Multimodal positioning and reference in argumentative talk-in-interaction

Balancing context-dependency and context-independency

In: International Review of Pragmatics
Jérôme Jacquin University of Lausanne

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Drawing on a descriptive and language-oriented approach to argumentation, this paper explores the multimodal dimension of argumentation in talk-in-interaction by considering the various resources used by an opponent to refer to and position themselves in relation to the target of their opposition, namely the adverse position and/or the person who expressed it. More specifically, it studies how speakers exploit multimodal strategies in order to both maintain their discourse at a high level of generality (orientation to context-independency) and guarantee the indexicality of the position taken in the interaction and the disagreement (orientation to context-dependency). The analysis is based on two data collections documenting settings where all participants are temporally and spatially co-present: (i) a video-recorded corpus of Swiss French public debates and (ii) a video-recorded corpus of New Zealand English management meetings. Examining the role of multimodal orchestration of choices in gaze direction, deictic gestures, and speech in establishing different positions in argumentative events such as public debates or management meetings reveals specific contextual features of the activity types, participation frameworks, and sociolinguistic backgrounds involved in an argument.

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