Framing in interaction - pragmatic approaches to framing analysis

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportAntologiForskningpeer review

Abstract

This book is a collection of articles presenting pragmatic approaches to framing analysis. The idea for the book originated in the linguistic, interdisciplinary research group Language, Culture and Cognition at Roskilde University, centered on an interest in the multiple relations between language, culture and cognition, and including research expertise in a number of linguistic disciplines: grammar, semantics, phonetics, pragmatics, text linguistics, sociolinguistics, conversational analysis, interaction analysis, and argumentation analysis. The motivation for the book is a combination of several factors: The last decade has seen several efforts to engage linguistics in societal problems such as climate change and health issues through the concept of framing. In these endeavors, framing is typically considered a textual representation of a topic which, by selecting and highlighting certain aspects of a topic, promotes particular judgments, decisions, and actions. The concept of framing, thus, corresponds to the one found within communication research, political science, rhetoric, and media studies, including sociological approaches to media (e.g. Gamson 1989, Entman 1993, Kuypers 2002, van Gorp 2007, Angelo & Kuipers 2010, Reese 2010). This can be called an aboutness-oriented concept of framing, because it concerns the framing of what is being communicated about. The last and particularly motivating factor is that the methods of framing analysis based on an aboutness-oriented concept of framing raise major problems as regards reliability, validity (Matthes & Kohring 2008) and replicability, and that the apparatus available to locate and describe framing devices in these analyses is deficient (Dahl 2015). The authors of this collection of articles endorse the ongoing effort to engage linguistics in societal problems, and recognise the critical potential of the aboutness-oriented concept of framing, but we also believe that there is a need to reconsider the linguistic basis for framing and framing analysis, and contribute to the further development of methods and tools that can ensure reliability and validity of aboutness-oriented framing analyses.
The starting point for the book is that the problems with the existing analyses lie within an assumption that is closely linked to the aboutness-oriented concept of framing, namely that there is a simple relation between language and frames. This assumption is explicitly expressed in Stibbe's definition of framing: "a frame is employed to structure a particular area of life, and occurs simply when a trigger word is used in describing the area" (Stibbe 2015:48). In Lakoff (2004), the relation is described in such a way that a word activates a frame, and that it does so independently of the context and the cotext. This assumption is reflected in framing analyses by a one-sided focus on the words used for describing topics, i.e., predicating expressions and definite descriptions, for example, an expression such as spetsial'naya voyennaya operatsiya (a special military operation) used by the Russian government to refer to the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. Hence, this assumption leads to the methodological implication that it is such words that one looks for and registers in both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and that the frequency of such words alone - possibly supported by a prominent position, for example in a headline - is considered an indication of the prevalence of the frame and thereby also for the (potential) framing effect. The problem with this assumption is that, according to pragmatic theories of natural language understanding, there are a large number of factors that affect a reader's or listener's movement from a word used for describing something to an understanding of the thing described. Therefore, rather than being simple, the relation between words and frames is extremely complex. The complexity of this relation is captured in Bateson's concept of framing. Bateson’s idea of framing differs from the aboutness-oriented concept in that frames here are considered to be meta-linguistic communication, i.e. communication about how (other) signs should be understood (Bateson 2000/1955). According to Bateson, human communication "is only possible after the evolution of a complex set of metalinguistic rules which govern how words and sentences shall be related to objects and events" (Bateson 2000/1955: 180). It is exactly such rules that Bateson's concept of frame covers (Bateson 200071955: 188). Bateson does not present a detailed analysis of the relation between words and frames, nor does he develop a method of framing analysis or an apparatus for describing framing devices. The main point of the present book is that this relation, in turn, has been carefully analysed within pragmatics, including in cross-fertilization with other disciplines such as discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. Thus, from a pragmatic point of view, the relation between propositional content and the understandings it gives rise to is governed by a number of frames. According to speech act theory, an expression that can evoke a frame must be understood as part of a convention-based social act (Austin 1962, Searle 1996/1969) so that understanding is determined by the point or purpose of the act (Searle 1996/1969). Convention-based social acts include, for example, quotation acts by means of which the speaker can meta-represent the use of the word in order to expose the interpretation it may give rise to as false, inappropriate, irresponsible or foolish (Fetzer 2020). According to implicature theory, the understanding of the meaning of an utterance is a collaboration within the framework of an accepted purpose or direction of the exchange (Grice 1975), and, most importantly, we basically mean something else and more than we say or write. Hence, the listener or reader must add information to the linguistically represented information by implicatures, i.e., context-specific, knowledge-based, abductive inferences (Grice 2001/1975, Levinson 2000). Implicatures may involve the interpretation of the use of a word as irony (Dynel 2013) or satire (Musolff 2022). From a social-psychologically-informed pragmatic point of view, the establishment of an interpretation of a topic is an interactive process (Clark 1996). This means that the speaker's use of a word, including a word that can evoke a frame, must be considered a participatory act, that is, a part of a joint act that requires the listener's participation (Clark & Bangerter 2004). From a sociologically and ethnomethodologically informed pragmatic point of view, words are used within frameworks for social interaction (Goffman 1986/1974). Such frameworks afford and constrain social interaction and include, among others, activity types (Levinson 1979) and genres (Berkencotter & Huckin 1993, Bazerman 1994). The interactional perspective implies that frames are activity constraints in sequential context: a word that can evoke a frame is a part of an act embedded in a sequence of acts that can include competing framings of the current topic, both preceding and following. Some texts are reframings, and some interactions (or parts of interactions) must simply be understood as negotiations of the framing of the topic. Also the frame of interaction can be negotiated (Goffmann 1986/1974). Social media affords new forms of social interaction, and thereby new constraints on framing emerge (Persson 2019). These affordances and constraints must also be considered in a pragmatic analysis of the relation between words and frames.
Thus, from a pragmatic point of view, there is a very long and winding path from hearing or reading an expression such as a special military operation, to using the frame the expression may evoke in one's understanding of the topic it denotes, with all the specific judgements, decisions and actions this understanding entails. In short: What influence the framing of a topic has on the understanding of the topic depends on who speaks or writes to whom under what circumstances, for what purpose, within what medium, as part of what form of interaction and in competition with what other framings. Hence, framing is not something that occurs when a trigger word is used to evoke or activate a frame, but rather something that emerges in an interaction in a complex interplay between the parties, the circumstances and the frames of interaction.
This pragmatically developed metacommunicative concept of framing has the methodological implication that the frames of interaction must be included in any analysis. A particularly crucial factor from a linguistic point of view is that interactions bear witness to the frames of the interaction; frames of interactions are indicated by signs and patterns that go beyond predicating expressions. These include, inter alia, illocutionary force indicating devices, information structure, transitivity, hedges and discourse markers, voice quality, emojis, indicators of rhetorical relations, genre signals, sociolinguistically-significant phonetic stereotypes, dialogue structuring devices. All such signs and patterns can influence the interpretation of the propositional content, and, hence, may be regarded as (metacommunicative) framing devices. Another methodological implication, thus, is that the analyst not only focuses on the predicating expressions, but also registers the metacommunicative framing devices and incorporates them in the analysis. The pragmatically developed metacommunicative concept of framing also implies that one considers texts as part of an interaction, i.e., as responses to previous texts, and as requests or challenges for future texts. Furthermore, the perspective suggests that we analyse the framing of a topic in interactions where one can observe the framing effects directly in the responses to the framing act. These features characterise this book’s approaches to framing analysis.

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OriginalsprogEngelsk
StatusUnder udarbejdelse - 2024
NavnPragmatics and Beyond New Series
ISSN0922-842X

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