Notes on Framing in Discourse
Notes on Framing in Discourse, ed. Deborah Tannen. Oxford UP, 1993.
Introduction (Deborah Tannen)
The concept of framing was introduced by Gregory Bateson in "A Theory of Play and Fantasy". "Bateson demonstrated that no communicative move, verbal or nonverbal, could be understood without reference to a metacommunicative message, or metamessage, about what is going on—that, what frame of interpretation applies to the move" (3). At present, "frames theory already lies at the heart of the most comprehensive and coherent theoretical paradigm in interactional sociolinguistics: Gumperz's (1982) theory of converational inference. Gumperz shows that converstional inference, a process requisite for conversational involvement, is made possible by contextualiztion cues that signal the speech activity in which participants perceive themselves to be engaged (4)." All the chapters in this volume "combine to demonstrate how theories of framing can be translated into nuts-and-bolts discourse analysis" (5); "the term 'frame' and related terms such as 'script' and 'schema' have been used in a range of disciplines to refer to what I define as 'structures of expectation'" (5).
"'Knowledge schemas' are the type of framing device discussed in Chapter 1; 'interactive frames' are frames in Bateson and Goffman's sense, that is, what people think they are doing when they talk to each otehr (i.e. are they joking, lectureing, or arguing? Is this a fight or is it play?)" (...) "the frames/schema model allows us to elucidate the complexity of the pediatrician's verbal behavior in the interaction" in Ch. 2 (6).
In Ch. 3, "Ribeiro's study is exemplary of the power of frames theory to illuminate an otherwise seemingly incoherent discourse type. It is also a ground-breaking analysis of psychotic discourse" (7).
Ch. 4: "Hoyle integrates the concepts of framing and participation structure to show that the boys balance multiple participation frameworks in their sportscasting play. For exmaple, the 'outermost frame' of 'play' or 'fulfilling a request to do sportscasting' is a rima around the embedded frame of 'doing sportscasting'" (8); "analysis of children's framing of their play adds to our understanding of the human capacity to manipulate frames in interaction" (8).
Ch. 5 distinguishes four "exegetical authority" footings, each projecting a distinct textual self: "the men tended to foregorund 'their textual self-authority both by putting themselves on record as exegeters of the text and by calling attention to the current participation framework in the exegetical task more often than did the women'. In contrast, the women use a variety of framing strategies to downplay their personal authority as text exegeters" (8).
Ch.6: "The Americans perceived the group as four individuals bound only by an activity, whereas the Japanese perceived themselves as group memebers united in a hierarchy." The Japanese avoided confrontation, while "the Americans' conclusions were exclusive, leading therefore to some confrontation when individuals' accounts differed" (9); "in the Japanese framework, speaking is face-threatening to the speaker, so women take this potentially compromising position because they have less face to lose" (9).
Ch. 7 on "the role of teasing in negotiating relationships" (10).
Ch. 8 "Schiffrin shows that the previously undescribed conversational move 'speaking for another'—that is, voicing something about someone else, in that person's presence, which only that person is in a position to know—accomplishes a frame shift by realigning participants" (10); "speaking for another is a ritualization of the submersion of the self in interaction which constitutes the interactive process itself" (11).
"The book, therefore, builds toward and appreciation of the role of framing in the most significant and persuasive realm of human interaction: the negotiation of interpersonal relations and personal identity" (12).
1. What's in a Frame? Surface Evidence for Underlying Expectations (Deborah Tannen)
"I have been struck lately by the recurrence of a single theme in a wide variety of contexts: the power of expectation. For example, the self-fulfilling prophecy has bneen proven to operate in education as well as in individual psychology" (14). "The notion of expectations is at the root of a wave of theories and studies in a broad range of fields, including linguistics. It is this notion, I believe, which underlies talk about frames, scripts, and schemata (....) . "I will illustrate a way of showing the effects of these 'structures of expectation' on verbalization in the telling of oral narratives" (15).
