It is well known that communication is the most basic human activity which enables people to exchange thoughts and feelings. Due to the variety of language materials and surroundings, people employ different communicational skills to talk with each other in order to achieve their conversational purposes. With the aim of analyzing linguistic strategies of these specific talks, sociolinguistics study occurred. According to Wikipedia (Sociolinguistics, 2010), it studies the way of language being used on society and how language diversified between different social groups, status, ages, etc.
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From among many such types of communicational genres, workplace conversations undoubtedly attract much more attention to sociolinguists. The cause lies in the fact that adults spend most of their life time in workplace, where they are not only talking about business issues but also discussing daily life activities. Therefore, talk at work serves as an illustration in the analyzing of pragmatic language. What is more, it will help us to acquire essential communicating skills by analyzing the features of conversations at work and to know how to use language effectively.
From the text book (Unitec, 2010), there are quite a number of characteristics of workplace conversations such as using more formal and more technical words, having strategic plans, involving lots of business negotiating. This essay will deal with two genres of workplace talking. The first one is ‘A Pack of Brains’ which happened in a factory with a team leader and a machinist in this team. The second one is a transcript of Tiger Woods’ public statement related to his apology of extramarital affairs. In the following paragraphs, the writer will analyze these two transcripts based on lexical, syntactical and pragmatic features with personal evaluative comments. In addition to that, there is also a comparison between these talks.
Analysis and Discussion
I. Lexical Features
At the beginning of the first article, Ginette, a team leader, starts her sentence with ‘Oh yeah’ to draw Murray’s attention to herself. After listening to the complaint poured out by Ginette, Murray, a machinist in the team, uses back channels such as ‘right’ in line 4, ‘oh right’ in line 13, ‘Yeah’ in line 25 to respond to his team leader as a cooperative listener. It is very interesting that Ginette repeats ‘stuff’ many times in line 1, 14, 15, 18 and 19. Take ‘stuff’ in line 18 for example, Genette speaks this word twice in one sentence. This kind of immediate self-repetition, comparatively decreasing the amount of information, allows hearer to receive specific contents the speaker produced. (Tannen, 1992). Therefore, it emphasizes her anger with a member who gave her the stuff that wasn’t the one she wanted.
There are hesitation devices and fillers in this conversation. In line 10 ‘mmmm’ shows that Murray may not be sure about what he should say next so that he just gives a quick short response. Meanwhile, Ginette uses hesitation devices such as ‘I mean’ (line 36) and ‘sort of’ (line 43) to carry on the conversation fluently before deciding what to say next. In addition, Murray uses swear words fluently. For instance, he uses ‘Bullshit’ in line 30 when he knew his colleagues wanted to get rid of one team member and says ‘Jesus’ in line 40 to express surprise and annoyance.
The second transcript is about a famous golf star-Tiger Woods’ public statement. It is a formal statement with well-chosen words and well-structured paragraphs. The most obvious lexical characteristic is reformation of words. Due to the genre of apology statement, Tiger Woods repeats sorry in different ways. For examples, ‘deeply sorry’ in paragraph 3, ‘real apology’ in paragraph 5, ‘so sorry’ in paragraph 11 and ‘truly sorry’ in paragraph 24. At the same time, he apologized profusely for disappointing people too much. The illustrations of this are in paragraph 6 ‘let you down’ and ‘personal disappointment’ and in paragraph 10 ‘bitterly disappointed’.
According to Tannen (Tannen, 1992), ‘each time the utterance is repeated, the theme of the story is developed.’ Therefore, repetition with variation contributes to deepen the understanding of the main ideas. At the same time, it avoids repetition monotonously, which makes listeners feel interested instead of bored. In addition to the repetition, Tiger Woods uses many starter phrases such as ‘I think’, ‘I know’ and ‘I want to’. In paragraph 4 the use of ‘I know people…’ tells us that the speaker is trying to view these extramarital affairs through the eyes of other people in order to show how selfish and foolish he is. What’s more, in paragraph 6 the phrase ‘I am also aware of…’ shows that he has already known what he did has resulted in a bad impact on public and he was smitten by deep remorse and guilt.
