English 905 : Seminar in Interactional Competence

Syllabus for Fall 2004

Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. in 7105 Helen C. White Hall



Required Materials




Description of the Seminar


Seminar Outline


Professor Richard F. Young

Professor Richard F Young

5129 Helen C. White Hall
Office hours: Tuesdays, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., or by appointment
E-mail: rfyoung at wisc dot edu
Home Page: www.wisc.edu/english/rfyoung
Phone: 263-2679

Class E-mail List

You may send e-mail messages to me and to all students registered for this course through the class e-mail list.  Send your messages to eng-905 at lists dot students dot wisc dot edu.  In order for you to receive messages from the e-mail list, your e-mail address must be in the Registrar's database.  You can update your preferred email address by accessing My UW-Madison, "Student Records" tab, Preferred Address module.

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Required Materials

Duranti, A. (Ed.). (2001). Key terms in language and culture. Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Call number: P35 K49 2001 in College Library Reserve Collection, 1st Fl. West, Room 1191.

A packet of readings is available from Bob's Copy Shop, 1314 West Johnson.


Duranti, A. (Ed.). (2004). A companion to linguistic anthropology. Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Call number: P35 C59 2004 in Memorial Library Reference Stacks Room 262 (non-circulating).

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Description of the Seminar

This is a graduate seminar for students in the English language and linguistics program, students pursuing the Ph.D. in second language acquisition, and interested doctoral students from other departments. The topic of the seminar is interactional competence.

Interactional competence is a theory of communication that has its roots in linguistic anthropology. The theory explains the socio-cultural characteristics of discursive practices and the interactional processes by which discursive practices are co-constructed by participants. Discursive practices are the processes by which cultural meanings are produced and understood. Interactional competence is grounded in four insights concerning discourse. One is the affirmation that social realities are linguistically/discursively constructed. The second is the appreciation of the context-bound nature of discourse. The third is the idea of discourse as social action. The fourth is the understanding that meaning is negotiated in interaction, rather than being present once-and-for-all in our utterances.

The basis of interactional competence is the insistence that discourse is action and not merely representation. The analyst must attend constantly to what is being accomplished through the discourse. Instead of focusing on how things "really" are or should be, this approach attends to show how truth and morality are established, negotiated, maintained, and challenged in discourse. So, for example, the question of whether morality is absolute or culturally relative is put aside in favor of an analysis of how morality is invoked and negotiated in discourse.

In this seminar we will begin by investigating the social nature of language and interaction, and then spend several weeks describing the ways in which discursive practices are characterized using the methods of conversation analysis, systemic functional linguistics, and linguistic anthropology. We will then move on to investigate the question of learning and discuss theories of learning that argue that competence or expertise is not merely a property of individual cognition, but is distributed among participants in a discursive practice. An implication of this conception of distributed cognition is that social identities are constructed and performed within discourse communities and we will investigate how social identities and discourse communities are constructed through practices such as work-place negotiations, health-care consultations, and kindergarten classrooms. In the concluding weeks of the seminar, we will investigate how the concepts of interactional competence and discursive practice help us to appreciate language learning in a new and comprehensive light.

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This is a seminar. One definition of a seminar is "A small group of advanced students in a college or graduate school engaged in original research or intensive study under the guidance of a professor who meets regularly with them to discuss their reports and findings" (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition). The word’s meaning is historically derived from a place where seeds are planted. And this is the spirit in which I plan to lead this seminar.

Facilitating seminar discussions

For ten weeks, we will study intensively the theory of interactional competence. In those ten weeks, all of us should read the relevant readings assigned for each week. Each week, three people will be responsible for facilitating our discussion. In preparing to facilitate the discussion, you should...


Read all the assigned readings.


Read any additional readings that are necessary.


Prepare an oral presentation that summarizes and critiques for the rest of us the theoretical questions involved. If a research study is involved, you should also describe and critique the methods used in the study and its results.