"The term 'schema' traces back to Bartlett (1932) in his pioneering book, Remembering (Bartlett himself borrows the term from Sir Henry Head)" (15); "all these complex terms and approaches amount to the simple concept of what R. N. Ross (1975) calls 'structures of expectations', that is, that on the basis of one's experience of the world in a given culture (or combination of cultures), one ortanizes knowledge about the world and uses this knowledge to predict interpretations and relationships regarding new information, everns, and experiences" (16). "Any time there is a mismatch between data and process or expectations and occurrences, conscious processes are brought in" (Bobrow and Norman, 1975: 148) - "This reflects, then, the way in which a person's perception of the world proceeds automatically so long as expectations are met, while s/he is stopped short, forced to question things, only when they are not" (Tannen 17). "Bateson introduced the notion of frame in 1955 to explain how individuals exchange signals that allow them to agree upon the level of abstraction at which any message is intended" (18). Frake (1977) "is opposing a static notion of frames in favor of an interactive model" (19) and "ends his paper with the extended metaphor of people as mapmakers whose 'culture does not provide a cognitive map, but rather a set of principles for mapmaking and navigation'" (19).
"At the same time that expectations make it possible to perceive and interpret objects and events in the world, they shape those perceptions to the model of the world provided by them" (21); "I would like to consider how expectations affect language production, and, in the process, show a way of discovering what constitutes them—that is, to show how we can know what's in a frame" (21).
Experimental subjects in narrative tests here - "since they are not sure what they are telling the story for, they cannot always judge whether elements are important. This discomfort is verbalized, making that expectation overt" (25). E.g. in descriptions of a film by American and Greek viewers, American subjects mention that it does not contain any dialogue (or any telling in fact). "Again, they comment on the pace as an artifact of the film, not as a comment on the way the man is behaving, indicating that the speakers are in a film-description frame" (28). A woman manifests her insecurity about her role as a viewer: "Her false start, the negative statement about her own knowledge, and the modal all indicate her insecurity about the image she has presented of herself as a film viewer. The expectation is revealed that an adept viewer correctly interprets the actions of a film" (30). Overall, "Americans are media-wise, or media-conscious, so their expectations about films and film viewing are more developed and more salient to them" (30). "The tendency to approach the film for its 'message' can be seen in other Greek narratives as well" (32). Also expectations about events are shown by the way speakers describe specific events portrayed in it (35). Kinds of evidence of expectations analyzed here: Omission ("We may say that the Greeks omitted to mention the goat and thereby revealed something about their expectations", 41); Repetition, False starts, Backtrack, Hedges and hedgelike words or phrases, Negatives, Contrastive connectives, Modals, Inexact statements, Generalization, Inferences, Evaluative language (e.g. adjectives: "the fact that the speaker chose that quality to comment upon is significant, and more often than not, the quality expressed reveals some comparison with what might have been expected", 48), Interpretation ("Interpretive naming is the process by which a noun is used for a character or object which represents more information than the film presented), Moral judgement, Incorrect statement, Addition.
"I have shown that the notions of script, frame, and schema can be understood as structures of expectation based on past experience, and that these structures can be seen in the surface linguistic form of the sentences of a narrative. Furthermore, the structures of expectation which help us to process and comprehend stories serve to filter and shape perception. That is why close analysis of the kinds of linguistic evidence I have suggested can reveal the expectations or frames which create them" (53).
(Frames also structure attention; both unconscious attention so to speak, when expectations are met, and conscious attention when they are not met - JAGL).
