Cultural accent

Jakobson, Roman 1980a. On Poetic Intentions and Linguistic Devices in Poetry: A Discussion with Professors and Students at the University of Cologne. Poetics Today 2(1a): 87-96.

Kasack: [...] You raised the rather difficult question to what extent we, as scholars of literature, may ask ourselves the question whether certain devices deviating from a rule or conforming to a rule - you clarified this very well yesterday - are used consciously or unconsciously. [...]
Jakobson: Thank you for this very important question. I should say - I believe I indicated this yesterday - that there are three possibilities - chance, a sobconscious activity and a conscious activity. I exclude chance here in this case. (Jakobson 1980a: 87)
At first sight these distinctions remind me of the tirad of similarity, contiguity, and continuity, but I don't think they're comparable categories (chance may pertain to similarity, but contiguity and continuity are more difficult).
Once a well-known French scholar of Slavic literature, Vaillant, said to me: "How can you imagine that the forms are really so complicated, if the people do not even realize what these forms are." "Yes," I said, "and what about those Caucasian languages in which there are eighteen grammatical cases?" The natives use these quite accurately, much more so than the scholars, who understand their meaning. At the same time, it is absolutely subliminal. I do believe we cannot exclude the subliminal. (Jakobson 1980a: 88-89)
The distinction between "descriptive" and "prescriptive" (or even "emic" and "etic") is relevant here. Estonians have 14 grammatical cases and I can't even name all of them, but I know how to use them correctly.
There are not only translations, but also transpositions into another art. This poem could be transposed into a painting - perhaps an abstract painting or, on the contrary, a painting in which you can actually see the young girl celebrated by Yeats as well as the heroes of the Iliad and Odyssey who serve as associative links behind the poem. However, something quite different will come out because the semiotic structure is different. It will be an intersemiotic fact. Transposition is permissible. A beautiful picture may even come of it. (Jakobson 1980a: 90)
"Associative links" may be Jakobson's term for literary allusions. (This concerns the referential function.)
I consider Blake's illustration of Dante very beautiful; however, it is not Dante, but something quite different. On the other hand, Yeats' poem could also be put into music or could be filmed. All these transpositions show that there is a common element in all these art forms. Something remains. Most of it is gone, though; I would not say it's lost, but it is altogether transformed. Thus, instead of "substance" I would rather speak of "the semiotic factor," something not exactly corresponding to a sign system, but, as it were, expressible in the most varied sign forms. This does exist. (Jakobson 1980a: 90)
Is it the kind of factor we could add to the scheme of factors?
But what we have got here is, I suppose, one of Sievers's brilliant ideas. It is the whole problem of the innate curves, these Becking curves, as he called them. These are physiognomical qualities to be found in rhythm, melody, in the most varied - one might say biological elements of language, of dialogue as well as of poetry. I am unable to understand why no further research in Germany proceeds in this direction. (Jakobson 1980a: 91)
The animality of speech. Compare to La Barre.
As far as the problem of "oppositions" is concerned, we are dealing here with a true binary phenomenon - the opposition of types corresponding with each other and types excluding each other; and these are matters of importance for the individual as well as for the social life - attraction and repulsion. (Jakobson 1980a: 92)
Approach and avoidance.
I suppose poets want to see something of the mechanism of their own works, and they learn a great deal in this way. Quite a few poets have testified to this. However, it goes without saying that no research into man creates a new human being. No research into poetry creates a new Yeats. (Jakobson 1980a: 93)
Concerning the connection between science and society/culture, as mentioned in the Cultural Semiotic Theses.
A poet's membership of a party is a subject that may be studied; I don't know whether this is one of the most interesting subjects, but I only deal with what is relevant for poetics; and this question is irrelevant for poetics. (Jakobson 1980a: 95)
This point seems to be missed so heavily by so many who have taken up Jakobson's scheme of linguistic functions. They're not communication functions, they're linguistic functions that pertain to language in poetry.
I have here still a few questions to which I ought to reply, if only briefly. I distinguish six essential functions of language according to the six elements of every speech act. The question then arises whether, in that case, I am right in referring to the inner logic of linguistic structures on which the hypothesis of the systematic character of language is based - this in view of the heterogeneity of the functions. I am much obliged to Mr. Lehmann for this question. The idea of the uniform system of language seems odd. Whether we assert anything about society or about language, a system is, as it were, a complex and manifold structure. When I examine the linguistic code, I use the adjective "convertible" in English, a term employed for cars (though there is no corresponding technical expression in German). If it is raining, a "convertible" is equipped with a roof and if the weather is fair, the roof can be taken off. This may also, similarly, apply to the linguistic system. Each linguistic function can become the dominant one. For example, the poetic function may appear as the dominant one, and then the utterance becomes imaginative literature. But the same function can operate together with another one that is dominant. When, for instance, an American foundation sent me a questionnaire requesting me to give my opinion of an applicant for a scholarship, the secretary asked me to express "my candid opinion" about the candidate. Most probably, the pun lay below the treshold of consciousness, and the secretary was not aware of the fact that "candid" and "candidate" are different forms of the same word. Many analogous examples may be quoted. The poetic function plays some part whenever we speak, but it is important whether it is a dominant part or not. And there is no simple accumulation of the six functions. These six functions, interconnected, form a very coherent synthetic whole which should be analyzed in every single case. (Jakobson 1980a: 95-96)
Thus, it would appear that most semioticians have put the cart before the horse. Jakobson emphasizes here that an utterance should be analyzed in terms of every single function and determine the function on the basis of empirical material. What semioticians do, on the other hand, is they begin with the scheme of functions and invent theoretical objects that these functions pertain to.

