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Review: Communicating Conflict: Multilingual Case Studies of the News Media

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EDITORS: Thomson, Elizabeth; White, Peter R.R.
TITLE: Communicating Conflict
SUBTITLE: Multilingual Case Studies of the News Media
PUBLISHER: Continuum
YEAR: 2008

Laura Filardo Llamas, Department of English, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain

This book consists of eleven chapters, in all of which two aspects are covered,
namely the portrayal by the media – particularly journalism – of some kind of
conflict – either physical or political -, and the use of the appraisal
framework as the point of departure for the analysis (Martin 2000, White 2002,
Martin & White 2005). These similarities are closely connected to the objective
of the book, which can be summarized as an analysis of ‘objectivity’ in hard
news stories across cultures.

Given that all the chapters collected in the book depart from the same
theoretical framework, the key aspects of appraisal theory are explained in
White & Thomson’s chapter, ”the News Story as Rhetoric”, which opens the
collection. The notion of objectivity and the hard news report genre are defined
by relying on previous studies about the structure of news items in English
(Iedema 1997; White 2000). This covers two main aspects of news stories, namely
evaluation and means through which this can be transmitted, and textual
structure and its connection to evaluation.

Half of the chapters in the book are not only methodologically but also
thematically connected. That is the case of chapters 2, 3,4, 5 and 7, which deal
with different representations of the Iraq conflict. In particular, in almost
all of them – except chapter 3 – we have an analysis of evaluation about the
handover of power by the Americans to the provisional Iraqi government in June
2004. In chapter 3, the analysis of evaluation is also related to the Iraq war,
but it is focused on the scandal about the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Cafferel and Rechniewski’s chapter is the first one dealing with the Iraq war,
and it covers the analysis of three articles from the French press. The main
objective is to see how the government handover was ”presented in very different
ways in the world’s media, according to the legitimacy assigned to the war and
the subsequent American occupation” (25). In order to do so, they rely on three
features of the text: appraisal, attribution and transitivity. Their results
show the importance of doing this type of analysis as a means of uncovering
ideological position, which, as the authors show, can be uncovered in hard news
even if one of their features is their claimed ”impartiality”.

The notion of ‘objectivity’ reappears in Hong Van and Thomson’s chapter, where
they investigate how opinion can be conveyed by indirectly invoking the ‘voices’
of other authoritative sources. For this reason they analyze a Vietnamese online
article published in the _Nhan Dan Daily_. Context proves to be important once
again, as Vietnamese anti-Americanism seems to underlie the hard news story,
something which can be explained by relying on Van Dijk’s description of ‘group
knowledge’ (2005: 78). One interesting aspect brought up by this article is the,
at least apparent, different patterns of evaluation used by ‘reporter voice’
(Martin & White 2005) in Vietnamese and English.

In chapter 4, Thomson, Fukui and White do not only rely on the appraisal
framework to analyze evaluation of the handover of power in Iraq in two Japanese
newspapers, but they combine it with Generic Structure Potential analysis (Hasan
1996). The importance of structure is justified by the textual organization of
editorials in Japanese. This is motivated by the ‘three readings’ practice,
which allows readers to choose between three reading options ranging from
skimming the headlines to reading the whole of the article. These authors show
that even if there is a similar structure and the ‘reporter voice’ is employed
in each of the analyzed articles, there is a difference in how evaluation is
transmitted, mainly because of the employment of a different ‘engagement
strategy’ in each of them.

The same context – portrayal of the handover of Iraqi sovereignty by the
Japanese press – appears in Sano’s chapter, whose objective is to examine the
commonalities in the persuasive strategies that are used in four Japanese
editorials. In order to do so, three main aspects are looked at: textual
organization, semantics, and evaluative expressions. The results show that the
four writers advocate their ideological positions by following the same textual
structure, which includes three obligatory elements: inducement, empathetic
construction, and position. These are consistent with the three readings that
can be made of any Japanese editorial, and they are characterized by a prosodic
shift among them. This study completes the previous one by incorporating the
idea of ‘homologization’ which the author uses to explain how the authors deal
with conflict, and how they try to maintain the co-existence of different
members of a culture within one single textual practice.

There is a contextual shift in chapter 6, where McDonald analyzes the use of
scare quotes to see how the issue of Taiwan is treated in the _China Daily_.
According to this author, scare quotes are one of the rhetorical weapons used by
Mainland Chinese media to delegitimize Taiwan’s existence as an independent
entity. Thus, through the reiteration of certain verbal formulae – particularly
the use of a highly evaluative headline, the appearance of a historical mode,
and the use of morality to support China’s legitimate claims and Taiwan’s
illegitimate ones – symbolic control is reiterated, and a self- contained
rhetorical universe characterized by the triumph of the good is obtained.

The handover of power in Iraq reappears in chapter 7, where Lukin analyzes how
this event is treated in a Spanish newspaper and an Argentinean one. To do this,
she departs from the Systemic Functional Grammar notion of ‘tenor’ (Halliday &
Hasan 1985)., and, accordingly, similarities and differences between the two
news pieces are explained by relying on the kind of situation in which they are
produced and the kind of reporting which they instantiate. Thus, the author
argues that variation between the two texts is explained if three contextual
parameters – tenor, field and mode – are taken into account. Besides, she
considers that the analysis of journalistic voices can be improved by taking
into account registral variation and its connection to social contexts.

