Ethnography and Ethnomethodology

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 6:27 AM

Speech is used in different ways among different groups of people. Each group has its own norms of linguistic behavior. We must try to understand how different groups of people use their language (or languages) if we are to achieve a comprehensive understanding of how that language (or those languages) is related to the society that uses it. An important function of communication is social maintenance.
1. Varieties of Talk

It is instructive to look at some of the ways in which various people in the world use talk, or sometimes the absence of talk, i.e., silence, to communicate. Marshall (1961) has indicated how the !Kung, a bush-dwelling people of South West Africa, have certain customs which help them either to avoid or reduce friction and hostility within bands and between bands. The !Kung lead a very harsh life as hunters and gatherers, a life which requires a considerable amount of cooperation and the companionship of a larger group if survival is to be guaranteed. The !Kung are talkative people.
The !Kung talk about all kinds of things, but principally about food and gift giving. They avoid mentioning the names of their God aloud, and men and women do not openly discuss sexual matters together. Such subjects are taboo. They have their own style of joking, story-telling, but in the latter case, they do not ‘make up’ stories, finding no interest at all in that activity. According to Marshall, speech among the !Kung helps to maintain peaceful social relationships by allowing people to keep in touch with one another about how they are thinking and feeling.
The Western Apache of East-Central Arizon
In contrast, the Western Apache of East-Central Arizon choose to be silent when there is a strong possibility that such uncertainty exists. They are silent on ‘meeting strangers’ whether these are fellow Western Apache or complete outsiders; and strangers, too, are expected to be silent. The Western Apache do not easily enter into new social relationship, and silence is deemed appropriate to a new relationship, because such a relationship is felt to be inherently uncertain. The initial stages of courting behavior also require silence; in this case, in this case, silence is taken to be a proper indication of the shyness that is expected between two people attempting to enter into a close relationship. They regard talkativeness in such a situation, especially in the female of the pair, as immodest.
The social situation in Antigua in the West Indies requires another kind of indulgence in talk. Talk is expected of people. In Antigua a conversation is multi-faceted in that it freely mixes a variety of activities that in certain other groups would be kept quite apart. In Antigua, people speak because they must assert themselves through language. They do not consider as interruptions behavior that we would consider being either interruptive or even disruptive. Reisman says (p. 115) that in Antigua ‘ to enter a conversation one must assert one’s presence rather than participate in something formalized as an exchange.
Subanun of the Philiphines, who employ certain kinds of speech in drinking encounters. Such encounters are very inportant for gaining prestige for resolving disputes. Frake (1964) has decribed how to talk, what he calls ‘drinking talk’, proceeds in such encounters, from the initial invitation to partake of drink, to the selection of proper topics for discussion as drinking proceeds competitively, and finally to displays of verbal art that accompany heavy, ‘successful’ drinking. Successful talk drinking among the Subanun may be used to claim or assert social leadership. Drinking talk among the Subanun therefore seems to be far removed from ‘cocktail party chatter’ as many Westerners know latter.
2. The Ethnography of Communication
Hymes (1974) has proposed an ethnography framework which takes into account the various factors that are involved in speaking. An ethnography of communicative event is a description of all the factors that are relevant in understanding how that particular communicative event achieves its objective. For convenience, Hymnes uses the word SPEAKING as an acronym for the various he deems to be relevant.
S (Setting and Scene)
Setting refers to the time and place. Scene refers to the abstract psychological setting, or the cultural definition of the occasion.
P (Participants)
Participants include various combinations of speaker-listener, addressor-addressee, or sender-receiver.
E (Ends)
Ends refer to the conventionally recognized and expected outcomes of an exchange as well as to the personal goals that participants seek to accomplish on particular occasions.
A (Act sequence)
Act sequence refers to the actual form and content of what is said : the precise words used, how they are used, and the relationship of what is said to the actual topic at hand.
K (Key)
Key refers to the tone, manner, or spirit in which a particular message is conveyed: light-hearted, serious, precise, pedantic, mocking, sarcastic, pompous, and so on.
I (Instrumentalities)
Instrumentalities refers to the choice of channel, e.g., oral, written, or telegraphic, and to the actual forms of speech employed, such as the language, dialect, code, or register that is chosen.

N (Norms of Interaction and Interpretation)
Norms of Interaction and Interpretation refers to the specific behaviors and properties that attach to speaking and also how these may be viewed by someone who does not share them, e.g., loudness, silence, gaze return, and so on.
G (Genre)
Genre refers to clearly demarcated type of utterance; such things as poems, proverbs, riddles, sermons, prayers, lectures, and editorials.
What Hymnes offers us in his SPEAKING Formula is a very necessary reminder that talk is a complex activity, and that any particular bit of talk is actually a piece of ‘skilled work’. It is skilled in the sense that, if it is to be successful, the speaker must reveal a sensitivity to and awareness of each of the eight factors outlined above. Speakers and listeners must also work to see that nothing goes wrong. Sherzer describe how the Kuna of Panama use language: Kuna wait very patiently to take their turns in speaking so that interruptions and overlaps in conversation are rare events. Hill and Hill describe how the Malinche of Central Mexico use language in their daily lives, and Lindenfelt offers and account of the language of a dozen long-standing urban marketplaces in Paris, Rouen, and Grenoble : the talk of vendors, vendor-customer talk, politeness routines, small talk, jokes, insults, etc.
Language is used than describing the syntactic composition of sentences or specifying their propositional content. In learning to speak we are also learning to “talk”, in the sense of communicating in those ways deemed appropriate by the group in which we are doing that learning.
3. Ethnomethodology
Ethnomethodology is that branch of sociology which is concerned, among other things, with talk viewed in this way. Leither (1980, p. 5) states, ’the aim of ethnomethodology is to study the processes of sense making (idealizing and formulazing) that membes of society use to construct the social world and its factual properties (its sense of being ready made and independent of perception). Another view is that of Fairclough (1989, p.9): Ethnomethodologists investigate the prodicyion and interpretation of everyday action as skilled accomplishments of social factors, and they are interested in conversation as one particularly pervasive instance of skilled social action.
We cannot hope understand others if we do not share certain background assumptions with those others. To interpret particular sentences or sets of sentences, we must have some knowledge of the categories that speakers find relevant (Sack, 1972a, 1972b). This knowledge is socially acquired. It is also the kind of knowledge in which ethnomethodologists are interested. Ethnomethodologists adopt what is called a phenomethodological view of the world; that is, the world is something that people must constantly keep creating and sustaining for themselves.
Commonsense and Practical Reasoning
Commonsense knowledge refers to a variety of things. It is the understandings, receips, maxims, and definitions that we employ in daily living as we go about doing things, e.g., knowing that thunder usually accompanies lightening; knowing how houses are usually laid out and lived in; knowing how to make a telephone call; knowing that bus drivers do not take cheques; knowing that there are ‘types’ of people, objects, and events, e.g., students and professors, classrooms and libraries, and lecturers and laboratory sessions. Commonsense knowledge also tells us that the world exists as a factual object. There is a world ‘out there’ independent of our particular existence; moreover, it is a world which others as well as ourselves experience, and we all experience it in much the same way. That world is also a consistent world.
Practical Reasoning
Practical reasoning refers to the way in which people make use of their commonsense knowledge and to how they employ that knowledge in their conduct of everyday life; what they assume; what they never question; how they select matters to deal with; and how they make the various bits and pieces of commonsense knowledge fit together in social encounters so as to maintain ‘normal’ appearances.

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