Jakobson, Roman 1980b. Sign and System of Language: A Reassessment of Saussure's Doctrine. Poetics Today 2(1a): 87-96.

I believe that one may conclude from the whole discussion on "arbitrariness" and "unmotivated" signs, that l'arbitraire was most unfortunate choice of term. This question was dealt with much better by the Polish linguist M. Kruszewski, a contemporary of Saussure (and highly estimated by the latter), as early as in the beginning of the 1880s. Kruszewski made a distinction between two basic factors in the life of a language, two associations: by similarity and by contiguity. The relation between a signans and a signatum, which Saussure arbitrarily described as arbitrary, is in reality a habitual, learned contiguity, which is obligatory for all members of a given language community. (Jakobson 1980b: 33)
Not arbitrary but obligatory, got it. But what does it say about linguistic communities in general?
Actually we encounter two-dimensional units not only on the level of the signatum, as demonstrated by Ch. Bally, but also in the field of the signans. If we recognize that the phoneme is not the ultimate unit of language, but can be decomposed into distinctive features, then it becomes self-evident that we may speak in phonology too about two dimensions, (as we have accords in music), the dimensions of successivity and of simultaneity. (Jakobson 1980b: 34)
Just yesterday I thought about how I could elaborate Clay's theory of (in)distinctiveness. Jakobson's "distinctive features" might be a good starting point. One only needs to apply it on more general signs (than language signs).
This translatability lays bare that semantic invariant for which we are searching in the signatum. In such a way it becomes possible to submit semantic problems of language to distributional analysis. Metalinguistic identifying sentences, such as "A rooster is a male of a hen" belong to the text inventory of the English language community; the reversibliity of both expressions - "A male of a hen is a rooster" - demonstrates how the meaning of words becomes a real linguistic problem through a distributive analysis of such common metalingual utterances. (Jakobson 1980b: 35)
An addition to my metalanguage. When various authors attempt to define the phatic function, they are in effect constructing "metalinguistic identifying sentences" for identifying phaticity with some perceptible phenomenon.
Saussure's identification of the contrast between synchrony and diachrony with the contrast between statistics and dynamics turned out to be misleading. In actual reality synchrony is not at all static; changes are always emerging and are a part of synchrony. Actual synchrony is dynamic. Static synchrony is an abstraction, which may be useful to the investigation of language for specific purposes; however, an exhaustive true-to-facts synchronic description of language must consistently consider the dynamics of language. Both elements, the point of origin and the final phase of any change, exist for some time simultaneously within one language community. They coexist as stylistic variants. When taking this important fact into consideration, we realize that the image of language as a uniform and monolithic system is oversimplified. (Jakobson 1980b: 35)
Permanent dynamic synchrony, one of his favorite topics.
Language is a system of systems, an overall code which includes various subcodes. These variagated language styles do not make an accidental, mechanical aggregation, but rather a rule-governed hierarchy of subcodes. Though we can tell which of the subcodes is the basic code, it is nevertheless a dangerous simplification to exclude the discussion of the other subcodes. If we consider langue as a totality of the conventions of a language, then we must be very careful not to be reseaching fictions. (Jakobson 1980b: 35)
It sometimes feels like phaticity is a research fiction. Is it a style of language? Does it involve a distinct subcode of language?
In the London school of mathematical information theory the cardinal difference was clearly recognized and the problem of communication was separated from other aspects of information. First of all, one must distinguish between two classes of signs - indices and symbols, as Peirce called them. Indices, which the physicist extracts from the external world, are not reversible. He transforms these indices given in nature into his own system of scientific symbols. In the science of language the situation is cardinally different. The symbols exist immediately in language. Instead of the scientist, who extracts certain indices from the external world and reshapes them into symbols, here an exchange of symbols occurs between the participants of a communication. Here the roles of addresser and addressee are interchangeable. (Jakobson 1980b: 36)
That is, extracting indices (indexical signs) from the physical world is a form of "unilateral semiotization".
One should also take into account the considerable process of "recoding": in this case one language is interpreted in the light of another language, or one style of speech in the light of another one; one code or subcode is translated into another code or subcode. (Jakobson 1980b: 37-38)
Thus, recoding occurs also when the function of a sign/utterance is subversed.