Knox and Patpong’s objective in chapter 8 is to analyze how the same event is
constructed in different languages and from different ideological positions.
They focus on a conflict between Thai protesters and Thai armed forces in
southern Thailand, and they compare two online articles – one in Thai and one in
English – by looking at their rhetorical structure and the means that are used
to spread evaluation. The results show that different rhetorical structures are
used and that they can be used as different means for evaluating events.
Besides, those different ideological structures are combined with diverse uses
of the same appraisal resources; something which can be connected to the
transmission of the ideological position of the publishing institution. It shall
be noted that one of the key aspects argued in this article is that using
certain linguistic tools allow us to ”systematically describe the means by which
institutional authors can reconstrue events” (198) as part of a subjective and
social process. In chapter 9, Kitley looks at the construction of the
kidnapping of journalist Ersa Siregar in Indonesia, and he departs from the
hypothesis that ”much of what we see or read in the mass media about military
conflict is a highly managed version of events” (204). For that reason, he looks
at the language used in headlines published between July and December 2003, and
he finds that frequently a ‘middle voice’ – i.e. one which distances the
national Indonesian forces from any negative action – is employed to portray
things as a state of affairs. Besides, he analyzes how this middle voice can be
combined with the typical structure of hard news stories as a strategy for
journalists to survive under circumstances which ”are stacked against their
professional practice” (223).

In chapter 10, Hoglund analyzes how evaluation can be transmitted through
language choices in news reporting, and he focuses on the political conflict
created after the appointment of a new chief executive officer in the only
Swedish-language newspaper in Finland. He studies attitudinal evaluation through
monoglossic (with only the reporter voice) and heteroglossic (with more than one
voice) utterances in three articles. It shows that evaluation is transmitted
through the combination of the reporter voices – intravocalized manifestation –
and the interviewees’ voices – extravocalized explicit quotes. In that way, the
reporter may subscribe to a given opinion, which is emphasized with the help of
headlines and structural organization.

The focus of the final chapter is not so much on the language used, but on the
transmission of evaluation through naturalistic photos. Economou looks at how
the photos that accompany daily hard news stories are ‘re-instantiated’ (Martin
2006) in new review feature stories. All the photos are about the issue of
asylum-seekers, and the author compares how this topic is treated in Australian
and Greek broadsheets. To fulfill the objective, she adapts the appraisal
framework to the analysis of photos and identifies two types of visual voices
(or visual keys) (257): Visual record key – for photos with a strong ideational
profile -, and visual interpretation key – for those with a higher evaluative
profile. The author finds differences in the uses of photos in both contexts. In
Australian texts, photos recall the commercial film genre and they interact with
the headline, which results in a distancing effect from the reality that is
represented. On the contrary, in Greek texts, the photos try to tell a story and
create some kind of empathy and emotional involvement between the reader and the
local reality represented.

This book is a good resource for researchers dealing with newspaper journalism,
and the existing differences and similarities between reporting in different
cultures and languages. That is closely connected to one of the main of
objectives of this collection of essays, which mainly focus on the analysis of
reporter-voice – and hard news textual organization – as a means of advancing a
particular value position while at the same time backgrounding the writer’s
attitudinal role. It is for this reason that one of the key positive aspects of
this book is that it can be considered an introductory research to the area of
comparative analysis of news reporting across cultures. Nevertheless, the
organization of the book – and therefore that comparative aspect – would have
probably improved if the editors had included a final summary chapter reviewing
the different kinds of variation among the attitudinal arrangements at work in
journalistic cultures, and how that could lead onto further research.

In terms of thematic and content organization, there are some positive aspects
that need to be mentioned. All the articles in the book follow the same
theoretical framework – appraisal framework in combination with Systemic
Functional Grammar. This allows the reader to follow all the analyses without
having to consider – and shift between – different theoretical approaches to the
analysis of discourse, and at the same time it increases the book cohesion.
Additionally, the book also follows one thematic line, as all the chapters
included in it deal with some kind of ‘conflict’; something which increases its
value as a resource for the study of evaluation in news items.

As we can infer from reading this book, one of the main advantages of the
appraisal framework is that it provides a tool for the analysis of evaluation in
a situation in which finding the linguistic tools through which it can be
transmitted is essential, given that most journalists and / or reporters claim
to be ‘objective’ (Iedema et al., 1994). However, it could be argued that one of
the drawbacks of this type of analysis is connected to the notion of context, as
explained in Van Dijk (2005). Most, if not all, of the articles included in this
book contextualize the analysis that are carried in them, in relation to the
place in which they are produced (France, Vietnam, Japan, etc), and/or in
relation to the situation that is being portrayed (Iraq, Taiwan, Finland, etc).
Nevertheless, in some of the articles the contextual information is not
considered at the time of trying to explain how the reporter voice is used
within each given situation, even if it could be inferred from the
contextualization sections. It is for this reason that when reading this book,
one could slightly miss the connection between the findings about the use of the
reporter voice in each given situation and the complex set of beliefs and
portrayal of the social worlds that are held not only within the actual location
in which the text is produced, but also within the newspaper in which it is
published. This is a necessary aspect when looking at discourse across cultures
which could be more comprehensively explained by incorporating within the
appraisal framework some of the notions of Critical Discourse Analysis
(Fairclough,1989), including the connection between discourse, the evaluation
transmitted by it, and its possible effects in given social practices. This is
even more necessary if we consider that all the analyzed discourses are related
to some notion of ‘conflict’, and that conflict can be, at least partly,
considered the outcome of (the representation of) different world views.

Cloran, Carmel, David Butt & Geoff Williams (1996) _Ways of Saying, Ways of
Meaning_. London: Cassell.

Fairclough, Norman (1989) _Language and Power_. London: Longman

Halliday, M.A.K. & Ruqaiya Hasan (1985) _Language, Context and Text: Aspects of
Language in a Social-Semiotic Perspective_. Victoria: Deakin University.

Hasan, Ruqaiya (1996) The Nursery Tale as Genre. In Cloran, Butt & Williams
(1996), 51-72.

Hunston, S. & G. Thompson, eds (2000). _Evaluation in text. Authorial Stance and
the Construction of Discourse_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Iedema, Rick (1997) The History of the Ancient News Story, Australian Review of
Applied Linguistics 20.2: 95-119.

