The Power of Talk: Reducing the Potential for Conflict through Constructing Common Ground

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Daria BAHTINA, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research on Intersubjectivity in Interaction, Finland
The notion of common ground (henceforth, CG) refers to shared knowledge that advances both interactional efficacy and social affiliation (Enfield 2013). The existence of CG is often taken for granted, yet when insufficient it poses risks not only to mutual understanding, but to overall acceptance of ‘the other’ (Kapuscinski 2008): limited CG may hinder social cohesion and trigger intergroup tensions. We explore how interactional participation practice enables the shift from ‘imagined certainty’ towards ‘acknowledged complexity’ (Holliday 2008) and promotes a more diversified view on social boundaries. More specifically, this paper reports on an experimental study with Estonian and Russian-speaking Estonians to demonstrate how group membership is negotiated through active co-construction of CG.

The Imitation Game is an experimental approach adapted from Turing’s Test (1950), in which a ‘judge’ (here, an ethnic Estonian) through a series of questions detects a ‘pretender’ (a Russian-speaking Estonian) and an actual ‘representative’ of their social group. The method has proven itself valuable in the assessment of interactional expertise, a key element that enables cooperation between different social groups (Collins et al. 2006, 2015). In this paper we zoom in on the communicative characteristics that facilitate a dialogue across putative group boundaries. To this end, we focus on the interactive means people use to achieve informational and interactional CG. To analyse the processes behind the establishment of CG we adopt and appropriate a number of concepts, such as psycholinguistic alignment (Pickering & Garrod 2004), joint action (Clark 1996), affiliation and affective stance (Stivers 2008, Stivers et al 2011). Each is served by meta-communicative strategies for monitoring CG in more tacit or more explicit manners (Bahtina-Jantsikene & Backus fc.). Finally, we investigate the interplay between pre-existing and emergent CG (Liu & Liu 2016) and how their manifestation in conversation reflects the formation and maintenance of social groups.