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  • Author: Andrea DeCapua x
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This article presents the results of our investigation into the giving of advice by native and non-native speakers of American English. Specifically, we examine how advice giving is enacted in a series of advice letters, which were modeled on letters to popular advice columns found around the world in newspapers and magazines, and on the Internet.

Our data indicate that there are important pragmatic differences between how native speakers and non-native speakers in the United States offered advice, regardless of the non-native speakers' English proficiency. The non-native speakers produced comparatively brief and formulaic responses, requiring coding and analysis based upon form categories. The native speakers produced narrative responses that required coding and analysis based upon content categories. Research such as this underscores the need to provide language learners with an awareness that pragmatic behaviors differ across cultures.


Neither reality nor language is genuinely objective; rather, both the interpretation of reality and the use of language to create and manipulate reality represent a subjective understanding of both. This paper examines the role of language in creating, representing, and manipulating realities, using the 2003 German movie Good Bye, Lenin! as a vivid and striking illustration of the role of language in constructing alternate realities.

When the protagonist's mother, a committed East German socialist, awakes from the coma she entered after a heart attack on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the doctors warn her son that any shock could kill her. In order to prevent his mother from learning of the demise of her beloved socialist Germany, Alex manipulates the reality of post-wall East Berlin to match his mother's (perceived) reality of an earlier socialist East Berlin. In so doing, Alex makes the viewer question what reality is and how reality can be constructed and manufactured. There is no absolute objective reality, but only realities based upon the beliefs and preconceptions of participants, which may be and often are, manipulated by the use of language in the presentation of ‘facts.’


This study is an analysis of small-group talk among three different groups of women in the United States. Building upon Coates' (1996) study of female talk in a British speech community, we investigate how women build close personal relationships through their discourse. The data consist of three hours of videotaped interactions among the three all-female groups in different locations in the US and among interlocutors of differing social distance. We demonstrate here how variation in speech event norms coupled with differences in social distance relationships lead to distinct communicative enactments of friendship. The participants in the three groups are as follows: four close friends from northeastern New Jersey engaging in ordinary social conversation; four members of a Jewish Sisterhood organization in Long Island, New York, having a casual get-together; and three mothers of young children in Tampa, Florida, meeting for a playgroup date. The interlocutors in the three groups are all originally from their respective geographical areas and have lived in these areas most of their lives. All are native speakers of American English.

Our analysis focuses on small group talk among women in groups in which the relationships vary according to shared history, interests, and norms for interaction in social conversation and group meeting. From an ‘etic’ perspective, the three groups represent a continuum ranging from social, interactional talk to transactional talk that ‘gets down to business.’ However, the features of disclosures through personal narratives and the structural elements of overlap are shown here to function toward ‘women talk’ (Coates 1996). It will become clear that regardless of the social distance relationship, the all women's groups share elements of relational, or rapport talk (Tannen 1990) that are pervasive even in transactional, or information sharing encounters (Brown and Yule 1983). In all three groups we find structural elements that lend themselves to personal disclosures, accomplished via narratives (the New Jersey Group), overlaps (the Long Island Group), and Relational Identity Display and Development or RID (Boxer and Cortes-Conde 1997) (the Tampa Group).