Iedema, Rick, S. Feez & P.R.R. White (1994). _Media Literacy_. Sydney:
Disadvantaged Schools Program, NSW Department of School Education

Martin, J. R. (2000). Beyond Exchange: Appraisal Systems in English. In Hunston
& Thompson (2000), 142-175.

Martin, J.R (2006). Genre, Ideology and Intertextuality: A Systemic Functional
Perspective. _Linguistics and the Human Sciences Journal_ 2.2, 275-298.

Martin, J.R. & P.R.R. White (2005). _The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in
English_. London & New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.

Van Dijk, Teun A. (2005) Contextual Knowledge Management in Discourse
Production: A CDA Perspective. In Wodak & Chilton (2005), 71-100.

Ventola, Elija, ed. (2000) _Discourse and Community: Doing Functional
Linguistics_. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.

Verschueren, J., J. Östman, J. Blommaert, & C. Bulcaen, eds. (2002). _The
Handbook of Pragmatics_. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

White, P.R.R. (2000) Media Objectivity and the Rhetoric of News Story Structure.
In Ventola (2000), 379-397.

White, P.R.R. (2002). Appraisal: The Language of Evaluation and Stance. In
Verschueren et al. (2002), 1-23.

Wodak, Ruth & Paul Chilton (2005). _A New Agenda in (Critical) Discourse
Analysis_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Laura Filardo-Llamas is a lecturer of English at the University of Valladolid,
Spain. Her main area of research is political discourse analysis, in particular
from a linguistic perspective. She applied both topics in her PhD thesis,
entitled _Language and Legitimisation. Political Discourse Analysis in Northern
Ireland after the Agreement. 1998-2004._ About these topics, she has published
in Ethnopolitics and Peace and Conflict Studies.

Review: Emotion in Interaction

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AUTHOR: Anssi Peräkylä
AUTHOR: Marja-Leena Sorjonen
TITLE: Emotion in Interaction
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Jose Ignacio Aguilar Río, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III


“Emotion in Interaction” presents eleven original studies of emotion display
in natural contexts where oral interaction episodes occur. The focus is on a)
the (non-)verbal and (non-)vocal means to construct, express, and manage
emotional stance; b) how emotion and action intertwine in interaction; and c)
the role of emotions in institutional interaction. Emotion is ultimately
characterized as a pervasive, multimodal, social phenomenon that is
constructed in social action.

In the introductory chapter, the editors state the aim is to observe how
emotion is expressed, made observable and “publicly accessible” (p. 5), and
“responsible to interactional context” (p. 4). The focus is on the various
“emotional resources” (p. 6) available to the interactants — (non-)verbal and
(non-)vocal. Emotion is depicted as a multimodal social phenomenon.
Interactants combine multiple resources in order to index emotion — body,
facial expressions, gaze, gesture, hand movement, head movement, posture,
among others. The editors are agnostic as to the possibility of elucidating
any causal links between action and emotion. Four research questions are
announced: a) How do emotional stances come to be expressed (non-)verbally,
(non-)vocally during social interaction? b) How does this expression
participate in the construction of action sequences? c) How is emotion
regulated, managed in institutional contexts? d) How does the study of emotion
display contribute to the development of language and social theories? Chapter
1 concludes with an outline of the contributions.

Chapter 2, by Marjorie Harness Goodwin, Asta Cekaite, Charles Goodwin, and Eve
Tulbert, is entitled “Emotion as stance”. The authors depict “emotion display
[as] situated practice” (p. 16). In order to make emotion recognizable by
other fellow interactants, individuals utilize their face and body, as well as
vocal means, such as prosody. Studies on face use for emotion display are
reviewed. The authors claim that this literature has isolated the face from
the rest of the ecology of individuals participating in social interaction.
They aim at integrating these observable data — the face, the body, and vocal
means — into one complex framework that informs about emotion display. They
achieve this by presenting interaction transcripts that combine Praat voice
measurements, discourse, and kinetic depictions. The scope of emotion analysis
is thus limited to what is directly observable, which suits the definition of
emotion as a “public form of action” (p. 17). The data presented come from
videotaped observations of four girls’ lunchtime break at school. The thorough
and complex transcripts effectively integrate the various sources of
information claimed by the authors to give insight into the study of emotion

In chapter 3, “Distress in adult-child interaction”, Anthony J. Wootton
distinguishes “display of emotion and talk about it” (p. 42) as two separate
phenomena, which has profound epistemological and methodological implications.
The author focuses on “breaches of expectations” (p. 43) of a 3 year-old girl
— the author’s daughter. The author refers to such breaches as “distress”,
which is expressed by crying. Two sets of data are presented. The first
comprises videotaped observations of the author’s family’s routine household
situations. The second presents an autistic child’s classroom situation, and
expands on the study of the link between breached expectations and distress
expression. Wootton aims for a “functional analysis of emotion” (p. 58), which
allows him to “identify practices involved in composition of emotional
displays” (p. 60).

Chapter 4, “Facial expression and interactional regulation of emotion”, is by
Anssi Peräkylä and Johanna Ruusuvuori. Quoting Ekman (2009), the authors
analyse the use of the face to communicate information at closures of tellings
in dyads’ interaction. The authors focus on the observed participants’
“interactional regulation”, rather than on their “emotional regulation”. The
idea here is that the participants’ actions “influence each other’s emotions
in situ” (p. 65). The authors identify how the observed individuals having the
floor accomplished “facial pursuit[s]” when confronted with the recipient’s
“delayed responses at closures of tellings” (p. 66).