2. Interactive Frames and Knowledge Schemas in Interaction: Examples from a Medical Examination/Interview (Deborah Tannen and Cynthia Wallat)
"Goffman (1981a) introduces the term 'footing' as 'another way of talking about a change in our frame for events', 'a change in the alignment we take up to ourselves and the others present as expressed in the way we manage the production or reception of an utterance' (p. 128). He describes the ability to shift footing within an interaction as 'the capacity of a dexterous speaker to jump back and forth, keeping different circles in play' (p. 156)" (58). Here: "Based on our refinement of the terms 'frames' and 'schemas', we show how the two interact and affect communication" (59)
"The various uses of 'frame' and related terms fall into two categories. One is interactive 'frames of interpretation' which characterize the work of anthropologists and sociologists (...) The other category is knowledge structures, which we refer to as 'schemas'" (59). Interactive frames: "Goffman (1974) sketched the theoretical foundations of frame analysis in the work of William James, Alfred Schutz and Harold Garfinkel to investigate the socially constructed nature of reality" (60) and "introduced the term 'footing' to describe how, at the same time that participants frame events, they negotiate the interpersonal relationships, or 'alignments', that constitute those events" (60). Ortega y Gasset: "Before understanding any concrete statement, it is necessary to perceive clearly 'what it is all about' in this statement and 'what game is being played'" (a broadly Heideggerian approach to contextualization).
"We use the term 'knoweldge schema' to refer to participants' expectations aobut people, objects, events, and settings in the world, as distinguished from alignments being negotiated in a particular interaction" (60). "The contribution of our analysis is to show the distinction and interaction between knowledge schemas and interactive frames" (61). Interactive frames in a pediatric examination; register shifting, frame shifting... as the pediatrician communicates with the child, with the mother, or puts on record the findings. "These frames are balanced nonverbally as well as verbally. Thus the pediatrician keeps one arm outstretched to rest her hand on the child while she turns away to talk to the mother, palpably keeping the child 'on hold'" (65). Juggling frames. Interactive production of frames. Homonymy of behaviors: activities superficially the same may have a different signification if they are associated with different frames. Conflicting frames: "Each frame entails ways of behaving that potentially conflict with the demands of other frames. For example, consulting with the mother entails not only interrupting the examination sequence but also taking extra time to answer her questions", etc. (67), these conflicting demands "result in competing demands on the doctor's cognitive and social capacities" (69).
Knowledge schemas in the pediatric interaction: "when participants have different schemas, the result can be confusion and talking at cross-purposes, and, frequently, the triggering of switches in interactive frames" (69). E.g. mother's mismatching schemas about symptoms described require the doctor shift frames from examination to consultation. "An understanding of schemas accounts for many of the doctor's lengthy explanations, as well as the mother's apparent discomfort and hedging when her schemas lead her to contradict those of the doctor. Moreover, and most signficantly, it is the mismatch of schemas that frequently occasions the mother's recurrent questions, which, in their turn, require the doctor to interrupt the examination frmae and switch to a consultation frame" (73). "There is every reason to believe that frames and schemas operate in similar ways in all face-to-face interaction, although the particular frames and schemas will necessarily differ in different settings" (73).
3- Framing in Psychotic discourse (Branca Telles Ribeiro)
"As one analyzes the discourse of a psychotic patient, it becomes clear that her speech may be segmented into several frames. Within each frame, the speaker signals a different metamessage which indicate the type of interaction that she believes is taking place at that moment" (77); here "a psychotic patient coherently signals and assesses the different frames of talk that occur in the interview" (78). "What emerges is that Dona Jurema uses language to mirror the different social functions that each participant has in her discourse" (110).
4- Participation Frameworks in Sportscasting Play: Imaginary and Literal Footings (Susan M. Hoyle)
"All messages are framed by implicit metamessages indicating the way in which the content is to be taken" (114) - Bateson, Goffman, Tannen, etc. "Goffman suggests, further, that most often interactants do not simply change footing but rather embed one footing within another" (115). Shown here in the management of frames in children's talk. "I suggest, then, that when children's talk and play are investigated on their own terms, rather than as compared to specific adult performances, children are seen to be skullful language users" (115).
