Self and Other in Dialogue

Romance Studies on Discourse and Interaction

by Johan Gille (Volume editor) Coco Norén (Volume editor)
Conference proceedings 204 Pages


This volume contains a collection of papers which deal with Romance linguistics from the perspective of discourse and interaction. Some contributions cover areas such as spoken corpora, speech and linguistic description, and phonetic aspects of speech. Others focus on multimodality, pragmatics, and conversation and discourse, and there are also contributions which deal with speech and sociolinguistics, and speech in multilingualism/bilingualism. This volume is multilingual, containing as it does contributions written in English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Self-Other Interdependences in Dialogue (Per Linell)
  • Italian Sí / No in Replies Between Polarity and Agreement: A First Inquiry on Corpus Data (Cecilia Andorno / Fabiana Rosi)
  • Strategie di risposta ai complimenti sull’aspetto fisico in italiano (Marina Castagneto / Diego Sidraschi)
  • Estrategias de afirmación en francés y en español: estudio contrastivo (JJ. Delahaie / I. Solís García)
  • Fréquence et variation positionnelle de l’adjectif epithète en differents genres discursifs du français parlé (Mats Forsgren)
  • Risposte ai complimenti su Facebook: La pratica e la pragmatica (Chiara Meluzzi / Marina Castagneto)
  • A estruturação tópica em conversações espontâneas no Português do Brasil (Clemilton Lopes Pinheiro)
  • About Two Clause-Linkage Strategies in French: Groupings and Parallel Structuring (Frédéric Sabio)

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This volume covers contributions from the Ninth GSCP (Gruppo di studi sulla comunicazione parlata) International Conference which took place in Stockholm and Uppsala in 2014. Scholars from different parts of the world came together to discuss the spoken varieties of the Romance languages, with papers being presented in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and English. The contributions covered several thematic strands: spoken corpora; speech and linguistic description; phonetic aspects of speech; multimodality, pragmatics, conversation and discourse; speech and sociolinguistics; speech in multilingualism/bilingualism. This volume presents a number of selected papers from the conference, all of which focus on discursive, interactive or pragmatic aspects of language use.

In the first contribution Self-Other Interdependences in Dialogue, Per Linell addresses the fact that language use is not monological, but on the contrary includes not only the addressee but also present or absent third parties. He also stresses that languaging is by nature context bound, examining a range of phenomenon which demonstrates self-other interdependences. Taking Bakhtin as a starting point, the author concludes that there is a need for a theory of utterance-building that is based on partially shared agency that goes beyond classical dialogism.

In Italian Sì / No in Replies Between Polarity and Agreement: A First Inquiry on Corpus Data, Cecilia Andorno and Fabiana Rosi define the Italian sì / no as polarity particles that are used in similar ways in Romance languages to express agreement or disagreement after a positive question. In contrast, these languages behave differently when it comes to replies to negative utterances. The authors can show that no in Italian is used in those context as a disagreement marker, especially when conversationally marked moves are at play: in reversing replies and in replies to assertions.

In Strategie di Risposta ai Complimenti Sull’aspetto Fisico in Italiano, Marina Castagneto and Diego Sidraschi analyse compliment responses on physical attributes, divided into natural attributes such as hair and transitory attributes, such as haircut. From the analysis of a corpus of 321 responses of this type, the authors draw several conclusions, one of which is that there is a pragmatic change underway in responding to a compliment; more specifically, limited acceptances are diminishing among younger speakers, while direct acceptances are increasing.

In Estrategias de Afirmación en Francés y en Español: Estudio Contrastivo, Juliette Delahaie and Inmaculada Solís García deal with the functioning of response affirmative strategies from a contrastive perspective, comparing French and ← 7 | 8 → Spanish. The study focuses on the use of the frequent feedback-givers oui, voilà and d’accord on the one hand, and sí, vale and claro on the other. They build a coherent system of response affirmative strategies within each language, which seem a priori very similar. However, after a semantic and metalinguistic analysis of voilà and claro, the study shows that these affirmative strategies are language and culture-specific.

In Fréquence et Variation Positionnelle de L’adjectif Epithete en Differents Genres Discursifs du Français Parle, Mats Forsgren examines the position of the attributive adjective in French. The data shows that adjectives in general are more frequent in television news than in other spoken genres such as debates, talk shows or informal conversations. Alternating positions of adjectives occur mainly in the television news, and that same genre also displays the highest frequencies of adjectives in preposition. The author concludes that language use varies not only between channels (spoken and written), but also according to the distinction between planned and unplanned, with regard to other typological proposals for diaphasical variation.

In Risposte ai Complimenti su Facebook: La Pratica e la Pragmatica, Chiara Meluzzi and Marina Castagneto investigate the use of Italian compliment responses on Facebook. The authors seek to highlight similarities and differences in responding to compliments related to physical attributes, comparing virtual and real life communication. Finally, the authors discuss how the different textual typologies on Facebook, in particular the “like” strategy, interact with the pragmatic strategies of compliment responses.