Prepare examples of interactions that exemplify the topics of the readings.


Prepare discussions points that will elicit commentary on the readings from all seminar participants.


Write up your presentation as a seminar paper and hand it to me for comments and grading.

Because about 15 people have registered for this seminar, each of you will facilitate two seminar discussions.

Conducting and reporting a research project

Each of you will conduct an original research project. Your project should be an in-depth analysis of one or more interactional aspects of a particular discursive practice. Your analysis should be based on the theory and research literature that we have discussed in the seminar.

You should report your research in a research paper. Together with the paper, you should provide written transcripts of the discursive practice that you have analyzed, as well as a record of the practice on videotape. Your research paper should be 25-35-pages long, not including transcripts. Written proposals for papers are due by October 19. Here are some topics that students have researched in previous seminars.


The transition between social talk and on-task talk in ESL writing conferences


Interaction between native and nonnative speakers in ESL writing conferences


The pattern and function of teachers' evaluations in an ESL classroom


The structure of informal oral narratives


Effective story telling in a social setting


Turn-taking on "The Mark Belling Late Afternoon Show"


Turn-taking in a Bible study group


Interaction, epistemic stance and the construction of identity


Gender differences in conversational interaction


A consideration of assessment interviews: From "measuring competence" to "making sense"


Transitions in instrumental music lessons


Rethinking topic, context, and genre: An analysis of the "run-through" in a band practice by the Julie Scharm Band


On bowing in Japanese

You should present your research proposals to us all on October 19, and be prepared to modify your research plan on the basis of reactions from your colleagues. You should give a short report on your completed or in-progress research at one of our final three meetings. Your final written research papers are due on Friday, December 17.


The two written seminar papers are each worth 25% of the final grade. I encourage you to write these papers as a group assignment. The research paper, which should normally be an individual assignment, is worth 50%.

Extra Credit. You may earn an extra 10% credit for the seminar by attending the annual conference of the National Communication Association (NCA) held November 11-14 in Chicago.  To earn the extra credit, you must show me a photocopy of your registration certificate and one-page reaction papers to each of three papers you attended at the conference.

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Seminar Outline





September 7

Introduction: Language and Interaction

Tracy, K. (2002). Everyday talk: Building and reflecting identities. New York: Guilford. (Chapter 1 "Talk and identity" & Chapter 2 "Two perspectives")


September 14

The Social Nature of Language and Interaction

Hymes, D. (1972). Models of the interaction of language and social life. In J. J. Gumperz & D. Hymes (Eds.), Directions in Sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication. (pp. 35-71). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Linell, P. (1998). Approaching dialogue: Talk, interaction and contexts in dialogical perspectives. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins. (Chapter 1 "Perspectives on language and discourse")

Keating, E., & Egbert, M. M. (2004). Conversation as a cultural activity. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 169-196). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Wang Yan,

September 28

Talk in Context

Gumperz "Inference" in Keywords.

Goodwin, C., & Duranti, A. (1992). Rethinking context: An introduction. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (Eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon (pp. 1-42). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Douglas, D. (2004). Discourse domains: The cognitive context of speaking. In D. Boxer & A. D. Cohen (Eds.), Studying speaking to inform second language learning (pp. 25-47). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Woolard, K. A. (2004). Codeswitching. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 73-94). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Cai Yi,
Hsing Jung,

October 2
9:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Interactional Resources

Eggins, S., & Slade, D. (1997). Analysing casual conversation. London: Cassell. (Chapter 3: "The grammar of casual conversation: Enacting role relations")

Hall, J. K. (1995). (Re)creating our worlds with words: A sociohistorical perspective of face-to-face interaction. Applied Linguistics, 16(2), 206-232.


October 5

Discursive Practices

Ahearn "Agency" in Keywords.

Ortner, S. B. (1984). Theory in anthropology since the sixties. Comparative Studies in Society and History 126(1), 126-166.