Spontaneous Sportscasting by children "reporting live" their own play: "Like the reporting of adult announcers (...) the boys' sportscasting tailk is 'activity-tied' (Ervin-Tripp 1977: 165): it is structured largely by what is going on, at any moment, in the game" (117). "Thus, the boys' situation is different only in degree not in kind from that of real sportscasters: the boys' audience is imaginary, wherteas the audience of real announcers is imagined" (122). They may shift out of this footing parenthetically, "But when the question is resolved, or the comment finished, the boys return to sportscasting. Thus the footing of the literal situation is embedded within the footing of the sportscast" (125).
Mixing Frames in spontaneous sportscasting; Elicited sportscasting, etc.;
Conclusion: "But even though they are freed of the need to embed the participation framework of the literal situation within the imaginary one, they continue to create layers of footings, embedding one imaginary participation framewor within another. Their so doing indicates, I suggest, that all discourse is layered" (142). "For the analyst, identifying the ways in which interactants manipulate frames helps to explain how discourse is at once anchored in literal experience yet not restricted by it. Identifying the outer frame of an activity, the points at which it is most firmly linked to the literal world, is only a starting point in exploring what is going on. More revealing of the nature of an activity, often, is the way in which participation frameworks, assembled out of such ordinary discourse elements as address terms and reference forms, are layered and mixed (142).
5- The pulpit and the woman's place: Gender and the Framing of the 'Exegetical Self' in Sermon Performances (Frances Lee Smith)
A study of the differences in the way men and women tend to use linguistic resources in order to construct credibility, or what Goffman calls a "textual self". "Thus, in a typical sermon performance, the preacher displays a textual self as exegeter, illustrator, and exhorter, according to the task in which s/he is currently engaged. I limited my examination to the preacher's presentation of self as exegeter" (147). A display of gender "is accomplished through the linguistic strategies the speaker uses for framing the performance" (147).
Studies on gender and framing. The Goodwins "show that human beings frame froms of talk such as everyday arguments and narratives according to interpersonal goals" (...); "the embedding of alignments is central to the construction of narratives and arguments", and that ideologies about the social identity of the performer help shape the performance (148); "The girls used indirect forms and carefully chose the characters and actions in their narratives in order to provoke their listener into a future confrontation that would reorganize the social identities of the group in a way that was satisfactory to the narrator" (149).
Models of framing and involvement strategies. Goffman on "The Lecture": "the success of the performance lies in the performer's ability to convince the audience that they not only are experiencing the privilege of hearing a text, but also are gaining added access to the heart and mind of the author of the text, an author who is surrendering himself or herself to the current occasion for the benefit of the audience" (150). 4 additional footings: "rekeyings", "text bracketings", "text parenthetical remarks" and "management of performance contingencies"; "What these foour footings have in common is that in each one, the lecturer as 'principal' splits his or her animator self off from the author self in order to qualify or modify either the current spoken text (as in rekeyings, text brackets, text parenthetical remarks) or the performance situation (as in management of performance contingencies)" (151), for Goffman "what makes for 'good' writing is systematically different from what makes for 'good' speaking, and the degree to which the lecturer uses the normative spoken form marks the degree to which it will apppear he has delivered himself to the speaking event" (Goffman 189, qtd. in Smith 151). Tannen and 'involvement strategies': "For Goffman, this is accomplished through the 'localizing' or 'indexicalizing' of a text through 'fresh talk'. // According to Tannen's model, this process would be described as creating and impression of 'involvement'" (152). "Tannen's 'involvement strategies' represent linguistic strategies thorough which a text is localized and particularized in and through a specific performance" (152). In the present study of sermons by seminary students, "I found that there were significant inter- and intragender differences in the strategies the students employed for framing their exegetical arguments. The men as a group employed certain ritualized references to self and the audience, discourse markers, question/answer sequences, intensifiers, and modals to put themselves 'on record' as exegeters of the written text more ofthen than the women did. The only woman who used these discourse strategies as frequently as the men was also the only woman who did not express uncertainty about the appropriateness of her preaching to adults" (153). "Overall, then, the men foregrounded their textual-self (i.e., exegetical) authority more than the women did" (153).