Douglas W. Maynard and Jeremy Freese are the authors of chapter 5, “Good news,
bad news and affect: Practical and temporal ‘emotion work’ in everyday life”.
The authors’ research paradigm is social constructivism. Emotions are depicted
as conventional phenomena, rather than the result of biology or determinism.
The focus is on the display of emotions. The authors are agnostic as regards
emotions as “internal accompaniments” (p. 94). The object of research is
prosody. Specific prosodic features are associated with different types of
tellings. However, no deterministic relations may be established between
prosody and meaning. The prosodic features of the interlocutor who holds the
floor are describe as elements that help other fellow interactants assess the
valence that the latter attribute to their experience as local participants in
a social episode. “Prosodic devices” are said to be “highly multifunctional”,
interlocutors use them to accomplish “systematic relationships with lexical,
sequential, situational information” (p. 99). Ultimately, the authors deny any
systematic correlations of prosody and emotional display.

Chapter 6, by Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen, is “Exploring affiliation in the
reception of conversational complaint stories”. The object of study is “the
recipient’s task in storytelling” (p. 115). Stivers’ (2008) distinction
between “alignment” and “affiliation” is invoked. Affiliation indicates
understanding, not quite a cognitive achievement, but a recipient’s display of
an empathic attitude towards the teller. As regards “response cries” (Goffman,
1981), it is hard to determine whether those produced by the story recipients
indicate their affiliation. Response cries are described as emotional display
tokens that need more definite lexical elements if they are to be linked with
whatever observable actions the individuals are seen to perform. The same
applies to other non-verbal pseudo-affiliative tokens, such as head nods,
which the author describes as “insufficient affiliative markers” (p. 142).

Chapter 7, by Auli Hakulinen and Marja-Leena Sorjonen, is “Being equivocal:
Affective responses left unspecified”. This chapter focuses on the expression
of affect. The approach can be described as lexical, insofar as the authors
analyse the functions of the Finnish response cry token “Voi etta” (p. 159).
The authors conclude that this token allows story recipients to express an
implicit affective stance, thus orienting to a certain ambivalence of the
affective character of prior talk.

Markku Haakana’s chapter is “Laughter in conversation: The case of ‘fake’
laughter”. A reference to Jefferson’s (1987) transcripts of laughter opens the
chapter. The multimodal character of laughter is emphasized. There is much
more to laughter than “symbolic conventionalized forms of laughter” such as
“hu” or “he” (p. 175). The concept of “fake laughter” – that which is not a
spontaneous response to a previous action – is divided into “forced” and
“lexicalized” laughter. “Forced laughter” is that which sounds real yet is
delivered in an explicitly unnatural manner. “Lexicalized laughter” is that
which is delivered as distinct, lexical units, such as “hu” or “he”. The focus
is on the latter. The analysis of 20 hours of telephone conversation suggests
that fake lexicalized laughter “signal[s] various affective stances”, as it is
deployed in “slots in which real laughter could occur” (p. 184). Fake
lexicalized laughter appears as a practice among young male adults — however,
the corpus of data is insufficiently large to draw sociolinguistic
conclusions. Future research should help to identify other fake affect display

Chapter 9, by Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter, is “Crying and crying
responses”. The object of research is emotion, that is, as an observable and
communicable object. Psychological approaches to emotion are ruled out. Crying
is understood, not quite as a feeling, but as a stance that may be locally
made recognizable. The data present telephone conversations from a Child
Protection helpline in the UK. Somewhat echoing Jefferson’s (1987) focus on
laughter, the authors try to determine the features of crying, as well as
define a transcription procedure that allows them to capture its multimodal
complexity. The focus is also on the recipients’ response(s) to crying, both
in mundane and institutional settings. The authors conclude that the
recipients may show both sympathetic and empathetic attitudes to crying.

Chapter 10, by Christian Heath, Dirk vom Lehn, Jason Cleverly, and Paul Luff,
is “Revealing surprise: The local ecology and the transposition of action”.
Emotion expression can be both occasioned by and sensitive to the local
circumstances of the context at hand. The focus is on “surprise as an emotion”
(p. 212). Surprise is both constituted by and constitutive of whatever objects
and/or events inhabit the ecology of those participating in a social episode.
The authors choose museums as the (institutional) context. The data comprise
videotaped observations of various museums in Britain, where visitors react to
the exhibited works. Surprise is always supported by a secondary emotion
(disgust, horror, humour, curiosity). The display of surprise has the double
function to “appreciate and encourage further inquiry” (p. 218), and to ask an
interlocutor to align with felt emotion (p. 232).

Liisa Voutilainen is the author of chapter 11, “Responding to emotion in
cognitive psychotherapy”. The data come from 57 audio-recorded cognitive
therapy sessions, made during a patient’s two-year long therapy. The focus is
on the “[therapist’s] responses that function as empathic” (p. 235). The data
show instances where the patient’s disclosure of her feelings is addressed by
the therapist, who displays actions that resemble “affiliating responses to
trouble telling/complaints” (p. 236). Such affiliation may however not be
associated with that of non-institutional contexts. The therapist’s
affiliative responses aim at interpreting/challenging her patient’s beliefs.
The institutional objective seems thus maintained.

Chapter 12, by John Heritage and Anna Lindström, is “Knowledge, empathy and
emotion in a medical encounter”. The focus is on the expression of emotion by
a nurse during an institutional medical encounter. The patient’s “disclosure
of anxiety and depression” (p. 257) is responded to with personal disclosure
by the medical professional. The latter’s responses are described as attempts
to display an empathetic attitude towards the former. The data come from
“self-administered audio-tape recording” (p. 258) by the medical professional.

The final chapter of the book, by co-editor Anssi Peräkylä, is “Epilogue: what
does the study of interaction offer to emotion research?”. The four research
questions laid out in chapter 1 are repeated, as she assesses how the eleven
contributions have answered the questions. Peräkylä states that “no unified
social-psychological theory of emotion” (p. 277) has been accomplished, yet
various conceptualizations of emotional phenomena have been put forth. A
conversation analytical approach, such as the one that unifies the
contributions, does not allow the researchers to study basic emotions, but
blended ones. A conception of emotion such as that of the contributors does
not entail “a reflection of inner states but a multimodal situated practice”
(p. 279). Ultimately, “emotion” and “feeling” are presented as virtual
synonyms, which may become observable as “interactional ‘mechanisms’” (p.
288). Future research should address the question of the universality/cultural
specificity of emotions, as well as the scope of emotions within the
individual’s evolution.