Hanks, W. F. (1996). Language and communicative practices. Boulder, CO: Westview. (Chapter 1: "Introduction: Meaning and matters of context")

Baquedano-López, P. (2004). Literacy practices across learning contexts. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 245-268). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.


October 12

A Framework for Describing Discursive Practices

Ochs "Socialization" in Keywords.

Hymes, D. (1962/1974). The ethnography of speaking. In T. Gladwin & W. Sturtevant (Eds.), Anthropology and Human Behavior (pp. 15-53). Washington, DC: Anthropological Society of Washington. Reprinted in B. G. Blount (Ed.), Language, culture, and society: A book of readings (pp. 189-223). Cambridge, MA: Winthrop.

Ochs, E. (1996). Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. In J. J. Gumperz & S. C. Levinson, (Eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity (pp. 407-437). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Kulick, D., & Schieffelin, B. B. (2004). Language socialization. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 349-368). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Wang Yan

October 19

Participants present their research proposals


October 26

Interactional Competence

Sidnell "Competence" and Cicourel "Expert" in Keywords.

Cicourel, A. V. (1995). Medical speech events as resources for inferring differences in expert-novice diagnostic reasoning. In U. M. Quasthoff (Ed.), Aspects of oral communication (pp. 364-387). Berlin ; New York: W. de Gruyter.

Sternberg, R.J. (1998). Abilities are forms of developing expertise. Educational Researcher, 27(3), 11-20.

Philips, S. U. (2004). Language and social inequality. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 474-495). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.


November 2

Social Identity in Language Use

Kroskrity "Identity" in Keywords.

Jacoby, S. & Ochs, E. (1995). Co-construction: An introduction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 28(3), 171-183.

Holmes, J., Stubbe, M. & Vine, B. (1999). Constructing professional identity: "Doing power" in policy units. In S. Sarangi & C. Roberts (Eds.), Talk, work and institutional order. (pp. 351-385) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. (2004). Language and identity. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 369-394). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.


November 9

Discourse Communities

Morgan "Community" in Keywords.

Ragan, S. L. (2000). Sociable Talk in Women's Health Care Contexts: Two Forms of Non-Medical Talk. In J. Coupland (Ed.), Small talk. (pp. 269-87). Harlow, UK: Longman, 2000.

Toohey, K. (2000). Learning English at school: Identity, social relations and classroom practice. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. (Chapter 3 "Constructing school identities: Kindergarten meta-stories")

Morgan, M. (2004). Speech community. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 3-22). Malden, MA & Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Hsing Jung

November 16

Learning Language, Developing Expertise

Lave, J. (1991). Situating learning in communities of practice. In L. Resnick, J. Levine & S. Teasley (eds.), Perspectives on socially shared cognition. (pp. 63-82). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Roberts, C., & Sarangi, S. (2001). "Like you’re living two lives in one go": Negotiating social conditions for classroom learning in a further education context in England. In M. Heller & M. Martin-Jones (Eds.), Voices of authority: Education and linguistic difference (pp. 171-192). Westport, CT: Ablex.

Wenger, E. (1998, February 6, 2000). Communities of practice: Learning as a social system. Retrieved September 3, 2004, from http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/lss.shtml


November 23

Contexts of Learning

Young, R. & Miller, L. (2004). Learning as changing participation: Negotiating discourse roles in the ESL writing conference. The Modern Language Journal 88(4), 519-535.

Majors, Y. J. (2003). Shoptalk: Teaching and learning in an African American hair salon. Mind, Culture, and Activity 10(4), 289-310.

Cai Yi,

November 30

Participants report on their research projects I

Hsing Jung, Atsushi, Aree, Kim, Caiyi

December 7

Participants report on their research projects II

Ji-Young, Yumiko, Kanae, John, Wang Yan

December 14

Participants report on their research projects III

Daniel, Michele, Suyeon, Yunjung

Friday, December 17

Final research papers due

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