Chapter One Introduction
1.1 Background of the Study
As a type of speech act, advising is a common communicative phenomenon in daily and institutional interaction. As DeCapua and Huber (1995: 128) point out, advising is a part of almost all kinds of social and professional activities and people are usually not aware of this point. Many scholars have made researches on this speech act from different perspectives. On the one hand, it includes the theoretical investigation of the essential characteristics of advising act, such as typical speech act and face threatening act; on the other hand, it involves the exploration of advising act’s linguistic presentation and classification (Ren, 2013: 154). Reviewing the existing studies at home and abroad, most of them concern the advising as a speech act, but few attach importance to advising discourses. This is one of the reason why we choose advising discourses as the researching object of this thesis.
The study of identity has made fruitful results in different perspectives such as sociolinguistics, ethnography and pragmatics. In the past few years, professor Chen Xinren has proposed the concept of pragmatic identity which has provided a special perspective for identity study. The main idea of his theory indicates that utterances are the reflection of speakers’ identity. In communication, speakers usually make a choice about what language to use in order to construct certain pragmatic identities so that they could achieve certain communicating purposes. Advising discourses could be regarded as a type of linguistic device used by speakers in some communicating process; therefore, it could be a distinctive perspective to analyze language users’ pragmatic identity and its construction through the use of advising discourses.
Additionally, context plays an important role in language use. Previous studies about advising discourses chiefly concern the academic field instead of daily conversation. Besides, most adopt the Speech Act Theory, Politeness Theory and Face-Threatening Theory as theoretical framework. Based on all the points mentioned above, this thesis chooses the advising discourse in Good Luck Charlie as the researching object to investigate how they help language users construct pragmatic identities in order to achieve certain communicative purposes.
1.2 Objectives of the Study
Firstly, this thesis tries to find out what kinds of advising discourses there appear in Good Luck Charlie, and discuss what categories they belong to.
Secondly, based on the Adaptation Theory, this thesis tries to make out how different advising discourses in certain contexts perform their pragmatic function in communication.
Thirdly, it tries to make an analysis of what kinds of pragmatic identities the advising discourses have constructed and make out the relevant contexts in which identity construction appears.
Fourthly, on the basis of the Adaptation Theory, the thesis tries to make a discussion about how different pragmatic identities exert an effect on the development of communication, as well as what speakers’ pragmatic motivation are when choosing to construct various pragmatic identities.
1.3 Methodology of the Study
This thesis aims to analyze the pragmatic identity construction of the advising discourses in Good Luck Charlie. Therefore, the main methods involve two aspects, data collection and discourse analysis. In terms of data collection, the author downloads the script of Season One of Good Luck Charlie in electronic edition from the Internet and then marks the advising discourse markers in preparation for the later analysis. With regard to the discourse analysis, the primary methods employed are descriptive, explanatory and qualitative analysis. For example, classifying all the advising discourse markers into different types, describing and analyzing the pragmatic functions of discourse markers and the pragmatic identities they construct, as well as analyzing and explaining how advising discourse markers construct pragmatic identities in the Adaption Theory.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Firstly, this thesis contributes the research of advising discourses through choosing daily conversation instead of academic or written discourse as the researching object to be analyzed; therefore, it will enrich the research of advising discourses.
Secondly, combining the Adaptation Theory with the pragmatic identity construction, the thesis chooses a new perspective for the study of advising discourses. On the one hand, it provides a new theoretical analyzing framework for the research of advising discourses, and on the other hand, it enriches the research of pragmatic identity and its construction.
Thirdly, through the employment of pragmatic identity and its construction, the thesis may enrich researchers’ understanding of identity; thus, it may offer new approach to the study of identity.
Besides, with the introduction and analysis of pragmatic identity of advising discourses and its construction, this thesis may provide some reference that when performing the speech act of advising, communicators should choose proper advising discourses to construct appropriate pragmatic identities so as to achieve specific communicating purpose.
1.5 Structure of the Study
The present thesis consists of the following five chapters:
Chapter One is introduction which makes a general presentation of the research background, research objectives, research methodology, research significance and the structure of the thesis.
Chapter Two is the literature review. It firstly demonstrates the definition of three key terms: identity, pragmatic identity and pragmatic identity construction. Then it reviews previous studies of advising discourses at home and abroad, identity and its construction from three perspectives, as well as pragmatic identity construction at home and abroad.
Chapter Three is the theoretical framework of the present research, which mainly introduces Jef Verschueren’s Adaption Theory including three properties of language and four angles of investigation.
Chapter Four is the data analysis and discussion. Based on the data collected from the sitcom Good Luck Charlie, this chapter firstly presents thirteen types of advising discourses appearing in this sitcom. Then it discusses what kind of pragmatic identities different types of advising discourses construct. Finally it analyzes the motivation of different pragmatic identities construction according to the Adaption Theory.
Chapter Five is the conclusion part which makes a brief summary of the major findings and limitations of the present study, and then some suggestions are given for future study.
Chapter Two Literature Review
This chapter makes a review of existing studies about the pragmatic identity construction of advising discourse. Firstly, a brief introduction is made to three key terms of this research. Secondly, it will present previous studies of advising discourse. Thirdly, previous studies of identity and its construction will be reviewed from three perspectives. Finally, it will review previous studies of pragmatic identity and its construction.
2.1 Definition of Key Terms
As a sociological term, identity is defined as “a person’s social property, such as age, gender and nationality, or the role people play in society” (Chen, 2013: 27). In recent years, identity has been continuously focused on from various other research fields, such as ethnography, sociolinguistics and pragmatics. For example, Kroskrity (2000: 111) states that identity refers to speakers’ linguistic construction of membership in one or more social organizations, which stresses the significant role language plays in pragmatic identity construction. Zimmerman (1998: 87-91) regards identity as the “contextual factors in communication” and then puts forward that identity is context. He distinguishes three types of identities: discourse identities, situated identities and transportable identities. Tracy (2002: 17-20) holds that identity on the one hand refers to a person’s stable characteristics existing before any certain situation, and on the other hand it refers to a kind of individually social classification. She compares four types of identities: master identity, interactional identity, personal identity and relational identity. Besides, Bucholtz and Hall (2005) think identity is the social positioning of oneself and others. Combining individual and social factors, this definition presents the social and psychological properties of identity.
2.1.2 Pragmatic Identity
According to Chen Xinren’s pragmatic identity theory, Yuan (2011: 12) puts forward that pragmatic identity refers to the online identity interlocutors use in certain communication process. In this perspective, identity is regarded as a kind of resource interlocutors use to satisfy communicative needs. In real communication, pragmatic identity is essentially the certain contextualized social identity of communicators along with specific discourses. In this way, the property and function of social identity could exert an effect on the occurrence and result of communication through pragmatic process. Chen (2013: 28) compares social identity with pragmatic identity and concludes the specific characteristics of pragmatic identity, such as communication dependency which means pragmatic identity appears during the communication process and ends with the termination of communication, dynamics which refers to the fact that interlocutors may change their pragmatic identities according to specific communicative purpose and situation, as well as subjectivity which indicates that it is interlocutors’ subjective decision about what pragmatic identities should be constructed.
2.1.3 Pragmatic Identity Construction
As is mentioned, pragmatic identity is a type of online pragmatic resource interlocutors use in real communication. With multiple social identities, language users have to choose different ones in order to achieve communicative goals in different communication processes. Therefore, pragmatic identity construction refers to the process of communicators using linguistic devices to dynamically construct certain online identity (Chen, 2013: 29). From the definition he points out the following features of pragmatic identity construction. Firstly, all the utterances could reflect one or sometimes more than one of language users’ social identities, that is to say, once involved in a communicative context, speakers have to choose certain pragmatic identities whether they like or not. Secondly, in specific communicative context, pragmatic identity construction is a process with high or low degree of awareness involvement. Usually, it is a process without salience unless speakers intentionally make it salient. However, whether the awareness involvement is high or low, pragmatic identity construction could occur. Thirdly, language users’ pragmatic identity construction is driven by communicative needs in certain context. Fourthly, the construction of pragmatic identity has the characteristics of dynamics that is due to the fact that the presentation of pragmatic identity follows the changing of contextual needs. Fifthly, the construction of different pragmatic identities makes different effects on communication and therefore gives rise to different communicative results.
2.2 Previous Studies of Advising Discourse
2.2.1 Studies of Advising Discourse Abroad
Researches on advising discourse in foreign countries started earlier than in China and the achievements are richer. Two main perspectives have been made in this part to review related studies of advising.
Firstly, many scholars conduct researches on the strategies of making appropriately advising act. DeCapua and Dunham (1993) investigate advice in American English in order to analyze the discourse strategies people use in giving advice. They find three strategies in advising discourse: explanation, elaboration and narration. At the same time, three goals follow the strategies: clarifying problems, exploring options and offering direction. Hinkle (1994) explores what kind of situations can be adopted to appropriately perform the advising act. Through the comparison between native speakers and non-native speakers, the author finds that non-native speakers tend to use more direct and hedged advice than native speakers. Non-native speakers should be taught more appropriate communicative strategies because they are not sensitive to the impact of negative politeness on advice-giving.