The Study. Description, data, etc. "The men who engage in the task are following long-established community expectations; the women are going against them" (154). "These various 'I', 'we,' and 'you' constructions manifest exegetical authority explicitly. Their repeated use in an argument not only verbally defines but also explicitly foregrounds the current ritual participation framework and the preacher's position within it as leader in the exegetical task" (158). Quantitative analysis, etc.
Illustration of the footings. "Five student preachers assumed a footing that I call 'the preacher as "on record" exegeter'" (161), explaining the text and elaborating on it in contemporary speech, presenting themselves as Biblical scholars and mediators. "Five men and three women constructed a 'preacher as "low-profile" exegeter' footing" (165). Two (male and female) presented themselves as narrators rather than exegeters.
Discussion. "In sum, this group of seminary students framed their performances to reflect the ideology of our culture that it is more appropriate for men to present themselves as powerful mediators of a fixed sacred text than it is for women" (172).
6. Cultural differences in framing: American and Japanese Group Discussions (Suwako Watanabe)
Japanese students often lose track in conversation with Americans, "they tend to get lost in the middle of discussion because sometimes opinions, questions, and so forth, expressed by American students are not as relevant to the topic or what has preceded as they expect those utterances to be, and they lose track of what is going on in a discussion and/or view the group discussion as incoherent and disorganized" (177). Two characteristics of Japanese conversation: "nonreciprocality of language use and the tendency toward nonconfrontational communication" (177).
Gumperz notes there are expectations about interaction by conversationalists. "To the extent that these sets of expectations about poeple, objects, events, settings, and ways to interact are conventional, some parts of them may vary from culture to culture" (179). In Japanese conversation, a relational position is assumed by interactants in every interaction based on information about age, sex, social rank, occupation, education, etc.; there is, besides, "the tendency toward nonconfrontational communication which is reflected in indirect and ambiguous communication (Tsujimura 1987, Ramsey 1985)." (180).
In the conversations studied here, "the Japanese discussants appear to be deliberate both in beginning and in ending the discussion frame. They negotiated the procedural matters before they actually discussed topics, and they had a leader punctuate the end of the discussion by asking the group of its intention to end and/or officially announcing the end"( 191); "It seems that the deliberateness with which the japanese began and ended discussion is due to their tendencies toward group orientation and social hierarchy, which are essential elements in Japanese communication" (191). In contrast, "the American expectation is that one should 'get to the point' instead of 'beating around the bush'. To the Japanese participants, getting to the point seemed to have little impact on their ways of presentation." (199). Indirectness preferred as preventing friction and harm in group relationships. "From the American (and Western) perspective, a conclusion is expected to be exclusive" (203). "The Japanese expected a conclusion to be inclusive, allowing both supportive and contradictory accounts at the same time, avoiding confrontation. The Americans' expectations about arguing were that one should take an exclusive position, not accepting any contradictory accounts, and that confrontation is accepted" (204). In converstations between Americans and Japanese, he Japanese "may experience frustration, being unable to participate in the argument because they find the one-at-a-time argumentation of the Americans too fast. At the same time, the Americans may perceive the Japanese as illogical and elusive because they give both supportive and contradictory accounts. (....) In contrast, Japanese may perceive Americans as too individualistic, ignoring the importance of hierarchy within a group" (205).
7. "Samuel?" "Yes, dear?" Teasing and Conversational Rapport (Carolyn A. Straehle)
"Since a felicitious intepretation of the metamessage of play relies on the shared understanding of subtle linguistic cues, it is not surprising that the nature of teasing appears linked to the relative closeness of the individuals involved: whereas in a tentative relationship direct teasing might be cautiously avoided, in an intimate one, it may be vigorously pursued" (228). Alliances created in teasing both reflect existing friendships, and enhance relationships "by affording speakers 'safe' opportunities for showing conversational involvement and rapport" (228).
