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Attitude Towards Silence In Western Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1717 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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The Chinese saying “silence is more impressive than speech ” indicates the peculiar effect of silence in communications . As a characteristic of natural conversation , it is a component of conversation and is also a way to establish a conversation . If we try to identify the different kinds of silence according to the conversational turns , then we can put them into three categories :

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Within-turn silence and inter-turn silence appear within or between a conversational turns ,while turn silence alone can act as a conversational turns .It can also be called significant or attributed silence . This kind of silence is a consequence of the hearer’s conscious or subconscious behavior , as a result ,this kind of silence is full of pragmatic implicatures. So in this part ,we will put more emphasis on the attributable silence .

Different attitudes towards silence

Language is a carrier of cultures , thus the silence is also a mirror of different cultures . In order to identify the difference of attitudes toward silence ,we can have a comparison between Western and Chinese culture .

Attitude towards silence in Western culture :

Generally ,westerners have a negative view towards silence . Date back to the ancient Greek , they use language as a powerful tool to discover and express truth, as well as to extend themselves and have an impact on others . Therefore , they intend to take silence as a sign of indifference, indignation , objection and even hostility .

Attitude towards silence in Chinese culture.

One can’t deny that Confucianism and Taoism have exerted a great impact on the Chinese people. A Chinese saying “One should talk less and do more ” illustrates the positive attitude toward silence of Chinese culture , in which silence has been given the

Meaning of respect, humbleness, agreement and friendliness.

However , people can still achieve the recessive communication through the intercourse of each other’s status , identity and relationship ,etc.

What is attributable silence

In our daily life conversation , it is not difficult to find that there are always some pauses emerging between the continuous talks. For example , a man asks the doctor what disease he has been diagnosed in the end , if the doctor wrinkles his brows and remains silent , then the man will immediately know the severity of his disease . And literally , “attributable “means capable of being attributed to . So if we apply it into the aforementioned example , we can say the silence of the doctor is attributed to his hesitation or a kind of acquiescence. Then accordingly , we can say such a meaningful silence is called an attributable silence (Jaworsky, 1993).

Different meanings of attributable silence

Sometimes words do not convey ideas . Instead , they may become barriers , while silence and pause conceive the real intention of speakers. That is to say , the use of silence can have an effect of generating the semantics and the non-speech can be interpreted according to the expected possibilities for speech . That is way various types of silences have different meanings and functions.

Judgmental silence:

It is a kind of silence which signals disapproval and disfavor .For example , when a man asks his friends whether he can lend him some money , if his friend drops into a silence ,then this man can immediately know the answer is no . Or otherwise, in other circumstances, it also represents assent and approval.

Linkage silence

This kind of silence may either improve people’s relation or estrange them.

Affective silence

Affective silence can be regarded as reconciliation or indifference in a relation, especially in the circumstance of argument.

Revelatory silence :

It is a kind of silence that equals acquiescence as in the example given in the part of brief introduction of silence.

Activating silence

This kind of attributable silence is always appearing when one finds it not easy to express his feelings by means of words towards a very thought- provoking thing or matter .Conversely; it may indicate mental inactivity as it seems that he does not pay any attention to it.

In conclusion, attributable silence is a very important part in conversation. Often, it conveys more significant and profound meaning than words. We may even know the real thought and concern of the other one in this meaningful silence. So to speak, it is very economic, it’s a method for people to know more and deeper in the process of interpreting the silence.

What is Sequence organization

When we think of clumps of turns in “action ” terms .we are dealing with courses of actions -with sequences if actions that have some shape or trajectory to them ,that is ,with that we will call “sequence organization ” or “the organization of sequences .” We should notice that much of what conversation analysis is concerned with is “sequential organization “, so it is essential for us to be clear on the difference between “Sequential organization “and “sequence organization “.

“Sequential organization “is the more general term , we use it to refer to any king of organization which concerns the relative positioning of utterances or actions . So turn-taking is a type of sequential organization because it concerns the relative ordering of speakers ,of turn-constructional units ,and of different types of utterance .

“Sequence organization ” is another type of sequential organization .Its scope is the organization of courses of action enacted through turns-at-talk -coherent ,orderly ,meaningful successions or “sequences” of actions or ” moves “.Sequences are the vehicle for getting some activity accomplished(Emanuel A. Schegloff ,2007)

The adjacency pair as the unit for sequence construction .

We begin with the most elementary features of adjacency pairs and their basic mode of operation .

In its minimal , basic unexpected form , an adjacency pair is characterized by certain features :

It is :

composed of two turns

By different speakers

Adjacently placed ; that is ,one after the other

The two turns are relatively ordered; that is ,they are differentiated into “first pair parts ” and “second pair parts.

First pair parts are utterance types such as question, request ,offer ,invitation ,announcement ,etc -types which initiate some exchange

Second pair parts are utterance types such as answer ,grant ,reject ,accept ,decline ,agree/disagree ,acknowledge ,etc -types which are responsive to the action of a prior turn .(

The components of an adjacency are pair -related ; that is , the components of adjacency pairs are fit not only into the first and second pair parts ,but into the pair types which they can partially compose :greeting -greeting (“Hello”, “Hi “),question -answer (“Do you know what time is it ?”, “Four o’clock), offer accept/decline (“would you like a cup of coffee ?”,”No , thanks “,if it is declined (Emanuel A. Schegloff ,2007).

Alternative second pair parts

In starting this part , let me first tell you a joke :

(Setting : A Chinese man drove the car out of the road and fell down to a lower ground beside the road in America. He was not seriously injured but needs help to get out of the car . At the moment , a policeman came and tried to figure out what has happened . )

Policeman : How are you ?

Chinese man : I ‘am fine .Thank you

Then the policeman grove away.

This joke indicates that although the adjacency pairs are sequences of some formulaic and common practice in our language , most adjacency pair types have alternative types of second pair part ,like preferred and dis preferred responses ,which will be discussed further in the next part. But some sequence types (a very few )seem to have only one type of second pair part . The prototypes here are greetings and farewells or terminal exchanges (“bye bye “).Although there may be a variety of greeting forms with which to respond (“Hello “,”Hi”,”Hiya”,”Howyadoin”,etc), these are not alternative types of response ;they all reciprocate the greeting .

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I believe most of you have such an experience : after watching a movie , you may ask your companion ,” well ,what do you think ?” or ” How did you like it ?”. But the response may not be an answer ,instead ,” How did you like it ?” or “what did you think ?” These are called counters ; they do not serve to defer the answering of the question (though the one doing the counter may end up answering later nonetheless ); they replace it with a question of their own .They thus reverse the direction of the sequence and its flow ; they reverse the direction of constraint .

Here is another empirical instance. A mother and her 1.5 years old are looking at a children’ s picture book together :

Child : What ‘s this ?

Mom: You tell me : what is it ?

Child: zebra ?

Mom: Zebra .Yes !

The child asks a question (an FFP ), but in the next turn ,the mother does not answer the question .Rather , she redirects the same question back to it asker , for its asker to answer (Emanuel A. Schegloff ,2007).

The organization of preference dis preference

Much of our daily lives is spent talking to one another and they may be specialized in certain settings as meetings, classrooms, etc. And very often, our conversation is sequentially organized according to these settings. Sequence organization are concerning about the ways in which turns-at-talk are ordered and combined to make actions take place in conversation ,such as requests ,offers ,complaints ,and announcements(Emanuel A.Schegloff, 2007).


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