Thomas, A. P.; Peter Bull and Derek Roger 1982. Conversational exchange analysis. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 1(2): 141-156.

Bales' IPA allows one to distinguish between the types of information that can be asked for and given, but does not allow the distinction between the types of information accepted and rejected. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 142)
Approach and avoidance.
In developing a set of descriptors by which speech is subsequently classified, there is always an implicit or explicit decision as to the size of the unit of communication to be categorized (Guetzkow, 1950). Making the decisions explicit through a set of rules ensures objectivity and enhances system reliability. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 143)
My own concern lies with the size of the communication system, i.e. level of abstraction.
The minimal unit of speech conveying a single thought or idea has been variously defined by a number of authors. For example, Wilson (1974) suggests a passage of speech with specific function, Longabaugh et al (1966) a smallest bit of action, Holsti (1969) a theme, or a single assertion about a subject, Penman (1980) a connected flow of behaviour with a single intent of illocutionary form, and Bales (1950) and Fries (1952) a simple sentence. However, in each case the method of extracting a single theme, or isolating a simple sentence in conversational speech is left unspecified. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 144)
Similar question about units should be posed for so-called "phatic utterances".
Conversational speech is coded in three distinct conceptual levels in CEA. These are: 1) Activity, which refers to how information is made salient in the interaction, such as, is the information asked for, or given, etc.; 2) Type, which refers to the sort of information exchanged, such as beliefs, past experiences, etc.; and 3) Focus, which refers to the referent of the information. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 146)
In case of so-called phatic utterances, 1) the information is not salient, 2) type is not restricted because one can "chit-chat" about basically anything, and 3) I don't even know yet.
The lack of fit apparent here between grammar and discourse can be handled by what Sinclair & Coulthard call the 'situation', where situation refers to the environment, social conventions, shared knowledge of the participants, etc. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 147)
The physical situation, social situation, and epistemic situation.
The Modify category is a specialised form of the Consent and Dissent category, when neither are particularly appropriate. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 147)
Approach and avoidance.
Phatic refers to acts that are similar to Offers in that it refers to speech that initiates conversation, but it does so by introducing information that is conventional and ritualised, such as 'hello', 'how are you?', etc. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 148)
Some authors are really bent on the conventionalization aspect.
A review of the literature, and the work of Bugental (1948), Danziger & Greenglass (1970), and Morley & Stephenson (1977) in particular, suggests that a third level of analysis is required, by which the referent of the communication could be classified. [...] Simmary of CEA Subject/Object Focus Categories:
  1. No focus is used when no explicit focus is mentioned in the speech unit.
  2. Self refers to when a person explicitly mentions his/her own attitudes, behaviours, etc.
  3. Partner is used when the speaker explicitly describes his/her partner's attitudes, etc.
  4. Both refers to when a person explicitly describes the attitudes, etc., of both him-herself and his/her partner.
  5. Other is used when the attitudes, etc., of another person or institution, not involved in the conversation, are explicitly described, e.g. the government, trade union policy, etc.
  6. Hypothetical refers to speech that explicitly describes the attitudes, etc., of a hypothetical person or group, and is typically characterised by the use of the referents 'one', 'people', and 'they', in the sense 'One shouldn't do that'.
(Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 151)
Wow. This is much more comprehensive than the classical I-You-It.

Mutt, Oleg 1982. Some peripheral (and mostly neglected) areas in the teaching of English conversation at the advanced level. Methodica: Acta et commentationes Universitatis Tartuensis 11: 79-83.