A thorough transcription convention can be found at the end of the volume,
plus a list of references and a useful index.


“Emotion in Interaction” accomplishes the chief objective to “[explore]
emotion in naturally occurring spoken interaction” (p. 3). The attention of
the contributors to the complex unfolding structure of interactions is
extremely detailed, their capacity to scrutinize the data is thorough. The
most impressive highlight is the contributors’ ability to show emotion as a
multimodal phenomenon. The complexity and ingeniousness of certain transcripts
allow the reader to consider specific observable emotional elements from
different angles, and to reintegrate these into a complex, detailed,
multilevel model of emotional expression.

Some flaws may however be pointed out. Throughout the volume this reader kept
wondering what the authors meant by “emotion” and “affect”. As pointed out in
the concluding chapter, “no unified social-psychological theory of emotion”
(p. 277) was aimed for, so none was to be expected. However, it is surprising
to see that no reference be made to the work of Antonio Damasio, whose
research aims partly at the distinction between the many concepts that inhabit
the lexical field of emotion. Damasio (2003), for instance, attempts to
distinguish “affect”, “feeling” and “emotion”, by situating them within public
or private realms of experience. The contributors to “Emotion in Interaction”
claim agnosticism concerning whatever value emotion may have insofar as an
intimate, non-observable, psychological process. This notwithstanding, the
epistemological question concerning the possible ways to study emotion raises
a methodological one: what is emotion, and how can it be accessed, according
to a conversation analytical approach? Other than emotional actions such as
“laughter” (chapter 8), “crying” and “sobbing” (chapter 9), or “tearfulness”
(chapter 3), the volume studies specific emotions, among them “disgust”
(chapter 2), “distress” (chapter 3) and “surprise” (chapter 10). It is unclear
how some of these emotions have come to be named. Conversation analysis takes
an emic approach (ten Have, 1999). As far as categorizing, identifying and
naming emotions in the current volume is concerned, a fairly clear emic
approach can be identified in Goodwin et al.’s chapter — which analyses the
expression of disgust — insofar as one of the children does actually utter
the word “disgusting” (p. 19). This emic approach seems somewhat less clear in
Wootton’s study of the expression of distress by a 3-year-old. In effect,
there are no specific, definite, lexical indications in the transcripts that
suggest that the emotional expression accomplished by the little girl is
precisely “distress”. To what extent is this “distress” the result of a
partial etic approach taken by the author? Is it possible that the author’s
reading of an emotion partly originates from the analyst’s own intuition (ten
Have, 1999) — who happens to be the child’s father?

Another significant absence is that of Anita Pomerantz, whose conversation
analytical works are extensively quoted, but not some of her recent
methodological approaches. Pomerantz (2005) advocates administering videotaped
data to the interlocutors and interaction participants whose discourse is
analysed. This may assist the analyst “to gain access to the thoughts,
feelings, concerns, interpretations, reactions, etc. that were oriented to by
the participants” (ibid., p. 96). This does not quite equate to the critique
made above of Wootton’s auto-analysis practices. In effect, as Pomerantz
suggests (2005, p. 112), having the observed participants become occasional
co-analysts may shed light on unclear events, as well as suggest hints for
further analysis. Such recall practices may have clarified extract 3 in
chapter 10 (p. 223), where one of the interlocutors attending an exhibition
refers to a plastinated foetus as “that little thing that makes you feel so
sick” — this reviewer understood the implicit idea of suffering from nausea
during pregnancy.

These recall procedures would justify the use of “in” in the volume’s title.
The conversation analytical, detached approach to affect, emotion and feeling
taken by the authors does not quite justify the implicit notion that
experience is both inside and outside, as the volume’s title seems to suggest.
Since the authors claim that they understand emotion as “interactional
mechanisms” (p. 288), a more adequate title may have been “Emotion as
Interaction.” The psychological dimension to emotion is certainly not denied
by the authors, but neither is it explicitly taken into account, with the
exception of Wootton, who takes into account interactive practices “which the
[analyzed] child has a basis for treating as having been established in the
recent past” (p. 55). The object of research and the research paradigm seem to
have been somewhat reformulated along the way. Chapter 1 promises an
“exploration of emotion in naturally occurring spoken interaction” (p. 3),
whereas chapter 13 concludes “what does the study of interaction offer to
emotion research?” (p. 274). Indeed, the notion of “experience” retained does
not seem compatible with recall practices, such as those among researchers in
ergonomics (Cahour & Licoppe, 2010), whose chief objective is to study the
intimate point of view of individuals who interact with their fellow
interlocutors and contexts.

Other than the lack of conformity among the authors concerning their
terminological choices of key concepts such as “affect”, “emotion” and
“feeling”, insufficient systematicity is also observed as regards the authors’
methodological choices. For instance, a section concerning the participants,
data production and processing, would have been useful — this is the case
with some chapters, whereas others simply give a brief account in a final
note. Finally, the hints for future
research seem appropriate and promising, especially as regards the universal
or culturally-specific value of emotions. Concerning this point, it may also
be useful to reflect on how representative the data presented may be. In
effect, one could argue that what can be concluded — or incidentally learned
— about studying emotion in naturally occurring interactions in Britain, the
US and Finland, is necessarily limited. This diversity does not seem to allow
for comprehensiveness. However, is this methodologically valid from the point
of view of strict conversation analysis? It may be appropriate to have more
sociolinguistic analytic categories — such as class, or gender – that help
account for a larger representativeness. This of course, presents a major
methodological problem for conversation analysts and researchers who adhere to
membership categorization analysis methods. Yet, if the universality or
cultural specificity of emotions is what the research is about, valid
methodological choices must be found.