Secondly, some researchers pay much attention to the linguistic forms of the advising act. Li (2010) makes a contrastive study between Hong Kong and Australia students on the syntactic forms in making suggestions. The author finds that Australian students use more syntactic types compared with Hong Kong students. Moreover, they tend to imbed more elliptical or complex sentences but less interpersonal metaphors in suggesting discourses. Jiang (2006) discusses the linguistic forms adopted in making suggestions. Through the comparison between suggestions of professor-student interaction during office hours and of student-student study groups, the author indicates that linguistic forms people use in suggestion vary with certain contexts. In addition, the author stresses the significant roles background information and natural context play in appropriately performing the speech act of suggesting.
Besides the two main perspectives, there are also some scholars researching the advising from other aspects, for example, DeCapua and Huber (1995), who investigates how social norms impact advice-giving in American English, and Waring (2007), who explores the function of accounts in advice giving including “validating and promoting a current agenda” besides explanation.
2.2.2 Studies of Advising Discourse at Home
Relevant studies in China involve many different perspectives, such as academic writing, language use in cyberspace, medical discourses and psychological consultation. A brief review is made as follows.
Studies in academic writing have taken a relatively large proportion. He (2012) makes a comparative study between Chinese advanced EFL learners and mature writers about suggesting in academic writing. The primary findings about suggesting discourses are as follows: firstly, as for the type of suggesting, Chinese EFL learners use more direct discourses in academic writing. Secondly, in terms of the application of the “internal imposition minimizing” strategy, Chinese EFL learners depend more on obligation modal verbs rather than subjunctive mood. He (2016) analyzes the pragmatic identities authors construct in making suggestions in international English academic articles. He finds that two main relational identities are constructed through suggesting discourses: dominating and non-dominating identities. With the influence of advisees’ social roles, authors tend to construct non-dominating ones and hide advisees. Ren (2013a) investigates the sequential characteristics of suggesting acts in Chinese spoken academic interaction. Through analyzing the suggesting discourses of experts in PhD dissertation proposal meetings, the author puts forward two types of suggesting acts: self-introduced advising acts and other embedded advising acts, which could promote the exertion of suggesting acts. Based on the same data, the author (2013b) finds that experts construct three kinds of pragmatic identities (an authoritative expert, a knowledgeable expert and a modest and amiable expert) with different strategies. Moreover, the author holds that the motivation of constructing all the identities is to satisfy communicative need and adapt to certain contextual factors.
With respect to advising in cyberspace, some scholars have made researches from this perspective. Li (2014) collects data from a Chinese forum and conducts a study on the linguistic patterns of advice-giving in online communication. The result reveals that people use various politeness strategies to help the performance of advice-giving. Compared with negative politeness strategies, positive strategies are more frequently used especially showing concern, providing reasons and sharing similar experience. Mao and Huang (2016) explore the realization and representation of advising in Chinese in cyberspace. They find that the representation of advising in Chinese is quite different from that of English in syntactic aspect and discourse. No significant difference appears between two genders; however, it appears in discursive and emotional layers.
Besides, Yang (2010) makes research on advising in Rui’an dialect. The author concludes that the primary verb moods used in advising include imperative, declarative, interrogative, exclamatory and mixed, among which the first one takes the largest proportion. Different expression of advising could reflect the social and cultural features of Rui’an. Shen and Liu (2012) investigate the advising act in psychological consultation. Through analyzing the linguistic characteristics of consultant’s advising, they find that the tone and manner of advising vary from the intention of consultant. Therefore, the conclusion has been made that the choice of different realization of advising is adapted to the communicative needs between communicators.
2.3 Previous Studies of Identity and Its Construction
2.3.1 Sociolinguistic Perspective
Research on identity from sociolinguistic perspective mainly includes variationist sociolinguistics represented by Labov and Berstein and interactional sociolinguistics represented by Gumperz. Moreover, the researching paradigm transforms from structuralism to constructivism.
Sociolinguists argue that identity is “an emergent construction, the situated outcome of a rhetorical and interpretative process in which interactants make situationally motivated selections from socially constituted repertoires of identificational and affiliational resources and craft these semiotic resources into identity claims for presentation to others” (Bauman, 2000). They hold that identity is the result of on-going negotiation through linguistic exchange and social interaction.
Labov (1966) places emphasis on the heterogeneity of language using and he believes what interlocutors say contains factors like ideas, history and so on. It aims to embody social factors such as gender, age, status, etc. through linguistic factors so as to make a further discussion on the relationship between language and social identity. Gumperz (1982) states that factors like status, gender and race are not stable; instead, they are produced in communication. Therefore, he stresses that a further discussion should be made on how identity and social facets like race and politics influence with each other. From his point of view, communication is a process of interactive negotiation realized through contextualization cues between communicators. In communication process, interlocutors change their ways of speaking according to others’ contextualization cues to reach successful communication and consequently construct certain social identities. Schiffrin (1996) studies identity primarily from narrative analysis that how communicators speak to others could help to show themselves at the same time to construct identities different from the facets of “self”. With positioning, framing and voicing as theoretical framework, she conducts research on how different aspects of language project identities as textual, interactional and cultural levels. In addition, as one of the most influential researching approach, social constructionist argues that identity is “not given or a product of the individual or the social but an emergent feature of social interactions” (Benwell & Stokoe, 2006: 51). Furthermore, since the use of language has a significant effect on personal identity construction, more researchers pay much attention to identity construction by choosing language in interaction.
In a word, the study of identity from sociolinguistic perspective concerns more about how identity is positioned and constructed in social contexts through the use of language. Although constructionists tend to transform the researching point to language choosing and hold that language users actively and consciously construct their social identity and status, much emphasis is put on the influence and product which stable social factors make on the choice of language instead of the process of language choosing.
2.3.2 Conversation Analysis Perspective
Influenced by social constructivism, many researchers begin to study identity and its construction in institutional situation. From this perspective, the primary researching point is focused on how language users build, maintain and transform specific identities through certain linguistic strategies.
Paul Drew and John Heritage investigate how people in institutional situation construct institutional identity through certain discourses. They (1992) suggest the following aspects to explore the identity construction in institutional discourse: lexical choice, turn design, sequence organization, overall structural organization and social relations. Through the analysis of a large number of institutional discourses, Heritage (2005) concludes that context is the product of interaction and it includes not only linguistic context which refers to the internal context between linguistic sequences but also external context like age, gender and race, etc. All the contextual factors are constructed through institutional discourses. Patricia Mayes (2010) carries out research on the discursive construction of identity in the critical classroom with critical theory and finds that identity construction is a dynamic process through social interaction. Additionally, some scholars take the conversation analysis as researching method to study identity in daily conversations. They find that identity construction depends much on the context of everyday interactions. Moreover, they concern more about language users’ social position and try to interpret the process of identity construction with conversation analysis.
Compared with the rich achievement abroad, relevant studies at home is relatively few. However, more and more scholars begin to pay attention to this researching perspective. Dong (2009) discusses the relationship between language and identity through two significant methods: conversation analysis (CA) and critical discourse analysis (CDA). He points out that CA stresses more about the details of discourses and concerns the initiative of language users in communication. Combining CA with CDA is a better way to reveal the complex relation between language use and identity. Yuan (2009) chooses Clinton’s inaugural address as a case to investigate speaker’s identity construction through discussing discourse realization. The result shows that speakers could use various linguistic devices to construct their identities, which are determined by certain communicative needs.
From the above review it can be concluded that it is widely accepted that identity construction in discursive interaction is a dynamic process. Researchers of this perspective hold that language users’ identity and its construction are context-bound which means identity changes with context, and context occurs in the organization of discourse sequences.
2.3.3 CDA Perspective
The perspective of critical discourse analysis (CDA) chiefly discusses how to construct social relation, knowledge, power and identity in discourse. “CDA sees discourse-language use in speech and writing as a form of ‘social practice’, which implies a dialectical relationship between a particular discursive event and the situations, institutions and social structures which frame it ” (van Dijk, 1997: 258)
Fairclough (1992) puts forward four aspects to study social identity construction (interactional control, modality, politeness and ethos) and three facets to reflect the constructive functions of discourse (constructing social identity, subject position and self; constructing social relationship between people; constructing knowledge and belief system). The performance of different functions is influenced by factors like social relation, modality, ideology and so on. Scholars tend to regard text as a choice system and they believe that language choice can greatly influence ideology. Recento (2003) investigates the construction of American national identity through the analysis of texts with pragmatic and rhetorical techniques. The author presents three representations of Americanism and two of them embody the typical American identity. Wodak, Cilia, Reisigle and Liebhart (2009) discuss the construction of national identity in CDA perspective. They put forward a three-dimension analysis method: the dimension of contents, strategies and means of realization. The research well presents the linguistic devices and discursive strategies used in the construction of national identity such as predication, reference and intensification. Zhang (2011) conducts a study on the discursive construction of gender identity in the genre of personal weblogs from the perspective of CDA. The results indicate that teenagers can present their online identities especially gender identities through blogs by way of online name selection, personal information disclosure, emoticons use and social characteristics of personal weblogs. Besides, teenage bloggers construct gender identities primarily from three aspects: blog topics, discursive strategies and linguistic devices. CDA could help to give a better illustration of the discursive construction of gender identities of teenage bloggers in personal weblogs.
