New adventures in language and interaction

New adventures in language and interaction. Ed. by Jürgen Streeck. (Pragmatics and beyond new series 196.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. vi, 275. ISBN 9789027256003. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Lucas Bietti, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen

Jürgen Streeck’s edited book is a continuation of ‘the Pragmatics and beyond and its companion series’ and is a success at all levels. The contributors cover an extensive range of topics in pragmatics and interaction studies: conversation analysis, systemic-functional linguistics, dialogue studies, gesture studies, and distributed cognition. Each contribution provides a coherent argument on the state of the art in its respective field, integrated methodology, and empirical analyses that illuminate their reflections.

The book begins with a chapter by Alain Trognon and Martine Batt where the model of ‘interlocutory logic’ which the authors employ to describe the ‘occurrence and the outcome of cognitions during talk-in-interaction’ (19) is introduced. This model relies on four basic phenomenological properties: illocutionarity, successiveness, dialogicity, and recursiveness. In the next chapter, Stephen J. Cowley claims that language and interaction can be considered a form of distributed cognition which is grounded in full-body activity where brains, bodies, and the material environment are coupled, constituting distributed systems across different space-time scales. Catherine Kerbrat-Orecchioni proposes an eclectic approach to discourse in social interaction. Her synthetic perspective combines pragmatics and speech act theory with interactional sociolinguistics and is grounded in hybrid methods commonly used in the fields that the author is trying to integrate.

In the next chapter, Peter Muntigl and Eija Ventola present a systemic functional linguistic approach to explore social interaction in order to show how language users rely on grammatical resources in situations of meaning-making. Angel Lin looks at discourse tactics in intercultural communication in non-egalitarian contexts. Karen Tracy and Robert T. Craig introduce an ethnographically oriented discourse-analytic perspective that they call action-implicative discourse analysis. In the next chapter, Srikant Sarangi presents an activity analysis approach to analyze cases of genetic counseling.

Elizabeth Armstrong and Alison Ferguson explore the ways in which conversation analysis and systemic functional linguistics have contributed to understanding better how aphasic patients perform in situated communicative interactions. The next chapter points out the key role that hand-gesture plays in communicative interactions. Jürgen Streeck introduces an ecological approach to human multimodal interaction in which he combines phenomenological perspectives to embodied human experience, distributed cognition, and dynamic system theory in order to argue that ‘gesture is symbolic, body action evolved from body’s practical engagement with the world’ (237). Frederick Erickson looks at the ways in which transcription systems can be significantly improved by incorporating musical scores. Finally, the last chapter by John Shotter gives a dialogical and philosophical account of what living in the world means for humans and, thus, serves as an outstanding concluding chapter for the volume.

This book is recommended for anyone interested in conversation analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, pragmatics, distributed cognition, and (multimodal) discourse analysis.