“Emotion in Interaction” is a thorough and thought-provoking editorial
accomplishment. It certainly clarifies minutely how action, context, emotion,
experience, individuals and interaction, determine and are determined by one
another, in a way that can be accessed and directly observed by means of
careful analysis. Readership accustomed to conversation analytical methods
will find the volume enlightening and inspiring. Those unfamiliar with this
methodology risk a certain disappointment at the way emotion is studied, and
may be left wanting a more social-behaviourally encompassing approach.


Cahour, B., & Licoppe, C. (2010). Confrontations with traces of one’s own
activity. Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances, Vol 4, 2(2), a-k.

Damasio, A. (2003). Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain.

Ekman, P. (2009). Introduction to the third edition. In C. Darwin, The
Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. (Introduction, afterword and
commentaries by Paul Ekman) (3rd ed., pp. xxi-xxxvi) Oxford: Oxford University

Goffman, E. (1981). Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania

Jefferson, G. (1987). Notes on laughter in the pursuit of intimacy. In G.
Button, & J. R. Lee (Ed.), Talk and Social Organisation (pp. 152-205).
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Pomerantz, A. (2005). Using participants’ video stimulated comments to
complement analyses of interactional practices. In H. T. Molder & J. Potter
(Ed.), Conversation and Cognition (pp. 93-113). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Stivers, T. (2008). Stance, Alignment, and Affiliation During Storytelling:
When Nodding Is a Token of Affiliation. Research on Language & Social
Interaction, 41(1), 31-57.


Jose Ignacio Aguilar Río is a Senior Lecturer at Sorbonne Nouvelle University
in France. He teaches undergraduate and post-graduate courses in education,
applied linguistics and research methodology. His research interests are in
classroom interaction, foreign language teacher education and research
methodology. He has presented papers at international conferences in Europe.
His works have been published in international reviews.

Review: Semiotics of Classical Music (Tarasti)

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AUTHOR: Eero  Tarasti
TITLE: Semiotics of Classical Music
SUBTITLE: How Mozart, Brahms and Wagner Talk to Us
SERIES TITLE: Semiotics, Communication and Cognition [SCC] 10
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Jody L Barnes


This volume, part of De Gruyter Mouton’s series ”Semiotics, Communication and
Cognition,” explores the field of semiotics of music, a field which seems to
have grown in popularity over the years, with a number of texts arriving in
the 1990s, by Tarasti himself, Raymond Monelle, and Jean-Jacques Nattiez,
among others.  In this volume, Tarasti explores at length what he calls
”existential semiotics,” a method of investigation equally indebted to the
existential tradition in philosophy as it is to Greimassian semiotics.  The
text is divided into four parts composed of multiple chapters, as well as two
”postludes” consisting of one chapter each, and features a glossary of
terms, bibliography, and index.

While ostensibly a book on semiotics, the text is primarily
existential-musicological in nature.  That is, while semiotic theory and
practice are a part of Tarasti’s methodology, the overall nature of the text
is that of an existential investigation into specific musical works.  Readers
without a background in the philosophy of Hegel and his followers in the
existentialist tradition will find it hard to navigate the often labyrinthine
development of Tarasti’s approach.  Apart from this, a basic knowledge of the
Peircean and Greimassian traditions of semiotics are sufficient to grasp the
purely semiotic aspect of his arguments.

The Prelude, ”Music – A philosophic-semiotic approach,” briefly introduces
the methodology used, which Tarasti calls ”existential semiotics.” This
approach (introduced in Tarasti 2000) is ”a purely Greimassian, Paris-school
methodology” (p. xi) further elucidated in Chapter 1, ”Introduction to a
Philosophy of Music,” which covers the basic themes of traditional music
philosophy, particularly the ontology of the musical work.  Following this,
Tarasti delves into the existential background to his semiotic theories.  His
semiotics is based upon a long line of existential thought, beginning with
Kant’s concept of the ”in-itself” and developing through the years.  For
linguists, who may not have a background in existential philosophy (and
indeed, many students of philosophy find it hard to grapple with such a
jargon-filled, complex school of thought), a bit of background on the concepts
which influenced Tarasti’s thought are in order.

The first major inspiration for Tarasti is Hegel, who, building upon Kant’s
work, introduced the concepts of ”being-in-itself” (an-sich-sein) and
”being-for-itself (für-sich-sein).  For Hegel, being-in-itself is the
potentiality of a being, as opposed to the being’s actuality, being-for-itself
(Hegel 1977:17).  Being-in-itself, says Tarasti, has ”no overtly
determinational character” (p. 14).  Kierkegaard elaborated on Hegel’s
phenomenology, characterizing the in-itself’s transformation into the
for-itself as the individual ”becoming a sign to himself, that is, the
emergence of his identity” (p. 16).  Further development of these concepts
was provided by Heidegger (1962), who regarded being-in-itself as fully
realized Being, ”that which must already ‘be’ before any other ways in which
being is determined” (Heidegger 1962:124).  The final stage of the historical
development of these concepts is Sartre, who declared being-in-itself as a
strictly non-human Being, with no potentiality for transcendence – a
non-conscious Being, (Sartre 1977:xvi), which, upon becoming an observer
itself, changes into being-for-itself, the Being of consciousness (p. lxv).
This transformation is, strictly speaking, transcendence.

Jacques Fontanille, like Tarasti, was a ”Greimassian semiotician” who was
interested in the concept of transcendence.  Instead of being-in-itself and
being-for-itself, Fontanille was concerned with the Moi and the Soi, two
parallel concepts (Fontanille 2005).  The human body is ”the sensory-motoric
fulcrum of semiotic experience,” which supports the Soi.  However, ”there is
also the ‘body’ that constitutes the identity . . . of the physical, fleshly
body.  This body is the carrier of [the Moi].” In true dialectical fashion,
one cannot exist without the other, as the Moi ”is the part of ourselves to
which the Soi refers when establishing itself. . . . We shall consider
anything belonging to the category of mir/mich (me) to concern the subject as
an individual entity, whereas the concept of sich will be reserved for the
social aspect of the subject” (p. 17). In other words, the former is the Moi,
the latter the Soi.