All in all, the scholars from CDA approach hold that language is a type of practical social form of ideology and they lay emphasis on the social function of texts. Moreover, identity is socially constructed, which has a wide effect on the order of discourse.
2.4 Previous Studies of Pragmatic Identity Construction
As an important research topic, identity has been studied mainly from sociolinguistic, conversation analysis and CDA perspectives. In the past few years, some researchers have started to attach much importance to the study of identity from the pragmatic point.
2.4.1 Studies of Pragmatic Identity Construction Abroad
Chiles (2007) makes an analysis of the construction of an identity as “mentor” in white collar and academic workplaces. With the data from twelve recorded meetings between mentors and mentees in four different workplaces, the author aims to investigate the factors that have an effect on non-work-related talk made by mentors with different mentoring programs in mentoring meetings. The result with reference to the construction of different types of mentoring identities reveals that core business talk and business topics are associated with the goal-focused mentoring program.
Ho (2010) explores how leaders of a group of English language teachers constructed different personal identities through the request e-mails discourse sent to their subordinates. It is summarized that the identities constructed are an accountable leader, a rational leader, an authoritative leader, an understanding, considerate and polite leader, and a capable leader. The author draws a conclusion that those identities constructed are related to two major contexts: immediate context (demonstrating leaders’ position, ability, power and mission sense) and cultural and social context (contributing to leaders’ management of subordinates).
Besides, Piller (2001) discusses the identity construction in multilingual advertising with a corpus of German advertisements. Kuo (2004) analyses the 1998 Taipei mayoral debates and finds that candidates construct opponent’s pragmatic identity through using different address forms which are determined by certain contexts. van De Mieroop (2007) makes a quantitative statistics about the institutional and professional identity in business discourse presented by personal pronoun we and I and then provides a qualitative analysis about the construction of the two pragmatic identities.
2.4.2 Studies of Pragmatic Identity Construction at Home
In China, the study of pragmatic identity and its construction has begun for only four years. Professor Chen Xinren is the first scholar to put forward the concept of pragmatic identity and creates a new viewpoint for identity research. Many researchers then begin to employ pragmatic identity to analyze different language phenomena.
Most studies choose the Adaption Theory as theoretical framework to discuss pragmatic identity and its construction. Yuan (2011, 2013) examines the pragmatic identity construction in medical consultations and reveals the dynamic adaptability of constructing pragmatic identity in consultative discourse. She states that it is a linguistic strategy for speakers to construct self and others’ pragmatic identities through adaption to relevant contextual factors and finally to better achieve communicative aims. Yuan (2012) studies the pragmatic identity construction of self address forms under the Adaptation theory. She believes that different self address forms demonstrate not only speakers’ identity features at the macro-level but also situational identity at the micro-level. The choice of a certain identity is the result of speakers’ adaptation to certain communicative needs. She (2014a) discusses the pragmatic identity construction in daily conversation discourse. The study indicates that speakers’ identity construction is a dynamic process during which they actively interact with interlocutors through applying certain strategic negotiation methods. Chen (2013, 2014) believes that the pragmatic identity which communicators use in communication is the result of dynamic pragmatic choosing process. He suggests that pragmatic identity research should concern more about why communicators choose to construct specific identity, how to make identity choice and construction as the device to achieve communicative purpose and what effect identity construction will make on the interpersonal relationship between the speakers and hearers. Xu Min and Chen Xinren (2015) analyze the types of pragmatic identity constructed by teachers in classroom discourse with various pragmatic strategies. It implies that teachers’ identity constructed such as knowledgeable teachers, authoritative teachers, benign teachers and peer teachers are constrained by physical, social and mental factors in communicative context. Chen and Li (2016) makes a qualitative discussion about the features of moderators’ discourse in domestic academic conferences in order to make out the types of pragmatic identity they try to construct and conflicts between them.
Some researchers pay much attention to the pragmatic identity construction in impoliteness. Chen Qian and Ran Yongping (2013) make a research on the identity construction in intentional impoliteness context in attempt to reveal the relationship between intentional impoliteness and identity construction. The result shows that interlocutors use intentional impoliteness as a pragmatic strategy to construct certain identities. Chen Qian (2014) discusses the intentional impoliteness and identity construction from pragmatic perspective. Through the construction of “powerful identity, prominent identity and affective identity”, she tries to analyze the influence of the interactional context on the construction of different identity. Zhang Wei and Xie Chaoqun (2015) make research on the pragmatic functions and interpersonal pragmatic effects of impoliteness with discourses from Weibo. They make a discussion about the relationship between pragmatic identity construction and the usage of impolite utterances in the whole communication.
Many researchers also focus on pragmatic identity and its construction in academic writing. Sun Li (2015) compares the pragmatic identities construction and linguistic choices of English thesis abstracts between Chinese Master students and international scholars. The results indicate that Chinese students construct less interactor identity among the four types of pragmatic identities (the evaluator, the representor, the organizer and the interactor) and they also have some problems with linguistic choices. Through analyzing the suggesting discourses in international English academic articles, He (2016) finds that dominating and non-dominating identities are constructed, and authors construct more non-dominating ones instead of dominating ones. Li (2016) examines the types of identities constructed in acknowledgments of Chinese PhD dissertation and the result shows that writers aim to show academic spirits, academic ability and personal characteristics through choosing and constructing certain identities to express certain meaning.
In addition, there are still some researches on pragmatic identity and its construction made from other perspectives. Yuan (2014b) examines the pragmatic functions of different pragmatic identities in business discourses. He claims that pragmatic identities are actually a type of pragmatic rescource in communication through which business consultants could achieve their communicative needs and contribute to the purchasing act of addressees. He and Chen (2015) investigate the relational identities constructed as well as the motivation behind them by online shop owners by analyzing the address forms in Taobao merchandise descriptions. It is found that three kinds of relational identities have been constructed and among them the variant is the most chosen, the default the least. Ren (2016) explores how experts use personal pronouns to construct pragmatic identities based on the data collected from Chinese PhD dissertation proposal meetings. The result indicates that the first, second and third personal pronouns all have the function of identity construction. Experts use the first personal pronoun constructing a variety of identities so as to satisfy their communicative needs.
This chapter briefly reviews the studies of identity and its construction, pragmatic identity construction, and advising discourses. It can be concluded that great researching achievements have been made in these three aspects. However, few studies have been made combining advising discourses and language users’ pragmatic identity construction. Therefore, this thesis analyzes the pragmatic identity construction of advising discourses in sitcom Good Luck Charlie. Additionally, it can be found from previous researches that language use is a dynamic process during which interlocutors make linguistic choices according to their communicative needs. As a comprehensive pragmatic theory, Verschueren’s Adaption Theory stresses the dynamic process of language use; besides, the three properties of language and four angles of adaptation in this theory could provide a systematic framework for researching the mechanism behind interlocutors’ linguistic choice. Therefore, the Adaption Theory is adopted as the theoretical framework of this thesis to explore how language users use different advising discourses in daily conversation to construct specific pragmatic identities.
Chapter Three Theoretical Framework
This chapter mainly makes a discussion about the theoretical basis of the whole thesis in order to lay a foundation for the analytic framework of this research. Three prominent parts are included in this chapter: general introduction of the Adaption Theory, three properties of language and four angles of adaptation.
3.1 General Introduction of the Adaption Theory
Put forward by Jef Verschueren, the Adaption Theory first appeared in Pragmatics as a Theory of Linguistic Adaptation. On the basis of this paper, Verschueren then makes a further explanation about the theory in his Handbook of Pragmatics in 1995. With the publication of the book Understanding Pragmatics, the Adaption Theory has developed into a relatively mature state.
The theory shows that (Verschueren, 2000: 55-57) using language is a process for language users to continuously make choices. The choices can be made consciously or unconsciously, and can be driven by both internal and external factors of language. Besides, this kind of choice making occurs at any linguistic level, such as phonetic, phonological, syntactic and semantic levels.
3.2 Three Properties of Language
According to the Adaptation Theory, in daily communication, language users continuously make choices from different linguistic forms and pragmatic strategies so as to meet various communicative aims and needs. The successful realization of choice making is due to the fact that language has the properties of variability, negotiability and adaptation.
3.2.1 Variability of Language
“Variability is the property of language which defines the range of possibilities from which choices can be made” (Verschueren, 2000: 59). Variability means linguistic choices could be made at every level of linguistic structure and each level has a variety of possibilities. “In different pragmatic phenomena, variability reflects language users’ dynamic regulation of linguistic forms and the dynamics of linguistic choice range”(Yuan, 2013: 520). For example, there are many different types of expressions that could be used to forbid people to smoke in public places, such as No smoking, Smoking is prohibited, Please do not smoke, Thanks for not smoking, Non-smoking area, Smoking will be fined, etc (Liu, 2015: 21). Usually language users make the best choice from the above expressions, which illustrates that making linguistic choices is a dynamic process not invariable.