In A Estruturação Tópica em Conversações Espontâneas no Português do Brasil, Clemilton Lopes Pinheiro analyses both the identification and delimitation of topical segments and the procedures by which those segments are distributed in the sequencing of the text and recovered hierarchically in order to shed light on the topical organization. Using Brazilian Portuguese authentic conversations, the author focuses on the process of intratopic and intertopic structuring from a textual-interactive perspective. The results indicate that the sequence type (narration, exposition, argumentation, dialogue) are essential for understanding the internal organization of topics.

In About Two Clause-Linkage Strategies in French: Groupings and Parallel Structuring, Frédéric Sabio investigates French utterances consisting of two successive Verb-Phrases with no kind of subordinating element, thus showing a mere paratactic or correlative relation. It is argued that a broad distinction may be drawn between two intrinsically different types of clause-linking: macrosyntactic groupings and parallel structuring. The study relies on a series of criteria: the possibility ← 8 | 9 → to organize the successive units in a paradigmatic way, the mode of connection between each clause, and the degree of autonomy of each sequence.

The editors wish to thank the many colleagues who have contributed to this volume, first of all the authors but also the reviewers of the different papers. The reviewers were:

Jan Anward

María Bernal

Mathias Broth

Johan Falk

Lars Fant

Thomas Johnen

Fanny Forsberg Lundell

Françoise Sullet Nylander

We also wish to thank the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities for their generous support to the publication of the proceedings. ← 9 | 10 →

← 10 | 11 →

Per Linell

Self-Other Interdependences in Dialogue*

“The word is half someone else’s” (Bakhtin, 1981: 293)


Most theories of language use (or “languaging”) present the speaker as the only producer of utterances. Dialogist theories, by contrast, highlight the speaker’s interdependences with others, including the direct addressee but also peripheral or even absent “third parties”. This chapter explores these self-other interdependences at different levels of discourse. It ends up with the conclusion that we need a theory of utterance-building that is based on partially shared agency.

1.  Introduction

It is well-known that objectivity and subjectivity are the two conventional options for describing the world around us. We often talk about objective accounts versus subjective ideas of the world. For some, objectivity is a set of inherent properties in the world out there, whereas subjectivity refers to personal (and often idiosyncratic) apperceptions. There are counterparts of these notions in specific disciplines, for example, in linguistics. There the idea of an objective impersonal language system (e.g., that of Chomsky, 1965, 1995)1 has dominated the theorising. Individual speakers have been ascribed limited subjectivity, largely focused on references and word choices in utterance building (Linell, 2016a). However, neither in language sciences nor in general world views there have been any real competitors to the two basic conceptions.

By contrast, this article argues that intersubjectivity should occupy the central position in human studies. Specifically, it will point to interdependencies between self and others in language use. I shall adduce some points in favour of intersubjective and interactive (“dialogical”) features even in single persons’ ← 11 | 12 → actions and utterances. In general, utterances are joint actions and belong to joint projects (Clark, 1996). The interactionist and dialogist meta-theory could in fact claim that interactivities are more fundamental than intersubjectivities (Linell, 2014).

2.  Selves and others

As a preparation, we need to define a couple of fundamental notions. One is the Self. By the self I shall mean the one who is regarded as the origin (origo) of an action, thought or utterance, i.e. the one to whom we ascribe the lion’s part of the doing of that action: the agent, thinker or speaker. Within a meta-theoretical framework that we shall call dialogical theories, or dialogism, a defining characteristic is that the notion of self is social, rather than completely autonomous or individual; the social self is constituted as being in intrinsic interdependence with others, or more abstractly put: the Other. That is, the speaker or thinker is never self-sufficient or autonomous; others are always somehow present for the Self.

Indeed, according to dialogism, the Self is complex, and not simply an independent ‘I’ or an autonomous individual (Marková, 2003; Linell, 2009). In that sense dialogism is anti-individualist and opposed to extreme individualism. However, this does not mean that dialogism denies the existence or importance of individuals and personal agency; rather, both individuality and social groups are outcomes of interactivities between minded (i.e. socially predisposed) bodies. There are many theories that have depicted Self as complex, not just an ‘I’, e.g. theories by George H. Mead, Sigmund Freud, Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey (although these and others had partly different theories of this complex self; Bertau, 2004).

Here we shall focus on situated interactions, those based mainly on speech and accompanying semiotic dimensions. And we shall be especially interested in the one who for the moment utters something (words, gestures etc.). Is (s)he the speaker of those words (etc.), or do others speak through him/her, or is perhaps some abstract impersonal system (such as the “culture” or the language system) speaking? In other words, to what extent does the utterer have agency (Linell, 2016a)?

Biographical notes

Johan Gille (Volume editor) Coco Norén (Volume editor)

Johan Gille is Associate Professor of Spanish at Uppsala University. His research concerns linguistic aspects of interaction as well as historical linguistics. Coco Norén is Professor of French at Uppsala University. Her research is mainly oriented towards semantics, argumentation and text linguistics.


Title: Self and Other in Dialogue