Since the 1950s the realization has gradually spread also among foreign language teachers that conversation is not merely the exchange of information by means of speech, but involves a variety of channels of communication that may be verbal or non-verbal, the latter both vocal nad non-vocal (Mutt, O., 1967, p. 460 ff.). In recent years an increasing amount of attention is being paid to such communicative actions as phatic communion, gestures and posture, facial expressions, eye-contacts, manipulation of proximity and physical contacts between participants in conversation, manipulation of voice quality, etc. (Mutt 1982: 79)
I'd say that this realization took ground in the early 1900s (e.g. Cooley) and sproad on from there, but I could be mistaken because I'm not all that familiar with 19th century literature. Though even Clay discusses nonverbal communication.
In this connection, one thinks immediately of relevant works by G. Kolshanski, T. Nikolaeva, M.L. Rutkauskaite-Drasdauskene, L. Jamanadze and others in the Soviet Union, and F. Papp, D. Abercrombie, M. West, W.J. Ball, R. Saitz, R. Quirk, D. Crystal and many others abroad. (Mutt 1982: 79)
The only ones I' know are David Abercrombie and Marija Liudvika Drazdauskiene.
Of course, there is no particular need for the foreign learner to replace his native vocalizations with those of English when speaking that language. It should be borne in mind, however, that the use of, e.g. ai-ai instead of ouch to express pain or discomfort has a strong "cultural accent" about it. (Mutt 1982: 81)
Heh. Yak (a Latvian Nex player) recently asked me if ai-ai means ouch in Estonian. I wouldn't have thought that Latvians say something different.
Another and more important feature of normal English conversation is the very common use of various so-called conversation sustainers (also known as conversational tags, tics, conversational lubricants, etc.). i.e. of words and phrases such as, well, you know, you see, actually, of course, in fact, I mean, etc. (Mutt 1982: 81)
Some would call these phatic utterances, others pragmatic markers.
M. West dealt with conversational sustainers (he called them conversational tags) in a humorous vein some years ago and offered the following definition of them: "Conversational tags are words used when one wishes to speak without saying anything" (1963, pp. 164-167). (Mutt 1982: 81)
Citation is missing, but this is: West, Michael 1963. Conversational Tags. ETC Journal 17(4): 164-167.
The present writer believes that the most important function of English conversation sustainers from the Estonian learner's point of view is that of filling in what are often awkward pauses. A recent contrastive study of the speech rate and pauses in the spoken English of Finns, Swedish-speaking Finns and Swedes has shown that there are considerably longer pauses in the English of Finns than of Swedes or of native speakers of English (expressed in percentage as 58%, 48% ad 40%, respectively, of the total duration of speech). This is largely due to the fact that Finnish students tend to be silent when other students used silence fillers like well, well now, let me see, just a moment, ah yes, etc. (Lehtonen, J. 1979; see also Pikver, A. 1981, p. 93). According to this piece of research one reason for the longer pause is that in Finnish speech on the whole there occur longer pauses than in most other European languages. Although there is no pertinent material at hand concerning Estonian learners of English, it is the present writer's subjective impression that most Estonians speak English with frequent unduly long pauses between words and sentences, and that this may have an irritating effect on the listener. (Mutt 1982: 82)
This came up in a thread about Finnish proxemics (there was a picture of a Finnish bus pavilion and how people were in an equidistant line), and some were actually surprised that Finns and Estonians don't interrupt each other as much (don't speak over each other) and have longer pauses between utterances. This may explain why ethnic Russians view Estonians as "slow".

Mutt, Oleg 1983. Some remarks about spoken English and the improvement of conversational skills at the tertiary level. Methodica: Acta et commentationes Universitatis Tartuensis 12: 53-60.

Conversation is the most frequent and most widespread manifestation of spoken language and it can, of course, take the most diverse forms: it may be between strangers, between acquaintances of various degrees or between intimates, it may involve the exchange of information, "passing the time of day", or simply be a form of phatic communion, i.e. the introductory, "ice-breaking" use of language (Quirk, R., 1962, p. 57 ff.). (Mutt 1983: 53)
Randolph Quirk's The Use of English is inaccessible at the moment. He seems to have a few pages about the topic.
Apparently meaningless words and phrases are constantly met with in conversation. They include such items as well; kind of; you see; you know; what I call; vocalizations like mm, er, whose function is to make the hearer feel at ease, to enable one to keep talking while one thinks of what to say next (the "word-searching" function). Such linguistic and vocal paralinguistic items are variously known as intimacy signals, silence fillers, etc. (Mutt 1983: 54)
Conversational tags, pragmatic markers, phatic utterances.
It cannot be denied that learning to conduct natural and spontaneous conversation in a foreign language is not an easy matter. Even with faultless grammar, pronunciation and a rich vocabulary a certain amount of "non-nativeness" remains. This non-nativeness is a kind of "cultural accent" which usually makes itself felt to the discerning (native) listener as occasional bookishness and/or over-colloquiality. (Mutt 1983: 55-56)
I experience this when conversing with Joe. No matter how flawless my writing and knowledge of English language, my English text will always have "something off" about it.
IN this context one should also mention the fairly widespread trouble our learners have with what might be called "openers" or conversational gambits, i.e. phrases used to get attention and to begin an utterance: Well, I'd just like to point out that...; It's my personal opinion that...; Well, as I see it...; Now, to my mind...; etc. (Mutt 1983: 57)
Phatic in the Jakobsonian sense.


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