3.2.2 Negotiability of Language
“Negotiability is the property of language responsible for the fact that choices are not made mechanically or according to strict rules or fixed form-function relationships, but rather on the basis of highly flexible principles and strategies” (Verschueren, 2000: 59). It means that no strict and fixed rules have been made exactly to judge what linguistic choices are absolutely true or false. Choice-making are based on some highly flexible principles and strategies, which means people can negotiate various possible options in communication. This property also indicates the indeterminacy of linguistic choice. For language producer, different linguistic forms can be chosen to express the same idea and they should make choices based on highly flexible principles and strategies. For language interpreter, indeterminacy determines whatever they have heard can be interpreted in various ways.
3.2.3 Adaptability of Language
“Adaptability is the property of language which enables language users to make negotiable choices from a variety of alternatives in order to approach points of satisfaction for communicative needs” (Verschueren, 2000: 61). This property means that language can provide its users with a variety of possible options from which language users can make choices so as to achieve their communicative goals. According to Verschueren, “adaptability should not be interpreted unidirectionally” (Verschueren, 2000: 62). It implies the bidirection of the adaptability here, that is to say, linguistic choice-making adapts to certain context while context adapts to language choices. Moreover, “communicative needs” in this notion does not refer to general communicative needs but specific ones that appear in certain context. Furthermore, “satisfaction” of adaptability includes different degree of “satisfaction” even communicative failure instead of “fully achieved satisfaction”.
The three properties of language described above are fundamentally inseparable. Variability and negotiability provide a wide range of possibilities for linguistic choice-making and they thus become the basis of adaptability. As a core notion of choice-making, adaptability lies in a high level compared to the first two properties and it helps language users satisfy communicative needs and achieve communicative goals based on variability and negotiability.
3.3 Four Angles of Adaptation
To better apply the Adaptation Theory to describe and explain linguistic phenomena, Verschueren puts forward four angles of adaptation: contextual correlates of adaptability, structural objects of adaptability, dynamics of adaptability and salience of the adaptation processes. These four angles correlate with each other and jointly make up the main analytical perspectives of Verschueren’s Adaptation Theory.
3.3.1 Contextual Correlates of Adaptability
Contextual correlates of adaptability “include all the ingredients of the communicative context with which linguistic choices have to be interadaptable” (Verschueren, 2000: 66). As Yuan (2011) has summarized, the “ingredients” include the physical world (e.g. the temporal and spatial deixis, interlocutors’ body language, gesture, physical appearance, biological property, etc.), the social world (e.g. social settings, social environment, norms and principles used to regulate interlocutors’ language and behavior, social relationship, culture, etc.), the mental world (e.g. personality, emotions, beliefs, intentions, etc.). The interrelationship between the main constituents of contextual correlates of adaptability can be depicted as in Figure 3.1.
As is shown in Figure 3.1, it is the utter (U) and interpreter (I) that connect all the prominent parts of contextual correlates of adaptability. Due to their communication, choice-making including production choices of utters and interpretation choices of interpreters occurs. Besides, the process of choice-making is influenced by both linguistic context (e.g. cohesive devices) and communicative context (the physical, social and mental world), and the three ingredients of communicative context are activated by choice-making between them.
3.3.2 Structural Objects of Adaptability
“Structure” in this angle contains two aspects: structures in a strict sense (any layer or level of structures, from sound feature and phoneme to discourse and beyond, or to any type of interlevel relationship) and principles of structuring (Verschueren, 2000: 115). Choice-making can occur at every possible level of structure; therefore, the structural objects of adaptability mainly involves the following perspectives: (1) language-internal choice and language-external choice; (2) selection of language type, code and style; (3) choices of phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic elements; (4) choices from a variety of utterance-building ingredients for constructing utterance or utterance clusters in accordance with utterance-building principles. In a word, the structural objects of adaptability are essentially interlocutors’ process of choice-making adapting to meaning production.
3.3.3 Dynamics of Adaptability
Dynamics of adaptability involves “an account of the actual functioning of adaptation processes... The way in which communication principles and strategies are used in the making and negotiating of choices of production and interpretation” (Verschueren, 2000: 66). It occurs in all kinds of communication and can be reflected by many different aspects, such as the linear structure of language, the variability and negotiability of language, the negotiability of context, and the cognitive state of interlocutors (Yuan, 2011: 40-41). In fact, it refers to interlocutors’ adaptation to linguistic structures at certain level with the changing of communicative contexts (including the physical, social and mental world), which dynamically explains the adaptation of interlocutors in language choice-making. Therefore, Verschueren holds that dynamics of the adaptability plays a rather significant role in the whole Adaptation Theory and believes that to explain the dynamics of adaptability or investigate the practical process of adaptation combing variability and negotiability is the central task of pragmatic research.
3.3.4 Salience of the Adaptation Processes
Salience of the adaptation process refers to the different degrees of consciousness when linguistic choices are made. Verschueren argues that choice-making varies with different degrees of salience. “Not all the choices whether in production or interpretation are made equally consciously or purposefully... Some are virtually automatic, others are highly motivated” (Verschueren, 2000: 66). Choice-making is a process of mental operation and involves language users’ cognitive and psychological states in meaning expression. Salience of the adaptation process is dominated by mind in society; therefore, social salience or social norm has effect on the adaptation process.
The above four angles play different roles in certain studies; nevertheless, they complement with each other and jointly provide a comprehensive perspective for the research of pragmatic phenomena. The interrelationship between them can be shown in the following figure:
As is depicted in the figure above, the combination of contextual correlates and structural objects of adaptability is the locus of adaptation phenomena. Moreover, it is usually regarded as the starting point in pragmatic research. Dynamics of adaptability is defined as the process of adaptation. Concerning the relationship between context and structure, it presents the characteristics of the adapting process. As the status of adaptation, salience of the adaptation process involves the degree of consciousness in choice-making. Consequently, it can reflect language users’ cognitive and psychological state in adaptation. To conclude, “the general concern for the study of linguistic pragmatics is to understand the meaningful functioning of language as a dynamic process operating on context-structure relationships at various levels of salience” (Verschueren, 2000: 69).
3.4 Application of the Adaptation Theory in Pragmatic Identity Construction
According to Chen (2013: 29), pragmatic identity construction refers to interlocutors’ employing language resources to construct pragmatic identity driven by communicative needs. Yuan (2014: 31-32) analyses that pragmatic identity construction has three properties: adaptability, functionality and negotiability as those of language in the Adaptation Theory.
Firstly, the pragmatic identities interlocutors construct have the property of adaptability. On the one hand, it is reflected by the diversity of pragmatic identities language users construct. On the other hand, it can be embodied by the variability of language form in presenting these identities. All in all, in communication, language users choose to construct a certain pragmatic identity from a wide range of identities as their pragmatic resources in order to achieve their communicative goals.
Secondly, interlocutors’ different pragmatic identity construction has different pragmatic function which finally serves to meet communicative needs.
Thirdly, the property of negotiability takes place in pragmatic identity construction and lies between the linguistic realization forms of adaptability and function of pragmatic identity construction. Language users’ pragmatic identities are not given in advance; instead, they are chosen through a negotiating process.
In addition, the construction of pragmatic identity in its essence is a process of dynamic adaptation, which is in line with the dynamics of adaptability of the Adaptation Theory. Based on the common points mentioned above, this research applies the Adaptation Theory as theoretical basis to analyze interlocutors’ pragmatic identity construction.
Chapter Four A Case Study of Good Luck Charlie
In this chapter, the advising discourses in Good Luck Charlie are analyzed to explore how language users construct certain pragmatic identities in specific context through the adoption of advising discourses. Then a discussion is conducted to figure out the operating mechanism of this pragmatic phenomenon.
Good Luck Charlie is a famous American sitcom (situation comedy) which was originally aired on Disney Channel from 2010 to 2014. The series tell the story of the Duncan family, the primary members of which include father Bob Duncan, mother Amy Duncan, the eldest child P. J. Duncan, the second oldest child Teddy Duncan, the second youngest child Gabe Duncan and the youngest child Charlie Duncan. Teddy makes a video diary in each episode in order to record Charlie’s growing experiences and at the same time show the special life of the family. Each episode ends with the same phrase from Teddy “Good Luck Charlie” which is thereby the title of the sitcom. In the process of adjusting the birth of the fourth child Charlie, all the members of this family change gradually in different aspects and many funny stories take place.
In this thesis, 26 episodes of the first season are chosen as the database to be analyzed. This season mainly tells the story of how the whole family adapts to the coming of the fourth child Charlie. Close to real life, this sitcom is full of natural languages which provide comparatively authentic research materials for the present study. Moreover, in order to well deal with various challenges from family, school, workplace and social life, all the members of the family have to play a wide range of roles in different situation and they have also been given plenty of advice from others. Therefore, this sitcom could be used to investigate language users’ construction of pragmatic identity via advising discourses.