II. Syntactic Features
In the first article, the relationship between the two speakers is of superior and subordinate. For that reason, there isn’t equal turns for participants because the team leader talks a lot while the team member just gives a flow response such as ‘mmmm’ in line 10 and ‘oh right’ in line 13. Moreover, Murray uses ellipsis in sentences to respond to Ginette, ‘skills or the vision’ in line 8 and ‘do it yourself’ in line 26. As the writer mentioned before, Ginette is dissatisfied with one member in her team. It is obvious that she uses strengthening devices such as modals in many of her sentences to show her resentful mood. The good examples are ‘the stuff that should be out on the packing’ in line 18 and ‘I can only do it when I can, but simple jobs that I’ve asked her to do…’ in line 21. All these modals strengthen the manner of speaking to express strong dissatisfaction. Apart from that, Ginette uses a rhetorical question in line 16 ‘what’d she go and do?’ without the expectation of a reply to emphasize this team member didn’t do anything at all. Then she uses an exclamatory sentence to answer it herself ‘print one lot twice got them laminated twice’ in line 17 to get anger off her chest.
When it comes to the pragmatic features in the second transcript, the most striking characteristic is repetition. In the second paragraph, Tiger Woods uses parataxis sentences (Many of you…many of you…many of you…) to show those who are present here are his intimates. In the sixth paragraph, he makes use of the sentences ‘I have let you down…’ three times so as to express his regret and guilt about what he had done. What is more, in paragraph 33 and 34, he restates ‘I have learned…’twice which makes a point of knowing how to correct himself from repentance and amendment. It is very interesting that parallelism sentences are used frequently in this statement, which increase the forcefulness of language and expressive effects to convince people that Tiger Woods will repent past mistakes. Furthermore, all the sentences are short and pithy, mixing with his truehearted feelings and sincere apologies. For instance, he takes the whole blame on himself and says sorry to the public in first person in paragraph 14 ‘I am the only person to blame’ and ‘I was wrong’ and ‘I was foolish’ in paragraph 18. Besides, he employs weakening devices in his speech. The illustrations of this are ‘please know that…’ in paragraph 26 and ‘please leave my wife and kids alone’ in paragraph 29.
III. Pragmatic Features
Notice that the first interaction was from a factory between the leader and member. Ginette, a superior, is female while Murray, a subordinate, is male. According to their conversation, it is not difficult to see the relationship between these two people is familiar enough so that Ginette complains to Murray about some problem with a member in her team. It is quite funny to see Murray has some fear for his leader. For that reason, as the writer said before, he uses short sentences to reply Ginette in order not to interrupt her. (‘mmmm’ in line10 ‘oh right’ in line13 and ‘we will get there’ in line 40 etc.)
Due to gender characteristics (Unitec, 2010), women intend to use longer sentences than men and so no wonder Ginette tends to speak at excessive length whereas Murray would like to say elliptical sentences. What’s more, women are more agreeable and euphemistical than men. Take line 37 ‘she’s quite clever but I don’t know what the problem is. It might be something else’ for example, although Ginette is dissatisfied with her team member, she doesn’t speak ill of her. By contrast, she tries to make excuses for her. From the other side of Murray, he uses more swear words in line 30 ‘Bullshit’ and in line 40 ‘Jesus’ to criticize his colleagues directly.
The poll, conducted by ABC News and ESPN, shows that 54 percent of 1,004 American think that Tiger Woods’ apology is sincere and pure-hearted and willing to forgive his behavior (ESPN.com news service, 2010). The reason why people believe that he will turn over a new leaf is that as a public figure, Tiger Woods has courage to admit his mistakes instead of concealing and ignoring them. In this formal public statement, he declares his faults in serious tone, facing his friends, supporters and media journalists. All of them are familiar with him to some extent so that he shows great courage to face them even to commit his donkey act. The foregoing behaviors show that Tiger Woods is trying to improve his public image after these shameful mistakes he had made. According to linguistic gender features (Unitec, 2010), men intend to use more direct and straightforward sentences than women. For example, in paragraph 14 ‘I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated’ and in paragraph 18 ‘I was wrong. I was foolish’ all prove this point of view.