8. "Speaking for Another" in Sociolinguistic Interviews: Alignments, Identities, and Frames (Deborah Schiffrin)
"Speaking for oneself" is the dominant rule in interaction; when "speaking for another" who is present occurs, special moves for confirmation etc. are often necessary. This move "seems to be interpreted depending upon how responsibility for speaking comes to be transfrerred (does the spokesperson 'take' responsibility or is it 'given' hto her?) and on how that transfer is viewed by participants (as intrusion or as welcome participation)" (235). "What this means is that the interactional meaning of speaking for another depends on current perceptions of alignments—such that speaking for another during a conversation can just as easily be positively or negatively glossed (as noted above). Furthermore, since social relationships are also reinforced (if not even created) during conversation, speaking for another during conversation can have not only local interactive meaning, but broader implications about one's own (and the other's) rights, privileges, and responsibilities" (236). In Goffman's terms, "we can say that one person is acting as animator for another person who is in a principal role" (236).
The negotiation of participation and identity. "That the differential construction of participation frameworks is a realization and reflection of gender is suggested by a variety of studies. Jones (1972) and Kalcik (1975), for example, suggest that women pursue topics of talk more interactively than men—that what one person proposes as a topic is progressively built upon by another" (240). In the conversation analyzed here "Zelda's realignments were inclusive and reinforcing: they allowed participants to continue their prior, relatively active, roles. Not only were Henry's realignments more divisive, but he also pursued them more completely, and they created more radical shifts in participant structure" (249).
Framing in sociolinguistic interviews. Rephrasing of questions by interviewees reflects their relationships to other participants, besides their interaction with the interviewer.
Participation frameworks, Identity displays, and Frames: "Utterances (the use of language) have a critical role in this codependency between self and context simply because they provide information: a current utterance provices information that creates a range of potential contexts to which a next utterance can respond. Put another way, language evokes a number of potential frames (both institutional and interactional) within which a next utterance can be interpreted" (255). In this range of responses, "each next utterance selects a slightly different aspect of the current utterance as a basis from which to respond, and in so doing, it provides an interpretive frame in which not only the next utterance, but the entire utterance pair, can be understood. Put another way, a next utterance is a slot in which a speaker can both respond to, and retroactively create, a prior frame" (256).
(Here Schiffrin refers back to Goffman's Forms of Talk. In my paper "Retroactive Thematization, Interaction, and Interpretation: The Hermeneutic Spiral from Schleiermacher to Goffman" I further discuss the hermeneutic implications of these "retroactive effects" noted by Goffman and Schiffrin).
Speaking for another may have both negative or positive meanings as regards the other's face, either endangering or reinforcing self/other solidarity. "Here I want to suggest even more: taking the role of the other is an act that reflects the process of interaction itself. Although not often mentioned in recent retrospectives of Goffman's work (e.g., Drew and Wooton 1988, Ditton 1980), the notion of taking the role of the other is critical to the foundations of his perspective because it is critical to the interaction process" (258). G. H. Mead and the importance of anticipating the other's response. "Not only is much of what we say explicitly oriented toward reception by a hearer, but speaking a language is itself a process that requires symbolically putting oneself in the other's place in order to know how to tailor one's information (syntactically, semantically, and pragmatically) so that it will be comprehensible to that other. Speaking for another thus represents the ritualization—the formal display—of a process that is at the very crux of social interaction: speaking for another can be seen as the linguistic submersion of the self in the interactive process" (258).
Students of sociolinguistic variation should take this into account, besides the notion that a speaker can use a variety of styles; and therefore "incorporate the idea that identity is dynamic and is mutually constitutive with the organization of talk" (259).