4.1 Classification of Advising Discourse
In Good Luck Charlie, advising discourses frequently occur in a variety of situations like how to deal with daily problems, how to escape punishment, how to get on well with others and so on. Generally speaking, almost every character in this sitcom has more or less been given advice from parents, children, siblings, friends or neighbors or strangers in different occasions. Based on previous studies on the speech act of making suggestion, Abolfathiasl (2013: 239) concludes the classification of linguistic structures of making suggestion which include 12 main types. In this thesis, the classification of advising discourse is made on the basis of Abolfathiasl’s research findings and the primary types of advising discourse are classified as follows:
This kind of advising discourse contains either performative verbs or nouns of suggestion. It can be illustrated by the following examples:
Example 1 (Episode 5)
Ivy: Just come on, I'll show you where the noise is coming from.
Emmett: I know where the noise is coming from.
Ivy: You want to keep that head? I suggest you not do that again.
Example 2 (Episode 9)
Teddy: Oh, and I want to recommend that you make the treehouse. No boys
allowed...Especially if that boy weighs as much as Dad, because if you do
let him up there, well, good luck, Charlie.
Example 3 (Episode 7)
Teddy: Hey, Charlie, so... I have a little advice for you. If you ever want to fool a
parent, and make them think they're cool, dad is definitely the way to go.
Just ask him about his job and pretend you're interested.
(2) Imperatives & Negative imperatives
Example 4 (Episode 1)
PJ: Where's the doctor? I'll go see.
Bob: Okay, wait wait wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. We don't want mom to
know we're here, right? So please be careful. Just try and blend in.
Example 5 (Episode 5)
Teddy: ...Oh, and, uh, one more thing... When you're my age and you meet a cute
boy, do not, under any circumstances, ever ever bring him home. Cause if
you do, well... Good luck, Charlie.
(3) Let’s structure
Example 6 (Episode 5)
Teddy: How could you bring home the wrong baby?
PJ: I’m sorry. I got a little distracted. Emma is really cute.
Teddy: Yeah, well, so was our sister. Come on, let’s go to the park and find her.
Example 7 (Episode 5)
Teddy: Oh, Lauren, you poor thing. What a horrible, ugly tomatoey mess you
Ivy: Come on, pizza face, let's get you cleaned up.
(4) Modals & Semi-modals
Example 8 (Episode 1)
Spencer: Oh man, I left my book at school.
Teddy: Oh, that's okay, we can just share mine.
Example 9 (Episode 10)
PJ: Mom, we need some inspiration.
Amy: Well, lucky for you, I wrote quite a bit of poetry in high school. Published
five times in the school's literary magazine...Whatever.
PJ: Actually, I was thinking you could inspire us with some sandwiches.
Example 10 (Episode 1)
PJ: Wait wait wait! stop stop! Emmett, you were supposed to open with the
Emmett: Dude, I'm percussion, let me "percush"!
Example 11 (Episode 5)
Ivy: Oh, right, Mr. Almost first kiss. You'd better get moving on that. Your
window is closing.
Teddy: What window?
Ivy: The window of opportunity.
Example 12 (Episode 5)
Ivy: T, you almost kissed this guy, But nothing happened since then. If you don't
act soon, you're doomed to be just friends.
Teddy: I like Spencer, he likes me, And I'll ask him when the time is right.
Example 13 (Episode 1)
Teddy: Why do you let him treat you so badly?
Alice: He's my boss. I have to.
Teddy: No, Alice, you don't. You have to stand up for yourself. If he yells at you,
you yell back.
Example 14 (Episode 2)
Teddy: You want to go to the park so badly, Then why don't you just take Charlie?
PJ: What's a baby supposed to do at the park?
Teddy: Babies love parks. You can show her the duck pond, the blue sky, clouds.
Example 15 (Episode 9)
PJ: Why did Mrs. Dabney have to get that stupid dog, anyway? Why couldn't she
get something that made less noise...
Amy: Okay, look, I am serious. How about I invite her over tonight for a cup of
coffee and I bake a pie?
(7) Yes-no Questions
Example 16 (Episode 2)
Teddy: All right, let's get this over with.
PJ: Do you think it would be better or worse if we had the mariachi deliver the
Example 17 (Episode 9)
PJ: Gabe, you got a little something on your...
Amy: Oh, whoa, Gabe, would you tell the secret service man to get off your
Gabe: Mom, what did I say about bossing me around?
Amy: Oh, you wouldn't.
Example 18 (Episode 1)
Bob: Hey, have you seen my ad on local cable-- "Bob's bugs be gone"?
Teddy: Yeah, how do we make Bob be gone?
Bob: Okay. you've got homework to do.
Example 19 (Episode 11)
Bob: Hey listen P. J. I ran into a friend of mine today. He's opening up a new
chicken restaurant and he needs a delivery guy.
PJ: Dad you already have a Job.
Bob: I'm talking about you.
(9) Extraposed to-clauses
Example 20 (Episode 13)
Amy: Hey, ready for your basketball game?
Gabe: Do I have to go? All we ever do is lose.
PJ: That is not true. Sometimes you forfeit.
Amy: Oh, honey, it's important to think positive.
Example 21 (Episode 14)
Bob: Honey, what's wrong?
Amy: I don't know. I guess the truth is it would be nice to do more on our
anniversary. We used to do special things. Now we're eating onion rings
out of my purse.
(10) Pseudo-cleft Structures
Example 22 (Episode 18)
Bob: You look adorable.
Amy: Shut up.
Bob: Okay, honey, look, the possum's in the trap. All you gotta do... you just
gotta tie the rope to it. And I'll pull it right out.
Example 23 (Episode 20)
PJ: Great news, you guys... My friend’s grandma died.
Gabe: PJ, how is it good news that an old lady died?
PJ: It's good news because now I can buy her car. And they're only asking $1000,
which dad will help me out with.
Bob: No, I won't.
PJ: Come on, dad, I've saved up $700. All you have to do is give me...the rest.
Besides the above ten types of advising discourses based on the classification of Abolfathiasl’s research, there also appear some other types which are exemplified as follows:
(11) Have to/ got to/ have got to/ gotta
Example 24 (Episode 9)
Teddy: You know what stinks? ... it stinks that Charlie's never gonna get to use
PJ: She'd probably love it up here.
Teddy: PJ, we have to save this place for Charlie.
Example 25 (Episode 16)
Spencer: Hey, ivy, you got a minute?
Ivy: You found out Teddy can't dance, right?
Spencer: She's awful. I don't want to embarrass myself in front of the whole
school. What am I gonna do?
Ivy: You gotta tell it to her straight. Just rip the bandage off and say, "girl, you
(12) What if structure
Example 26 (Episode 17)
Boss: Okay, people, the fried chicken business has taken a hit. Apparently fried is
now bad for your health. So we need to think of ways of increasing our
PJ: Well, what if we give the business a face? Someone who is kwikki chikki.
Someone to put on posters and bags and buckets...
(13) I think clause
Example 27 (Episode 20)
Teddy: Boy, you've really embraced the whole country Western thing.
Ivy: I've never felt so alive, y'all. I'm happy as a Turkey the day after
Thanksgiving, cause it didn't get killed and eaten... Y'all.
Teddy: Yeah, real country people don't say "y'all" after every sentence.
Ivy: I think you let them say what they want when they're babysitting your sister.
Those are the classification of the primary advising discourses in the sitcom Good Luck Charlie. It can be concluded that there are a wide range of advising discourses in this sitcom and language users adopt different discourses in different situations. In order to further figure out the application of different advising discourses, a brief statistics has been made on the frequency of different types of advising discourses. The result shows that the use of advising discourses with modals take the largest account with the exposures of more than 50 times. The use of imperatives takes the second largest proportion with the frequency of 49 times, and then it follows 32 times of the Let’s Structure and 28 times of the Conditionals. The frequency of the rest of the advising discourse types is all less than 20 times and among them Yes-no Questions only occurs once, Performative Verbs and Nouns of Suggestion appear twice respectively.
4.2 Pragmatic Identities Constructed by Advising Discourse
In communication, interlocutors’ choice of language means the choice of pragmatic identities. Therefore, the various application of advising discourses indicates language users construct different pragmatic identities. Through the exploration of the relational identities authors construct in making suggestions in journal articles, He (2016: 36) classifies authors’ relational identities into two primary types: dominating and non-dominating identities. The dominating identity refers to the fact that authors have higher social ranks or professional degree compared with the advisees. The non-dominating identity refers to the advisees’ having equal or higher social ranks or professional degree than the authors. Based on He’s researching findings, this thesis divide all the pragmatic identities language users have constructed into the dominating identity and non-dominating identity according to the social relationship between them. The following part will illustrate the two pragmatic identities with certain examples.
4.2.1 Dominating Identity
Through the analysis of social relationship and social distance between language users in the data collected, it can be found that the dominating identity mainly includes two kinds: identity of an elder and identity of a professional. Examples and related analysis are presented as follows:
(1) Identity of the Elder
This kind of pragmatic identity mainly consists of two parts: the identity of parents and the identity of elder siblings. The following examples clearly present the construction of the two pragmatic identities.
Example 28 (Episode 11)
Bob: Hey what are you doing out here?
PJ: Just thinking. PJ and the vibe broke up today... We'd still be together if
Emmett wasn't jealous of my girlfriend.
Bob: Son you can't let a girl come between you and your best friend.
