus”. In A.-M. De Cesare, C. Andorno (eds.). Focus on Additivity. Adverbial Modifiers in Romance, Germanic and Slavic Languages, Amsterdam-Philadelphia, Benjamins, 157-200.

De Cesare, Anna-Maria 2015. “Defining Focusing Modifiers in a cross-linguistic perspective. A discussion based on English, German, French and Italian”. In K. Pittner, D. Elsner, and F. Barteld (eds.), Adverbs – Functional and Diachronic Aspects, Amsterdam-Philadelphia, Benjamins, 47-81.

De Cesare, Anna-Maria 2017. “Per un altro tassello dell’italiano come lingua (debolmente) bicentrica: l’uso di pure e neppure nell’italiano giornalistico d’Italia e della Svizzera italiana”. In B. Moretti, E. M. Pandolfi & M. Casoni (eds.), Linguisti in contatto 2. Ricerche di linguistica italiana in Svizzera, Bellinzona, Osservatorio linguistico della Svizzera italiana, 146-159.

Gesprächswörter von ach bis oh und ihre dialogpragmatischen Funktionen.

Erkundungen aus historischer, sprachenvergleichend-interkultureller und sprachdidaktischer Perspektive

Gesprächswörter sind Wörter, die als Gesprächsstrukturpartikeln der Organisation und Gliederung gesprochener Sprache im Gespräch dienen und besondere gesprächsfunktionale Aufgaben erfüllen. Der Umstand, dass Gesprächswort und Dialogstrukturpartikel Termini der Sprachwissenschaft des 20. Jahrhunderts sind, weist darauf hin, dass erst die linguistische Erforschung der gesprochenen Sprache und die linguistische Gesprächsforschung die dialogpragmatischen Funktionen dieser lexikalischen Einheiten systematisch in den Blick genommen haben. beschrieben haben. Ein Blick in historische Grammatiken zeigt jedoch rasch, dass auch der Sprachforschung früherer Jahrhunderte Gesprächswörter durchaus bekannt waren und zum Teil bereits mit kontrastiver und kommunikativ-pragmatischer Weitsicht in Wörterbüchern und Grammatiken beschrieben wurden, und zwar auch aus sprachdidaktischer Perspektive. Der aktuellen Erst- Zweit- und Fremdsprachendidaktik verschiedener Sprachen scheinen Gesprächswörter hingegen weniger bedeutsam zu sein; der linguistische und sprachdidaktische Forschungsstand ist ebenso überschaubar wie das Angebot an wissenschaftlich fundierten Lehr-Lern-Materialien.

Vor diesem Hintergrund widmet sich der Vortrag einer Erkundung von Ansätzen, Methoden und Ergebnisse der Erforschung von Gesprächswörtern aus historischer, sprachvergleichend-interkultureller und sprachdidaktischer Sicht. Am Beispiel von Gesprächswörtern wie ei, ey, hey, hé und anderen sollen dialogpragmatische Funktionen beschrieben und Ansätze zu ihrem Erwerb im Rahmen einer systematischen Wortschatzarbeit diskutiert werden.


Hallsteinsdóttir, Erla/Baunsgaard Koll, Philipp/Müller, Katarina Le/Kilian, Jörg: Typisch deutsch – typisch dänisch? SMiK-Unterrichtsmaterialien zur Bewusstmachung von nationalen Stereotypen. Odense: SMiK-Projekt. Volltext unter

Kilian, Jörg: "Man spricht hier in Meißen oft: Je nu!" Historische Gesprächswörter vom 17. - 21. Jahrhundert, in: Gabriele Leupold/Eveline Passet (Hrsg.): Im Bergwerk der Sprache. Eine Geschichte des Deutschen in Episoden. Göttingen 2012, 102-123.

Kilian, Jörg: „Was ist tja?“ – Lexikologische und DaF-/DaZ-didaktische Erkundungen zum Gesprächswort, in: Deutsch als Zweitsprache 2006, Heft 3, 41-47.


Approaching discursive cultures through words and through silence.

A study in Cross-Cultural Discourse Analysis

This presentation deals with how to bring about knowledge about discursive cultures within the theoretical and methodological framework of Cross-Cultural Discourse Analysis (CCDA), in the tradition of French Discourse Analysis (von Münchow 2009 [2004]). “Discursive cultures” can be defined by means of social representations that are circulating within communities concerning social objects, on the one hand, and the discourse to be held about these objects on the other hand (that is, what must, can, cannot and need not be said about them and how it can and cannot be said). The methodology consists in inferring hypotheses on social representations from the analysis of data belonging to a specific discourse genre. On the one hand, this can be achieved by concentrating on traces of discursive operations drawing on translingual categories such as social agency as expressed by syntax (van Leeuwen 2008), nomination, caracterization, reported speech, etc. On the other hand, what remains unsaid needs to be unveiled by analytical strategies such as the search for intratextual incoherences and, of course, comparison between data sets. It is indeed particularly important to detect those silences, as they are an essential tool for the discovery of what is either so widely agreed upon within a community that it does not need to be said or so unacceptable that it cannot be said (Orlandi 1996 [1994]). CCDA will be illustrated by means of a recent study about the way French and German history textbooks deal with National Socialism and Word War II. The analysis aims at showing which representations of the Third Reich and of the war the textbooks convey and what kind of relationship the authors construct between the students and the era, as a historical object on the one hand, and as a learning item, on the other hand.


van Leeuwen, T. (2008): Discourse and Practice. New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis, Oxford, Oxford University Press

von Münchow, P. (2009 [2004]): Les journaux télévisés français et allemands. Plaisir de voir ou devoir de s’informer, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle

Orlandi, E. (1996 [1994]): Les formes du silence. Dans le mouvement du sens, Paris, Editions des Cendres


Cyberpragmatics of interactions through locative media

Cyberpragmatics (Yus 2011) addresses the role that interfaces play in the quality of the user’s interpretation and the (un)successful outcome of Internet-mediated communication. In more recent research, the terms contextual constraint and non-intended non-propositional effect have been proposed (e.g. Yus 2017), in order to account for the fact that, very often, the positive or negative outcome of virtual interactions is influenced by a number of constraints and by effects that are devoid of propositional quality. In this lecture I will apply cyberpragmatics and these new terms to interactions that are managed by locative media (e.g. certain apps), showing how mutuality of information, intended interpretations and the eventual sources of communicative satisfaction are intertwined in the interplay of the user’s physical and virtual location.


Yus, F. (2011) Cyberpragmatics. Internet-mediated communication in context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Yus, F. (2017) “Contextual constraints and non-propositional effects in WhatsApp communication.” Journal of Pragmatics 114: 66-86.