Third person interpretation and the sociolinguistics of verbal communication
This thesis is addressed to analysts of talk in social scenes. Its principal aim is to develop a framework for systematically investigating third person interpretations of what communicates and what is communicated in the data products of everyday verbal exchange. The programme of research that is designed to meet this aim is based on analytic and descriptive techniques adopted from a wide range of disciplines concerned with the study of verbal communication, and particularly those associated with the work of John Gumperz (1982a; 1982b). By focussing on the nature of third person descriptions of what goes on and who is involved in various tape recorded products of talk, the research seeks to explore the nature of members' interpretive resources for recovering and warranting communicative norms that are not normally verbalised as talk is in progress. The investigative method developed for this purpose provides professional observers with an empirical means of citing evidence in support of their own analytic claims about what participants are doing in talk. It also provides an enabling device for generating and testing hypotheses about the communicative salience of different sociolinguistic factors, much as Gumperz (1982a) suggests. On the basis of the work presented, it is argued that whatever the disciplinary motivation of the analyst or the sociolinguistic contexts in which talk occurs third person interpretive methods offer a powerful descriptive tool. The research potential of this tool is evaluated in terms of its utility for not only investigating the interpretive resources of different individuals within a specific culture, but also for developing culturally sensitive theories of communicative language use in general.