In this example, Emmett is so angry with PJ because PJ spends most of his time with his new girlfriend Madison; as a result, Emmett feels abandoned. PJ hasn’t realized the real reason why Emmett is so dissatisfied with Madison. As a father, Bob has found the exact problem occurring between the two boys. He gives his advice to PJ so as to help the son solve this problem and this advice constructs Bob the identity of a helpful father.
Example 29 (Episode 12)
Gabe: Mom, can you help me with something?
Amy: Sure, honey. What can I do for you?
Gabe: Well, I have this friend and he needs to know how to talk to girls...
Amy: Gabe honey, I'm your mom. You don't have to be embarrassed about telling
me about your first crushy-wushy...
Gabe: So what do I do? How do I talk to her?
Amy: Well, when you start to get a little nervous, just ask her questions. Let her
do the talking. Find things you have in common.
Gabe likes a girl but he doesn’t know how to talk to her. He feels too embarrassed to tell others even his mother the fact that he failed to communicate with the girl the first time. He attempts to ask mother for help in the name of his classmate, which is revealed by mother Amy. Amy then gives the son her advice to help him better talk to the girl he likes. The advising discourse reflects Amy the identity of an understanding mother.
Example 30 (Episode 1)
Teddy: Oh, and, uh, one more thing...When you're my age and you meet a cute
boy, do not, under any circumstances, ever ever bring him home. Cause
if you do, well... Good luck, Charlie.
Teddy fails to have a happy date with Spencer at home in spite of trying her best to keep other family members away from them. As an elder sister, she thereby gives advice to Charlie that dating at their home is not a good choice otherwise she will have a similar experience as her elder sister. This advising discourse constructs Teddy the identity of an elder sister who shares her own experience with little sister in order to better survive their family.
Example 31 (Episode 11)
Teddy: Oh Gabe again?
Gabe: Yes again.
Teddy: Why not? You gotta take this bully down. Give him a taste of his own
medicine. That's the only way to get him to stop.
Gabe: Just let me handle it.
The background of this conversation is that Gabe has been picked on by his new classmate Jo but he didn’t dare to hit back. As the boy’s sister, Teddy feels so sorry for the poor brother and at the same time she is badly annoyed by Jo. She thus teaches Gabe how to protect himself. The advice helps to construct Teddy the identity of a helpful sister who is willing to help her little brother solve problems.
(2) Identity of a Professional
Example 32 (Episode 13)
Mr. Dingwall: The issue is your oral book reports.
Teddy: I work very hard on those.
Mr. Dingwall: They're lifeless and dry, and that's coming from me.
Teddy: Okay, so I'll jazz them up.
Mr. Dingwall: Find a way to make the book come alive. Put your energy into that
instead of kissing up to your teacher, which I find shallow,
Teddy gets her first B grade in English which she is good at. As she has worked hard on it, the only reason to get this low grade she guesses is that the teacher doesn’t like her. Therefore, she tries sending a present to make the teacher change his attitudes towards her; however, the teacher sees through her minds and clearly points out her problems. The practical advice to Teddy reveals Mr. Dingwall’s identity of a professional teacher.
Example 33 (Episode 18)
Bob: You look adorable.
Amy: Shut up.
Bob: Okay, honey, look, the possum's in the trap. All you gotta do... you just
gotta tie the rope to it and I'll pull it right out.
On their way to enjoy a spa, Bob and Amy get an extermination call. As a result, Amy follows to see how her husband works as an exterminator. However, he is too fat to get into a hole to catch the possum; therefore, Amy is forced to put on his uniform and work for him. In order to succeed in catching the bug, Bob uses his professional skills to give Amy some instruction. The advice in this example constructs the identity of Btermob as an examinator.
4.2.2 Non-dominating Identity
The non-dominating identity mainly includes identity of a common family member, identity of a friend and identity of a lover. Related examples and explanation are presented as follows:
(1) Identity of a Common Family Member
Example 34 (Episode 9)
PJ: Why did Mrs. Dabney have to get that stupid dog, anyway? Why couldn't she
get something that made less noise...
Amy: Okay, look, I am serious. How about I invite her over tonight for a cup of
coffee and I bake a pie?
The Duncan’s neighbor Mrs. Dabney has recently kept a dog which disturbs the whole family badly. They are striving to find a best way to solve this problem. Due to the disharmonious relationship between Mrs. Dabney and the Duncan family, almost everybody puts forward some tough measures. In order to better settle this problem, Amy comes up with a harmonious way which is questioned by other families. This advice discourse shows her will to consult with others, which thereby constructs the identity of a common family member equal to the rest of the families.
Example 35 (Episode 2)
Teddy: You want to go to the park so badly, then why don't you just take Charlie?
PJ: What's a baby supposed to do at the park?
Teddy: Babies love parks. You can show her the duck pond, the blue sky, clouds.
Teddy suggests mom and dad go out to enjoy a happy date and little Charlie be taken care of by the other three children. PJ and Gabe would not like to take care of Charlie and they just want to play by themselves. PJ intends to play basketball in the park so as not to be a baby-sitter. Instead of ordering PJ not to go out, Teddy tries to make a consultation with him to spend an hour with Charlie. Her advice helps to construct the identity of a family member with equal right to make a consultation with an elder brother on an issue.
(2) Identity of a Friend
Example 36 (Episode 7)
Bob: Yeah, sounds like happy horse needs some new batteries.
Gabe: No! I can't get that stupid song out of my head.
Bob: All right, all right. You know what? Let's build us a helicopter. And the fun
begins with the instruction manual.
Father Bob has brought every child a present and the one for Charlie is a toll horse which could sing a song like “I’m a happy horse”. For Gabe, both the toll and the song it sings are so stupid that he doesn’t like. After listening to the song for so many times, he could not stand it anymore. In order to make the son calm down, Bob offers to play with Gabe to build the helicopter together. Through this advice, Bob is not an authoritative father but a friend to help Gabe get out of his bad mood.
Example 37 (Episode 9)
Bob: What are you doing?
Gabe: I'm gonna join the sit-in. I have to do what's right.
Bob: How about I take you out for ice cream instead?
Gabe: I'll be in the car.
The neighbor Mrs. Dabney asks Bob to cut off the branch of his oak tree so as not to drop acorns in her yard. Teddy and PJ would like to keep the branch because it holds a treehouse where they played when they were young. They think Charlie would love it so it should be kept for Charlie. Gabe later agrees with his brother and sister; therefore, he plans to join them. To prevent Gabe from going against him, father Bob succeeds in making the boy change his mind with ice cream. Instead of ordering the son to support him, Bob suggests treating Gabe ice cream just like friend and finally achieves his goal.
(3) Identity of a Lover
Example 38 (Episode 1)
Spencer: Oh man, I left my book at school.
Teddy: Oh, that's okay, we can just share mine. Is that okay?
Spencer: Perfect. Good.
In this example, Teddy invites Spencer to study together at her home; in fact, she wants to have a date with Spencer. She tries her best to make other members of the family out in order to leave them two a dating environment. Therefore, when learning that Spencer didn’t bring his book, Teddy suggests they share the same book with the aim to make them close to each other. This advice discourse helps Teddy construct the identity of an active lover.
Example 39 (Episode 2)
Amy: Oh, look at that.
Bob: Oh, fajitas.
Amy: Not that, the baby. A little baby in a stroller just like ours.
Bob: Yeah, okay, honey, this is supposed to be a night away from the baby. So
let's come back.
In this example, Amy and Bob are provided with an opportunity to enjoy a couple’s night without work, baby and other stuff. However, when seeing a baby in a stroller, Amy can’t help but think of her little baby Charlie. Bob wants to seize this chance to spend a happy night with his wife alone; therefore, he advises Amy not to get involved in anything about baby, and instead, to return to their date. Through the advising discourse, Bob constructs himself the identity of a considerate lover.
The application of above advising discourses shows that there exists difference between the linguistic structures in constructing dominating and non-dominating identities. The primary linguistic structures in constructing dominating identity are Imperatives & Negative imperatives, Modals and Extraposed to-clause. Usually these kinds of linguistic structure could make discourse more powerful and forceful, which is in line with the higher social rank of certain language users. The linguistic structures adopted in constructing non-dominating identity mainly consist of Let’s structure, Wh-Questions and semi-modals. Generally, the use of Let’s structure could narrow the social distance of interlocutors. Wh-Questions and semi-modals makes discourses mild and euphemistic which is in accordance with advisers’ comparatively equal or lower social rank to the advisees.
4.3 An Adaptation Analysis of Pragmatic Identities Constructed
Based on the former two parts about the classification of advising discourses and the pragmatic identities constructed by advising discourses, this part will discuss how language users construct certain pragmatic identities in specific context according to Verschueren’s Adaptation Theory. The theory indicates that adaptation process is influenced by contextual factors like “aspects of the physical surroundings to social relationships between speakers and hearers and aspects of interlocutors’ state of mind” (Verschueren, 2000: 66), this thesis thus chooses physical world, social world and mental world as the analyzing perspectives to investigate the mechanism of interlocutors’ pragmatic identity construction through advising discourses.