The Moi and Soi are both contained within what Jacob von Uexküll (1940) calls
the ”Ich-Ton,” (”I-tone”) a concept denoting ”the identity and
individuality of an organism.”  Within the Ich-Ton, the Moi is an existential
and individual aspect of Being, in which the subject ”appears as such, as a
bundle of sensations,” whereas the Soi, the social and communal side of
Being, appears only ”as it is observed by others, that is, at is socially
determined,” (p. 17).  Tarasti believes that when Sebeok speaks of the
”semiotic self,” he is speaking of the self containing the Moi and Soi,
through which transcendence can be reached.  In music, Tarasti says, the Soi
is composed of the norms of a particular style and era, whereas the Moi is a
composer’s personal style:  ”The engine of musical history is driven
primarily by the transformation of the Moi into Soi, or rather, the constant
rebellion of the Moi against the communal world of the Soi,” (p. 22).

The final piece of the existential semiotic puzzle is the aforementioned
Greimassian semiotic square.  This framework, named after its creator, A. J.
Greimas, is a method of visually portraying the opposing structures found in a
semiotic system: ”four terms, seen as two opposed pairs. . . . A is opposed
to B as -A is to -B,” (Hawkes 1977:88).  Tarasti takes the existential terms
just discussed, and situates them on the semiotic square, such that
being-in-itself and its opposition being-for-itself, are seen as negations of
the Soi and Moi, respectively.  In Chapter 6, Tarasti introduces what he calls
the “Z” model of the semiotic square, which situates the Hegelian modalities
of Being within the square, and tracks the movements of the individual as it
moves from one modality to the next. The majority of the erstwhile semiotic
investigations in the text utilize this modified Greimassian square to
interpret the works of composers as they relate to transcendence and the true
nature of Being.

Part I, ”The classical style” begins with Chapter 2, ”Mozart, or the idea
of a continuous avant-garde,” which attempts to determine whether Mozart
himself can be considered ”avant-garde,” by examining the Moi and Soi of his
work, through both Schenkerian and narrative analyses. Chapter 3,
”Existential and transcendental analysis of music,” discusses the semiotic
concepts of pre-sign, post-sign, and trans-sign, as well as the negation and
affirmation of Dasein, and uses these ideas to analyze an extract of
Beethoven. The title of the following chapter, ”Listening to Beethoven:
Universal or national, classical or romantic?” is fairly self-explanatory,
and also includes a brief digression on Theodor Adorno as ”pre-semiotician”.

Part II, “The Romantic Era,” continues the discussion of specific styles and
composers.  In Chapter 5, ”The irony of romanticism,” Tarasti utilizes
Lucien Goldman’s theory of three relations (relation to other people, to
ourselves, and the world), which make up each ”philosophy of life” (p. 119),
which he posits is composed of three relations. Chapter 6, “‘… ein leiser
Ton gezogen …’; Robert Schumann’s Fantasie in C major (op. 17) in the light
of existential semiotics,” introduces Tarasti’s ”Z” model of the Greimassian
square, which he uses to interpret Schumann’s piece. Chapter 7, ”Brahms and
the ‘Lyric I’:  A hermeneutic sign analysis” looks at Brahms’s Lied ”Der
Tod, das ist die Kühle Nacht,” applying what Tarasti calls ”romantic
semiotics,” using his modification of the Greimassian semiotic square to
examine first Brahms’s text, then music, and finally the interaction of the

Tarasti’s extended analyses of the work of Richard Wagner begin in Chapter 8,
”Brünnhilde’s Choice; or, a Journey into Wagnerian Semiosis: Intuitions and
Hypotheses.”  He describes Wagner’s use of small melodies, ”around which the
whole opera gradually took shape,” referring to these melodies as ”lexemes”
(p. 190), an explicit nod to traditional semiotics.  The semiotic analysis
continues with a discussion of signifiers and signifieds in the music, and
concludes with an examination of musical isotopies in the Ring Der Nibelungen
and an analysis of a scene from Die Walkurie using the modified semiotic
square.  Further scrutiny of Wagner’s ”lexemes” follows in Chapter 9, ”Do
Wagner’s leitmotifs have a system?”, which begins with a history and critique
of earlier attempts to categorize and document all of the leitmotifs featured
in Wagner’s Ring cycle.  Tarasti examines the ontology of these leitmotifs,
trying to determine if they have a ”definite form” (p. 217). Following this,
he develops a new inventory of leitmotifs, categorized according to form and

Part III, “Rhetorics and Synaesthesias,” begins with Chapter 10, ”Proust and
Wagner.”  This chapter continues the analysis of Wagner while at the same
time introducing another of Tarasti’s favorite subjects, Marcel Proust.  Here,
he examines the possibility that Proust’s (1934) magnum opus “À la recherche
du temps perdu” is an ekphrasis of Wagner’s Ring, utilizing Proust’s writings
on Wagner, both public (the novels themselves) and private (Proust’s personal
correspondence).  Chapter 11, ”Rhetoric and musical discourse,” examines the
relationship between classical written discourse and musical form, with
Tarasti calling rhetoric a kind of ”primitive semiotics” (p. 275).

Chapter 12, ”The semiosis of light in music: from synaesthesias to
narratives,” begins with a brief survey of literature on the relation between
timbre, light, and color.  Tarasti then uses his semiotic square to develop a
”semiotics of light” (p. 318), before applying this to a discussion of the
portrayal of light in music. Chapter 13, ”The implicit semiotics of Marcel
Proust,” is a chapter-length semiotic analysis of a section of Proust’s
(1923) “La Prisonnière,” which describes a musical performance given at the
salon of one Madame Verdurin, taken section-by-section by Tarasti.