Comparison and Contrast
In this section, the writer will compare and contrast the similarities and differences between these two transcripts and give the comparison with the workplace conversations in my own country. When it comes to the similarities between ‘A Pack of Brains’ and Tiger Woods’ public statement, they are related to workplace conversations with specific words and discourse features. What is more, the most obvious characteristic in both of them is the using of repetition and reformation, as the writer mentioned before, in the section of analysis and discussion.
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However, there are two main differences among these two passages. Firstly, the genres of them are different. ‘A Pack of Brains’ is a dialogue between a team leader and a team member that happened in factory while Tiger Woods’ public statement is his monologue in terms of an apology to the public. Secondly, they are involved in different situations. The first article is dealing with a complaint about one team member while the second article is a public apology for Tiger Woods’ irresponsible behaviors.
As far as the writer is concerned, talk at walk in China is very different from western countries. First of all, take the situation taken place in ‘A Pack of Brains’ for example, Murray says swear words ‘Bullshit’ ‘Jesus’ to reply his leader. It is almost inconceivable when it happened in China because there are strict distinctions of rank in my country. The subordinates should use polite and respectful expressions to talk with their superiors, otherwise they are considered as an uneducated and disrespectful person. In the second place, the westerners are more direct and frank than Chinese. For instance, in Tiger Woods’ public statement, he says ‘I was unfaithful’, ‘I was foolish’ and ‘I cheated’ those self-condemned sentences to show his repentance and guilty.
However, people hardly put themselves down when they say sorry to others in China because of their self-esteem. Last but not the least, people in my country are inclined to make excuse when they make mistakes by finding objective reasons or blaming anybody else. By contrast, just like Tiger Woods’, westerners intend to put mistakes upon themselves. The illustrations of this are ‘I am the only person to blame’ and ‘I have a lot to atone for’ in the second transcript.
Personal Evaluative Comments
Everyone wants to win a place for him or her in society to demonstrate that we are a contributing member of society. As I mentioned before, human beings spend most of their life time in a workplace where we can prove our ability and achieve our goals. Hence, knowing how to survive in the workplace plays a very essential role in our career and life. The first step of this is learning a how to talk properly on jobsites.
Through analyzing and examining two transcripts about talk at work, I have found many useful conversational skills and interesting interactional strategies. In ‘A Pack of Brains’, when your leader cannot help but to complain about something, the best thing for you is listen, listen and listen and give some back channels at the proper time. What’s more, when you want to emphasize some important things, you can use repetition and reformation to achieve this effect.
In addition, in my country you cannot say swear words in front of your superior. This would be seen as very rude and uneducated while in New Zealand it seems OK because people have equal rights no matter their class groups and status. Speaking of the second transcript, it is very interesting to notice that a famous golf star keeps a low profile to apologize to common people while in my country, celebrities are inclined to attract the public’s attention by causing so much trouble and then say sorry in a perfunctory way. Therefore, I can never image such a sincere and genuine apology comes from a public figure.
To sum up, this essay has dealt with analyzing and examining with two workplace conversations. One is ‘A Pack of Brains’ that occurred in a factory when a superior complains about something wrong with a member of the team to her subordinate. The other one is a transcript of Tiger Woods’ public statement in terms of his sincere apology for his extramarital affairs. The writer analyzes and discusses their features from three aspects. They are lexical features, syntactic features and pragmatic features. In each part of them, the writer shows their characteristics by giving detailed examples.
The lexical features of ‘A Pack of Brain’ are back channels, hesitation devices, repetition and swear words. While in the transcript of Tiger Woods’ public statement, the lexical features are employing reformation and starter phrases. When it comes to the syntactic features, the modals, rhetorical question and exclamatory sentence are used as strengthening devices. However, parataxis sentences, short sentences appear frequently in the later one with weakening devices such as ‘please’ and ‘would’. In respect of the pragmatic features, the gender and status are worthy of consideration. In the first transcript, women use longer sentences and will be more empathic than men while men use short and direct sentences and are ruder than women. It is as the same as the second transcript.
Following that, the writer gives a comparison and contrast between these two conversations related to their genres and participates. Moreover, there are many differences of workplace talk between China and other foreign countries around the manner of speaking and self-esteem. Finally, the writer discussed some personal evaluative comments, which are related to conversational skills and interesting findings from these two pieces.
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