4.3.1 Adaptation to the Physical World
The physical world refers to the environment for language users to make linguistic choices. Verschueren holds that temporal reference and spatial reference are the two primary elements in the physical world because language is always used in certain temporal and spatial background. The following examples illustrate how interlocutors adapt to the temporal and spatial reference to construct specific pragmatic identity in certain context.
220.127.116.11 Adaptation to Temporal Reference
In communication, time is a relative concept. Interlocutors have to consider this factor in making linguistic choice; as a result, the construction of certain identity may vary from the time of language using. Therefore, it should take time into consideration to discuss language users’ pragmatic identity construction.
Example 40 (Episode 13)
Teddy: Mr. Dingwall.
Mr. Dingwall: Yes?
Teddy: I just wanted to say thank you for my "A".
Mr. Dingwall: You earned it, for creativity, imagination and style. Nicely done.
Teddy: Thank you.
Mr. Dingwall: Now pretend that bell was a fire alarm and the flames are upon
The background of this conversation is that before getting this A, Teddy got a B from Mr. Dingwall that made her upset. She talked to Mr. Dingwall many times about this problem and finally got the reason. With the help of Ivy and Charlie, she performs well in her homework and thus earned an A. Then after class, she came to express her gratitude to Mr. Dingwall. Due to the previous awkward communication between them, Mr. Dingwall hopes Teddy would not say or do something weird. Therefore, after praising Teddy’s wonderful performance and receiving her thanks, Mr. Dingwall suggests that she could leave because class is over. Instead of ordering Teddy to go out now, the teacher adapts to the time after class to tell her it is time to leave and it helps construct the identity of Mr. Dingwall as a nice teacher.
18.104.22.168 Adaptation to Spatial Reference
Similar to temporal reference, spatial reference is also a relative concept. According to Verschueren, this factor could be utterer space or reference space. The former refers to “the spatial orientation from the utterer’s perspective” and the latter “takes something outside the utterer as the deictic center” (Verschueren, 2000: 99). In communication, a speaker may choose his own perspective as the deictic center or make the hearer’s perspective as the deictic center. The adaptation to the spatial reference indicates language users’ linguistic choices and at the same time it could help them construct certain pragmatic identity.
Example 41 (Episode 2)
Amy: Bob, will you go over and look at that baby? I think it's Charlie.
Amy: You heard me, that is Charlie!
Bob: Sweetheart, would you sit down, please?
Amy: I will not sit down. A mother knows her own baby and that is my baby.
Bob: Honey, seriously, what do you think happened here? In the last hour
somebody went over to our house, borrowed our baby then brought her out
for chips and guac?
Amy: I don't know, it's a big family. Maybe that's how they get their babies.
Bob: Sweetheart, I think you're just missing Charlie and you're having a little
Amy: Oh, okay. You're right. Crazy wazy. I mean, that isn't possible, right?
Bob: Exactly. Sit down. Now let's enjoy the rest of our night out at this very
In this example, Bob and Amy accept Teddy’s advice to have a date without baby. After coming back from the washroom, Amy catches a glimpse of a baby like Charlie with a big family. Out of instinct, she believes the baby must be her little Charlie and then asks Bob to make it for sure. It is impossible for Bob to believe what Amy has said, and however, he could understand that she must miss their little daughter. To comfort his wife, Bob comes up with many reasons to prove that the baby is not Charlie. He also tries to shift her attention from the baby to their date. In this restaurant, what they should do is to enjoy their happy date rather than any other things. This advice constructs an understanding and considerate husband identity which adapts to the spatial reference of the restaurant.
4.3.2 Adaptation to the Social World
The social world provides language users an environment to communicate with each other, which could be influenced by a wide range of factors in this world. As Verschueren (2000: 91) points out, “there is no principles limit to the range of social factors that linguistic choices are interadaptable with”. It could be indicated that the process of adaptation is complex because limitless types of social factors have an effect on it. In this thesis, it mainly takes social and cultural factors into consideration, which include power relations, kinship relations and cultural norms.
22.214.171.124 Adaptation to Power Relations
As a significant type of social relation, power relations could reflect people’s social status in society. People with unequal power relations have different manners in social interaction. In communication, interlocutors with different power relations will choose different linguistic structures and strategies to ensure an appropriate communication, and then better achieve communication goals. It is true for the pragmatic identity construction of language users through advising discourses, that is to say, interlocutors will choose to construct different pragmatic identity adapting to power relations.
Example 42 (Episode 13)
Bob: Bad news, Gabe. I can't coach your game today. Just got an emergency
Gabe: So I guess without a coach we won't be able to play our game today.
Amy: Hey, wait a minute. I can coach.
Bob: (Laughs) That's cute, honey, but coaching's a little more complicated than
you might think.
Amy: Oh, honey, I can lose just as good as you can.
Bob: All right, honey, looks like you're in. Here's the playbook. Now this might
be a little over your head, so just do your best.
Gabe would not like to take part in the basketball game because his team has never won. In addition, the fact that his coach father Bob can’t coach the game because of an emergency extermination call makes him lose confidence for his team. To encourage the boy, mother Amy offers to be a coach to help the team. Bob holds that Amy can’t be qualified to be a coach without any professional skills. Learning that she is not making a joke, Bob gives her some useful advice since he has been a coach and has the power to teach her professional skills. The advice constructs the identity of Bob as a coach adapting to power relations.
126.96.36.199 Adaptation to Kinship Relations
As a common social relation, kinship relations could present the relationship between family members. This kind of social relation also has great influence on language use which could be powerfully proved by Chinese addressing forms. In China, when communicating with elders, the young should choose honorifics to express their sincere respect. Therefore, the application of addressing forms could be a reflection of relationships between interlocutors and could also reveal the identity of language users. In the sitcom Good Luck Charlie, the kinship relations is one of the most common social relations, such as relations between parents and children, relations between sisters and brothers. All family members have their own inherent identities which are used most frequently in communication; in addition, they may construct certain identity different from their natural one in some situations to achieve some communicative aims. The following example makes an illustration about how language users adapt to kinship relations to construct certain pragmatic identity via advising discourses.
Example 43 (Episode 20)
Amy: Hi, Charlie. I'm here with your sister who's having her first broken heart.
Teddy: My first? There's gonna be more?
Amy: No, honey, this is it. Anyway, by the time you're watching this, you might
be experiencing your first heartbreak. So just remember, it always gets
The context of this conversation is that Teddy has broken up with her boyfriend Spencer; therefore, she is so sad that she stays at bed crying all day long. Amy comes to comfort the poor girl. As a mother, she wants to protect all her daughters, so she gives advice to little Charlie in case that she will confront the same situation as Teddy. The advising discourses express Amy’s love for her daughters and help her to construct the identity of a loving mother through adaptation to kinship relations.
188.8.131.52 Adaptation to Cultural Norms
As an important factor in the social world, culture involves a wide range of aspects, such as values, beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, religion and so on. Verschueren (2000: 92) states that “culture, with its invocation of norms and values, has indeed been a favorite social-world correlate to linguistic choices in the pragmatic literature”. Therefore, it should take cultural norms into consideration to investigate how different cultural norms affect interlocutors’ linguistic choice and pragmatic identity construction in communication.
Example 44 (Episode 25)
Bob: You seen my luggage?
Amy: Yes, I have.
Bob: Do you want to tell me where it is?
Amy: Sure. It's in your room...Your new room.
Bob: Why do I have a new room?
Amy: Well, because you and I are not legally married and since it would
apparently inconvenience you to marry me again, you'll be lodging
Bob: Oh come on!
Amy: Mm-hmm. As a single woman, I don't feel comfortable having a strange
man in my room.
Bob: Amy Duncan, you're a piece of work.
Amy: Ah ah! Amy Blankenhooper.
On the family vocation, Bob happened to learn that their wedding judge is a liar who does fake marriages all the time. As a consequence, the couple’s wedding ceremony wasn’t valid. All the facts shock Amy deeply and she hopes to find another judge as soon as possible. Bob thinks it is better to enjoy the vocation first and the wedding ceremony could be talked about after going back home. Bob’s idea displeases the wife who doesn’t want to care about the husband any more. She is unwilling to talk to the husband and makes him live in a new room; in addition, she even advises to abandon the name Duncan to be a single lady who has no relationship with Bob. This advising discourse constructs Amy a stranger identity adapting to the cultural norms that married woman should use her husband’s name as the family name. Actually, all these methods are used by Amy to force Bob to get married with her quickly and they work.
4.3.3 Adaptation to the Mental World
According to the Adaptation Theory, “Verbal interaction is no doubt communication from mind to mind” (Verschueren, 2000: 87). From this perspective, communication is a process during which a language utterer makes linguistic choice based on elements in his mental world and the interpreter interprets what he receives on the basis of elements in his mental world. “...and hence also the interpreters’ mental states—really create meaning as much as utterances and their utterers do” (Verschueren, 2000: 87). Therefore, both the utterer’s and interpreter’s mental world could affect linguistic choices in communication; as a result, they should be taken into consideration in order to figure out the mechanism behind this process. Factors of mental world include personality, emotions, desires, motivations or intentions and so on. The present thesis mainly investigates the influence of personality traits, affects and motivation on language users’ linguistic choice and pragmatic identity construction via advising discourses.