Chapter 14, ”M. K. Ciurlionis and the interrelationships of the arts,”
begins Tarasti’s analysis of the relationships between visual arts and music.
Here, he examines composer and painter Ciurlionis’s musical works, as compared
to his paintings, which were often given musical titles.  This leads into
Chapter 15, ”Ciurlionis, Sibelius, and Nietzsche:  Three profiles and
interpretations,” which continues much in the same vein with Ciurlionis,
before examining synaesthesic elements in the work of Sibelius.  This
concludes with a brief note on form in the music of Nietzsche, and the ways in
which it expresses the Moi and Soi.

Part IV, “In the Slavonic World,” begins with Chapter 16, ”An essay on
Russian Music.”  Here, Tarasti considers Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov,
Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Shostakovich, examining the Moi and Soi in their
respective works, as well as the ”encounter” between the two.  Tarasti’s
findings are summarized in a chart at the end of the chapter.  In Chapter 17,
”The stylistic development of a composer as a cognition of the musicologist:
Bohuslav Martinu”, Tarasti analyses the works of this ”hitherto unknown”
composer (p. 413), specifically, the Fourth symphony, in terms of Peirce’s
categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness; a relatively traditional
semiotic analysis of signs, objects, and interpretants (Peirce 1985:6).

Postlude I, Chapter 18, ”Do Semantic Aspects of Music Have a Notation?”
addresses the question of whether standard musical notation expresses musical
semantics, and investigates the relation of musical semantics to semantics of
language.  Postlude II, Chapter 19, ”Music — Superior Communication,”
discusses the transcendence of music via biosemiotics and the semiotic square.


The first problem with the text is the number of typographical errors and
inconsistencies throughout.  These range from the minor (inconsistent
capitalization of chapter titles), to glaring (an entire missing section:
Chapter 2.1 is nowhere to be found.)  The organization of chapters also falls
a bit short, as themes are introduced in one chapter, only to be followed by a
chapter with a completely different theme and method of investigation, while
lines of thought abandoned pages ago may again come up unannounced.  Where
chapters about the same subject follow one another, the approach used in each
is completely different, and chapters using the same approach are spread
throughout the book haphazardly.  In addition to this, many concepts, and
indeed some entire stretches of text are repeated verbatim throughout, as if
the book were merely a text thrown together from previously unpublished
essays.  Transitions end up being jarring far too often, and one gets the
feeling that the text could have used a thorough going-over from a more
organized editor.

All surface faults aside, one possible impediment to fully grasping the scope
of Tarasti’s work (as can perhaps be gleaned from the summary above,) is its
reliance on Hegelian existentialism.  While this is a very important and
groundbreaking school of philosophical thought, it is also a very difficult,
dense field, relying heavily on terminology not easily accessible to the
layman, or even those who may have a relatively vast knowledge of philosophy
in general, or other philosophical fields.  Because of this, this text’s
interest to most linguists and semioticists is limited.  However, those
interested in existential philosophy or musicology may find it very
illuminating. That being said, Tarasti’s work is not completely without merit
in terms of semiotic analysis.  Whereas much of the text is idiosyncratic at
best, there are a number of sections which make good use of semiotic analysis.
Among these, Chapter 9, on Wagner’s leitmotifs, is a particularly insightful
example. The introductory sections of Chapter 6 on Brahms are also a great
source of semiotic investigation, as one of the more significant (and
readable) applications of existentialism to semiotic investigation.

However, many of the results of the existential investigations appear as no
more than highly subjective readings of the composers and pieces.  Much of
this is the standard expressive interpretation of music; certain passages are
happy, or sad, others depict a struggle, etc.  Some of Tarasti’s
interpretations, on the other hand, stretch the limits of acceptability. For
example, it is a bit hard to swallow that a twelve-measure sequence is written
to portray “the anecdote about Goethe and Beethoven’s encounter with the Grand
Duke and his spouse on a walk in the gardens at Weimar” (p. 86). The problem
is not just limited to what we might consider traditional attempts at
interpretation, but gets worse when Tarasti attempts to fuse semiotics with
existentialism.  While it can be agreed that, for example, Mozart’s highly
personal style, as contrasted with the norms of the day, make him avant-garde
for his time, a Hegelian interpretation of a chapter of a Proust novel is
hardly a musicological investigation, and is of little value to the field of
philosophy of music.

To summarize, then, the text almost surely has more to offer for those
interested in fairly narrow fields of study than it does for the general
reader.  This can best be illustrated with a comparison to another text on the
semiotics of music, that of Nattiez (1990).  Nattiez’s work, though inspired
by a different strain of semiotics, also begins with an introduction of
methods used, and follows that with applications of those methods to specific
aspects of musicology, and specific musical works.  Thus, for the linguist,
semiotician, or musicologist, it is a highly accessible text, with, one would
argue, much to offer in the way of enlightenment.  The same cannot be said for
this text, due mostly to the amount of background knowledge necessary to fully
grasp the intricacies and nuances of Tarasti’s arguments.  For those without a
background in the Hegelian tradition, Tarasti’s previous book (2000) would
almost certainly make this text easier to comprehend.  However, its
applications to the field of linguistics and semiotics remain limited, leaving
it much more appropriate for musicologists and those interested in existential


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Proust, marcel.  1934.  Remembrance of Things Past.  New York:  Random House.

Sartre, Jean-Paul.  1977.  Being and nothingness.  Secaucus, New Jersey:  The
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J. L. Barnes is a philosophy and linguistics graduate currently residing in
the Louisville, KY area.  Areas of interest include semantics, philosophy of
language, semiotics, and the relationship between music and language.

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