Dr Esther Goody (University of Cambridge) Thursday 28 April

Thursday 28 April (5pm Seminar Room)

Dr Esther Goody (University of Cambridge)


Two quite different puzzles have intrigued me for a long time: How did
the emergence of spoken language in Homo sapiens come about? And In
what ways has this tool of speech shaped our local societies? Recently
a third puzzle is that in some way they may be linked. The key may be
seeing language as a process, not a complex of the ‘things’ like
grammar, syntax and phonetics.

Reading and pondering suggest two sociocultural frames for processes:
Fundamental is Gregory Bateson’s central dynamics of Feedback. What is
dialogue if not Feedback?

The wider context for this has been S. F. Nadel’s idea that the
patterning of local sociality arises from interaction of role dyads —
Which of course actually requires dialogue.

However even where theory seems to fit, there is always the problem of
finding concrete evidence for effects of ‘Dialogue’.

One source has been my several studies that were ethnographic cases of
role dyads using reutinized dialogue, e.g. of questions, prayer,
greeting, joking relations, etc.

Our longitudinal study of patterns of effective learning in nine
ordinary government primary schools led to a very different aspect of
dialogue. Analysis of classroom observations and videos showed two
modes of teacher-pupil communication. Some classrooms had what we
termed an ‘open’ mode; in others dialogues were rigidly fixed. Causes
and effects of these modes are discussed later.

All this needs discussion, challenge, and debate.