Colloquium: Joseph Brooks (UCSB), Anna Bax (UCSB)

Event Date: 

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • South Hall 3605

Speaker: Joseph Brooks (UCSB); Anna Bax (UCSB)

Topic: Realis/irrealis shifts in Chini clause chaining; 'Too bad you don't like replies, slut': Digital silence and interpretive dominance in heterosexual online dating interactions

Reception: All are invited to a reception following the talk

Realis/irrealis shifts in Chini clause chaining

 Joseph Brooks

Discourse in many languages of New Guinea is structured by clause chaining, where one or more clauses with linking suffixes or enclitics are 'chained' together until the final, independent clause. In some of these languages, the linking morphology makes a realis/irrealis distinction. Event sequences are represented either as 'real' (e.g., past, strong directive) or 'unreal' (e.g., uncertain future, imperative). This area of grammar has been discussed in terms of agreement of dependent clauses on the independent clause. The verbal category in the independent clause is thought to determine whether realis or irrealis linkers are used.  

In this talk I discuss mid-chain realis/irrealis shifts in Chini, a language spoken by about 60 people in Papua New Guinea. Evidence from conversation shows that speakers can shift between realis/irrealis within a single chain when certain shifts in meaning occur, and can do so multiple times. (In the current corpus, the most shifts recorded in a single chain is five.) I argue that the agreement analysis falls short of explaining these data, where both realis and irrealis linkers occur despite a single category in the independent clause. Instead, realis/irrealis in Chini clause chaining is best understood as a discourse-level phenomenon, one that is determined online by the semantic and/or pragmatic meaning(s) conveyed across any given chunk of clauses in a chain. The full picture only becomes clear when we examine diverse data types, especially conversation.

"'Too bad you don't like replies, slut':

Digital silence and interpretive dominance in heterosexual online dating interactions"

 Anna Bax

It is well-established in sociolinguistics that the interactional performance of normative heterosexual masculinity often involves “displays of power and dominance over women” (Kiesling 2002: 3). Online interaction is no exception: men's digital harassment of women stems from and reinforces the interactional norms of hegemonic masculinity. In this paper, I argue that one of these norms is a perceived entitlement to the attention of potential female dating and conversational partners, as well as a claim to the right to interpret the meaning of these women's speech.  

The paper examines the enactment of interpretive dominance in a subset of normatively heterosexual online dating interactions. I analyze a set of private messages in which men display anger, often in threatening ways, at not receiving a reply from a woman with whom they have initiated a conversation. These interactions display a fairly consistent "initiation-silence-anger" structure: first, the man sends an introductory message. This may be a short greeting (e.g., "hi how are you x"), an overtly physical or sexual comment (e.g., "you are just too cute :)"), or a message personalized to varying degrees based on the woman's dating profile. When he does not receive an (immediate) response to that message, he sends further messages indicating anger at not receiving a reply, berating the woman for her purported lack of politeness, or even threatening physical violence. At the core of these interactions is the contested ontological status of a non-reply, which male recipients construe as a "communicative silence" (Saville-Troike 1985), and thus as a face-threatening rejection. In these data, I argue that the male "listening subject" (Inoue 2003) lays claim to interpretative rights.