184.108.40.206 Adaptation to Personality Traits
Personality traits here refer to an individual’s preferences for certain patterns of thoughts and actions and usually guide a person to interact with the environment in a specific way. Due to the influence of genetic and environmental factors, personality traits vary from person to person. In communication, different personality traits determine that interlocutors will choose different linguistic structures to communicate with others. Therefore, through analyzing the relationship between language users’ personality traits and the languages they use, we can make out how they adapt to this mental factor to achieve communicative goals. The following example gives a clear explanation.
Example 45 (Episode )
Bob: What are you doing?
Gabe: I'm gonna join the sit-in. I have to do what's right.
Bob: How about I take you out for ice cream instead?
Gabe: I'll be in the car.
The background of this conversation is that Teddy and PJ want to save for Charlie a treehouse on a branch which Bob will cut. Therefore, the two children sit in the treehouse to prevent their father from destroying it. Gabe thinks what Teddy and PJ are doing is seemingly right; therefore, he decides to join them. Certainly, Bob doesn’t want one more person to go against him so he tries to think out a method to stop Gabe. Thinking Gabe likes eating snacks, Bob makes a suggestion of going out to eat ice-cream just like friends. The advising discourses contribute to constructing Bob’s identity of a friend adapting to the Gabe’s personality trait.
220.127.116.11 Adaptation to Affects
In communication, affects could deeply influence language users’ linguistic choices and ways of expression. For example, being in a positive affects usually makes a harmonious communication and then successfully achieves communication aim. It is the same case with language users’ construction of pragmatic identity. An illustration is made in the following example.
Example 46 (Episode 8)
Bob: Please don't hurt us. Please don't hurt us.
Mad dog: Give us one good reason why we shouldn't.
PJ: Because it would hurt.
Bob: Look look look, you don't understand. My wife is having a baby and there's
a bear in our truck. That's why I'm trying to borrow the bike. I can't-- I
can't miss the birth of my child.
Francis: That's beautiful. We gotta help these people get to the hospital.
The background of this communication is that Bob and PJ get a phone call from Teddy while they are fishing. Amy is to give birth to a new baby so they have to go to the hospital right now. With their car occupied by a big bear, they want to borrow a motorbike on the road, which is misunderstood by the owners as they want to steal the motorbike. The owner Mad dog and Francis are so angry with the behavior of the father and son that they want to teach them a lesson. To dissolve the misunderstanding between them, Bob tells them the fact. Moved by what Bob has said, Francis holds that the man must be a responsible father. Out of the appreciation for the father, Francis advises to help Bob and PJ to the hospital. Although the father and son are at first strangers to them, Mad dog and Francis adapt to the positive affects to construct the identity of friends to do Bob and PJ a favor.
18.104.22.168 Adaptation to Motivation
Every communication has its goal to achieve and the goal is right the interlocutors’ communicative motivation which is usually embodied by language use in communication. As a consequence, communicative motivation has a great impact on communicators’ linguistic choice. The construction of pragmatic identity is one of the approaches to achieve communicative goals, and it is necessary to explore how language users construct certain pragmatic identities adapting to communicative motivation. An example is presented as follows.
Example 47 (Episode 9)
Mrs. Dabney: All right, got my pie. What do you want?
Amy: We don't want anything, Mrs. Dabney.
Teddy: Yeah, we're just being neighborly.
Amy: Mrs. Dabney, so you have a new dog...A little chihuahua.
Mrs. Dabney: So that's what this is about.
PJ: It's not not what this is about.
Mrs. Dabney: Dog's got a name... Hercules.
Teddy: That's funny because...Hercules is like so big and strong and your dog is
so...Just being neighborly.
Bob: Look, the thing is, Hercules has a tendency to bark...
Amy: A lot...
Bob: All night long.
Amy: Right, so we were wondering if maybe you could bring him in before
In this example, Mrs. Dabney keeps a dog which badly influences the sleep of the Duncan family. They could not stand any more so they discuss how to solve this problem. Since the disharmonious relationship between Mrs. Dabney and the Duncan family, almost all the family members want to settle this problem with tough methods. Amy thinks a peaceful measure may be the best way; therefore, she suggests inviting Mrs. Dabney to their house to make a harmonious consultation. With Amy’s advice, the family members try not to blame Mrs. Dabney directly and they strive to be polite to the lady. Remembering the aim of inviting Mrs. Dabney, Amy raises the problem in a quite polite way. This advice constructs the identity of Amy as a friendly neighbor which adapts to the communicative motivation.
In conclusion, in communication, language users choose different types of advising discourses to construct different pragmatic identities. All these identities have to some degree adapted to certain factors in the physical world, social world or mental world.
Chapter Five Conclusion
This chapter makes a conclusion about the whole research. It firstly concludes the primary findings of the study, and then points out the limitations there exist in this research. Finally, it makes some suggestions for the future study in the field relevant to the present study.
5.1 Findings of the Study
The present study mainly makes research on how language users in the sitcom Good Luck Charlie adopt different types of advising discourses to construct certain pragmatic identities and how to use Verschueren’s Adaptation Theory to make an explanation of this pragmatic phenomenon. The primary findings are presented as follows:
Firstly, thirteen main types of advising discourses have been found in this sitcom and they have been adopted in different frequency. Based on Abolfathiasl’s classification of linguistic structures of making suggestion, the thirteen types of linguistic structures of advising discourses in this research include performatives, imperatives & negative imperatives, let’s structure, modals & semi-modals, conditionals, wh-questions, yes-no questions, hints, extraposed to-clauses, pseudo-cleft structures, have to/ got to/ have got to/ gotta structures, what if structure and I think clause. A brief statistics and analysis reveals that speakers tend to use more advising discourses with modals and imperatives when making suggestion in daily conversation, on the contrary, advising discourses with yes-no questions, performatives are adopted in the least frequency.
Secondly, through the use of advising discourses, language users mainly construct two types of pragmatic identities: dominating identity and non-dominating identity. On the one hand, dominating identity chiefly includes identity of an elder and identity of a professional. On the other hand, the non-dominating identity includes identity of a common family member, identity of a friend and identity of a lover. In addition, when constructing different kinds of identities, language users tend to use different linguistic structures. Imperatives & negative imperatives, modals and extraposed to-clause are primarily used to construct dominating identity and that is mainly due to the fact that these kinds of linguistic structure usually make discourse more powerful and forceful, which is in accordance with the higher social rank of certain language users. Moreover, let’s structure, wh-questions and semi-modals are primarily adopted to construct non-dominating identity, that is because these structures generally make discourses euphemistic and mild which correspond to advisers’ comparatively equal or lower social rank to the advisees.
Thirdly, speakers’ pragmatic identity construction is a process of making linguistic choices constantly which is well explained by Verschueren’s Adaptation Theory. When making suggestions, applying certain advising discourses to construct certain pragmatic identities is the result of speakers’ dynamic negotiation to adapt to elements of the physical world, the social world as well as the mental world. In terms of the physical world, temporal reference and spatial reference are the two main factors to which speakers adapt in constructing pragmatic identities. Factors of the social world include power relations, cultural norms and kinship relations. Speakers tend to construct dominating identities through adapting to power relations and cultural norms; however, adapting to kinship relations helps speakers construct more non-dominating identities. Personality traits, affects and motivation are the three primary factors of the mental world through which speakers construct more non-dominating identities.
5.2 Limitations of the Study
This research has investigated oral advising discourses from the perspective of language users’ pragmatic identity construction. The findings may to some degree give some enlightenment to the study of advising discourses and pragmatic identity construction. However, there are still some limitations existing in this study to which should be paid attention.
Firstly, as a sitcom, language in Good Luck Charlie is close to that in real life. However, every sitcom is created by people to entertain audience so its languages cannot be absolutely natural and authentic, which could affect the objectiveness of the researching results.
Secondly, with the limitation of time and resource, this thesis only chooses 26 episodes of the first season of Good Luck Charlie as the researching database. Therefore, the research findings cannot be so comprehensive. More data should be searched and analyzed to enrich the research results.
Thirdly, based on previous study, this thesis classifies the pragmatic identity interlocutors have constructed into dominating identity and non-dominating identity. The former includes two types and the latter includes three types. There are still some other types of identities which could be analyzed.
Fourthly, on the basis of Verschueren’s Adaptation Theory, this thesis chooses eight factors of three perspectives to make an explanation of the pragmatic identity construction via advising discourses. It is undoubted that there are still some significant factors that have a great effect on interlocutors’ construction of pragmatic identity worth exploring. As a result, more research needs to be conducted in the future study.
5.3 Suggestions for Future Study
According to the previous researching results and the limitations of the present study, this thesis makes some suggestions for the future study with the expectation to enrich studies in this field.
Firstly, since language in sitcom could not be completely natural, research in future could choose natural and authentic oral advising discourses as database to make investigation.
Secondly, it is necessary to enlarge the research database so as to reduce the contingency of research findings in the future.
Thirdly, in the future study, more different types of pragmatic identities should be found to analyze and more factors should be taken into consideration to make a comprehensive explanation of how language users construct pragmatic identities through advising discourses.
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