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HUMOUR AND SMALL TALK Further exploring spoken professional discourse 1.

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Presentation on theme: "HUMOUR AND SMALL TALK Further exploring spoken professional discourse 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 HUMOUR AND SMALL TALK Further exploring spoken professional discourse 1

2 What is on your handout? Examples of small talk and humour How do you know this is small talk and humour? 2

3 Small talk 3 Look at the examples of small talk on the handout and answer the following questions:  How do people do small talk?  What have they got in common?  What are some differences between the examples?  What function(s) do you think the small talk performs?

4 Defining small talk 4 So how would you define small talk? Wikipedia: Small talk is an informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed. Small talk is conversation for its own sake, or "…comments on what is perfectly obvious.“discourseconversation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_talk_(phatic_communication)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_talk_(phatic_communication) → Really? Does such a definition reflect the examples on your handout?

5 Small talk – a continuum (Holmes 2000) 5 Conceptualising talk along a continuum core work social phatic business related talk communion talk SMALL TALK ----

6 Exercise 6 Where would you place example 6 on the continuum?  Why?  Any problems with this?

7 Some facts about small talk 7 Distributional features of small talk  Typically at boundaries of interaction  Transition points between different interactions/topics/ speakers etc  Change of participants  But also within interactions (eg meetings)

8 Functions of small talk 8 Just some of the functions of small talk  Bridging business and social aspects (transactional and relational aspects)  Building and maintaining interpersonal relationships  Establishing friendly relationships  Allows participants to ‘test waters’  Consolidating participants after interaction ……  Attending to interlocutors’ face needs  Marks boundaries of interaction  Time filler  Repressive power function at work: Small talk to manage or influence behaviour of others  etc

9 What about humour? 9 Look at the examples of humour on the handout and answer the following questions:  How do people do humour?  What have the examples got in common?  What are some differences between the examples?  What function(s) do you think the humour performs in the various examples?

10 Defining humour 10 “instances where participant(s) signal amusement to one another, based on the analyst’s assessment of paralinguistic, prosodic and discoursal clues. These instances can be classified as either successful or unsuccessful according to addressees’ reactions. Humour can be a result of either intentional or unintentional humorous behaviour from participants.” (from Mullany 2004: 21)

11 Functions of humour at work 11 Increases job satisfaction, performance and creativity Facilitates teamwork Contributes to workplace culture Boosts employees morale Diffuses conflict Helps dealing with stress and change Enables subordinates to criticise and challenge superiors Is an effective leadership tool Means to exercise power (covertly) → numerous benefits of humour for business!

12 ‘Another side’ of humour: Example What is the humour in the ? How would you describe the function(s) of the humour? Why is the humour ‘contestive’? → more or less explicitly challenges existing power relations and subverts the status quo Why does Rich use humour to express his views?

13 Small talk and humour at work 13 Important  Means for negotiating interpersonal relationships at work  May facilitate ‘getting things done’ (ie achieving transactional objectives) Crucial role of workplace culture  Types, functions, uses and forms of small talk and humour vary considerably across workplaces  Small talk and humour (and prof discourse in general) contribute to creating, maintaining, shaping and possibly challenging workplace culture norms  Any examples?

14 Summary 14 Conceptualising (small) talk along a continuum Small talk and humour perform variety of functions in prof context  Often combine transactional and relational aspects → are thus important (and interesting) aspect of professional discourse → should not be overlooked or dismissed as ‘superfluous’ Crucial role of workplace culture

15 Further reading suggestions 15 Coupland, Justine (ed) Small Talk. London: Longman. Holmes, Janet Doing collegiality and keeping control at work: small talk in government departments. In Coupland, Justine (ed), Small Talk. London: Longman Schnurr, Stephanie (2009). Leadership Discourse at Work. Interactions of Humour, Gender and Workplace Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


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