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Providing audible feedback in (workplace) interaction - are there ethnic differences?

By Meredith Marra and J. Holmes


In many western communities it is assumed that appropriate listener activities entail active and audible feedback carefully positioned at “transition-relevance places” (McCarthy 2003, Sacks et al, 1974, Schegloff 1982) in order to indicate interest and involvement in the interaction. Data collected in New Zealand Māori and Pākehā (people of European origin) workplaces could be regarded as challenging this assumption. Firstly in Māori meetings audible feedback is quite acceptable within a speaker turn. It is not interpreted as an interruption or as an indication of inattention or rudeness. Moreover, its positioning appears to be subtly different than in Pākehā interaction. Secondly, in Māori conversation there is greater tolerance for silence (Metge and Kinloch 1978), and, moreover, pauses between turns are considerably longer than in interactions between Pākehā conversationalists. This paper compares interactions in Māori and Pākehā workplaces in order to explore the hypothesis that what are considered appropriate listener activities are strongly influenced by cultural norms. Potential areas of confusion and misunderstanding will also be identified

Topics: HD, HM, P1
Publisher: International Pragmatics Association
Year: 2009
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