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[24.04.2024] Elmar Unnsteinsson: Genre and Conversation

[24.04.2024] Elmar Unnsteinsson: Genre and Conversation

Seminar with Elmar Geir Unisteinsson: (University College Dublin)

Genre and Conversation

The seminar will be a hybrid meeting. It will be held in Room 28 on Grodzka 52, Kraków and Teams on April 24th, 2024 (Tuesday, 17:30 GMT+1). 


There are different genres of conversation. Joking around with friends is different from a serious conversation with high stakes, and both are different from a tense, adversarial deposition. A conversation's genre affects what it is natural to say, and how it is natural to interpret what others say. In a practical, decision-making conversation, it is difficult to merely state a fact without seeming to imply that it is relevant to the decision at hand. If we are engaged in a brainstorming session, it is normal to say things that we aren't sure about, and that may not be compatible with what others have said. In a game of make-believe, it may be difficult to convey information about the real world.

In this paper, we propose to think of genres as recurring patterns in conversation plans, which are the complex structures of intentions that govern our communicative exchanges. For example, a practical, decision-making conversation is one that is governed by the interlocutors' shared plan to make certain decisions, whereas an informational conversation is governed by the interlocutors' overarching shared plan to exchange information. Certain kinds of conversation plans make certain kinds of speech acts most natural because we form communicative intentions as a way of furthering our broader goals, and we are under rational pressure to do so in a coherent way. Because a conversation's genre licenses interlocutors' expectations about the kinds of intentions their interlocutors can be expected to have, genres facilitate efficient communication, giving balance to conversations.


This research was funded by the Priority Research Area Heritage under the program Excellence Initiative – Research University at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow