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Failed Active Listening in The Real World:\ud A Study of Dominance in Casual Conversation

By Tamara Jones


Native-English speakers generally appreciate a certain amount of supportive feedback from their listeners. However, occasionally, a positive listener response actually causes the speaker to become threatened and revert to floor-saving measures. Speakers whose first language is not English may be at a disadvantage when involved in interactions with native-English speakers because they may not be equipped with the tools to exercise conversational power, if they wish to do so. Consequently, with the goal of creating educational materials that can be easily used in English Language Teaching (ELT), this thesis examines instances of listener support which are not appreciated by the speaker. For my corpus, I pulled 69 conversations from a popular American reality TV show, The Real World. These conversations were selected because of the presence of floor-saving strategies in the wake of seemingly benign listener commentary. I adopt a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) approach with multimodal elements aimed at exploring issues of power in the struggle for conversational dominance inherent in the act of listener talk and speaker rejection of this support. These issues were exposed when I watched the video excerpts repeatedly and responded to questions set out in my framework for analysis. In this thesis, I first examine the terminology used to describe listener talk and control of the conversational floor. I propose more opaque terms, Active Listening Attempt (ALA) and, for instances in which the speaker reacts negatively to the ALA, I propose failed ALA. Moreover, I propose that the non-verbal also be considered as a “turn.” In the second section of this thesis, I find that “statement ALAs” are the most threatening to speakers. Moreover, surprisingly, I determined that the person who speaks the most is not always the holder of the conversational power and the listener’s intention may have no impact the success of his/her ALA whatsoever. In the third section of this thesis, I focus on the impact gender may have on the failure of an ALA. Specifically, I find that female speakers display greater conversational defensiveness, even in conversations with other females, than males. In the final section of my thesis, I propose some implications for ELT pedagogy

Publisher: School of Education (Sheffield)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:1171

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